Crazy Sh!t Volume 2, 2016

And now for everyone’s favourite blog each quarter, the crazy shit I get asked and hear…   “We all know that housing first doesn’t work for veterans.” Really? How insightful Volunteers of America dude in Florida. Your evidence to support this statement? Oops.   Igloos for homeless families. In Hawaii. I experienced this when in Hawaii in April. Thankfully they are not made of ice. But still, spending $10,000 a pop to put fibreglass structures on a church parking lot sounds a lot like an innovation in search of a strategy.   “Sorry, we can’t stay. Plane to catch.” Not a crazy statement, really, unless you consider that the same people that could not stay were then at the gate beside me at the airport six hours later.   “How can we go about setting up a contest for the homeless to name our next beer?” Micro-breweries are often fun […] Read more »

Don’t Confuse Experience with Expertise or Evidence

In May, I was speaking at a Summit in Pensacola, Florida. A large group had gathered from Northwest Florida to hear about the state’s work in ending homelessness and practices in ending homelessness. I love these sorts of engagements, especially when I am given half a day to walk people through the critical details rather than just hitting the high points as I may do in a keynote or media interview. In the morning session, I was absolutely astounded by Volunteers of America. Staff were there to speak about securing funding for operations and sustainability of those sources. To start, however, they got into talking about their approach to supporting people in housing. According to them, they will do whatever it takes to support a person to get out of homelessness forever, but that housing first does not work. Grant and per diem programs were, apparently critical for some people, […] Read more »

Performance Management & Ending Homelessness Amongst Veterans

On the OrgCode Facebook page I recently posted an article from militarytimes.com about how the goal to end homelessness amongst veterans came up short. By their account, there was a one-third reduction in homelessness amongst veterans since the start of the plan that was put forth by Veterans Affairs. I thought this would be a great opportunity to go over some of the basics of performance management and how it relates to ending homelessness. I will use the experience of the VA to demonstrate some teachable points.   I am doing this out of the reaction to the post. Some wanted me to know how hard their community was trying. Some wanted me to know that it was not their fault. Some wanted me to know that their local VA is amazing. Some wanted to remind me that their community had functionally ended homelessness amongst veterans. Some wanted me to […] Read more »

Dizzy in the Spin Room

Making a difference in ending homelessness? Prove it. Don’t spin it. Recently, a city and county in Southern California started making major changes it its approach to homelessness. They got rid of seasonal tents. They started focusing on year-round services. They even had the foresight to put some targets to their approach. One target was to have 75% of program participants exit into housing. The other target was to have lengths of stay average 45 days. Both are laudable, though perhaps a stretch for the community. With the right coaching, alignment of resources, and commitment it may be possible to get to this target within a year or two. By the time the project was contracted, things had changed from the initial RFP. No longer was it 75%. It was 65%. And no longer was it exits to housing. It became exits to longer-term options. And politicians and service providers […] Read more »

I’ll Never Bring You Flowers

Maybe I was who Neil Diamond and Barbara Streisand were singing about in “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers“. I think giving someone flowers is pretty messed up. Sure, they are pretty to look at. But what does it say about us when we give a person something that is dying and tell them that it is beautiful? In the working world, Managers give people flowers (metaphorically). They will source the best florists to procure the freshest bouquets with the most radiant colours. They will form a long-term relationship and even negotiate a great price. And people will seem to enjoy the flowers, until they wither and die and need to be replaced. The Leader does not give people flowers. The Leaders gives people seeds and soil. And every time the Leader hands over the watering can she is saying, I want you to grow a little more. I want this […] Read more »

From Bone Dry to Downright Soggy: Variations in Alcohol Policy in Shelters

When shelters are considering their policies regarding alcohol use it is not as binary as dry or wet. There are variations in between. With each of the variations come considerations that impact either the program participant or the staff within the shelter – or both! So, I put together this handy table to guide you through four variations of alcohol policies and the considerations that come with each.   Category Description Consider This… Bone Dry ·      Zero tolerance policy ·      Test of breath or urine for alcohol consumption ·      No admittance if found to have consumed ·      Individuals with alcoholism are very unlikely to use the shelter ·      Individuals may still consume alcohol, but in ways that are not easily detected (anal, vaginal or ocular consumption – for example) Damp ·      Focus is on behaviour, not on use ·      Any person found using is most often instructed to go to […] Read more »

