Social Service vs. Social Control

You can look at any part of the human services, housing, income support and benefits system, etc. within your community and ask yourself: is what we are doing an example of social service or is it an example of social control? Let’s look at is another way: are you trying to meet the person’s needs, or are you trying to change who they are before (or in order) to meet their needs? A social service response accepts the person/family for who they are. It does not come with judgment. It accepts that there are no time machines to travel to the past and rewrite a course of history that does not result in the current state of affairs. A social service response will appropriately address problematic behaviour. But there is never an implicit or explicit expectation of compliance. A social service does not use coercion or make threats. A social service does […] Read more »

When Ego Was Gone

Ever notice how some people make homelessness about them and not the people they serve? Ever notice that they will make it sound like a hardship no one can possible understand and wear their work like a badge of honour? Martyr syndrome. Messed up. Ever notice that some organizations will change their message depending on who they are speaking with? If it is one funder, they are all about ending homelessness. If it is another funder, it is all about how some people can never be housed. Completely phoney. Ever hear an organization talk about their “brand” as if their services are a precious commodity? Me too. “Giving Tuesday” made me want to vomit numerous times.   This is the greatest work we will ever do. It is a privilege to serve others. Have you done everything you can to make your work a service worthy of the highest esteem […] Read more »

Don’t Blame the Person Needing Service

On any given day, lots of things can irk me in the pursuit of ending homelessness. But I can say with absolute certainty that nothing bothered me more than the attempt from the USICH to define an end to veterans homelessness which essentially included a provision that if housing was offered and the person said no, that was good enough so long as the organization checked in to make sure nothing had changed. There have been formidable leaders within USICH. And to be fair, without USICH many initiatives in ending homelessness or political will would not have happened. Maybe this shortcoming is a result of pressure from other federal agencies. Maybe this shortcoming is a result of pressure to produce results before the end of the Administration. BUT, blaming a person needing services to end their homelessness is NO WAY TO END HOMELESSNESS. A reflective practitioner knows the importance of […] Read more »

2016: Will We Make it Awesome?

Every year I write out my desires for the coming year. And here are the 11 things I want in 2016:   A real, shared, common understanding of what an end to homelessness means and what we are striving for I am in favour of ending homelessness. So are you. But are we in favour of the same thing? If you believe that this is about public relations exercises, political expediency and offering housing as being the same thing as being housed, then we are on different pages. If you believe homelessness should last less than 45 days until each person is housed (with some market adjustments) and that a person does not need to change who they are before they are housed? We are probably closer to believing the same thing. I want 2016 to be the year where ending homelessness is not gamespersonship or competition. I want it […] Read more »

Crazy Sh*t Volume 4: The Last of 2015

As the first blog of 2016, I offer you the final instalment of all of the crazy shit I have heard people say, had emailed to me, or witnessed in my travels in the last quarter of 2015.   Do you find inspiration from people like Barbra Streisand or Anne Murray? No. Though I will say that is one of the oddest questions I have been asked person from Montreal.   Do you know any organization that needs 50 turkeys for Christmas dinner? I would love to have some help getting mine slaughtered and thought if an organization could send me their homeless I could teach them how to help out and in return give the organization some free, fresh turkeys. No. And I have nothing else to say Pennsylvania weirdo.   What is the best colour to paint the waiting room where people are going to do intakes? Apparently you […] Read more »

Deliberate Act of Kindness

Merry Christmas – and if that isn’t your thing, Happy Holidays. And if that isn’t your thing, here’s to a couple days off to think, relax and enjoy life. People have latched on to Random Acts of Kindness. Some communities have complete days dedicated to them. Chivers (you’d know what that means if you are into the Chive) celebrate these things relentlessly. When news outlets get a hold of a Random Act of Kindness under the right circumstances, it can restore our faith in humanity and make us all feel better. My pursuit in closing out the year is to complete five deliberate acts of kindness. I am not going to get into specifics of with whom or why, but I want to lay this out a bit more for you. One of the things about Random Acts of Kindness is that circumstance often plays a role. So too can […] Read more »

Great Ideas Do Not Know Boundaries of Political Stripe, Personality Type or Religion

