A Weed is a Flower Trying to Figure It’s Shit Out

Once upon a time an opinion emerged, held true by the majority: if something grew easily and spread rapidly it must be bad (weeds); if something was harder to grow and required more TLC to succeed it must be good (luscious lawn or precious flowering plants). We are amazed by the resiliency of the weed. It keeps coming back. It is stubborn. It wants to ensure survival to the point that it seems to fight against most things thrown at it that try to kill it. The case against the weed is that it takes up the space of what would be preferred. It is deemed intrusive. It is thought of as ugly. And even while little kids pick weeds to place in a bouquet for their mother, we soon program them that weeds have no value. A more suitable clutch of flowers would be roses or daffodils or chrysanthemums. […] Read more »

But Today I am Going to be Awesome

Work pressures. Am I going to make deadlines? Are the people I work with happy? Am I enough to the people that count on me? Does anything I do really make a difference? Am I busy, or am I effective? Am I contributing enough money to the needs of my family? Am I missing life events because of the demands of work? Have I created one meaningful thing or process to contribute? Is there one idea that is truly mine that I have unleashed to the world? Will passion ever trump the days when I feel disconnected and worthless? Am I able to mask my insecurities? Why do I deflect compliments as if they are hollow platitudes? Am I moving towards the end of my career – years away – as if on a conveyor belt in a factory assembly line, just seeing each day or situation the same as […] Read more »

Are You Listening?

Society has taught us to listen with the wrong part of the body. You are supposed to listen with your ears. You spend chunks of each day listening to your eyes. We have been listening to the part of our body whose sole job is to see. It is the first tool we learned to judge with. It is the blacksmith of our prejudice and bias. It is all about the “too’s”…a different type of terrible “too’s”. Too sick. Too drunk. Too long out of housing. Too traumatized. Too abused. Too many evictions. Too forgotten. Too resistant to change. Too damaged. Too street involved. Too long since they connected with family. Too weak. Too crazy. Too many blemishes on a credit history. Too high. Too broken. Too long since they took their medication. Too dumb. Too injured. Too smelly. Too many criminal charges. Too high risk. Too lazy. Too resistant. […] Read more »

The Return of the Leadership Academy on Ending Homelessness

October 25-27, 2016 marks the return of the Leadership Academy on Ending Homelessness. This is the only event of its kind where leaders that believe in ending homelessness come together in a tranquil setting to engage, share and learn with other leaders in the field. Registration is now open! Last year, 200 leaders from across the United States and Canada came together for the experience. We solicited feedback from attendees afterwards, and overwhelmingly the experience was awesome. With a few tweaks, the intensive 2.5 day program is back. If any of these are of interest to you, you should be there: Do you ever wonder why your approach to leadership is not universally accepted, can clash with other leaders, and/or results in people resisting change altogether? Do you know, in great detail, why you do this work? Or do you spend more time telling people what you do and how […] Read more »

Social Service vs. Social Control

You can look at any part of the human services, housing, income support and benefits system, etc. within your community and ask yourself: is what we are doing an example of social service or is it an example of social control? Let’s look at is another way: are you trying to meet the person’s needs, or are you trying to change who they are before (or in order) to meet their needs? A social service response accepts the person/family for who they are. It does not come with judgment. It accepts that there are no time machines to travel to the past and rewrite a course of history that does not result in the current state of affairs. A social service response will appropriately address problematic behaviour. But there is never an implicit or explicit expectation of compliance. A social service does not use coercion or make threats. A social service does […] Read more »

When Ego Was Gone

Ever notice how some people make homelessness about them and not the people they serve? Ever notice that they will make it sound like a hardship no one can possible understand and wear their work like a badge of honour? Martyr syndrome. Messed up. Ever notice that some organizations will change their message depending on who they are speaking with? If it is one funder, they are all about ending homelessness. If it is another funder, it is all about how some people can never be housed. Completely phoney. Ever hear an organization talk about their “brand” as if their services are a precious commodity? Me too. “Giving Tuesday” made me want to vomit numerous times.   This is the greatest work we will ever do. It is a privilege to serve others. Have you done everything you can to make your work a service worthy of the highest esteem […] Read more »

