Check it out: A New Checklist for Retooling Transitional Housing

written by Kay Moshier McDivitt
September 12, 2013

Right now many providers and community leaders out there are exploring options for retooling their transitional housing programs in order to increase the number of people their community is housing, and we’re getting a lot of calls from folks trying to figure out how to get started.

That’s why we created the Retooling Transitional Housing Checklist that we first released during a workshop on retooling transitional housing at our 2013 National Conference in July. You can find it on our new Retooling Transitional Housing page that I blogged about last week.

When an organization has been providing services in a particular way over a long period of time, changing direction can be difficult. In fact, just thinking about change and what to do next can be so overwhelming that it’s hard to actually get the process started. We may “get” that it’s a great idea, but we just don’t know where to start.

I know that feeling. A few years ago, the organization I worked for (before I joined the Alliance) agreed to bring a long term-transitional housing program under our organizational umbrella. That is where the retooling checklist got its roots.

The program had been a pillar in the community for over 20 years, but we we knew that its model wasn’t adding to the community outcomes, and didn’t align with our organization’s housing first philosophy. Yet the program was so ingrained in our homeless service system that it was hard to figure out how to start making changes.

So I worked with my management team to identify the steps we needed to take in order to reach our goal of a rapid exit approach. We put together a concrete plan and timeline that would allow us to pull together a planning team and quickly implement changes that would align the program with our organization’s goals.

I learned two very important lessons along the way. First, it’s important to remain fluid and flexible, but continue to stay focused on the goal. Just when you think you’ve got it figured out, a problem can appear that you didn’t expect. Second, organizational change takes time and a clear direction. It doesn’t happen in a vacuum and a lot of people need to be involved.

For our Retooling Transitional Housing Checklist, I drew heavily on that experience, but the original checklist has evolved and changed over the past two years as the Alliance’s capacity building team has incorporated all the lessons we have learned from other providers who have retooled their programs and shared the planning steps that they took.

We hope that you will find the checklist useful as you begin your retooling planning. Let us know how it worked for you and the lessons you have learned (your insights will help us improve it). And keep checking back to the Retooling Transitional Housing Resource Page for additional resources.