Ending Homelessness Today — Performance Improvement Clinic
Field Notes: Three Key Things with Katharine Gale
June 13, 2012
The following was originally posted by The Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness. We have reprinted it here with their permission. You can find the original blog here. Katharine Gale is a frequent trainer at the Alliance's Performance Improvement Clinics.
Three Key Things with Katharine Gale
Key steps for making the transformation to a housing crisis resolution system.
Commit to using local data for change. Use information from HMIS and from grant and program budgets to understand system performance and cost. We need to learn what outcomes we are buying with our current mix of funding and programs and ask how we can more closely match our collective resources to the unmet need. While our efforts would certainly benefit from increased funding, the greatest resources our communities are likely to be able to direct to the problem soon are the ones we already have. Making sure that the data we have to work with is of high quality so we can trust it to inform our decision-making is everyone's responsibility. (It also better positions us to expand our resource base in the future as more funders ask us to demonstrate return on their investment.)
Expand the range of reality-based housing solutions. Look at the lives of our clients, what their realistic housing options are and where they go when they leave us. Most of the people our system works with do not escape being low-income through our efforts, even when we invest significantly in them at the expense of others we do not serve. Most can, however, regain housing with our help, even if deep subsidies are in short supply. We can rehouse more people, and continue to assist them with other resources, or connect them to other services (if they want them) that support further progress, by focusing our rehousing efforts on the right next step that resolves this housing crisis, instead of the forever solution. We shouldn't stop advocating for long-term affordability, but we must also recognize that it is not reality now for many people who are just like the households we serve, but who have housing.
Work as a system with shared responsibility. Everyone should be clear (clients, providers and funders) about how people can access help from the programs that make up our system. If we currently distribute most of our support based on luck or persistence, we need to fix that; if there are people who no program will take we need to fix that. In setting up a coordinated front door, our responsibility is not just to make sure that agencies get the clients they will serve, it’s to get clients the support they need. Knowing who gets in and who goes unserved will help us refine programs and services to better meet the combined need. The importance of working more collaboratively to increase impact applies to funders as much as to programs. As one director I know puts it "we need to fix our relationships for the sake of our clients."
Katharine Gale is an independent consultant from Berkeley, California with 20 years experience in the fields of homelessness and special needs housing. She provides services to public and non-profit agencies including community-wide planning, new program development, data analysis, research and evaluation. Ms. Gale helped design and delivers the Alliance’s Performance Improvement Clinics. In 2011, she co-founded Focus Strategies, a joint venture dedicated to helping communities use local homeless data to prepare for HEARTH and make effective system change. Prior to consulting, she worked for seven year... Read More »
Field Notes: Why should my community conduct a Performance Improvement Clinic?
June 05, 2012
Today we bring you another voice of a Performance Improvement Clinic (an intensive one-and-a-half day clinic that helps communities prepare for changes made by the HEARTH Act ) trainer, Iain De Jong. We ask Iain the question: Why should my community conduct a Performance Improvement Clinic?
The plural of “anecdote” is not – and never has been – “data.” Each community has a narrative to pull together on the great work that they are doing to end homelessness. But we need to move beyond samples sizes of one, good stories and intuition to prove to policy makers, funders and the general public that what we do makes a difference. In an era of limited resources, we also need to be sure that we are investing our precious time and money into those interventions that improve the system as a whole, not just a particular project.
While the HEARTH era expects communities to work as systems rather than a collection of projects, making the shift to do so has greater benefits than just meeting requirements of HEARTH. It makes good sense and it is in the best interests of the people we serve. A Performance Improvement Clinic provides the right forum to assist communities in taking increased strides towards a system-based approach to service delivery. This type of thinking helps ensure that the right person gets to the right organization for the right type of intervention at the right time. It leverages the strengths across the e... Read More »
Field Notes: The Performance Improvement Clinic from a Trainer’s Perspective
May 02, 2012
On our new weekly blog series, Field Notes, we have talked about the experiences of Alameda County and Whatcom County with our Performance Improvement Clinics (previously called the HEARTH Implementation Clinic). Today I wanted to share the experiences of the people who conduct these Clinics. Katharine Gale, an independent consultant from Berkeley, California with 20 years experience in the fields of homelessness and special needs housing, helped design the Performance Improvement Clinic and has presented at a number of clinics in communities large and small. Below are Katharine’s words about why she enjoys being a part of these clinics.
