Response, Action and Wellness During a Pandemic

You may have seen my blog on Planning for a Pandemic from March 1. You can access that here. Now that we are in the midst of a pandemic, I offer the following thoughts to help you, your organization and community. To reiterate from my previous blog on this, this is NOT health advice. Use this information to have conversations with health professionals, funders, elected officials, and senior policy makers in your community.

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Pandemic Planning and Services that Support People Who are Homeless

NOTE: This blog is intended to stimulate discussion in your local community regarding pandemic planning and the homelessness services sector. This blog is NOT medical advice. You should work with your local Public Health officials, or other local health officials to develop a community response to plan for a pandemic, should one occur. OrgCode Consulting, Inc. is not responsible for any misinterpretation or misuse of the contents of this blog.

During the SARS outbreak, I was working in homeless services sector in Toronto, and I recall how much work that went into planning for and responding to the possibility of a pandemic and its impact on homeless individuals and families in the community. I suspect that many of you reading this, have, are in the process of, or are just starting to think about pandemic planning in the event the coronavirus is declared a pandemic. The time is now to be planning and preparing.

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Impactful Outreach

At the recent National Alliance to End Homelessness conference in Oakland, CA I was pleased to provide a presentation on impactful outreach. You can download my presentation here. (Related to this, you can see the recent piece we put out on responding to unsheltered homelessness here, and you can read my thoughts on street outreach in The Book on Ending Homelessness by ordering it here.)

What is impactful outreach?

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Police and Effective Responses to Homelessness

I have written about criminalization of homelessness and the likes of Salt Lake City’s Operation Rio Grande before. The ACLU of Utah has done a fantastic job analyzing Operation Rio Grande crime statistics (worth a read) and provides a cautionary tale for other communities that may be at their wits end on addressing street involved behavior and think that upping police engagement from an enforcement perspective is the way to get effective results. I also dedicate a chunk of The Book on Ending Homelessness to why criminalization approaches to homelessness do not and will not work.

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Giving Tuesday

For some non-profits, especially medium and large ones, Giving Tuesday is a day to make hay. Nothing wrong with putting money into the organization to help it achieve the mission it aspires to reaching. As one of the biggest philanthropic opportunities of the year, many a non-profit relies upon the generosity of donors on Giving Tuesday to give them the push and resources they need to do remarkable things. Many of those remarkable things only come about because the funding received is unrestricted in the sense that it is not tied to any government funding that may prescribe a certain type of program for a certain population is a certain way (though there is a place for that too).

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The Book on Ending Homelessness

Three years in the writing and over twenty years in the making, The Book on Ending Homelessness is now available here.

I have collected almost everything I have learned about ending homelessness over more than two decades of being immersed in the work from different angles – practitioner, funder, policy developer, researcher, consultant – and put it in one place. It was my intention to ensure there is something for everyone in the book, including frontline practitioners in the homelessness services sector, elected officials, and the general public.

I wrote the book for several reasons. After delivering a keynote address I would frequently get asked if I had a book. When providing policy advice to elected officials or senior public servants, I would often get asked if I had a book. Certain blog posts also resonate with people, and it had been suggested I take ideas from various blog posts and put them into a book. Finally, I wrote the book to take the pulse of my own knowledge on the subject of ending homelessness, and to evaluate what holes in information and practice I possess and take stock of that which I knew to be true and effective.

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Update on VI-SPDAT: Progress and Equity


We have been getting a number of questions about the future of the VI-SPDAT, especially as it relates to when the next version is coming out, as well as matters of equity. Some of this results from a release by C4 that claims based upon the study of a small number of communities, that the VI-SPDAT favors white people over people of color. By way of update, and in response to concerns regarding equity:

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The Cost of Poop

Poop. It happens. For many people, daily. I am talking the real kind – not the metaphoric kind. We all got to go sometime.

Being homeless can mean fewer options of where to take care of this daily need. It is not uncommon in my travels to have people banned from using businesses' and restaurants' restrooms. They may also be banned from the library or city hall. Or it may be after hours and the person has no other options.

Then poop happens. Outside. Sometimes in the most inappropriate places.

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Should Facial Recognition Be Used in Homeless Service Delivery?

More than one organization in homeless services that we are aware of is considering the use of facial recognition software. I can see the pros and cons of it, but very interested in your thoughts. Here is a guest blog from one of the providers considering the use of facial recognition software. Please chime in with comments!

To live day-to-day, a person needs to prove who they are to receive the best service and care as possible. Without ID, a person can’t vote, access many social services or join most banking institutions. Even book loans can be restricted.

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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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