Will we be seeing you at the Leadership Academy in October?

“In all my years of experience…”

Over the past decade the change movement in homeless services has been leaping forward exponentially. There is greater knowledge and acceptance of things like housing before treatment, coordinated entry, using assessment rather than subjective opinion, and overall, ending homelessness. But that does not mean there is always widespread acceptance. One of the greatest struggles in communities are those that have been set in their ways for decades that are unwilling or disinterested in new evidence or practices. This usually begins with a statement of “In all my years of experience…” followed by some explanation of why what is being suggested will not work. Take, for example, a community I was working with in Florida. The Founder of a non-profit – now quite up in age – came to a meeting with CEOs and Executive Directors to hear me talk about changing homeless services towards a housing orientation rather than a […] Read more »

Say What?

Here are the 12 most head shaking things said or written to me, that I have encountered in 2015 thus far: 1. “We have to have police with us on outreach. They have to do a warrant check and search people for weapons and contraband before we can speak to the client. It helps make sure we are speaking to the right people and not engaging in homeless criminals.” Florida is a precious place. Sometimes they do amazing things in supporting people that are homeless (Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office). Sometimes they do things that make me think all homeless persons are doomed in that state. When a street outreach worker says stuff like this to me, I can’t help but think I should find another job. 2. “We do home visits a bit differently. We have clients come to our office.” This was shared with me by a service provider […] Read more »

Speaking Up to Address the Stigma: Challenging The FaceBook Mental Health “Game”

I am a 40-something guy. Included in my friends on Facebook are folks that I have not seen since my high school years. Maybe you have some friends like that too. I like their life milestones and updates on their children. I like hearing stories about their own parents – many of whom I have not seen in over two decades. And I also like that they are a decent barometer of how the general public thinks about issues, given my day to day is entrenched in issues like homelessness, addiction, mental health, trauma, and family breakdown. Recently, a FaceBook “game” was introduced by one of these high school pals. I have no doubt this is the sort of thing that may have made its rounds in your friend circles on FaceBook too. It goes like this: You’re in a mental hospital. Use the first 7 people on your tag […] Read more »

Nice and Ineffective

Let us put an end to people, organizations and communities being really nice, but ineffective. Inappropriately trained and nice is no way to solve a complex social issue. Well-intentioned uninformed people remain uninformed people. And all the niceness of the world does not take us even one step closer to solving a complex social issue. Shame on any industry that confuses having a big heart with having a big head. Don’t know the theoretical underpinnings of one approach to service over another? Stop practicing. Don’t understand how to collect and use data to evaluate and inform practice? Stop practicing. Don’t know the main currents of thought and practice and how to execute that knowledge? Stop practicing. Or start learning. Please. A really big heart may be killing people. Today in your city, if I were to go to an emergency room, I bet there would be people in a waiting room of […] Read more »

Moving the Needle with Reluctant Funders/Politicians

This week we got two separate notes asking for a blog. They are related themes. In the first note it asked for a blog about when communities have to make tough decisions on funding to move the needle forward. In that community they are taking loads of flak politically and in the media for changing funding to focus on ending homelessness. City Councillors are considering a motion to continue to fund services for another year to allow impacted organizations to transition. This after consultation and community engagement for the past 18 months to prepare for the transition. In the second note it asked for a blog about what to do when communities have been moving forward to align funding to end homelessness rather than ineffective programs, but that those organizations most impacted have strong political connections, and those politicians are now exerting considerable pressure to reconsider what is best.   […] Read more »

Yes, the VI-SPDAT & SPDAT Meets HUD’s Coordinated Entry Expectations

As you may already know, the VI-SPDAT and SPDAT (and variations related thereto) on the most widely used assessment tools in homeless services. They also meet all of HUD’s expectations for coordinated entry, if you have read what HUD has recently shared. Let me walk you through it. HUD says the assessment tool should be phased and situationally applied. If you have attended any training on the VI-SPDAT and SPDAT, you know the situations in which the tools should be applied, when they should be avoided, how to triage, and how to assess further. HUD says the assessment tools should not result in a homeless household having to tell their story over and over again. We totally agree. There is nothing trauma-informed about a homeless person or family having to re-live their homeless story over and over again. The assessment should follow the person. If you are providing service and assessment […] Read more »