I enjoy being part of the Performance Improvement Clinic team because the give and take is always so great and I learn so much. The Clinic helps communities grapple with the importance of a performance measurement perspective, and it supports them to make concrete plans to work together to improve outcomes across the system. Some of this work is a little scary because it’s a different framework than most of us are used to -- one in which we are holding ourselves and each other accountable for our combined impact on the problem. But I find that everyone is pretty excited and willing to engage in lively debate!
Working with communities across the country has given me a great opportunity to see what we all share and where we face different challenges. It’s interesting to me how often people think t... Read More »
Field Notes: The Performance Improvement Clinic
April 18, 2012
Over the past year, the Alliance has been presenting an intensive one-and-a-half day clinic to help communities prepare for changes made by the HEARTH Act. The clinic focuses on improving community performance by analyzing community data and shifting to strategies that better achieve the HEARTH Act's performance expectations.
We will continue to offer these clinics, although we're changing the name to the Performance Improvement Clinic (we used to call them HEARTH Implementation Clinics). The name change reflects the fact that the clinic mostly focuses on the performance aspects of the HEARTH Act and also to distinguish it from the many other types of HEARTH Act assistance that will be available from HUD and other organizations over the coming months.
The Performance Improvement Clinic will continue to include group discussions, system design and modification planning sessions, and presentations on best practices. Clinic participants will also receive hands-on technical assistance with data analysis and system assessment in preparation for the Clinic and follow-up support. While the overall goals and structure of the clinic are the same, it is constantly updated with new information and customized to the conditions in each community.
On our weekly blog series, Field Notes, we have talked about the experiences of Alameda County and Whatcom County with the clinics, and the work they are doing to improve their homelessness assistance system as a community. In the next few weeks we will continue to bring you their stories and l... 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 »
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 »
The CAP Team and the Performance Improvement Clinic
June 01, 2011
While the Alliance is identifies primarily as a policy organization, we do some other things that you may not know about.
In fact, we have this great little department called the Center for Capacity Building. And lately, they’ve been really busy with a project called the Performance Improvement Clinic (formerly called the HEARTH Academy).
Refresher: In 2008, Congress passed the HEARTH Act which was intended to streamline and modernize the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants. You can find out more about the HEARTH Act on our website.
The Performance Improvement Clinic is designed to prepare communities for the HEARTH Act, which is going to change the way communities both apply for federal funding under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants and they way that money can be applied within communities. Moreover, the HEARTH Act asks communities to change some of the ways they operate and measure the progress of their efforts to end homelessness and meet specific, numerical goals.
The Center for Capacity Building (CAP Team) is traveling to help communities prepare for the new legislation with an arsenal of new tools to help communities evaluate their systems and implement systems change. You can find these tools, including the Homeless System Evaluator Tool, as well as webinars, briefs, and resources on our website.
So far, the CAP Team has been to Mississippi, Iowa, Washington, Connecticut, Missouri, North Carolina, and Texas. This week, our intrepid capacity builders are in California before they hit West ... Read More »
Notes from the Field: A look into tribal homelessness
March 31, 2011
Today's post comes to us from Alliance Center for Capacity Building Associate Kim Walker.
Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to work with a group of seven different Chippewa bands located in northern Minnesota on developing ten year plans to end homelessness.
It was remarkable to learn about the struggles that many tribal nations face in defining, preventing, and ending homelessness. Tribal leaders share many of the challenges that rural areas face, like serving people spread over a large land area, finding adequate funding, and providing shelter amid a startling lack of housing infrastructure.
But beyond that, tribal homelessness is still unique.
Because tribes are officially considered sovereign nations, funding can become complicated or come with limitations that may prove difficult to overcome (i.e., some funding may be unavailable to tribes unless they are able to become an incorporated non-profit).
Additionally, homelessness, or near homelessness, on a reservation looks different than what people might expect. The Wilder Survey, one of the most comprehensive surveys of tribal homelessness, found that many Native Americans living on reservations are doubled up for long periods of time, often moving from one doubled up situation to another as long as that’s sustainable. Street homelessness is less common, meaning homelessness is less visible. Even the term “homeless” can cause confusion on a reservation, as the land itself is often considered a “home” for all tribal members.
Tribes may also struggle in gaining attention for this ... Read More »
Fun with the System Evaluator
March 15, 2011
Today's post come to us from Norm Suchar, director of the Alliance's Center for Capacity Building.
