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Field Notes: Capacity Building Lessons from the Conference
August 14, 2013
So, the conference has come and gone! Being on the staff side of the conference keeps you busy, but as a capacity builder, it’s so important that I try to soak up as much as I can and apply it to my own daily work. I spend the weeks after the conference thinking about how to move forward with the new information I’ve gathered. Today, I thought I’d share with you some of the things I learned in the hopes that it will help you with your daily work as well.
Emergency shelters are a crucial part of a community’s crisis response, and the Alliance’s Capacity Building Team is currently working hard to understand how to help communities shape these programs into temporary housing facilities that also contribute to positive community-wide outcomes. This workshop balanced some great discussion about specific shelters with the new HEARTH Act focus on performance and outcomes. Using a low-barrier approach to shelter also came up here, which is a discussion many shelters are (and should be) having. Shelter providers must be thinking about how to reduce admissions requirements to ensure that no one is sleeping on the streets, while at the same time preserving the safe environment of their programs.
This workshop was really focused on helping communities get to the next level in coordinated assessment. Matt White of Abt Associates offered a great review of HUD standards and discussed what communities could do to reach beyond those standards to create an even more advanced and effective coordinated assessment process. Chis Ko from United Way in Los Angeles spoke to the more intangible elements needed to create a successful coordinated assessment process, including the need to be ambitious, tenacious, and extremely collaborative.
A lot of communities come to us with questions about how to serve unaccompanied non-chronic individuals experiencing homelessness. Often our first question is, “Have you tried rapid re-housing them?” Surprisingly, many communities feel this isn’t an option and that rapid re-housing won’t be as effective as it has been with families. Speakers in this workshop spoke about the evidence that shows that rapid re-housing does and will work with unaccompanied adults, using many of the same strategies one would use for families. Micah Ecumenical Ministries, a faith-based organization rapidly re-housing folks in Virginia, boasted a low 10 percent return rate for individuals to homelessness since 2008.
This session focused on diversion and prevention for domestic violence survivors. The speakers gave me some new ideas about how communities could implement these concepts. In Cleveland, diversion is the responsibility of trained mediators who are entirely separate from coordinated assessment staff. Kelly West, LifeWire, Bellevue, Wash. shared insights about the importance of making their prevention/diversion services survivor-driven; in other words, allowing the survivor to drive decisions about what kind of assistance they needed. All the presenters shared great ideas of how to use creativity and flexible funding – including paying down student loans and buying sewing machines – to prevent their clients from becoming homeless.
These are just a few of the lessons I learned. We’d love to hear about yours, especially if there’s some product we can develop at the Alliance to help you implement a best practice!