Field Notes: Getting Ready to Retool

written by Kay Moshier McDivitt
August 22, 2013

For those of you who are considering retooling your transitional housing program to a permanent housing strategy, I’d like to share some thoughts on starting the planning process. Retooling takes good planning and lots of time.

During the Alliance’s 2013 National Conference in July, I facilitated a workshop designed to help providers and community leaders think strategically about the planning process. During that workshop, speakers discussed the need for organizations that are considering retooling to connect with their local Continuum of Care (CoC) planning body. Planning matters both to the providers and the local homeless system as a whole.

It is critical that your retooling is in alignment with your system’s CoC and Ten Year Plans. For example, if your community doesn’t have a large number of families experiencing chronic homelessness, then it doesn’t make sense to retool a family transitional housing program to permanent supportive housing for families. However, if family shelters in the community are always full, and families experience long lengths of stay in the homeless system, it could make more sense to become a rapid re-housing program for families.

During the workshop, Andrea Hachey from Columbus House in New Haven, Conn., stressed that providers should make sure they are part of the CoC planning process. Columbus House started their conversation with their CoC three years ago, when it became clear that HUD was encouraging the CoC to look at opportunities to shift transitional housing to permanent supportive housing. Their CoC supported their retooling process. That kind of support is essential.

Kimberly Tucker from St. Joseph’s Villa in Richmond, Va., said her organization engaged their local CoC, Homeward, in the initial planning process, but also communicated regularly as they retooled from transitional housing to rapid re-housing. Consequently, all stakeholders remained informed about major changes and the organization’s evolving role in the community’s plan to adopt rapid re-housing for families. The CoC supported the move, which in turn leveraged state and federal rapid re-housing dollars for the community.

Hachey described her organization’s relationship with their CoC following the initial planning process as, “a continuing conversation.” Once you have met with your CoC to help you identify your model, the next step is the development of your “Retooling Assessment Committee,” which will assess and evaluate the current program and identify the new model. Including a CoC representative on that planning committee will help that conversation continue.

Please check out the presentation below, and look forward to more valuable information about the retooling assessment committee in future blogs!