Marginalization and Homelessness

Most often, people experiencing homelessness – whether they be individuals or families – experience marginalization. Where does this marginalization come from? It stems from a power differential between those that have housing and those that do not. Marginalization in this instance is the profound difference that exists across multiple aspects of life between those that have stable housing and those that do not. For example, those with housing are more likely to live longer, have better health, achieve better quality of life, feel more connected to others, achieve better education outcomes (comparing children in homeless families compared to housed families), etc. One of the issues with marginalization is that we often see it as a result of the fault of an individual. It is not. A person having an addiction does not make that person a problem; addiction is the problem. A person experiencing unemployment is does not make that […] Read more »

Ending Homelessness and Ending Poverty Are NOT The Same Thing – They May Not Even Be Related

In America, there are about 46.5 million people living in poverty at any point in time. There are about 1.2 million households living in public housing. About 600,000 people are homeless at any given point in time, and there are an estimated 3.5 million different people that experience homelessness in any given year. The number of people experiencing homelessness and the number of people experiencing poverty are nowhere close to the same number. And the number of households living in public housing comes nowhere close to matching the number of people living in poverty. (I’d try to demonstrate the same thing in places like Canada, but there isn’t a common PIT count or anything similar to the AHAR. Where there is PIT Count data in Canada, the same arguments I present here work.) Income has a strong relationship to the presence (or absence) of economic poverty. Income does not have […] Read more »

The Reason for Your Faith-Based Service

A friend recently told me that my message of working on housing as the first goal, avoiding a focus on sobriety first as a necessary step in order to access housing, and a very secular approach to addressing homelessness was not met favorably by some leaders within large faith-based homeless-focused ministries. I am a little troubled by that given I have very positive relations with a lot of faith-based groups that offer services and housing to homeless and formerly homeless persons. It got me thinking about what the distinctions are between various groups that do what they do in the name of Jesus Christ (same guy, I think, with different interpretations of who He was and what He wants of humanity) and why some faith-based groups would welcome my message and others feel threatened by it. [As an aside, I am well aware that other faith groups are involved in […] Read more »

Job, Career or Vocation?

HOWDY READERS – I AM OFF THIS WEEK FOR SOME SELF-CARE. THINKING ABOUT THAT INSPIRED THIS BLOG ABOUT JOBS, CAREERS and VOCATIONS. ENJOY!   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 […] 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 »

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 »

Street Outreach and Coordinated Access

Recently in a community I had a well-established street outreach provider ask me how they can help explain their importance now that coordinated access was taking shape in the city. It seems that with the infrastructure of coordinated access taking root, the street outreach provider was facing questions from its primary funder of whether it should continue to exist. The short answer is that yes, I think that street outreach should exist in a city that has coordinated access. Now a longer answer… Street outreach has merit as a service when it is connecting people to long-term solutions to her/his homelessness. Street outreach, in my opinion, has little merit if it just about providing food or socks or clothing or sleeping bags or prayer. Yes, those things can meet immediate needs, but it doesn’t solve the problem of having someone sleep outdoors, in whatever location they may be in. So, […] Read more »

Waiting Lists to Nowhere for the “Un-houseable”: How Not to Do Coordinated Access

Assessing for the sake of assessing sucks. That isn’t coordinated access. That is a bureaucratic response (and not just government) to the issue that solves nothing. Recently I was in a community that has been putting coordinated access into place over the last few months. In an effort to get community buy-in, their weekly meeting of housing providers allows for over-ride of assessment if the person is deemed to be too complex. Want to guess what is happening? They have a list of dozens of names of people with higher acuity that no housing provider is stepping up to house. Creating waiting lists of people with complex issues instead of solving their homelessness is not about ending homelessness. It is a waiting list to nowhere. Who are these people on the waiting list? Yes, they all have higher acuity. To a person they have co-occurring, complex issues across quite a […] Read more »

The Big Picture: A Statewide Approach to Common Assessment

I am writing this about halfway through the first leg of the statewide SPDAT tour of Michigan. Michigan, in all her VAST glory, has joined a number of states and provinces that have decided that they want the same common assessment tool used across the entire State. Not just a community-by-community decision – a full, statewide implementation. Every Continuum of Care…all programs that get funding through the Michigan State Housing Development Authority, Department of Human Services or Department of Community Health…all regions…all types of communities (urban, rural, remote) – all using the exact same tool. This was the State’s idea. OrgCode didn’t push it or sell them on the idea. And while they were not the first to go this route (hello forward thinking Newfoundland & Labrador), we applaud the State and the handful of other states and provinces that have gone this direction. We also hope that other States […] Read more »

The Tallest Blade of Grass is the First to be Cut by the Lawnmower

(Thanks to B for inspiring this blog. Also, as an aside, if you love the Tallest Blade expression, I recommend getting the demotivational poster from despair.com…which is a spin on the Russian proverb of the tallest blade being the first to succumb to the scythe. Also, if you’d rather watch me rant about this blog instead of reading it or in addition to reading, you can see it here.) So true. This blog is dedicated to the early adopters…to the brave who step out from the status quo…to the ones that try instead of staying on the sidelines and critiquing…to the organizations that stepped out from the pack only to be cut down by other organizations…to the great ideas for social change squelched by misinformed elected representatives. If you have anything worth doing, chances are you have naysayers. I have seen it so often over the past decade of my […] Read more »