A couple months ago, we published a new tool that we’re calling the Homeless System Evaluator. Using the Evaluator, you can put in homelessness data and it will provide you with charts and graphs that help you see what parts of you homeless assistance system are working better than others. It’s a great tool for looking at the big picture.
So how does it work?
Here’s a small example, but if you want to see more, you should check it out on our website.
The chart below combines HMIS data regarding last place of residence for single individuals entering shelter and for those being served with HPRP prevention assistance. (Although I cut out some of the categories so it would fit better on this page.) It shows that a large percentage of the singles are coming from institutional settings, while most of the prevention resources are targeted to people coming from unsubsidized housing they rent. This kind of data can begin a conversation in your community about how resources are utilized, and it’s precisely the kind of thing the Evaluator was designed for.
Have questions? Send the Capacity Building Center an email.... Read More »
Encouraging community investment in Lincoln NE
October 07, 2010
Today's guest post is the next - and last! - installment of our Nebraska series from Kim Walker of our Center for Capacity Building. For more about the Center for Capacity Building and the services they offer, check on the Training section of our website.
Believe it or not, our time in Lincoln is at an end!
This last visited was from September 29 – October 1. The bulk of this last visit was a presentation to the larger Lincoln community, particularly targeting those whose work touches homeless individuals and have not been present for our meetings thus far. It’s about rallying community support and understanding that in order to make big change, we have to all be willing to invest in that change.
For our piece, we’ll review the process we’ve gone through with the Lincoln Homeless Coalition, including the data we collected through our survey and data analysis. Then we’ll turn things over to the Coalition members, who will talk in-depth about each of the goals they have for Lincoln’s system and invite the audience to become involved. This is where, if all goes well, we’ll see our hard work turn to into collective action as the larger community takes ownership of the work ahead.
In addition to presenting, we’ll be visiting the Coalition’s Project Homeless Connect event. Like other communities across the country, Lincoln puts on this one-day event that brings together different service... Read More »
More dispatches from Nebraska
September 09, 2010
You may remember that Kim Walker of the Alliance’s Center for Capacity Building is launching a new tool to end homelessness in Nebraska. Today – while she and our colleague Sam are en route to the Lincoln, she shares thoughts for their next trip!
It’s back to Lincoln tomorrow – and this time, my fellow Capacity Building Associate, Samantha Batko, will be joining me! Our mission for the visit is to finalize the plan that Lincoln started the first time around. This will entail doing some refining of the Lincoln Homeless Coalition members’ initial ideas, particularly the five goals they chose as the most important in helping them shift their system in the direction of ending family homelessness. Last time around, there were a lot of different strategies and resources suggested to help Lincoln accomplish their goals, but now it’s time to decide which strategies and resources are the best and most promising ones. Completing a workable timeline is also of the utmost importance with this visit.
Beyond just finishing up the plan – which is no small feat – we also hope to get the group jump-started with implementation. We are hoping to get the ball rolling so by our next visit, Lincoln will be able to report some progress on each of the five goals they’ve selected. While we at the Alliance our big plans of comprehensive and thoughtful planning, what we are really after is successful implementation that gets positiv... Read More »
Nan! at the National Housing Conference Budget Forum
March 16, 2010
Okay, so this is a little late in coming - the NHC Budget Conference was on Friday, March 12 - but I'm hoping you'll find this informative nonetheless. The NHC Budget Forum was, per usual, an extraordinarily well-run event. This year, NHC hosted Raphael Bostic of the Department of Housing and Urban Development as the keynote speaker. Panelists, covering the different parts of the HUD budget, included Jonathan Horowitz of HUD, Sheila Crowley of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, Sarah Wartell of the Center for American Progress, and our own Nan Roman. Her testimony (about 10 minutes) on the proposed McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance programs and other federal homelessness investments right here. Opening and closing remarks were offered by the new incoming executive director of the NHC, Maureen Friar. Outgoing executive director and innovative leader in the housing and homelessness fields Conrad Egan was recognized by all the panelists, speakers and several invitees at the forum. Check out the great blogpost (with pictures and video!) about the forum on the NHC Conference blog, Open House. You can also see great pictures on their Flickr account. If you're feeling REALLY die-hard, you can check out the Raphael Bostic's entire PowerPoint presentation on President Obama's proposed FY2011 HUD budget here (courtesy of NHC. Raphael Bostic: Overview of HUD FY 2011 Budget ProposalView more presentations from National Housing Conference & the Center for Housing Policy.... Read More »