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Will we be seeing you at the Leadership Academy in October?

Say What Volume 2

The blog I did outlining the outrageous things I had seen and heard in the first quarter was so popular, I present to you “Say What Volume 2″ which shares my favourites from April, May and June.   1. “Our faith tells us to serve the homeless. That doesn’t mean we end homelessness. If there were no homeless then how could we live our faith? What you propose – housing people – is against my faith. I find the whole idea offensive and against God’s wishes.” Thank you nice man in Florida who felt compelled to email me after I delivered training there. If there is good news, he and his church are praying for my soul, and praying that I learn to listen to Jesus in my heart and appreciate that God wants the poor to be with us always so that we appreciate the gifts and blessings that […] Read more »

Stop and Think about the Homeless Children and Youth Act (even if you do not work with this population)

This is a special blog to discuss Homeless Children and Youth Act, S.256 in the United States given the urgency of beginning our discussions surrounding it. The regular blog returns on Monday.   Whether you work with unaccompanied youth, families, or single adults experiencing homelessness, I want you to stop and think about the proposed Homeless Children and Youth Act, S.256 and its implications. Frankly it is one of those pieces of legislation that sound awesome until you pull back the curtain. It is not mom and apple pie. There are implications to this that we need to dissect and consider from a funding, operational, and policy perspective. It is possible to think critically about the bill and still be supportive of ending homelessness amongst youth, as well as ending homelessness for children and their families. And yes, there are implications to communities and service providers that customarily do not […] Read more »

Time Sucks that Get in the Way of Ending Homelessness

I think homelessness should be ended with a sense of urgency, married with strategy and intelligent, effective programs. However, there are a bunch of things that get in the way on a day to day basis that suck up time and interfere with achieving results. 1. Useless Meetings – homelessness has never been ended in a meeting or committee. This is not to say meetings can have no value (they can) but make sure you know why are are meeting, for what purpose, and the intended result of the meeting. Also, don’t send multiple staff to a meeting from one organization when one will do. 2. Complaining – last I checked complaining about co-workers, other organizations, paperwork, or how hard it is to find housing did not actually solve any of those problems. 3. Gossiping – you may find it titillating to keep abreast of who is screwing who, who […] Read more »

Quit the Dreaming and Start the Effective Goal Setting

Dreams can be inspiring. But they are imaginary. A dream exists only in your mind. Dreams actually don’t come true: goals do. If you have an issue you are trying to address in your community or your own life, you may dream of a different reality. For example, you may dream that you have more help, or that there was more money available, or that someone (always an unnamed “someone”) will fix legislation or change policy or free up more resources. It becomes problematic when that dream becomes the cornerstone of a plan or call to action because it won’t come to fruition. It will be just another document that sits on a shelf (even though people may have busted their butts to research and consult and have community meetings to create it in the first place) Let’s say $1 Million is required to put the necessary program in place […] Read more »

Health & Homelessness: This Should Make You Focus on Solutions

We need to focus on housing people experiencing homelessness – families, single adults, and youth. With only a few exceptions (obesity, cancer, stroke), people experiencing homelessness are more likely to experience every other category of chronic health condition. When you consider that some conditions like TB, HIV, diabetes, mental illness, etc. are extremely difficult to control, treat or cure without adequate housing, the impetus to focus on housing should be even greater. Charity – feeding people on the street, handing out clothes, casual handouts – will not provide an environment where these health conditions can be satisfactorily addressed. Sheltering will not provide an environment to address these health conditions satisfactorily. Housing is required. And then intensive supports and health care. Sometimes there are, what are called “innovations”, really intensive health supports in shelter settings, but these do not create the necessary environment for ongoing wellness. Certain illnesses while homeless are […] Read more »

Unit Inspections: Are They Necessary Before Moving People into Housing?

