Passive to Active: The Role of Day Services

Historically, day services of all kinds (known by names like drop-in centres, day centres, day shelters, resource lounges, open spaces, gathering spots, and so on) played the very important function of giving people that are homeless refuge during the day. This has been especially important in neighbourhoods or communities where shelters are open over night, but lack resources to stay open and serve people during the day. The day services have met a huge array of needs. Often they provide a meal or snack. In the winter they give escape from inclement weather and in the summer a respite from the heat. Bathrooms are almost always available. Many have showers or laundry facilities. It is not uncommon for there to be socio-recreational activities, and/or opportunities for people to mingle and engage. Some bring in external resources like health care, legal services, or even help filing taxes or applying for benefits. […] Read more »

Characteristics of an Exemplary Diversion Specialist

In training communities on effective diversion, a common question is, “What are the sort of characteristics you’d look for when hiring someone for that position?” It is a great question because it appreciates that the role is somewhat different from other roles that serve people experiencing homelessness or at imminent risk of losing housing. Here are some thoughts.   They should be an extraordinary problem solver who is remarkably resourceful rather than whining about a lack of resources. Being solution-focused means the individual will work the problem to find a solution rather than waiting for someone else to find a resource or fix a system that is broken. I like to think of good Diversion Specialists as the Macgyver’s of the homeless and housing service delivery system – they find a way to make it work with what they have, even when it is not ideal. They need to think […] Read more »

Change Yourself Into Something You Love

I believe in hope. I believe that we are malleable. I know so much of our time is spent thinking somehow our bodies are changeable, but our thoughts, opinions and beliefs are not. I know that if we believe the future can be different and better than the present, we can take the steps now that allow for improvement.   Changing yourself is not just about you as one person. Changing yourself also means changing your organization, your interpersonal relationships, your peers.   Learning to love myself has been over two decades in the making. I spent long periods of my life trying to be what people wanted me to be rather than being who I wanted to be. I spent endless hours critiquing just about everything about myself…my intellect, my career choices, my image, my friendships and relationships with my family, my morality, my view on social norms – […] Read more »

Offence is Taken, Not Given

Push envelopes. Blur the edges. Provoke. Grab people’s attention through irreverent comedy. At the most recent National Alliance to End Homelessness conference I got called “gonzo”, “brilliant but irreverent”, and “troubadour of disruption”. All in a day of work for me. On the days when I have my A game, two things will happen: a large volume of people will go out of their way to tell me they are inspired, feel challenged, energized and ready to improve what they do; and, a small volume of people will go out of their way to tell others how much I offended them. Sometimes it was my approach. Sometimes my language. Sometimes my use of comedy to help people stay engaged. Here are examples of things over the past few months people have gone out of their way to tell me were offensive: taking off my shoes when presenting not wearing a […] Read more »

Gone Fishing

Those of you who have followed the blog for a couple years know that each year I take a week to get completely off the grid, take my kids up to Northern Ontario and do my best to latch on to a large smallmouth bass, lake trout, and/or, northern pike.     This is self-care for me. Once a year, I get to a place where I cannot look at my phone. My computer will not be with me. I will be dad. I will be brother. I will be son. I will not be President & CEO of OrgCode. I may hatch blog ideas, but not intentionally, and I sure as heck will not be writing them. I may figure out answers to complex social challenges because the struggles of bringing in a big fish took a long time, but again, it will be by accident. It is true […] Read more »

When Amazing Minds Come Together

Last week the core staff of OrgCode (Jeff and Tracy) along with the bench players (Mike, Erin, Zach, Kris, Amanda) all spent a couple days in the great city of Toronto figuring out what OrgCode needs to be working on next and how we need to get there. I am not going to get into specifics that will be answered in the coming weeks/moments too much, but allow me to hit some highlights to hopefully intrigue you.   Going Deep There are many topics communities keep wanting more and more information on how to effectively accomplish, from coordinated entry to actually running reports and maximizing HMIS; improving housing stabilization to how to be an amazing CoC; what it takes to be successful at ending homelessness in rural settings to what it means to be fantastic at outreach or a shelter with a housing focus. These are things where you can […] Read more »

OrgCode – What’s Next?

