National Alliance to End Homelessness Conference: 3 Ups and 3 Downs

I just completed my 11th National Alliance to End Homelessness conference. It is a touchdown point for me every year. It is a chance to take stalk of how I am doing and how OrgCode can help; it is a barometer of where communities and America is at in its pursuit of ending homelessness. Here are my three ups and three downs of the conference:   First the Ups: 1. The National Alliance to End Homelessness does not disappoint. Make no mistake about it, under the leadership of Nan Roman this organization knows how to organize and succeed at the conference experience. The conference tracks this year were well organized. The calibre of speakers they can recruit is extraordinary (and if you don’t know – speakers volunteer their time and get themselves to the conference and pay for their hotel room all on their own dime). The content was relevant. […] Read more »

Rethinking “Imminent Risk of Eviction” Homelessness Prevention

I want you to research two statistics in your community: 1. The number of evictions in the last year. 2. The number of unique households accessing shelter in the last year. Let me guess – the number of evictions is higher than the number of unique households accessing shelter, and it isn’t even close. Many communities have financial assistance programs to assist households at imminent risk of evictions. The thinking is that through these efforts homelessness is prevented. It is commendable in theory. It is most often an incorrect use of resources in practice. Why? Even most households that get evicted (not just at risk of “imminent eviction”) never become homeless. They figure it out. They transition to another place to live. It is bunk to think that all of these households end up as doubled up or hidden homeless. This is one of the reasons why I think it is […] Read more »

Does Rapid ReHousing Work? Well, it depends.

Seems there is no shortage of conversation and commentary about how rapid rehousing does not work, these days. NPR did a story on it. The Family Options Study findings from HUD paint a not-so-pretty picture. The Urban Institute released research that was a bit more favourable but also raised some flags too. Aside from those, people on the inside in various states have started to see certain trends related to Rapid ReHousing, calling into question what they initially touted as success.   All of this on some level is warranted. And on some level it drives me nuts. Let me explain.   From community to community to community there are different interpretations of what exactly Rapid ReHousing is, and as a result we can be calling something Rapid ReHousing when it really is not. There are no national or international standards. There is no consistent mechanism for evaluating whether one […] Read more »

Transphobia, Discrimination and the Delivery of Homeless Services

Look around your community and you may find there are some services that identify as being Women’s Services or Men’s Services. You may even find a co-ed shelter that has a Men’s Dorm and a Women’s Dorm. Is that based upon biological sex? Or is that based upon self-identified gender? For example, if someone that is biologically a male identifies as a female, is she (an intentional use of a pronoun here) accepted and permitted within the Women’s Services and Dorm? I am biologically male. I identify as male. I identify as heterosexual. I am overwhelmed by the amount of transphobia and discrimination within homeless service providers. Not all, to be sure, but enough that I felt compelled to write a blog about it. Too many services have no desire to consider service delivery based upon preferred gender identity. Instead, the default is exclusion, misgendering (assigning services based upon perceived gender […] Read more »

Say What Volume 2

The blog I did outlining the outrageous things I had seen and heard in the first quarter was so popular, I present to you “Say What Volume 2” which shares my favourites from April, May and June.   1. “Our faith tells us to serve the homeless. That doesn’t mean we end homelessness. If there were no homeless then how could we live our faith? What you propose – housing people – is against my faith. I find the whole idea offensive and against God’s wishes.” Thank you nice man in Florida who felt compelled to email me after I delivered training there. If there is good news, he and his church are praying for my soul, and praying that I learn to listen to Jesus in my heart and appreciate that God wants the poor to be with us always so that we appreciate the gifts and blessings that […] Read more »

Stop and Think about the Homeless Children and Youth Act (even if you do not work with this population)

This is a special blog to discuss Homeless Children and Youth Act, S.256 in the United States given the urgency of beginning our discussions surrounding it. The regular blog returns on Monday.   Whether you work with unaccompanied youth, families, or single adults experiencing homelessness, I want you to stop and think about the proposed Homeless Children and Youth Act, S.256 and its implications. Frankly it is one of those pieces of legislation that sound awesome until you pull back the curtain. It is not mom and apple pie. There are implications to this that we need to dissect and consider from a funding, operational, and policy perspective. It is possible to think critically about the bill and still be supportive of ending homelessness amongst youth, as well as ending homelessness for children and their families. And yes, there are implications to communities and service providers that customarily do not […] Read more »

