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Will we be seeing you at the Leadership Academy in October?

Health & Homelessness: This Should Make You Focus on Solutions

We need to focus on housing people experiencing homelessness – families, single adults, and youth. With only a few exceptions (obesity, cancer, stroke), people experiencing homelessness are more likely to experience every other category of chronic health condition. When you consider that some conditions like TB, HIV, diabetes, mental illness, etc. are extremely difficult to control, treat or cure without adequate housing, the impetus to focus on housing should be even greater. Charity – feeding people on the street, handing out clothes, casual handouts – will not provide an environment where these health conditions can be satisfactorily addressed. Sheltering will not provide an environment to address these health conditions satisfactorily. Housing is required. And then intensive supports and health care. Sometimes there are, what are called “innovations”, really intensive health supports in shelter settings, but these do not create the necessary environment for ongoing wellness. Certain illnesses while homeless are […] Read more »

Obesity and Homelessness: A Matter of Food & Lifestyle

Are rates of obesity higher than the general population? Women experiencing homelessness have higher rates of obesity than the general population; but generally speaking rates of obesity are the same between housed and homeless population. A Harvard Medical School study from 2012 proved that. The bigger question is how does a population group that have very little or no income get overweight to the point of becoming obese? Would it not be more logically expected that persons experiencing homelessness would be underweight? How does this happen? Lack of access to food while homeless is a myth. Most people experiencing homelessness have an abundance of food options, from soup kitchens and shelters to mobile feeding programs by well intentioned churches or student groups. Charitable feeding can fill a belly, but does not always have an eye to nutritional balance. A lot of the low-cost fast food that a person may spend […] Read more »

The Leadership Academy

From October 20-22, 2015, at the renowned Stonewall Resort in West Virginia, OrgCode is holding our first ever Leadership Academy on Ending Homelessness. This is a professional goal of mine come true, and I really hope you will attend. You can learn more about it by visiting the OrgCode website: www.orgcode.com   Why did we pull together the Leadership Academy? One of the major barriers that comes up time and again in our travels is the matter of leadership. This takes many forms, from getting people to gel around a vision to dealing with fractured service responses; from competing understandings of goals to competition in funds and glory; from coaching elected officials to keeping staff going on the work. While we have given a lot of advice on this, we felt we could do a better job bringing people together. And then there is the “loneliness at the top” phenomenon which […] Read more »

What Makes Good Street Outreach in the Era of Coordinated Entry?

Once upon a time, a person curled up like a question mark on the sidewalk resulted in our best guess of what should be done. With coordinated entry come opportunities to use data in different ways to better inform street outreach, and ensure integration with the rest of the homeless service delivery system. Here are seven pointers to help you along the way: Street outreach is not an entry level position Most communities have two groups of people that are amongst those with the highest acuity: persons that have been in shelter for long periods of time, and persons that live outside and do not use shelter or only use shelter on seldom occasions. While it would seem obvious that your most acute persons experiencing homelessness would benefit from your best trained and most experienced personnel, time and again communities see outreach as an entry level position, or something that […] Read more »

Confusion of Resources: Make Proven Practices Possible through Reinvestment

Invest in change. Spend on impact. (Re)Profile the resources in your community to meet needs. For many communities, this means figuring out how to fund rapid rehousing – or to scale up their rapid rehousing. While not the case 100% of the time, those communities that struggle the most with figuring out how to make this happen are the ones that will not let go of anything they are currently doing – whether or not that is aligned with ending homelessness – and will entertain it if and only if they have new resources. Peel back the curtain, though, and you can often see opportunities to make rapid rehousing (and other things like expansion of PSH or housing-focused street outreach) if – and only if – the organization/community is brave enough and strategic enough to change what they have always done. Let’s look at a few common examples: Scattered site […] Read more »

Working to End Homelessness

Today’s guest blogger is Ali Ryder, a Planner with OrgCode Consulting. This week, I had the privilege of being invited by the fine folks at Heartland Alliance to act as a coach at their Working to End Homelessness Innovation Workshop, part of their Connections Project.  It was a fantastic opportunity to meet with great people from across the country, who were all excited to try new innovative approaches to connect homeless people with employment!  I learned so much, but here are my top takeaways: 1. Everyone wants to break silos, but no one is 100% sure how to do it A lot of project teams said that there were great housing programs in their community, and great employment programs in their community, but since they had different goals and funding streams, it was always identified as a challenge to get these programs to work together. 2. There are a lot more […] Read more »

Nice and Ineffective

Let us put an end to people, organizations and communities being really nice, but ineffective. Inappropriately trained and nice is no way to solve a complex social issue. Well-intentioned uninformed people remain uninformed people. And all the niceness of the world does not take us even one step closer to solving a complex social issue. Shame on any industry that confuses having a big heart with having a big head. Don’t know the theoretical underpinnings of one approach to service over another? Stop practicing. Don’t understand how to collect and use data to evaluate and inform practice? Stop practicing. Don’t know the main currents of thought and practice and how to execute that knowledge? Stop practicing. Or start learning. Please. A really big heart may be killing people. Today in your city, if I were to go to an emergency room, I bet there would be people in a waiting room of […] Read more »

Housing People in Communities with Low Vacancy Rates

This blog is part of the “You asked for it” series. In December, on the OrgCode FaceBook page I asked people want blogs they wanted to see. These blogs are a direct response to the most popular suggestions. This one goes out to Matt Ashdown.   I get it – you want to house people out of homelessness. But – and this is making your life difficult and their life hell – you cannot find any place to rent because the vacancy rate is low. Let me give you three things to ponder for your community. First of all, the vacancy rate is misleading. Depending on what country you are in, it is captured in different ways. For example, in Canada many may be familiar with CMHC’s Rental Market Survey that comes out in October. Check the fine print. It only reflects buildings with 6 or more units, with three […] Read more »

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 »