Ending Homelessness Today — Center for Capacity Building
Field Notes: Housing Locators and Supply and Demand
January 16, 2013
In March 2008 Fairfax County, VA, approved their Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness and soon afterwards, the County's Office to Prevent and End Homelessness (OPEH) partnered with Good Shepherd Housing and Family Services to implement a County-wide housing location services network. The impact of housing locators hired at various shelters and transitional housing programs was immediate and substantial.
Within homeless services, housing locators are basically real estate agents for individuals and families who are experiencing homelessness. Like real estate agents, they locate suitable and affordable housing for their clients, negotiate a good price, and facilitate the placement of their clients into housing. They reach out to private landlords, large housing complexes, real estate agents, and public housing agencies to create housing options that work for their clients.
In 2011, working with homeless families residing in shelters in Fairfax County, our agency's housing locators helped cut the families' average shelter stay by more than 50 days, a decline of more than 30 percent over the previous year. In all, housing locators created more capacity and efficiencies within the existing homeless services programs and served as a critical bridge to housing.
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Field Notes: Thinking about Homelessness Prevention
January 09, 2013
Improving homelessness prevention programs requires that providers and funders shift how they determine whom to award prevention funds. As the chart below will demonstrate, we can have the highest impact by serving the highest risk households, even though our success rate will be lower.
One of the biggest challenges with doing homelessness prevention well is targeting to the right group. For a prevention presentation I did recently, I created a chart that shows some of the paradox involved in targeting prevention assistance well.
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Field Notes: Progressive Engagement Activity
December 19, 2012
During last summer’s conference, we did an exercise that demonstrates to an audience how a progressive engagement process works. Progressive engagement refers to a strategy of providing a small amount of assistance to everybody who enters your homelessness system, then waiting to see if that works. If it doesn’t, you provide more assistance and wait to see if that works. If not, you apply even more, until eventually you provide your most intensive interventions to the few people who are left.
We did the exercise with an audience of about 75 people. Here’s how it worked:
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Field Notes: Talking About Tiers
December 12, 2012
Earlier this week, I participated in a webinar with our friends at the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) and Joyce Probst MacAlpine from Dayton/Montgomery County, Ohio about thinking strategically about the NOFA for the the Continuum of Care (CoC) Program.
The webinar should be posted on USICH’s website in the next few days. In the meantime, it’s worth reiterating and expanding on a few points about the tiering process and how to get the most out of it.
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Field Notes: Rapid Re-Housing Outcomes, Community Examples, and Evaluation
December 06, 2012
Today we’ve released the fifth and final training module in a five-part training series on rapid re-housing. In this short video, Alliance Capacity Building Associate Kimberly Walker discusses outcomes and evaluations, and provides community examples. When we conduct our rapid re-housing clinics in person, this portion of the training is usually where participants have the most questions and feedback. If you have missed the previous modules, don’t worry, you can find them here.
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Field Notes: Five Questions About Coordinated Assessment
November 14, 2012
Hi all! Today we’re excited to introduce the first in a new series of vlogs that concentrates on answering five questions on some of the most important and relevant topics in homeless assistance. Today’s blog is on coordinated assessment, where we cover topics ranging from serving domestic violence survivors to developing assessment tools. Each of these videos will feature Capacity Building staff talking about common questions that we at the Center have been asked recently. If there’s a topic you’d like us to cover next, let us know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Field Notes: How to Provide Supportive Services in Rapid Re-Housing
November 07, 2012
Today we’ve released the fourth in a five-part training series on rapid re-housing. This short video training focuses on providing supportive services as a part of a rapid re-housing model, and is conducted by Kay Moshier McDivitt. (Before watching this module, I recommend watching the three previous modules on Housing Barriers Assessment, Housing Search and Location/Developing Relationships with Landlords, and Designing Subsidies.)
The rapid re-housing approach includes a different method of providing services than you may be familiar with. Before a person is housed through rapid re-housing, services focus on any barriers they may have to obtaining housing. Once they move in, services focus on addressing the barriers that may prevent someone from maintaining housing. Additionally, services in rapid re-housing are voluntary.
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Field Notes: Reducing Length of Homeless Episodes in Richmond
April 11, 2012
The Center of Capacity Building is always looking for data about successful efforts to reduce homelessness, and here’s one from Richmond, Virginia. Homeward, an organization that works to prevent and end homelessness in the Richmond area, has been working on incorporating rapid re-housing into Richmond’s homeless assistance for several years. In early 2010, they started a rapid re-housing initiative with many private and public partners that re-housed 30 families over the course of a year that significantly reduced the average length of time families were homeless. This summary comes by way of Homeward’s Erika Jones-Haskins:
With the 2009 Community Foundation grant of $100,000, we invested approximately $80,000 in short-term rental and other financial assistance for families. The remaining $20,000 was used to pay for Homeward’s introduction of this concept to our public and private providers, the development of revised intake processes and case management procedures and data collection and outcomes measurement.