If you have been paying attention in social media, you know that I have added onto the OrgCode team as of late. Jeff, Tracy and yours truly remain the core employees. We will still have one or more interns pretty much all the time. But on top of that, I am super grateful we have been able to get some top tier talent to devote some time to OrgCode. Let me tell you why. I am the face of OrgCode. I get that. But I am not OrgCode. If we really want to penetrate the organizational DNA to make change happen (which is where the name “OrgCode” came from originally), we need a range of talents beyond just what I offer. Zach Brown, Amanda Sisson, Mike Shore, Kris Freed, and Erin Wixsten are exceptional people. They all know OrgCode. All have cool, established day jobs. And they give OrgCode things […] Read more »

Designing an Amazing Emergency Shelter

Howdy!   If you are at the National Alliance to End Homelessness conference this week in DC you may have been in or heard about the session that Cynthia Nagendra and yours truly delivered on Designing an Amazing Emergency Shelter. Whether at the conference or not, I wanted you to get access to some generic policies and procedures that you can use in crafting your trauma-informed, housing-focused shelter. Note that these policies and procedures were first developed for a men’s shelter. You may have to adjust things like population group(s) to be served, access hours, meals, etc. But this should give you something to work off of to get you started in updating, revising or creating your shelter policies.   Follow the link here to download. Read more »

Renewal Alliance Style

Part of “How I Spent My Summer Vacation” each year includes: attended National Alliance to End Homelessness Conference in DC   It is a key part of summer for me for more than a decade. I can actually track milestones in my career against the backdrop of the Alliance conference. Here are the major reasons I keep going:   Merry Misfits You may call this networking. I call this the reunion of the merry misfits…the ones that work day in and day out to make a difference…the ones that embrace the complexity and hard work that goes into tackling social change. This conference is one of the few places I feel I fit in.   Learn to Hug I generally do not like to be touched. Then there is the Alliance conference. This has been the place where, over the years, I have come to realize people hug you without even […] Read more »

With the Eldest Boy

My eldest son is Hamish. He turns 11 this December. Generally speaking he is a remarkable kid, full of compassion; helping to care for his three younger siblings (without asking – and even changing diapers); helping me grill and smoke meat; phenomenal at baseball and okay at hockey (citizenship requirement); loves science and math; and, known to still sneak in a cuddle with his dad when no one is looking.   For most years my kids had no idea what I did for a living. I help people that help people that are experiencing homelessness. Huh? It was easier when I did direct service. Even when Hamish was 4 he kind of understood that. But the older he gets and the more complex my work gets the hardest it is to explain. If you read this blog, chances are you are involved in homelessness. You have likely also wondered how […] Read more »

70:20:10 The Street Outreach Investment

Street outreach is often (wrongly) measured by the number of contacts made or the number of new people found and encountered. We need to measure street outreach by its effectiveness of ending homelessness, not by any other metric. So, we need a re-think of how street outreach workers spend their time and how we value their work. 70% of an outreach worker’s time should be spent with document ready people getting them into housing. 20% of an outreach worker’s time should be spent with people that have consented to participate in getting housed, but need to be document ready and therefore require assistance getting documents in place. 10% of an outreach worker’s time should be spent trying to find new people.   And in outreach we should measure effectiveness of ending homelessness. Therefore, street outreach is mobile housing work. It requires the outreach worker to have all of the forms, […] Read more »

Yoda was Wrong

That title ^ may be considered blasphemy.  It pains me to write it. And it is true. If (for some reason unexplainable reason) you do not have a hint what I am talking about, Yoda famously remarked “Do or do not. There is no try.” And that is where Yoda was wrong. Try matters. A lot.   We have created a culture of risk-adverse organizations afraid to try. Yet risk is the only proof we have that hope is believed in. We have created a culture of funders that want 100% success. Yet even the best cardiologists in the world have heart attack patients that die. And they still get paid. We have created a culture of landlord recruitment for perfect clients. Yet we have clients that are far from perfect. We have created a culture where some other city or jurisdiction must have figured it out first and we […] Read more »