“How’s that going to impact your housing?”

“How’s that going to impact your housing?” It is one of the most important questions we should repeatedly ask the people we support as they develop and operationalize their support plan. Let’s say a head of a household declares they want to look for employment. The question to ask? “How’s that going to impact your housing?” Let’s say a middle aged single man declares he wants to seek out treatment for his addiction. The question to ask? “How’s that going to impact your housing?” Let’s say a woman is working to regain custody of her children that had been taken into care. The question to ask? “How’s that going to impact your housing?” I could go on. It is not, obviously, the only question to ask. But it is a question that is very important to ask whenever changes in life circumstance or context are afoot. Yes, people can and […] Read more »

Ending Homelessness and Ending Poverty Are NOT The Same Thing – They May Not Even Be Related

In America, there are about 46.5 million people living in poverty at any point in time. There are about 1.2 million households living in public housing. About 600,000 people are homeless at any given point in time, and there are an estimated 3.5 million different people that experience homelessness in any given year. The number of people experiencing homelessness and the number of people experiencing poverty are nowhere close to the same number. And the number of households living in public housing comes nowhere close to matching the number of people living in poverty. (I’d try to demonstrate the same thing in places like Canada, but there isn’t a common PIT count or anything similar to the AHAR. Where there is PIT Count data in Canada, the same arguments I present here work.) Income has a strong relationship to the presence (or absence) of economic poverty. Income does not have […] Read more »

The Reason for Your Faith-Based Service

A friend recently told me that my message of working on housing as the first goal, avoiding a focus on sobriety first as a necessary step in order to access housing, and a very secular approach to addressing homelessness was not met favorably by some leaders within large faith-based homeless-focused ministries. I am a little troubled by that given I have very positive relations with a lot of faith-based groups that offer services and housing to homeless and formerly homeless persons. It got me thinking about what the distinctions are between various groups that do what they do in the name of Jesus Christ (same guy, I think, with different interpretations of who He was and what He wants of humanity) and why some faith-based groups would welcome my message and others feel threatened by it. [As an aside, I am well aware that other faith groups are involved in […] Read more »

Yes, I am Canadian (sorry, eh?)

When all else fails in your attempts to make change in your community towards ending homelessness or increasing affordable housing, blame my nationality. Apparently this is a thing. Summer. 2013. National Alliance to End Homelessness Conference. World-renowned expert (won’t mention names) says that I can’t possibly understand HUD requirements during a conference session because I am Canadian. Spring. 2014. Oklahoma. Implementing the SPDAT is a bad idea (and not aligned with Gospel values) because…wait for it…I am Canadian. Summer. 2014. Texas. I made an offer to help a shelter move forward with coordinated access and common assessment in that community. The Executive Director rejects the idea on FaceBook. Why? Because I am Canadian. My mother came to Canada from Scotland. My father came to Canada from the Netherlands. My older brother – born in Canada – moved to and has become an American citizen. I am first generation Canadian, with […] Read more »

The Power of a Tool

Before the conference in DC for the National Alliance to End Homelessness, I reached out to an HMIS administrator that I trust to ask him about the impact coordinated access and common assessment has had in his community. I am going to protect the identity of his community so that they are not bombarded with requests about what/when/how, but his response is overwhelming to me (and his email back to me makes up the rest of this blog): For assessments, 183 staff from 14 different agencies in [NAME OF COMMUNITY] have screened more than 1,300 individuals since August 2013 with the VI-SPDAT, 100% of which have been recorded (from day one) in our HMIS. It’s worthy of note that the vast majority of the 14 agencies using this de-centralized “no wrong door” approach are not The [COC funded] or DHS-funded either. It’s not about a funding mandate, it’s about providers […] Read more »

Gone Fishing

Literally, I have gone fishing.   This is the blog each year where I tell you there will be no blog because I am not at work. I am doing my best to practice self-care. Which I suck at.   I will tell you a bit more about what I am doing if you are interested and want to read more.   I am in the middle of nowhere in Northern Ontario. There is no cell coverage where I am . I am NOT checking email on my phone. This is very hard for me but important to do.   I am spending time with my children. This is important and precious to me. They do not see me nearly enough throughout the year, beyond which FaceTime allows – and most Saturdays.   I am with my brother and my father, and an uncle as well. These are all men […] Read more »

Time is a Thief

Look into the eyes of any person hurt, broken, suffering, homeless, marginalized. Are they wasting time? No. Time is wasting them. Time is a thief. Without precious resources to turn dreams into a vision of the future they exist in the in-between. Fight too long and lose all the time, and you lose the will to fight. Though maybe we should ask why people ever had to fight in the first place to find a shred of dignity. Each second ticking by is another indictment of our complacency in watching injustice occur before our eyes. If Necessity is the mother of all invention, then I think Sorrow is the father. Answer the call to steal back from time what is taken away from those amongst us that deserve our time and we distance ourselves from Sorrow – even if that means having a one-parent family. What does it mean to […] Read more »

The 12 Most Frequently Asked Questions of Yours Truly

I have been doing some research since January of this year, and I am going to let you in on it – the most frequent questions I get asked over email, on the phone, and one on one in my travels. I have been keeping tabs of what I get asked about. Here are the 12 most frequent questions (paraphrasing in some instances) – in order of frequency – up until the end of July… 1. Do you really believe homelessness can be ended? I believe that chronic and episodic homelessness can be ended. I do not believe that we can prevent all homelessness. Some people/families will always be homeless at all times. No one can stop family breakdown, job loss, and life decisions with terrible consequences from happening. But we can make homelessness rare and of a short duration. 2. How do you really make money with the SPDAT? […] Read more »

2014 National Alliance to End Homelessness Conference: 10 Take Aways

For the 10th year in a row, I have been a speaker at the National Alliance to End Homelessness Conference on Ending Homelessness. Here are my major takeaways from this year: 1. This is Still the Best Conference on Ending Homelessness. The talent the Alliance can assemble for the conference is unparalleled and for that the Alliance deserves a major high five. The diversity of information and types of presentations appeals to a variety of learners. That said, there was a lot of youth and family content at this summer conference, which historically has been reserved for the winter conference. Is the Alliance moving towards one conference instead of two? (Well, not in the near term with the Youth and Family Conference in San Diego in early 2015) 2. Cory Booker and Michelle Obama and Jennifer Ho and Ann Oliva and Laura Zeillinger Rock No one has ever moved me […] Read more »

Going to the White House Today

Today I am going to the White House. On July 9 I got the invite. Had the White House logo on it and everything. I admit, my first thoughts were of watching the West Wing. Then I wondered when/if I will ever be invited to Canadian Parliament. Then I thought about just how AWESOME this is going to be. I was invited because of the work I have done with Community Solutions. The Community Solutions gang is pretty fantastic. They have coalesced community after community in working towards ending homelessness by focusing on the most vulnerable people first. They reached the goal of housing 100,000 people through the Campaign. They bucked the trend of excuses and the status quo. They rocked boats. They got things done. They are my kind of people. Read more »