Don’t Blame the Person Needing Service

On any given day, lots of things can irk me in the pursuit of ending homelessness. But I can say with absolute certainty that nothing bothered me more than the attempt from the USICH to define an end to veterans homelessness which essentially included a provision that if housing was offered and the person said no, that was good enough so long as the organization checked in to make sure nothing had changed. There have been formidable leaders within USICH. And to be fair, without USICH many initiatives in ending homelessness or political will would not have happened. Maybe this shortcoming is a result of pressure from other federal agencies. Maybe this shortcoming is a result of pressure to produce results before the end of the Administration. BUT, blaming a person needing services to end their homelessness is NO WAY TO END HOMELESSNESS. A reflective practitioner knows the importance of […] Read more »

2016: Will We Make it Awesome?

Every year I write out my desires for the coming year. And here are the 11 things I want in 2016:   A real, shared, common understanding of what an end to homelessness means and what we are striving for I am in favour of ending homelessness. So are you. But are we in favour of the same thing? If you believe that this is about public relations exercises, political expediency and offering housing as being the same thing as being housed, then we are on different pages. If you believe homelessness should last less than 45 days until each person is housed (with some market adjustments) and that a person does not need to change who they are before they are housed? We are probably closer to believing the same thing. I want 2016 to be the year where ending homelessness is not gamespersonship or competition. I want it […] Read more »

Crazy Sh*t Volume 4: The Last of 2015

As the first blog of 2016, I offer you the final instalment of all of the crazy shit I have heard people say, had emailed to me, or witnessed in my travels in the last quarter of 2015.   Do you find inspiration from people like Barbra Streisand or Anne Murray? No. Though I will say that is one of the oddest questions I have been asked person from Montreal.   Do you know any organization that needs 50 turkeys for Christmas dinner? I would love to have some help getting mine slaughtered and thought if an organization could send me their homeless I could teach them how to help out and in return give the organization some free, fresh turkeys. No. And I have nothing else to say Pennsylvania weirdo.   What is the best colour to paint the waiting room where people are going to do intakes? Apparently you […] Read more »

Deliberate Act of Kindness

Merry Christmas – and if that isn’t your thing, Happy Holidays. And if that isn’t your thing, here’s to a couple days off to think, relax and enjoy life. People have latched on to Random Acts of Kindness. Some communities have complete days dedicated to them. Chivers (you’d know what that means if you are into the Chive) celebrate these things relentlessly. When news outlets get a hold of a Random Act of Kindness under the right circumstances, it can restore our faith in humanity and make us all feel better. My pursuit in closing out the year is to complete five deliberate acts of kindness. I am not going to get into specifics of with whom or why, but I want to lay this out a bit more for you. One of the things about Random Acts of Kindness is that circumstance often plays a role. So too can […] Read more »

Great Ideas Do Not Know Boundaries of Political Stripe, Personality Type or Religion

I was recently speaking with a friend from Utah who is a practicing member of the Mormon faith. She had been asked by people close to her how her values align to the things I speak about. We both share a passion for ending homelessness. We both believe that we should be driven by data. We both see merits in following practices that are proven to work rather than hunches or anecdotes. Yes, I drop the F bomb (from time to time). Yes, I engage in other practices (like prolific caffeine consumption) that are contrary to how she lives her life on a personal level. Are the ideas we share aligned? Yes. And it turns out we can share a meal, talk about our families, share knowledge and genuinely support each other in the work of ending homelessness.   The Canadian election recently happened. Only recently did I discover that […] Read more »


All disruptors are innovators, but not all innovators are disruptors. The disruption comes when an innovative idea, product or way of performing an action completely changes how an industry works. Think of how your phone now is also your camera, flashlight, calendar, game console, medium for watching movies and more. That disrupted – changed – everything, especially if you were in the camera or flashlight or other affected businesses/industries. Disruption some times comes with great fanfare and ego. Napster wanted you to know they changed how we got music. Apple wanted you to know how they changed the complete music industry. Other disruptions have massive impact, but come from a more quiet place, and while there may be fanfare, it came from the excitement of others not from the disruptor itself. A really amazing example is the plow. Yes, the plow. It changed everything in agriculture and goes back millennia. There […] Read more »