3 Phases to Operationalize Homelessness to Housing

Let us make this as easy as possible for everyone to understand and operationalize the phases for Rapid ReHousing and any Housing First program. If you have a by-name priority list, it comes at the end of Phase 1. For housing, you can only prioritize those that are eligible, have the right acuity level, want to participate, have provided informed consent, and have all of their documents in place. You may have lists before that, like “The List of People We Want to Keep Engaging But Are Not Accepting the Program” or “The List of People We Are Working On Getting Documents in Order”. But if you want the list of people that are in a position to be housed, it is everyone who has gone through Phase 1.   Who does Phase 1?   You need to decide in your community what makes most sense. It is my opinion […] Read more »

Transitions Suck

We don’t resist change. We resist transitions. Change is exciting. There is the possibility of something new. There is the possibility to fix something that is not working. There is the possibility to make improvements. The reality is that when most people or organizations are presented with the possibility of change there is uninformed optimism. Then, as they start to change, they experience informed pessimism. Why? Is it because change is hard? Is it because they think they were lead to a place because of lies, spin or misinformation? Here are some thoughts for you to consider: You tried to change people. People cannot be forced or coerced to change – over the long term. They cannot be bribed or bargained with to change – over the long term. If change is going to last and have benefits, people can only choose to change. That comes from facts, appealing to […] Read more »

A Beggar SHOULD Be a Chooser

Beggars can’t be choosers. Bullshit. So the saying goes, if someone is in need, they should not have a choice in what they receive. This is firmly rooted in the DNA of most charitable giving. In this approach there is a moral righteousness: I, as the charitable giver, have decided to make my money/resources/time/knowledge/networks available to you, and you should just be grateful that I did so…those in need should be seen, but not heard. Burman, in his great (albeit remarkably dry) book Poverty’s Bonds teaches us that lasting social change starts not with charitable giving or bureaucratic responding, but rather by conducting a needs assessment in order to align services and resources to needs. It is about empowering the person that has a need to have a direct say, in their own words, and on their own terms. Why would we want to do this? The recovery literature shows that people […] Read more »

Random Notes of Encouragement

I was asked to write this blog by one of the recipients of a random note of encouragement. So I am, at her request. Thanks, A., for encouraging me to share with others simple things that can be done to help other people be awesome.    In October 2015 I took one of the bigger leaps in my consulting life, pulling off a huge success in the OrgCode Leadership Academy in Ending Homelessness. I could no longer justify the “what if” excuses of not trying to pull it off. With the help and encouragement of people like Zach and Amanda it not only happened, it worked. 200 people showed up. At the end of the final session on the last day, there were loads of people lined up to take photos, share a high five or hug, or offer me some words of gratitude. It was awesome. But the best […] Read more »

Never Ever Write a Blog About Tent Cities – Unless You Are Ready to be Hated

A couple weeks ago I wrote a blog about how to respond to a Tent City. As has been customary in my career, it was provocative and got people talking. I thought that was a good thing. If you want to read the blog again or scan through the comments (mostly negative) about my ideas, you can click here. Because one of the reasons I write a blog every week is to keep the conversation about issues going, I think it is great when people engage – positively or negatively. When I die, I hope I’m as big as Elvis so they make a giant bust of my head When I die, I hope that nobody believes me so the tabloids say that I’m not dead Plaid Daddys What I did not expect was people thinking I had no place to exist anymore. Some have suggested through direct contact that […] Read more »

Change Sucks – Which is Why Support Must Come From a Place of Compassion and Empathy

Change sucks. Unless someone else is changing. And unless that change that the other person is making aligns to how you want them to change. Yet here we are in the “change business”. You spend most of your days being a change agent. When people are motivated and interested, that is awesome. Most change in life happens when people are self-aware and self-guided. You probably do that in your own life. Think of something like the day you realized you needed to eat more vegetables, and sure enough from then on (and to this day) go out of your way to make sure you eat a good amount of vegetables. Sometimes change comes about because people are self-aware, but do not have the ability to be self-guided – or at least acknowledge that they will likely do better if they have the support of someone else. Again, let us focus […] Read more »