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

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 »

“In all my years of experience…”

Over the past decade the change movement in homeless services has been leaping forward exponentially. There is greater knowledge and acceptance of things like housing before treatment, coordinated entry, using assessment rather than subjective opinion, and overall, ending homelessness. But that does not mean there is always widespread acceptance. One of the greatest struggles in communities are those that have been set in their ways for decades that are unwilling or disinterested in new evidence or practices. This usually begins with a statement of “In all my years of experience…” followed by some explanation of why what is being suggested will not work. Take, for example, a community I was working with in Florida. The Founder of a non-profit – now quite up in age – came to a meeting with CEOs and Executive Directors to hear me talk about changing homeless services towards a housing orientation rather than a […] Read more »

Say What?

Here are the 12 most head shaking things said or written to me, that I have encountered in 2015 thus far: 1. “We have to have police with us on outreach. They have to do a warrant check and search people for weapons and contraband before we can speak to the client. It helps make sure we are speaking to the right people and not engaging in homeless criminals.” Florida is a precious place. Sometimes they do amazing things in supporting people that are homeless (Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office). Sometimes they do things that make me think all homeless persons are doomed in that state. When a street outreach worker says stuff like this to me, I can’t help but think I should find another job. 2. “We do home visits a bit differently. We have clients come to our office.” This was shared with me by a service provider […] Read more »

Speaking Up to Address the Stigma: Challenging The FaceBook Mental Health “Game”

I am a 40-something guy. Included in my friends on Facebook are folks that I have not seen since my high school years. Maybe you have some friends like that too. I like their life milestones and updates on their children. I like hearing stories about their own parents – many of whom I have not seen in over two decades. And I also like that they are a decent barometer of how the general public thinks about issues, given my day to day is entrenched in issues like homelessness, addiction, mental health, trauma, and family breakdown. Recently, a FaceBook “game” was introduced by one of these high school pals. I have no doubt this is the sort of thing that may have made its rounds in your friend circles on FaceBook too. It goes like this: You’re in a mental hospital. Use the first 7 people on your tag […] Read more »

Nice and Ineffective

Let us put an end to people, organizations and communities being really nice, but ineffective. Inappropriately trained and nice is no way to solve a complex social issue. Well-intentioned uninformed people remain uninformed people. And all the niceness of the world does not take us even one step closer to solving a complex social issue. Shame on any industry that confuses having a big heart with having a big head. Don’t know the theoretical underpinnings of one approach to service over another? Stop practicing. Don’t understand how to collect and use data to evaluate and inform practice? Stop practicing. Don’t know the main currents of thought and practice and how to execute that knowledge? Stop practicing. Or start learning. Please. A really big heart may be killing people. Today in your city, if I were to go to an emergency room, I bet there would be people in a waiting room of […] Read more »

Moving the Needle with Reluctant Funders/Politicians

This week we got two separate notes asking for a blog. They are related themes. In the first note it asked for a blog about when communities have to make tough decisions on funding to move the needle forward. In that community they are taking loads of flak politically and in the media for changing funding to focus on ending homelessness. City Councillors are considering a motion to continue to fund services for another year to allow impacted organizations to transition. This after consultation and community engagement for the past 18 months to prepare for the transition. In the second note it asked for a blog about what to do when communities have been moving forward to align funding to end homelessness rather than ineffective programs, but that those organizations most impacted have strong political connections, and those politicians are now exerting considerable pressure to reconsider what is best.   […] Read more »

Yes, the VI-SPDAT & SPDAT Meets HUD’s Coordinated Entry Expectations

As you may already know, the VI-SPDAT and SPDAT (and variations related thereto) on the most widely used assessment tools in homeless services. They also meet all of HUD’s expectations for coordinated entry, if you have read what HUD has recently shared. Let me walk you through it. HUD says the assessment tool should be phased and situationally applied. If you have attended any training on the VI-SPDAT and SPDAT, you know the situations in which the tools should be applied, when they should be avoided, how to triage, and how to assess further. HUD says the assessment tools should not result in a homeless household having to tell their story over and over again. We totally agree. There is nothing trauma-informed about a homeless person or family having to re-live their homeless story over and over again. The assessment should follow the person. If you are providing service and assessment […] Read more »

VI-SPDAT and Rapid Re-Housing Recommendations

We are reprinting this piece this week from previous content on the OrgCode Facebook page (which you should like by the way). Questions continue to come up on how and why the VI-SPDAT suggests people should be considered for certain groups of people. This attempts to answer that question.   One of the most popular questions we have been asked – especially with the growing use of the VI-SPDAT and the 25 Cities Initiative with homeless veterans – is a repeated variation of “How can rapid re-housing be an effective intervention for…???” – and then finish the sentence with “people unattached to services” and/or “people with a serious mental illness” and/or “people living outside for many years” and/or some variation related thereto. Before diving too deep into the answer, there are a few important things to address: the purpose and approach to Rapid Re-Housing; the purpose and intent of the […] Read more »