Jun 20, 2011

Jake Maguire's picture Posted By Jake Maguire

L.A. Communities Work to Reduce Steps to House Homeless Veterans

Last week, five Los Angeles area communities gathered at the California Endowment for the Campaign's first Housing Placement Boot Camp, jointly hosted by Home for Good, L.A.'s plan to end chronic and veterans homelessness.  Aimed at reducing the number of steps and length of time required to move homeless veterans into permanent housing, the event helped communities cut the average number of steps in their local processes by 50 percent and the average length of time from street to home by 80 percent!

"Getting so many diverse people in a room together showed the immense power of community learning," said Brad Bridwell, a Boot Camp faculty member from the Arizona Department of Veterans Services. "When we brought people to the same table, we uncovered things we previously had no idea about."

To ensure that real change could be made, each community was required to bring a high-ranking representative from their local housing authority and V.A. office as well as members of local outreach teams and anyone else who might play a role in the housing placement process. Many of these people had never been in the same room together before.

Once they arrived, teams were introduced to the Campaign's unique housing placement board game, a breakthrough innovation designed by the talented team at Aguiniga Designs. The game allows teams to map out the steps in their current housing placement processes, including each time meetings must be convened, money or paper changes hands, or time must be spent waiting. Since most housing placement systems are inefficient and have developed piecemeal over time, this initial task alone took most teams several hours.

Once teams had their processes in place, they began working together to identify redundancy, inefficiency, and unnecessary bureaucratic hurdles. For the first time, many attendees realized that their respective agencies currently demand many of the same items from homeless veterans, whether through meetings, applications or duplicate forms. Common questions included, "Couldn't we just create one shared form?" and "What if we put that process online?"

"This really helped me see where steps can be streamlined to speed things up," said Stephani Hardy of the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority. "We all have a tendency to blame one group or another when things aren't working well, but I think we've seen here that everyone has a part to play. We can work together to get homeless vets off the streets."

By the close of the event, teams had reduced their veterans housing placement processes on paper from an average of 47 poorly coordinated steps to just 23. The estimated amount of time from start to completion had shrunk from an average of 168 days to just 38.

Teams will now return to their various agencies and organizations to begin implementing as many of the proposed changes as possible. Representatives from Home for Good also worked with team members to develop a broader action plan that included potential county-wide changes from which all communities would benefit.

Participants were optimistic that implementation could be accomplished.

"The amount of feedback and collaboration between agencies and the sharing of information was phenomenal," said Heather Filbey-McCabe of the Housing Authority of the City of Long Beach. "I feel like I’ve picked up a wealth of information that I can use when I get back to the office. Thank you to the 100,000 Homes Campaign and Home for Good for pulling us all together."