The PG Me

Recently I was asked if I could make sure a presentation PG. The organizers were concerned that the message of the talk would be lost if I said too many provocative things or my language was too colourful. There may be some truth to that, and I am working hard to make sure everyone knows and appreciates that I amend my approach and language depending on the situation I am in and with whom I have the pleasure of speaking. That said, PG ain’t what a lot of people think it is. The Motion Picture Association of America says a PG-rated film may not be suitable for children. The MPAA says a PG-rated should be checked out by parents before allowing younger children to see the movie. There could be some profanity, some violence, or brief nudity, however there will not be any drug use in a PG film. By […] Read more »

Using Data to Improve Your Hiring in Human Services

You are looking for really talented, compassionate, skilled, dedicated people. You know you are not going to be able to pay them a lot. And you don’t want there to be a lot of turnover. You think the answer to this is to talk about how great your organization is, how they can join an exciting team, how they can contribute to helping those in need in your community. You will hire a really keen person. They will work with you for less than a year. Then they will leave. And you will go through all the effort again of posting and hiring for the position. Maybe, just maybe, if you had used data and transparency in your posting you’d end up hiring the right person for the job, being transparent about the demands of the job, and making sure they are up for the challenge before they get started. […] Read more »

10 Things to Keep in Mind if You Are Serious About Ending Homelessness

1. Don’t just think about it – do it! Imperfect action trumps perfect planning. Experiment in a thoughtful and deliberate manner. Evaluate what you are doing. Learn from it. Improve. 2. Be your own community, but don’t dismiss proven practices from elsewhere. You have to make ideas fit where you live, not changing where you live to fit ideas. While there will always be local context to consider, avoid making excuses as to why a specific approach won’t work where you live. Instead, try to figure out how to make proven practices work where you live. 3. Make strategic partnerships – don’t be needy or excessively eager. Strategic partnerships have mutual gain. They are not one-sided. Getting an organization or institution to do what they are mandated to do is not a partnership – that is accountability. To form strategic partnerships there has to be something in it for both parties. That […] Read more »

Four Mottos

Here are the four mottos that matter to me in the work that we do, with a brief explanation of each: “Great consultants. Lousy businesspeople.” We have to make enough to pay our bills, but we absolutely have no desire to ever be rich doing this work. We are not motivated by money. We are motivated by making a difference. That’s why we give away so many of our tools. That’s why we do so many things at a discounted rate. “Training that doesn’t suck.” A trainer that understands adult learning knows that any good training combines many different approaches. Here are my three foundations to training: 1. Training should be pragmatic for what you do. If your trainer doesn’t get “it” then it will just be one gigantic snooze-fest. If you don’t actually learn something you can immediately put into practice it is a waste of time. Let me give […] Read more »

Job, Career or Vocation?

I’ve had jobs – and probably you have too – that were only about doing something for someone else in order to get paid. I have some great stories from some of those jobs (especially summer jobs during undergrad years). But when I have had jobs in my life, time off was critical – from milking every coffee break to downtime on the weekends to vacation time. I’ve had career stops when I was truly a careerist. In those times in my life a lot of what I was involved in was not as much about the content of the tasks (though I did like a lot of what I did), but more about how far I could get up the ladder and how fast. It was about advancement. It was about status. I may not have called it that at the time, but upon reflection that is a lot […] Read more »

Street Outreach and Coordinated Access

Recently in a community I had a well-established street outreach provider ask me how they can help explain their importance now that coordinated access was taking shape in the city. It seems that with the infrastructure of coordinated access taking root, the street outreach provider was facing questions from its primary funder of whether it should continue to exist. The short answer is that yes, I think that street outreach should exist in a city that has coordinated access. Now a longer answer… Street outreach has merit as a service when it is connecting people to long-term solutions to her/his homelessness. Street outreach, in my opinion, has little merit if it just about providing food or socks or clothing or sleeping bags or prayer. Yes, those things can meet immediate needs, but it doesn’t solve the problem of having someone sleep outdoors, in whatever location they may be in. So, […] Read more »

Waiting Lists to Nowhere for the “Un-houseable”: How Not to Do Coordinated Access

Assessing for the sake of assessing sucks. That isn’t coordinated access. That is a bureaucratic response (and not just government) to the issue that solves nothing. Recently I was in a community that has been putting coordinated access into place over the last few months. In an effort to get community buy-in, their weekly meeting of housing providers allows for over-ride of assessment if the person is deemed to be too complex. Want to guess what is happening? They have a list of dozens of names of people with higher acuity that no housing provider is stepping up to house. Creating waiting lists of people with complex issues instead of solving their homelessness is not about ending homelessness. It is a waiting list to nowhere. Who are these people on the waiting list? Yes, they all have higher acuity. To a person they have co-occurring, complex issues across quite a […] Read more »

The Big Picture: A Statewide Approach to Common Assessment

I am writing this about halfway through the first leg of the statewide SPDAT tour of Michigan. Michigan, in all her VAST glory, has joined a number of states and provinces that have decided that they want the same common assessment tool used across the entire State. Not just a community-by-community decision – a full, statewide implementation. Every Continuum of Care…all programs that get funding through the Michigan State Housing Development Authority, Department of Human Services or Department of Community Health…all regions…all types of communities (urban, rural, remote) – all using the exact same tool. This was the State’s idea. OrgCode didn’t push it or sell them on the idea. And while they were not the first to go this route (hello forward thinking Newfoundland & Labrador), we applaud the State and the handful of other states and provinces that have gone this direction. We also hope that other States […] Read more »

Ultracrepidarianism and Fauxpinions

The first is a real word. The second one is made up. They are both related. The first is to have opinions outside of one’s area of expertise or knowledge. The second is to present opinions as facts when the opinion is not based upon fact. In the world of social change, both hamper and thwart efforts to be effective. Consider that most public policy is crafted and approved by legislators that do not have subject matter expertise regarding the matter that they are enshrining into law, funding, rights, etc. But they do have opinions. Regardless of what the public service may have put before them by way of data, research, experience of other jurisdictions, framing of pros and cons, financial impacts, etc., it is always the prerogative in a democracy for elected officials to deviate from the advice they are given and craft an approach based upon opinions alone. […] Read more »

Peddlers of Hope

(My thanks to Johnny Mac in Rhode Island for introducing me to the phrase “Peddlers of Hope”, which I have gone on to use quite extensively in my training on effective housing-based case management.)   We are peddlers of hope. Hope for those who feel no ability to hope. Providers of hope who need a bit more to get to the next stage of recovery. Champions of tomorrows, not yesterdays. Our hope is not blind. It is not unrealistic. It is not a panacea for pain. Hope does not erase history, it merely provides the opportunity to recover and grow from it. Hope is not a promise, but it is less than delusional dream. It is the fuel that makes life turn out more positively than it currently is, anchored in who we are and the capabilities as a person. We can speak a language of hope because we have […] Read more »