Supporting People that Have Complex Challenges and Have or are About to Lose their Accommodation: When is it Okay to Say “That’s enough, we’ve done all we can?”

The OrgCode team get asked this question a lot. As communities find themselves housing and supporting more and more people with higher acuity and unique personalities and behaviors, they are facing an increasing number of challenges. Amidst those challenges, there is a desire on the part of some service providers to draw a line in the sand…a threshold that cannot or should not be passed, and if there is, comes with a consequence of retracting housing and/or support. In performing due diligence in these difficult situations, I think the following questions can provide good guidance:

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A Gathering for Senior Leaders

One of the great joys of my career has been the Leadership Academy on Ending Homelessness and Master Class. Ann Oliva and I are shifting things up a bit this year, focusing on having a gathering exclusively for senior leaders…Managers, Directors, Executive Directors, Presidents, Vice-Presidents, CFOs, COOs, CEOs, CPOs and Board Chairs – or comparable positions within your respective organization.

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Is Harm Reduction Enabling?

In our field we talk frequently about applying harm reduction to our practices. There are a range of strategies that can be employed, from making sure people have safe storage of their alcohol, drugs and related works to provision of clean needles, pipes and screens; from education and focused conversations on change in use to safe injection sites; from managed alcohol programs to workshops. Even though many of us employ harm reduction strategies in our everyday life (wearing a seat belt while in a car, using a crosswalk to get across the street, wearing a helmet when on a bicycle) the thought of employing harm reduction strategies to people who use substances is still often seen as taboo. Erroneously people think it is enabling, an attempt to legalize substances, or even encourages use.

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This Work Is Hard

Originally written for my friends in WV, this is a shout out and high five to all those who work their butts off on the frontline.

This work is hard. Really hard. It can burn you out. Make you curse to the point where you make yourself blush. Lead you to question why you ever started down this road.

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Service Restrictions and Barring in Shelters

In congregate settings, like shelters and drop-in centers, there has to be some expectation of behaviour. One could argue that the larger the building or operation, the more important it is to have staff consistently apply expectations of behaviour. The good news is that most guests will be in compliance with the guidelines most of the time. The part that becomes difficult is what to do when people do not consistently meet the expectations of behaviour? This is where service restrictions and barring come into play.

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Street Cleaning Does Not End Homelessness

This week, yet again, someone forwarded me an article about a new employment initiative for people that are homeless. Hold on to your hats, this employment initiative focused on street cleaning in the downtown of a major metropolitan area. Tell me whether you have heard of such a thing before. (As an aside, why does every community that does this think they are the first to think of it and that doing so will put an end to panhandling?)

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Staff Change as the Shelter Changes

I have the pleasure of working on some large scale shelter transformations these days. It is easy to say you are becoming a housing-focused shelter and something different to put into practice. The ideas, concepts and techniques are transferable across jurisdictions. That said, we are noticing a distinct patter in the reactions of existing shelter staff as they work through the transition over several months. It looks something like this (and I don’t know the author of this graphic, so don’t know who to attribute this bit of genius to):

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Three Aspects of Coordinated Entry

Many communities have worked hard on coordinated entry. This has been transformative in many communities. Side doors are closing. Access to housing with supports is becoming better defined. Priorities are being established at the community level. These are all good things.

But coordinated entry is just one part of the process. An important part, but not the whole picture. My fear is that so much effort has been placed upon entry that communities are creating and generating wait lists to nowhere. That is a problem.

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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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