Here are the highlights:
30 families with a total of 97 individuals were served.
The average cost per family was $2,666, compared to approximately $3,900 for a month of shelter for a mother with 2 children.
For the 20 families we were able to track, the median length of homelessness was 25.5 days. This is a significant decrease from our community median length of homelessness for families at 45 days. (Which is, again, a 50% decrease from the 2009 median length of family homelessness of 90 days!)
This is especially relevant, given that reducing the length of homeless episodes is one of the new... Read More »
Field Notes: Coordinated Assessment Toolkit
March 28, 2012
Yesterday, we released our Coordinated Assessment Toolkit (also known as our Coordinated Entry/Coordinated Intake Toolkit)! It’s been a labor of love for the Center for Capacity Building, and we’re very excited to have it out on the website at last.
But…it’s not finished.
Don’t get us wrong – there’s lots of great stuff in there already. The toolkit has four sections: Planning and Assessment, Data and Implementation, Evaluation, and Community Examples and Materials. The Planning and Assessment section has materials to help get you started in thinking about what coordinated assessment is and how it could look and function in your community. Data and Implementation gives you some information on how to collect and share data in an effective way when doing intakes and assessments and making referrals. Evaluation is all about measuring and continuing your success. The Community Examples section provides materials from communities that have done this already and information on how they’ve made everything work.
But we need, and want, more. We know there a lot of communities that have started to plan for and implement this approach, and we want to share your products and lessons learned with everyone else. Send us your checklists, assessment and intake forms, policy and procedure documents, and data reports. And send us your suggestions and feedback as well. Specific information about including domestic violence survivors and youth is also coming but we would like input in t... Read More »
Field Notes: Incentivizing Performance - Improving the Homeless Assistance System
March 14, 2012
The HEARTH Act will significantly change the way the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) funds homelessness assistance. Communities will be expected to work towards the federal goal that no one remains homeless for longer than 30 days. Additionally, performance on new outcomes will be measured, including reducing lengths of homeless episodes, and reducing new and returning entries into homelessness.
How can your community encourage homelessness programs to perform better on these outcomes? I recently spoke with Elaine de Coligny, Executive Director of EveryOne Home in Alameda, on the unique incentive they have devised – a prize.
EveryOne Home, a community-based nonprofit that coordinates Alameda County, California’s plan to end homelessness, has recently announced the 2012 Outcomes Achievement Awards. Programs that make the most progress on key community-wide outcomes will now be rewarded with one of two prizes.
The idea for the awards came to Elaine during a Performance Improvement Clinic (formerly called the HEARTH Academy) the Alliance held with Alameda County stakeholders in June of last year. She then approached a funder EveryOne Home had a previous relationship with, the Y&H Soda Foundation, about the idea. Elaine says the Y&H Soda Foundation was excited to support the initiative, and generously funded two achievement awards. The first award for $10,000 will be given to the highest achieving program, and the second for $5,000 will be given to the most improved program. Awards will be made to programs that hav... Read More »
Field Notes: Preparing for the HEARTH Act - Whatcom County, WA, Part II
March 07, 2012
Last week I discussed how Whatcom County, Washington, is preparing for the HEARTH Act by launching a coordinated entry system. The HEARTH Act aims to streamline and modernize the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants and help communities create more efficient, more effective homeless assistance systems.
Whatcom County is one community taking a few steps to move in that direction. (Go Whatcom County!)
In addition to implementing a coordinated entry system, the county is also working on a prevention targeting and diversion initiative. They’re modeling theirs after one currently in existence in Hennepin County, MN (a model the Alliance has highlighted) and the goal is of the initiative is to better target their homeless prevention resources to people most likely to become homeless.
Not only that, Whatcom County hosted one of the Alliance’s Performance Improvement Clinics (formerly called the HEARTH Academy) last year and based on what they learned, the county has added diversion assistance to their menu of homeless interventions. Diversion is a strategy that redirects people seeking shelter and helps them identify immediate, alternate housing arrangements. If necessary, diversion assistance also connects these people and families with services and financial assistance to help them return to permanent housing. Case management staff had already been providing diversion assistance informally for some time in Whatcom County, but the new diversion process has become formal and deliberate. Case managers are now trained to see friends and family members of a household as “informa... Read More »
Field Notes: Preparing for the HEARTH Act – Whatcom County, WA – Part I
February 29, 2012
Last week I had the opportunity to interview Greg Winter of Whatcom County, Washington about how his community is preparing for the HEARTH Act. Because I discussed using an existing 211 service to start a coordinated entry system in your community last week, I wanted to contrast Whatcom’s coordinated entry process.
