Field Notes: Working Together

written by Kay Moshier McDivitt
May 30, 2012

As Continuum of Cares (CoCs) begin to coordinate the network of homeless service providers in their communities in preparation for the HEARTH Act, many continue to look for ways to engage all providers, particularly those who receive no federal funding. Here at the Center for Capacity Building, we talk to numerous communities and help them improve their performance as a system. We often find that in many communities, some providers have not “come to the table” due to their concern that their participation with the CoC may compromise their organizational missions.

Communities that have successfully engaged all providers, including those who are not federally funded, have one thing in common: their community leaders actively worked to build relationships with those providers.  While it may seem as though there are vast philosophical divides, when folks sit down together to learn about each other’s work and begin to build a relationship, we often find we have a lot more in common.

I believe most of us work to end homelessness because we care. On the deepest level, what we as community leaders and providers strive for is to make sure that folks in our community don’t experience homelessness.

We need to take that first, huge step of taking time to listen to each other, learn from each other, and focus on our shared thoughts and ideas instead of our differences. Even when individual providers continue to have different visions, by shifting the focus to the shared goal of ending homelessness, communities can connect with reluctant providers and bring them to the table.

In the end, it is all about relationships. Recognizing our differences, while focusing on our commonalities, and knowing that when a community works together, everyone benefits, is what matters. It matters for our community, it matters for our organizations, and most of all it matters for those experiencing homelessness.  Being creative in breaking down silos and learning to work as one CoC takes time, it takes energy, and it can be frustrating, but it matters and in the end it is well worth the effort.

Image courtesy of nicolasnova