Time Sucks that Get in the Way of Ending Homelessness

I think homelessness should be ended with a sense of urgency, married with strategy and intelligent, effective programs. However, there are a bunch of things that get in the way on a day to day basis that suck up time and interfere with achieving results. 1. Useless Meetings – homelessness has never been ended in a meeting or committee. This is not to say meetings can have no value (they can) but make sure you know why are are meeting, for what purpose, and the intended result of the meeting. Also, don’t send multiple staff to a meeting from one organization when one will do. 2. Complaining – last I checked complaining about co-workers, other organizations, paperwork, or how hard it is to find housing did not actually solve any of those problems. 3. Gossiping – you may find it titillating to keep abreast of who is screwing who, who […] Read more »

Quit the Dreaming and Start the Effective Goal Setting

Dreams can be inspiring. But they are imaginary. A dream exists only in your mind. Dreams actually don’t come true: goals do. If you have an issue you are trying to address in your community or your own life, you may dream of a different reality. For example, you may dream that you have more help, or that there was more money available, or that someone (always an unnamed “someone”) will fix legislation or change policy or free up more resources. It becomes problematic when that dream becomes the cornerstone of a plan or call to action because it won’t come to fruition. It will be just another document that sits on a shelf (even though people may have busted their butts to research and consult and have community meetings to create it in the first place) Let’s say $1 Million is required to put the necessary program in place […] Read more »

Health & Homelessness: This Should Make You Focus on Solutions

We need to focus on housing people experiencing homelessness – families, single adults, and youth. With only a few exceptions (obesity, cancer, stroke), people experiencing homelessness are more likely to experience every other category of chronic health condition. When you consider that some conditions like TB, HIV, diabetes, mental illness, etc. are extremely difficult to control, treat or cure without adequate housing, the impetus to focus on housing should be even greater. Charity – feeding people on the street, handing out clothes, casual handouts – will not provide an environment where these health conditions can be satisfactorily addressed. Sheltering will not provide an environment to address these health conditions satisfactorily. Housing is required. And then intensive supports and health care. Sometimes there are, what are called “innovations”, really intensive health supports in shelter settings, but these do not create the necessary environment for ongoing wellness. Certain illnesses while homeless are […] Read more »

Unit Inspections: Are They Necessary Before Moving People into Housing?

I suspect you, like me, want to see program participants move into apartments that are clean, functional, and helps promote the dignity of being housed. Avoiding slumlords is a must. Avoiding units and buildings that are literally falling apart or are unsafe is a must. Is a unit inspection by a third party or a specific staff person with expertise inspecting units necessary to ensure that a unit is in decent shape and suitable to move into and live within necessary? There is a lot of variation in how this is handled in communities across the United States and Canada. There is not tried and true method for doing it best. I think, however, the 5 biggest factors for consideration are: Consistency in unit standards – the degree to which a unit may or may not be habitable should not be contingent upon opinions of whomever is doing the assessment; […] Read more »

When Servant Leaders Fail

Servant leadership is one of about 10 dominant leadership styles. Much has been written about this particular approach in the last handful of years. Some even proclaim it is the only type of leadership that should be taught or encouraged. Given that many in our industry are immersed in service it only makes sense to me that there is a natural gravitation of some people to focus on being a servant leader. However, there are some common faults/concerns that you need to pay attention to if you are going to do it properly. Five thoughts: One-way service does not work. That is really naive, an abuse of your contributions, and a waste of everyone’s time. It is also irresponsible. You serving others should result in those others also serving others. If they are selfish sponges, it is not working. If you do not challenge self-serving behaviours, the recipient of service leadership will […] Read more »

Obesity and Homelessness: A Matter of Food & Lifestyle

Are rates of obesity higher than the general population? Women experiencing homelessness have higher rates of obesity than the general population; but generally speaking rates of obesity are the same between housed and homeless population. A Harvard Medical School study from 2012 proved that. The bigger question is how does a population group that have very little or no income get overweight to the point of becoming obese? Would it not be more logically expected that persons experiencing homelessness would be underweight? How does this happen? Lack of access to food while homeless is a myth. Most people experiencing homelessness have an abundance of food options, from soup kitchens and shelters to mobile feeding programs by well intentioned churches or student groups. Charitable feeding can fill a belly, but does not always have an eye to nutritional balance. A lot of the low-cost fast food that a person may spend […] Read more »