I was recently speaking with a friend from Utah who is a practicing member of the Mormon faith. She had been asked by people close to her how her values align to the things I speak about. We both share a passion for ending homelessness. We both believe that we should be driven by data. We both see merits in following practices that are proven to work rather than hunches or anecdotes. Yes, I drop the F bomb (from time to time). Yes, I engage in other practices (like prolific caffeine consumption) that are contrary to how she lives her life on a personal level. Are the ideas we share aligned? Yes. And it turns out we can share a meal, talk about our families, share knowledge and genuinely support each other in the work of ending homelessness.   The Canadian election recently happened. Only recently did I discover that […] Read more »

Disruption

All disruptors are innovators, but not all innovators are disruptors. The disruption comes when an innovative idea, product or way of performing an action completely changes how an industry works. Think of how your phone now is also your camera, flashlight, calendar, game console, medium for watching movies and more. That disrupted – changed – everything, especially if you were in the camera or flashlight or other affected businesses/industries. Disruption some times comes with great fanfare and ego. Napster wanted you to know they changed how we got music. Apple wanted you to know how they changed the complete music industry. Other disruptions have massive impact, but come from a more quiet place, and while there may be fanfare, it came from the excitement of others not from the disruptor itself. A really amazing example is the plow. Yes, the plow. It changed everything in agriculture and goes back millennia. There […] Read more »

Shut Up and Say Something

At 4:06 am on Thursday October 29, 2015 I awoke panicked. It was 4 hours and 24 minutes before I was set to give the keynote at the Florida Supportive Housing conference. I had a presentation locked and loaded. There were some of the greatest hits from previous conferences contained therein. But I was unsettled. See, it was the 13th keynote I was about to give in this calendar year. The net result of my actions felt like a whole pile of nothingness. It was time to be more authentic. It was time to be more vulnerable. It was then I accepted the privilege of speaking to others and sharing my thoughts, means I have to shut up and say something. No words, jokes or provocative statements just for getting a reaction any more, I would chose words and phrases precisely to not only burn an indelible mark into the […] Read more »

Gobble, Gobble: Charity Instead of Action is for Turkeys

Over the next month – in the form of others giving thanks through charitable giving – non-profits in the homelessness and housing industry will take in a very large portion of their annual donations. Maybe it is informed gifting. But I bet a lot of it is guilt money, and the feeling that a person or organization cannot really have a great holiday season unless they make a contribution to a non-profit. Giving Tuesday seems designed (contrived?) in part to serve as a catalyst for this purpose. No matter what the reason, I am thankful that non-profits get the opportunity to fundraise, though I appreciate that movements towards ad-blocking online may make a huge chunk of this work more difficult in coming years. On very short notice, I want you to consider three questions if you are a non-profit (or the questions in parenthesis if you are the donor to […] Read more »

Your Professional Development Plan

This week I invite you to undertake some self-reflection and think about your professional development plan. What do you need to do in order to become the best you in your job? Find some quiet time and think on the following questions: 1.What do you need to learn more about to perform the tasks of your job better? How will you learn this information? You don’t know everything you need to know to be amazing at your job. None of us do. What you need to do, if you are to truly practice continuous improvement, is commit to ongoing learning and discovery of new ideas and practices.  If you can identify what you need to learn more about, you must also identify from where you will get the knowledge. Not all instruction is created equal. And almost all instruction requires a commitment of time and money. Only in rare circumstances […] Read more »

Get Your BS Meter and Megaphone Ready

We are just days away from Veterans Day. Get your BS meter and megaphone ready. You are about to hear many communities declare “functional zero” in ending homelessness for veterans in their community. I call BS loud. I hope and trust you have the strength and courage to do so as well. Reaching functional zero for veterans on Veterans Day is for political gain and optics. It has NOTHING to do with the work and the reality. If functional zero had really been reached, would it not make more sense to announce when it actually happened? As I have previously written, the federal benchmarks used to measure these efforts are deeply flawed. You have not ended homelessness amongst veterans if you ask them if they want housing, but they say no. That is victim blaming and cowardice. You have not ended homelessness amongst veterans if your Grant and Per Diem […] Read more »