2014 National Alliance to End Homelessness Conference: 10 Take Aways

For the 10th year in a row, I have been a speaker at the National Alliance to End Homelessness Conference on Ending Homelessness. Here are my major takeaways from this year:

1. This is Still the Best Conference on Ending Homelessness.

The talent the Alliance can assemble for the conference is unparalleled and for that the Alliance deserves a major high five. The diversity of information and types of presentations appeals to a variety of learners. That said, there was a lot of youth and family content at this summer conference, which historically has been reserved for the winter conference. Is the Alliance moving towards one conference instead of two? (Well, not in the near term with the Youth and Family Conference in San Diego in early 2015)

2. Cory Booker and Michelle Obama and Jennifer Ho and Ann Oliva and Laura Zeillinger Rock

No one has ever moved me in a speech the way Senator Booker did.

No one has ever demonstrated the conviction of an administration on ending homelessness the way Michelle Obama has.

No one has shown me the commitment of HUD the way that Jennifer Ho and Ann Oliva have. They are not stogy disconnected bureaucrats with their heads up their butts.

No one has demonstrated the passion of making government agencies work together the way that Laura Zeillinger has.


3. 100K Homes Draws to a Close and Becky Signs Off as Campaign Director

The 100K Homes Campaign reached its goal through bucking trends, pushing forward, being relentless in putting action ahead of attempts at perfect planning, and the relentless pursuit of getting things done. At a special celebration at the White House and the Conference, the campaign communities got the direction that was well deserved. High five to Becky who moves on to other major social change now. The Zero 2016 movement is going to be worth watching and participating in.

4. Rescue Missions are Ready to Change

I was really amazed to learn about the major transformations that Rescue Missions have and are making to end homelessness. 81% no longer require people to pray/attend chapel in order to receive services. Many are embracing housing as a solution to homelessness. While I want to see this matched in my first hand experience in travels, I welcome this major change.

5. Showcasing Awesomeness Works

I had the great pleasure and honour (honor) of delivering a pre-conference session on Becoming Awesome with three organizations I have worked with and admire – Partners Ending Homelessness, West Virginia Coalition to End Homelessness, and Crossroads Rhode Island. Darryl, Zach and Karen – along with yours truly – kept a full house (standing room only) for three hours, eagerly engaged in the materials.

6. Moment of Doubt

I had a moment mid-conference where I realized that I have been speaking there for 10 years and homelessness had not ended. I wondered if it was all worth the effort (I do NOT get paid to appear at these conferences) and because there are only so many things I can say about ending homelessness. BUT, I was convinced by many that I should keep at it – for as long as the Alliance will have me.

7. Transformational Speeches are Great, But Require Better Content

The Alliance tried something new this year with three transformational speeches as part of a large plenary. Generally, I love the idea. The commentary by the Association of Gospel Rescue Missions was interesting (though need better PPT presentation). The examples by LA were impressive. The contributions from Multonomah County were downright dangerous and misinformed, suggesting that they never invest another cent in case management and put all money into assertive engagement – which proved to just about everyone not the value of bureaucracy but how misinformed they are about effective housing-based case management and what assertive engagement really is (and isn’t). Why the Alliance selected this speaker without vetting the message at a conference of this magnitude with a speaking spot of such prestige is out of character.

8. Prioritization and Coordinated Access are Uber Important

This is not so much a new idea or concept – or even conference topic – BUT, the number of sessions related to this was really, really impressive. The speakers – by and large – trumpeted the same messages and approaches. You’d have to live under a rock to not know that this is a really important (and difficult) thing to achieve.

9. The VI-SPDAT, and to a lesser degree SPDAT, are Growing in Popularity

I heard an overwhelming number of positive statements and claims about the VI-SPDAT, including commentary that the local results matched what I predicted the pretty much would in the breakdown of the typology of homelessness and effectiveness of matching people to interventions. It is NOT a perfect instrument, but it is well-researched and tested, and proving to be impactful.

10. There is Inspiration to be Found

I said in a tweet before the conference that this is like summer camp for those interested in ending homelessness. People learned. They were challenged. They had fun. But what I really loved was seeing and hearing about people feeling inspired and reinvigorated to go back home and implement what they had learned.

About Iain De Jong

Leader. Edutainer. Coach. Consultant. Professor. Researcher. Blogger. Do-gooder. Potty mouth. Positive disruptor. Relentless advocate for social justice. Comedian. Dad. Minimalist. Recovering musician. Canadian citizen. International jetsetter. Living life in jeans and a t-shirt. Trying really hard to end homelessness in developed countries around the world, expand harm reduction practices, make housing happen, and reform the justice system. Driven by change, fuelled by passion. Winner of a shit ton of prestigious awards, none of which matter unless change happens in how we think about vulnerability, marginality, and inclusion.

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