Whatcom has been developing a coordinated entry system since 2008, when they formed the Homeless Service Center at the Opportunity Council, the local community action agency. There, they established a coordinated entry system with five service providers in the county. The community was familiar with going to the Opportunity Council’s resource center for help, so running the coordinated entry system out of this single, physical location was a good fit for Whatcom. Additionally, other people in the community are trained to complete the intake process, including a street outreach team run by a local volunteer organization, social workers based in a local hospital, and some staff in the local jail.
In 2011 the Alliance held a Performance Improvement Clinic (formerly called the HEARTH Academy) with Whatcom, which encouraged them to further develop their coordinated entry system. Data sharing agreements were signed with providers to allow better coordination between agencies. They adopted a philosophy of services based on vulnerability, rather than first-come first-served. Some organizations that participate in the coordinated entry system no longer run their own waiting lists. Instead, the Homeless Service Center keeps one central “housing interest pool.” Providers have found th... Read More »
Field Notes: Using 211 for Coordinated Entry
February 22, 2012
In many communities, the best way to find help if you are experiencing a housing crisis is to start with a long list of phone numbers. You start from the top, and hope that you fit the requirements, that they have enough resources to serve you, that they are open on Tuesdays. It is exhausting work for the household and an inefficient use of resources for the providers.
Some communities have moved to centralize the process households use to access services. This is called coordinated entry, and it has many advantages, like improving the efficiency of a community’s homelessness assistance system and improving its ability to perform well on HEARTH Act outcomes. Additionally, in the interim rules for the new Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG) program, HUD explains that it will include in an upcoming rule for the Continuum of Care program, a requirement for communities to develop and implement a coordinated entry system.
As guest blogger Iain DeJong mentioned last week, the Center for Capacity Building at the Alliance held a training during our February conference on Coordinated Entry, the materials from which are now online. During the training, a number of communities had questions about training 211 operators in their communities to handle intake, assessment, and referrals to services. This may be a good model for larger communities, or those without transit systems that make it possible for households to travel to a centralized location.
Alameda County in California i... Read More »
The President's FY 2013 Budget Proposal: Ending Veterans Homelessness
February 15, 2012
Yesterday, the Administration released its fiscal year (FY) 2013 Budget Proposal. The proposal included increases in funding for some programs that are key to ending homelessness for veterans. One of these, the the Grant and Per Diem (GPD) program, would increase from $224 million to $235 million. Currently, GPD assistance is limited to transitional housing and services. VA is planning to propose legislation that would allow GPD grantees and subgrantees to utilize a ―transition in place model and provide permanent housing. Below is an interview with Ian Lisman, Program and Policy Analyst at the Alliance, about these proposed changes to the GPD program. More resources on the President's Budget and what this means for homelessness assistance programs can be found on the our website.
... Read More »
Field Notes: The Emergency Solutions Grant, Recommendations From The Alliance
February 08, 2012
In response to some questions we have received recently regarding new regulations for the Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG) program, the Center for Capacity Building at the Alliance has decided to address some of these questions in video form. Today’s video features Kay Moshier McDivitt, Capacity Building Associate here at the Alliance. In this interview, Kay discusses how communities can rethink sustainability as an eligibility requirement for rapid re-housing and prevention assistance.
(In the video, Kay refers to a webinar - this is the webinar.)
For more information, you can visit our website, where the Alliance has recently posted a wealth of material on the new ESG program.... Read More »
The Alliance Welcomes Kay Moshier McDivitt
January 18, 2012
Our new Capacity Building Associate, Kay Moshier McDivitt, joins the Alliance’s Center for Capacity Building with a strong background in community planning and programming to prevent and end homelessness. Throughout her career, she has worked to develop systems change and implement best practices specific to vulnerable populations. Kay was an early advocate for the Housing First approach, pioneering the “Shelter to Independent Living Program,” a best practices model of rapid re-housing.
Building on her community experience with the Lancaster County Coalition to End Homelessness developing systems change and shifting the local community direction to a system of prevention, diversion, and rapid re-housing, Kay has provided consultation and technical assistance to a number of communities in ten year plan development and systems change. Kay passionately believes that ending homelessness is possible and has committed her professional career to helping communities find the tools and strategies to accomplish this goal.