I suspect you, like me, want to see program participants move into apartments that are clean, functional, and helps promote the dignity of being housed. Avoiding slumlords is a must. Avoiding units and buildings that are literally falling apart or are unsafe is a must. Is a unit inspection by a third party or a specific staff person with expertise inspecting units necessary to ensure that a unit is in decent shape and suitable to move into and live within necessary? There is a lot of variation in how this is handled in communities across the United States and Canada. There is not tried and true method for doing it best. I think, however, the 5 biggest factors for consideration are: Consistency in unit standards – the degree to which a unit may or may not be habitable should not be contingent upon opinions of whomever is doing the assessment; […] Read more »

When Servant Leaders Fail

Servant leadership is one of about 10 dominant leadership styles. Much has been written about this particular approach in the last handful of years. Some even proclaim it is the only type of leadership that should be taught or encouraged. Given that many in our industry are immersed in service it only makes sense to me that there is a natural gravitation of some people to focus on being a servant leader. However, there are some common faults/concerns that you need to pay attention to if you are going to do it properly. Five thoughts: One-way service does not work. That is really naive, an abuse of your contributions, and a waste of everyone’s time. It is also irresponsible. You serving others should result in those others also serving others. If they are selfish sponges, it is not working. If you do not challenge self-serving behaviours, the recipient of service leadership will […] Read more »

Obesity and Homelessness: A Matter of Food & Lifestyle

Are rates of obesity higher than the general population? Women experiencing homelessness have higher rates of obesity than the general population; but generally speaking rates of obesity are the same between housed and homeless population. A Harvard Medical School study from 2012 proved that. The bigger question is how does a population group that have very little or no income get overweight to the point of becoming obese? Would it not be more logically expected that persons experiencing homelessness would be underweight? How does this happen? Lack of access to food while homeless is a myth. Most people experiencing homelessness have an abundance of food options, from soup kitchens and shelters to mobile feeding programs by well intentioned churches or student groups. Charitable feeding can fill a belly, but does not always have an eye to nutritional balance. A lot of the low-cost fast food that a person may spend […] Read more »

The Leadership Academy

From October 20-22, 2015, at the renowned Stonewall Resort in West Virginia, OrgCode is holding our first ever Leadership Academy on Ending Homelessness. This is a professional goal of mine come true, and I really hope you will attend. You can learn more about it by visiting the OrgCode website: www.orgcode.com   Why did we pull together the Leadership Academy? One of the major barriers that comes up time and again in our travels is the matter of leadership. This takes many forms, from getting people to gel around a vision to dealing with fractured service responses; from competing understandings of goals to competition in funds and glory; from coaching elected officials to keeping staff going on the work. While we have given a lot of advice on this, we felt we could do a better job bringing people together. And then there is the “loneliness at the top” phenomenon which […] Read more »

What Makes Good Street Outreach in the Era of Coordinated Entry?

Once upon a time, a person curled up like a question mark on the sidewalk resulted in our best guess of what should be done. With coordinated entry come opportunities to use data in different ways to better inform street outreach, and ensure integration with the rest of the homeless service delivery system. Here are seven pointers to help you along the way: Street outreach is not an entry level position Most communities have two groups of people that are amongst those with the highest acuity: persons that have been in shelter for long periods of time, and persons that live outside and do not use shelter or only use shelter on seldom occasions. While it would seem obvious that your most acute persons experiencing homelessness would benefit from your best trained and most experienced personnel, time and again communities see outreach as an entry level position, or something that […] Read more »

Confusion of Resources: Make Proven Practices Possible through Reinvestment

Invest in change. Spend on impact. (Re)Profile the resources in your community to meet needs. For many communities, this means figuring out how to fund rapid rehousing – or to scale up their rapid rehousing. While not the case 100% of the time, those communities that struggle the most with figuring out how to make this happen are the ones that will not let go of anything they are currently doing – whether or not that is aligned with ending homelessness – and will entertain it if and only if they have new resources. Peel back the curtain, though, and you can often see opportunities to make rapid rehousing (and other things like expansion of PSH or housing-focused street outreach) if – and only if – the organization/community is brave enough and strategic enough to change what they have always done. Let’s look at a few common examples: Scattered site […] Read more »

The Unexpected (?) Kindness of People Experiencing Homelessness

Did you see the video where the kid is laying on the sidewalk and the only person to stop and offer warmth and comfort was a man that is homeless? Did you read the news story where a woman that is homeless found a wallet – and returned it without taking any of the money or using the credit cards first? Did you hear about the youth that is homeless that sang the song to the kid that was crying at the parade?   I like a feel-good, good-news story as much as the next person. What I cannot fathom is why the homelessness status of the individual is such a riveting point in the news story. It is as if people experiencing homelessness are incapable of being kind. If you want to understand kindness, maybe you need to understand empathy first. I can share the feelings of another if I […] Read more »