VI-SPDAT and Rapid Re-Housing Recommendations

We are reprinting this piece this week from previous content on the OrgCode Facebook page (which you should like by the way). Questions continue to come up on how and why the VI-SPDAT suggests people should be considered for certain groups of people. This attempts to answer that question.   One of the most popular questions we have been asked – especially with the growing use of the VI-SPDAT and the 25 Cities Initiative with homeless veterans – is a repeated variation of “How can rapid re-housing be an effective intervention for…???” – and then finish the sentence with “people unattached to services” and/or “people with a serious mental illness” and/or “people living outside for many years” and/or some variation related thereto. Before diving too deep into the answer, there are a few important things to address: the purpose and approach to Rapid Re-Housing; the purpose and intent of the […] Read more »

Defining an End to Homelessness

This blog is part of the “You asked for it” series. In December, on the OrgCode FaceBook page I asked people want blogs they wanted to see. These blogs are a direct response to the most popular suggestions. This one goes out to Angela in Waterloo. She asked for a blog about “How do you define ‘ending homelessness’. Some communities are saying they’ve ‘functionally’ ended it. Provide a clear definition of that, for example.”   When a person or family is housed, their homelessness has ended. That is rather absolute. But the question, I think, has more to do with how can we define “ending homelessness” at a city, regional or national level. Those of you north of the border having likely heard lots about how Medicine Hat in Southeast Alberta is going to be the first city in Canada to end homelessness. They are certainly on track to do […] Read more »

Diversion: Making it Work

This blog is part of the “You asked for it” series. In December, on the OrgCode FaceBook page I asked people want blogs they wanted to see. These blogs are a direct response to the most popular suggestions. This one goes out to Zach Brown. He asked for a blog about “the whole biz on diversion” because it is “sorely lacking out there in the informosphere.”   Some people think diversion is about rejecting service to people. Seriously. I have seen it happen. Other people think diversion is about finding short-term fixes like a motel room instead of having people come into shelter. I am not kidding. Diversion is a service. It is not the absence or denial of service. It is the art and science of finding safe and appropriate alternatives to shelter use. It is about empowering the front end of the system to try and resolve problems […] Read more »

Social Service, Community Mental Health and Homeless Service Provider Collaboration for Effective Case Management

This blog is part of the “You asked for it” series. In December, on the OrgCode FaceBook page I asked people want blogs they wanted to see. These blogs are a direct response to the most popular suggestions. This one goes out to Lauren Frederick. She asked for a blog about “Promoting efficient collaboration between social service agencies, community mental health, & homeless service providers for effective housing case management” The last time I blogged about collaboration was the summer of 2013. I stay convinced that the five steps for effective collaboration that I outlined in that blog remain true: Agree on how you will communicate with each other Ensure creative conflict Be deliberate and thoughtful in figuring out with whom you are collaborating Have a defined process Make certain there is accountability And I also remain convinced that any talk of collaboration only makes sense if we are all […] Read more »

Reflections on the 20K Homes Campaign from a Canadian Close to the Ground on the 100K Homes Campaign

This blog is part of the “You asked for it” series. In December, on the OrgCode FaceBook page I asked people want blogs they wanted to see. These blogs are a direct response to the most popular suggestions. This one goes out to Tim Richter of the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness. He asked for reflections on the Canadian 20K Homes Campaign in light of my exposure to the 100K Homes Campaign in the United States. My fellow Canadians, congrats on going the route of the 20K Homes Campaign! If you were at the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness Conference last year in Vancouver, you probably heard Becky Kanis say nice things about me and the VI-SPDAT. That was pretty awesome. In the process, you learned that I was a Canadian close to the 100K Homes Campaign – if you didn’t already know that. I was the only Canadian invited to the […] Read more »

Housing People in Communities with Low Vacancy Rates

This blog is part of the “You asked for it” series. In December, on the OrgCode FaceBook page I asked people want blogs they wanted to see. These blogs are a direct response to the most popular suggestions. This one goes out to Matt Ashdown.   I get it – you want to house people out of homelessness. But – and this is making your life difficult and their life hell – you cannot find any place to rent because the vacancy rate is low. Let me give you three things to ponder for your community. First of all, the vacancy rate is misleading. Depending on what country you are in, it is captured in different ways. For example, in Canada many may be familiar with CMHC’s Rental Market Survey that comes out in October. Check the fine print. It only reflects buildings with 6 or more units, with three […] Read more »