The Lancaster, PA resident enjoys travel (including her commute to the Alliance office), spending time with her family, and Saturday morning breakfast with friends.... Read More »
The Capacity Building Team is at it again!
October 18, 2011
Our Capacity Building Team is at it again!
This fall, the Alliance's Capacity Building Team is off again conducting their Performance Improvement Clinic (formerly called the HEARTH Academy) clinics in communities across the country. Armed with the tools, models, and trainings they develop right here at the Alliance, the CAP Team helps local communities measurably improve the outcomes of their homeless assistance systems and prepare for the implementation of the HEARTH Act. The HEARTH Act, signed into law in 2009, will take significant steps to modernize and streamline the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants. While HEARTH won't kick into effect until next year, it's never too early to get prepared.
In the next few months, the CAP Team will be in Oregon, Maryland, New Hampshire, and Arizona. They'll be taking with them the training tools, including the Homeless System Evaluator and the Qualitative Assessment Tools - both of which gauge the performance of local homeless assistance systems. Working together, the CAP Team and the local community can improve the way homeless people are served by the system and move towards preventing and ending homelessness.
For more information about the Capacity Building Team or the Performance Improvement Clinics, please check our website.... Read More »
Retooling the Homeless Crisis Response System
September 20, 2011
Today's post comes to us - once again! - from the Director of the Center for Capacity Building, Norm Suchar.
USICH and the Alliance will be hosting a webinar on reallocation and the HUD CoC competition this Thursday, Sept. 22 – and you should be on the call.
When the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) released Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness, one of the key themes was to “Retool the Homeless Crisis Response System.” A retooled homeless crisis response prevents homelessness when possible, and when that’s not possible, provides safe shelter and helps people exit homelessness quickly, primarily through rapid re-housing.
One of the obstacles to achieving this kind of crisis response system is that a lot of the homeless assistance programs do great things, but aren’t really focused on helping people exit homelessness quickly. This is mainly an issue for transitional housing programs, but it affects services programs, shelters, and other programs as well. In a lot of cases, this lack of focus is built into their Continuum of Care grants.
That brings us to this webinar, which will describe how Continuum of Care funded programs can change.
The webinar will cover the reasons for change, different options for changing grants, program model options, and provide examples of how the process has played out in several communities. It will cover both what can be done this year and what communities should be doing to ... Read More »
September 14, 2011
This post is part of a series of blogs from the Alliance staff. Each day a different expert is taking the reins of our blog, Facebook and twitter accounts to share with you their perspectives and knowledge on ending homelessness. For more information, see this introductory post. Today's post comes from Norm Suchar, Director of Center for Capacity Building.
I have to confess that I love data and outcomes, and like many people, I think those are vital parts of any strategy to end homelessness. So it’s great to see communities embracing data and outcome measures to help reduce homelessness. One such effort comes from Alameda County, CA. Alameda is home to Oakland, Berkeley, Fremont, and a host of other cities. Everyone Home is the organization that leads the effort to end homelessness there, and they’ve recently published their 2010 Progress Report on Ending Homelessness.
The report shows performance on a few key performance measures, like rates of exit to permanent housing, increased income, and rates of return to homelessness. Some of the measures are broken out by provider using anonymous identifiers. Although reports like these take a lot of work, they can paint a very clear picture of what is working in a community and what needs improvement. More importantly, they shift the focus of the system to achieving better outcomes.
... Read More »
Introducting: Guest bloggers, tweeters, and Facebook friends for the week
September 09, 2011
Greetings Alliance friends and supporters!
The week of September 12, we – the usual guards of the Alliance blog, Facebook, and Twitter accounts – will be away from the office. But during that time, you will have the great opportunity to hear directly from some of our colleagues.
Each day, a new expert will take the reigns of our online community and share with you their perspectives on the Alliance, our work, and ending homelessness.
Monday, September 12: Elizabeth
Our resident fundraiser will share with you news from our latest Annual Report, how fundraising happens here at the Alliance, and how your hard earned donations make the difference in our program and policy work. If you have questions about the way the Alliance conducts fundraising, nonprofit development news, or have suggestions about online fundraising for the Alliance, make sure to shoot a note to Elizabeth on Facebook or Twitter on Monday!
Tuesday, September 13: Pete
Research associate and fan favorite Pete will share with you the poverty data that the U.S. Census Bureau will release that day and help break down what the data means for low-income and homeless people. It’s no surprise that many poor people are at risk of experiencing homelessness and that poverty is often associated with the highest homelessness risk factors including doubled up housing situations, severe housing cost burden, unemployment and/or low wages, and the like. Got research questions? Tuesday’s the day for them!
Wednesday, September 14: Kim &am... Read More »