Sign up FAST! Login

The Push to End Chronic Homelessness Is Working

Stashed in: Awesome, Poverty, Homeless, Social Solutions

To save this post, select a stash from drop-down menu or type in a new one:

The sort of amazing thing about the 100,000 Homes Campaign is that they basically do not seem to have increased homeless services funding at all. Mostly what they did seems to be... a combination of sharing information, and just SHAMING homeless advocates into setting more aggressive goals!!!

On the one hand, it's great... but on the other, it seems like no matter how much money we pour into social issues, outdated ideas -- like making homeless people "prove" they are drug-free for 6 months before they can begin to be eligible for housing, or even the learned helplessness of social service providers that certain problems can never be solved -- can hold back meaningful progress.

But if they give the homeless homes, there won't be any more homeless to fundraise around!

There's plenty of other things to fundraise around.

A world without chronic homelessness is a better world.

Sometime in June, the 100,000 Homes Campaign  — an initiative launched four years ago to help communities around the country place 100,000 chronically homeless people into permanent supportive housing — expects to announce that it has reached its goal. It’s a significant milestone: It means that many American cities are currently on track to end chronic and veteran homelessness by the end of the decade or earlier.

The campaign, which is coordinated by Community Solutions and works in partnership with the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness, has helped to shift the way homeless organizations and agencies around the country set goals, measure progress, prioritize individuals and coordinate their efforts to house people living on the streets.

Consider Jacksonville, Fla. In 2011, when the city began engaging with the 100,000 Homes Campaign, 3,025 of its residents were homeless and 1,104 were chronically homeless. Earlier this year, the city reported that the number of homeless residents had dropped to 2,049, with 399 of them chronically homeless, according to Shannon Nazworth, the executive director of Ability Housing of Northeast Florida. That’s a drop of one-third and two-thirds, respectively.Something similar occurred in Nashville. In June 2013, galvanized by the 100,000 Homes Campaign, the city launched How’s Nashville, a concerted effort to end chronic homelessness by the end of the decade. The city started tracking its monthly placements. Previously, it had been averaging 19 per month; today, it’s housing an average of 47 per month, reports Will Connelly, who directs the city’s Metropolitan Homelessness Commission. Since last June, Connelly said, the city has placed more than 500 chronically homeless people in permanent supportive housing.

Many other cities have ramped up their placements over the past year or two. The campaign tracks more than 50 cities that have been housing at least 2.5 percent of their chronically homeless population for three consecutive months, a pace that correlates with ending chronic homelessness in four or five years. (Nationally, from 2010 to 2013, chronic homelessnessdeclined by 16 percent, and homelessness among veterans declined by 24 percent.)

The takeaway message seems to be:

We can end chronic homelessness if we really want to put in the effort. 

Below are five key lessons from the campaign:

  • Gather good data and use it for improvement every day.It’s crucial to break big goals down into small steps and track progress on a continuing basis, so systems can be continually adjusted and improved. The idea of coming up with a policy, rolling it out on a large scale and, after several years, conducting a major evaluation to see if it worked — is like a baseball team playing five seasons and discovering after 810 games that they need better pitching. It’s much better to learn as you go.
  • Get to know the people behind the numbers. One of the key insights from the 100,000 Homes Campaign is the humanizing impact of doing face-to-face interviews that strip away the anonymity from the term “homeless.” Not only does it tap the intrinsic motivation among volunteers and people in agencies, but it enables service providers to match solutions to specific needs, rather than seeing if people are “eligible” for their programs.
  • Prioritize housing based on vulnerability, not worthiness. Those who are in positions to offer housing often have to choose who gets it first. It’s a hard choice. It’s tempting to favor sympathetic individuals who are making an effort to get back on their feet. But chronic homelessness can be thought of as a public health emergency. If we ask what hospitals would do, the answer is clear: give priority to the most severe cases, the people who are most likely to die soonest if they don’t get help.
  • Even when resources are scarce, there is room for improvement. Many communities that have sped up their housing placement rates are suffering from acute shortages of affordable housing. Even so, they have found opportunities to optimize their housing stock by rededicating scarce units to people who would be unable to find housing themselves. Also, by regularly communicating with colleagues in other agencies, they also discover loopholes and hidden pockets of funding.
  • Identify the bright spots and share the knowledge. One key advantage of the practice-based network that has been built through the 100,000 Homes Campaign is that it can quickly identify where a community has begun to move the needle and find out how it has done it. That information can then be disseminated to other communities facing similar problems to accelerate system-wide innovation.

This is great! Of course, like most great ideas, it is only obvious in retrospect.

That meta-question always haunts me. Is a problem really hard? Or are we just being stupid?

From the sound of the article, we were being inefficient AND lacking the will to do something about it.

By adding increased pressure / transparency, people who were already responsible we're able to do more.

Or, to put it succinctly: Leadership matters.

I also think an important takeaway here is that, unfortunately, in many cases failure of current ideas has to be SO EXTREME that new ideas are allowed a fair shot. It's just difficult for a lot of people to get over the notion that poor people shouldn't be "rewarded" with "free stuff" until they demonstrate a strong commitment to "getting their lives back on track" or whatever. Even homeless advocates had to give up the idea that resources should go first to the most worthy or easiest to help cases.

The "housing first" idea was built on a lot of data painstakingly collected showing that the way we spend money on homeless people is the most expensive and painful way for everyone involved. That data allowed reasonable, middle of the road, compassionate people to say... hey look, we know we're going to spend money on this so why don't we talk about how to spend that money in the most efficient way? It just so happens that the most efficient way turns out to be the most humane way also.

You May Also Like: