The Non-judgmental Practitioner

Thoreau famously stated, “It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” In discerning about how to write this blog – in my reflections and prayers (yes, I pray – or at least try to) – I have thought hard about how to describe being non-judgmental without coming across as, well, judgmental. Rabbi Hillel in Ethics of the Fathers is quoted as saying, “Do not judge your fellow until you are in his place.” In the 7th Chapter of the Matthew in the New Testament it reads, “Judge not, that you not be judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, […] Read more »

Wow – That is a Big Number

This is a short, supplemental blog to acknowledge the amazing achievement that the 100K Homes Campaign and the Campaign Communities reached today, announcing that the goal has been surpassed (101,628 of which over 30,000 were Veterans). Whether your community participated in the campaign or not, you need to learn from what they were able to accomplish. Others may outline this better than I, but here is what I have taken away from the experience:   Have steadfast fixity of purpose and don’t waiver from it. Set a target that stretches you beyond your comfort zone. Appreciate that imperfect action trumps perfect planning…much is to be learned from the art of doing. Put together a kick-ass leadership team. Create excitement amongst service providers and celebrate their awesomeness and leverage their expertise. Don’t lose sight of the people that you serve…the homeless persons that receive housing. Prioritize who gets housed rather than […] Read more »

Compassion

Those who work on social matters – by and large – are people filled with compassion, or at least initially attracted to the work because of their strong sense of compassion. ‘Compassion’ is a beautiful noun, initially born from the Latin ‘compati’ which means “to suffer with”. In essence, compassion is solidarity coupled with tenderness and mercy, and a steadfast resolve to alleviate and conquer hardship. Much has been written about the need for improved data in addressing and solving social issues – and that is a good thing. Much has been written about the need for strategic and informed programming and policy development grounded in evidence – and that is also a good thing. There is an increasing understanding of compassion fatigue and the impacts that has on helpers – and this is good knowledge to have. But we should never lose sight of the compassion that drives most […] Read more »

#YESALLHOMELESSWOMEN

I am not an expert on women’s issues, women’s safety, women’s empowerment, or women’s health, nor do I claim to have specific expertise on women’s homelessness. Like many of my male friends, the #YESALLWOMEN hashtag experience exposed me to some of the most sensitive, personal, violent, demeaning and unacceptable experiences of many female friends. It was jarring, but important learning for me on the magnitude and far reach of women’s experiences with men – and both threats and experiences of violence. Reading this helped me put some of what was happening into context. While I have intentionally applied a gender lens to matters of homelessness in specific projects, I have more to learn. I knew, for example, that women face higher degrees of exploitation and higher rates of sexual assault than males that are experiencing homelessness, but recent events caused me to look deeper into the issue. Perhaps not surprisingly, […] Read more »

On the Precipice of Advancing the Revolution, We Attack the Talented Revolution Leaders

Now, the time is now We can still turn it around Raise your voice like a weapon Til they fall to the ground Light, let there be light Without a shadow of doubt We will fight tooth and nail until Salvation is found -Viking Death March, Billy Talent   It would really be something if all voices were raised in unison to complete the radical change of ending homelessness. If there is one thing I have learned about a career in this sector where I have often been the misfit…the divergent thinker – it is that when you are making strides in change there are people that will be ready to try and tear you down. What astounds me is that this tear down happens from within the group that does comparable work and/or proclaims to share the same passion for the population. House homeless people directly from the street […] Read more »

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 »