For three days in March, CCEH had the honor of hosting Katharine Gale, perhaps our foremost national expert on homelessness prevention and rapid rehousing programs. At dinner with our colleagues from the Partnership for Strong Communities, PSC Executive Director asked Katharine what she thought were the three keys to retooling our crisis response systems. Katharine was kind enough to write her response for us. Look for national leaders to weigh in on "three key things" regularly in the CCEH e-news.
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."