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 »

My Take Aways from the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness Conference

I attended my first Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness conference in the three year history of the conferences. I applaud Tim Richter and the Canadian Alliance for pulling it off. I applaud the people that travelled from all ends of the country to attend in Montreal. My favourite part of the conference was the plenary session that had Roseanne Haggerty from Community Solutions providing the keynote. The wisdom she imparts with the magic of being authentic and humble was incredible. Big takeaways for me: you don’t need permission to innovate and make change; you cannot blame others and innovate at the same time; and, we need to borrow from other disciplines like design to improve how we think and problem-solving. The sessions that I attended were overall filled with quality speakers. I enjoyed Heather from CSH sharing quality dimensions about supportive housing. I was blown away from Angela in Waterloo […] Read more »

Rapid ReHousing is NOT a Crisis Service

Three times just this week I have heard Rapid ReHousing referred to as a crisis service, or that the role of support staff in Rapid ReHousing is to respond to crises. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. Big fat no. The supports offered in Rapid ReHousing are case management services offered through progressive engagement. Let us break this down: Case management is case management. Case management is VERY DIFFERENT from a crisis service or crisis response. Crisis response is crisis response. Crisis responses is VERY DIFFERENT from a case management service. Progressive engagement means supports are increased only when there is evidence that the program participant is going to need greater assistance on any particular element of their life our housing stability. While intensity can increase, it should also decrease as the person begins to exercise greater independence and personal advocacy. If anyone treats Rapid ReHousing as a crisis […] Read more »

Before That Winter Shelter Gets Into Full Swing, Read This

I grew up in Northern Ontario. I understand winter cold. I know first hand the piercing pain of a northern wind sweeping across Lake Superior and taking the breath from you. My brother and I used to have to shovel our driveway and we would describe the degree of cold outside of whether or not snot would freeze when you breathed in deep. And just to make my cold weather credentials (and hoser-esque Canadiana) even more well known, we heated our house with wood, so I know what it is like to be in the middle of the night in a frozen abode until more logs got on the fire. I hate the cold. I know winter is a heartless bastard. I wish winter did not happen, and the more I travel to places like Florida, Southern California and Hawai’i, the more I realize how smart people are for living […] Read more »

The Leadership Academy Happens This Week

This week, in West Virginia, about 200 leaders in ending homelessness are coming together to participate in the first ever OrgCode Leadership Academy. I am humbled by how many people have made the commitment to be at the Academy. I said we would do the Academy if there were 40 people interested in it – and it turns out more than five times that were interested if you include the waiting list.   I decided to do the Leadership Academy because there were so many people that I have encountered in my travels that had leadership questions rather than technical questions about service provision. I really have no idea what is going to happen this week other than I have worked harder at this than any other thing I have worked on in years, other than SPDAT.   I could fail this week. That is entirely possible. I will make […] Read more »

I Give Thanks

Today is Thanksgiving in Canada. To my good friends south of the border: yes we eat turkey, and watch football (Monday Night Football…or the Canadian Football League), and hang out with relatives – some of whom we legitimately like. Kidding aside, here is a short list of what I am thankful for this year: a) My wife. She is the rock on whom the foundation of OrgCode is built. Without her, I would not be able to travel every week and do the things I do. I love her for always. And she gave birth to our fourth child this year. I hope we do not need to create an intergenerational business of ending homelessness, but there are four replacements for me if things go that way. b) What I get to do for a living. This is my passion. It is my vocation. The privilege of making a difference […] Read more »

Measuring a Functional End to Homelessness

It is no easy task to measure an end to something as fluid and dynamic as homelessness. I am not writing this blog to critique approaches that have been suggested by others. Instead my focus is to add my voice on considerations and approaches that communities may want to contemplate to truly declare “Functional Zero”.   Focus on outcomes, not outputs.  An output measures the volume of an activity. An outcome is the measurement of what difference any of it makes. If you are focused on outcomes, the system changes WHILE the program participants are getting housed. With veterans I would expect, for example, different outcomes related to transitional housing and GPD programs than what they currently are because of the focus on permanent housing. With chronic homelessness, for example, I would expect a change in community policing and engagement with people living outdoors. These are just a couple of […] Read more »

Are Tiny Homes the Answer?

Every day I get a Google News Feed about homelessness. There seems to be a disproportionate number of articles the past few months about tiny homes. They are sometimes called micro homes or city cottage homes or some variation. In some stories you read about an individual citizen creating the tiny home for a person that is homeless that they know. Sometimes it is a completely new development…like a “tiny home suburb”. I do NOT think there is one housing solution for every person’s homelessness. I think we need a range of housing OPTIONS for people to choose from. I do NOT believe in housing placement. Could tiny homes be an option for people to choose from? Sure. But let us dive deeper, and look at these questions: 1.Why do you want tiny homes? Do you want them because they are the nouveau thing to do? Have you asked people that […] Read more »

Say What? Volume 3 – The Crazy Sh*t I Have Heard/Encountered This Quarter

Here we go with my third instalment of the year on the weird and unbelievable things I have heard or encountered on the road. This time it covers July, August and September.   1. “They are breeding like bunnies here because the only way the County cares about you is if you are a homeless family. This city has become one big homeless orgy.” The nice lady in Minnesota was serious when she was saying this, as it was her contention that her organization gets stuck with all the people the County doesn’t want to help. To her this meant all single people.   2. “They can’t take any woman in her third trimester because they deem her to be unemployable, which means they don’t think they can house her.” Oh Tennessee and some of your organizations that help (some?) families.   3. “If you are going to help someone […] Read more »

It Ain’t Housing Only (For F Sake)

As you read this blog instalment this week, it is important you remember there is almost always a lag between when I write the blog and when it is posted. I especially do not want people to think I am pointing fingers at specific communities I have been to in the past three weeks given I make my schedule publicly available on FaceBook. Let us focus on the message – not a specific place – because you may see yourself in this instalment. As I often do when I am in a new community, I go out and speak with people experiencing homelessness. I do this often in the evenings when I don’t have other engagements. I don’t talk about it much. And I won’t go into too much detail about why, but in a nutshell, I do it to get the pulse of people that are homeless in the community and […] Read more »