Reimagining Engagement and Roles for Volunteers and Donors During the Holiday Season

Since Giving Tuesday I imagine many of your organizations have been gladly accepting financial donations and the like. It is the time of year of giving, and for many non-profits, more money will come over in this stretch towards Christmas than any other time of the year. There will also be a seeming abundance of people wanting to volunteer or get involved in a toy drive or want to deliver Christmas hampers or serve Christmas dinner. Some of this may make sense to you; some of it will not. There is a madness to it all that repeats every single year that can seem overwhelming. And there are legitimate questions like, “Where is all this help the rest of the year?”

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Making Warm Handoffs Work

A warm handoff is a transition conducted between two members of the support team in the provision of homelessness and housing services. Usually the warm handoff (and the focus of this blog) occurs between the homelessness side of the system (outreach worker, shelter staff, navigator) and the housing side of the system (case manager, aftercare worker, follow-up worker, housing support specialist). That said, there are times when the warm handoff can occur between case managers (for example, a reshuffling of the caseload means the client is moved from one case manager to a new case manager). I want to explore ways in which the warm handoff can be improved upon for maximum success in the support process.

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8 Tips to Add More Harm Reduction Practices to Your Shelter

Harm reduction exists on a continuum. So, too, does the implementation of harm reduction practices in shelter. You can range from managed alcohol programs within shelter like the Shepherds of Good Hope in Ottawa (sometimes called Radical Harm Reduction) or smaller steps by providing access to shelter after having used alcohol or other drugs without precondition or things like breathalyzers.  I am a big fan of shelters like Alpha House in Calgary which is one of the preeminent wet shelters I have ever visited and has integrated harm reduction into all that they do, as well as specialized harm reduction programs within larger shelters, like the Riverfront program at the Calgary Drop-in Centre. Not every shelter is ready to immerse themselves into a managed alcohol program like the Shepherds of Good Hope or fully integrate harm reduction into all that they do like Alpha House, but there are some tips and practices that can be followed to add more harm reduction practice to your shelter. Here are eight:

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Gaining Input from Service Users: A New Opportunity

One of the challenges confronted by service providers is, “How do I get meaningful feedback from service users?”

Let’s assume first that you are a service provider that actually cares about what your service users think. You may have tried exit surveys or exit interviews. You may have tried sending follow up surveys to people once they moved into housing. If you are a shelter or drop-in center you may have tried consumer meetings and focus groups.

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Racial Equity and the VI-SPDAT

Some communities, especially on the West Coast, have noticed in their data and/or anecdotally have expressed concerns with racial equity and the VI-SPDAT. I am glad they reached out with their concerns as this is good dialogue to have. We should have a tool – and approaches to administering the tool – that are as free from bias and inequity as possible. The two major concerns expressed are, firstly, that non-white people do not score high enough in the VI-SPDAT, and secondly that PSH resources disproportionately go to white people.

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Eligibility Does NOT Equal Entitlement

Eligibility means the state of having the right to do or obtain something through satisfaction of the appropriate conditions  (my emphasis added).

Entitlement means the fact of having a right to something; the belief that one is inherently deserving of privileges or special treatment  (again my emphasis added).

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So, You Think You're a Low Barrier Shelter...Let's Check

Hey all - sorry I have been stingy on the blog lately. I am back and will be here regularly for your reading pleasure.

The conversation goes something like this:

   Them: "We operate a low-barrier shelter."
   Me: "What makes it low-barrier?"
   Them: "We believe in Housing First."
   Me: "But what does that look like in practice?"

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Help Us Improve VI-SPDAT & SPDAT

We take the VI-SPDAT and SPDAT very seriously. Whether your community uses the VI-SPDAT (triage tool) and/or the SPDAT (assessment tool), we want to have your input as we go about making improvements to the next versions of the tools. Have your say through our survey which you can find here

Your input is vitally important. We will be looking at what you contribute along with what people with lived experience have to say, trainers have to say, the most current research has to say, and what experts in trauma, domestic violence, and anti-oppression have to say.

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Using an Intensive Case Management Approach with Rapid ReHousing Resources

The question comes up time and again – is it possible to serve people with higher acuity using Rapid Re-Housing?

The answer, simply, is yes. However, you need to use an Intensive Case Management approach. What does this mean practically speaking?

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Motivating Teams When the Results Aren't What You Wanted

Ann Oliva takes over the blog again this week and shares her thoughts on motivating your team when the results being achieved are not what you wanted.

This last year has been one that brought a lot of changes into my life – new work, new priorities, new partners.  But maybe most importantly I have had the privilege of having new types of conversations with people working on homelessness in communities around the country – and I have been overwhelmed by the acceptance and willingness of people to have me involved in their work.

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