Feb 22, 2012

Jake Maguire's picture Posted By Jake Maguire

Staying on Track: A Few Strategic Changes to the Campaign

Over the last few months, we’ve worked with our quality assurance  partners at the Center for Urban and Community Services to take a rigorous look at the data from the first 18 months of the Campaign. We found many reasons to celebrate, but we also identified a few red flags. One of the most important aspects of the Campaign is the way it encourages communities to learn from one another and get better at what they do. So, with that in mind, here’s a quick snapshot of where we are and a brief summary of some important tactical adjustments that we hope all participating communities can begin to make together.

The exciting news is that this movement is succeeding. So far, 114 communities have signed on to participate in the Campaign and to identify and permanently house their most vulnerable homeless neighbors. More than 50 communities have held registry weeks, and more than 4,000 volunteers across America have hit the streets to meet and survey the homeless people among them. Participating communities have turned the Vulnerability Index into an incredible surveying  tool, giving names and faces to more than 24,000 people who might otherwise have remained invisible. 
But we also have room to improve. While many communities have raised their housing placement rates, and several are on track to end homelessness outright, most communities participating in the Campaign still need to improve. To house 100,000 of the most vulnerable people in America, and to reach the federal goals laid out in Opening Doors (the first federal plan to end homelessness), we need to refine and expand our strategies so that every community can house more people even more quickly.
For starters, let’s talk about goals. By the end of the Campaign, we want to see 100,000 people who were vulnerable or chronically homeless when we began this effort living in permanent homes. But that victory would feel small if it didn’t also change the way America responds to homelessness. We want Campaign participation to help your community improve its ground game, starting with a plan to help you identify every person on your streets by name with enough information to triage them into appropriate housing. Participation should also help you develop better systems and coordination among agencies, so that you can cut through red tape and start housing people in 30 days or less. Joining the Campaign should also help you get significantly closer to actually ending homelessness in your community, so you can meet your federal targets under Opening Doors. And the united voice of all participating communities should help bring those federal targets within reach by giving us leverage at the federal level to expand access to mainstream housing resources and implement the major policy changes we all know we need.


So what do we need to do to reach these goals? First, certain things should never change, like our focus on the most vulnerable or our commitment to the power of the grassroots. But we’ve also got to be willing to make strategic adjustments. That’s why, beginning March 1st, we will implement the following new strategies:
  • We will extend the Campaign’s end date by one year, from July 2013 to July 2014, to allow more time for the best ideas to spread and the most high-impact systems changes to take hold
  • In addition to focusing on their most vulnerable neighbors, we will ask communities to report the chronically homeless individuals and families that many are already housing anyway. We think that this will expand the scope of learning that can happen on the Campaign and put communities in a better position to reach the federal goals laid out in Opening Doors.
  • We will ask every participating community to work toward a housing placement rate of 2.5% of its chronic and vulnerable populations (based on 2010 federal data) each month.  This number reflects the rate at which all communities would need to be housing people today in order to reach their federal goals and truly end homelessness faster than it is increasing.
  • Community Solutions will do everything possible to expand access to Campaign trainings and boot camps (through cost cutting, the creation of virtual tools, and more). We will also enhance the hands-on technical assistance that we provide to participating communities through increased organizing and more helpful tools.
  • The Community Solutions staff will draw on Campaign-wide data and work with our strategic partners to advocate aggressively at the federal level for key policy changes to make it easier and faster to house chronic and vulnerable homeless individuals and families. These include expanding access to mainstream housing resources like Medicaid, VASH and Section 8, as well as streamlining federal housing placement requirements and processes.
Finally, what does this mean for your community? The Campaign support staff from Community Solutions has formed a series of specialized teams to support you directly if you’re ready to implement these changes and pursue these goals. The Field Organizing team, led by Linda Kaufman, will continue to hold quarterly Boot Camp trainings open to all participating communities. The Quality Improvement Team, led by Beth Sandor, will  provide hands-on assistance to help communities improve their monthly housing placement rates to 2.5% of their total chronic and vulnerable populations. This will include a monthly email to each community highlighting your current housing placement rate and your progress toward housing 2.5% of your chronic and vulnerable populations monthly. The team is currently conducting a deep dive analysis of best practices in several communities to develop implementation tools. Look for new training materials this spring. 
We’ve also created two key advocacy teams to support the movement as a whole. The Systems Change Team, led by Jessica Venegas, will work with the Quality Improvement Team and Communications Team to listen to your needs on the ground and amplify our collective voice to key federal and strategic partners and policymakers. This team’s goal is to improve the top-down policies and conditions for your work, so be sure to let them know what you need! The Communications Team, led by Jake Maguire, will work with participating communities to draw attention to successful local models and to build momentum for key policy shifts at the federal level. This team will also help communities maximize media for local support and fundraising. And lastly, we will continue to enlist and seek the on-going advice and assistance of as many national partners as possible, all of whom will be accessible in some way to participating communities.
We believe that if we make these targeted adjustments, we can make significant headway toward reaching our goals and fundamentally altering America’s response to homelessness. We can’t wait to continue working with and hearing from all participating communities as we continue to tailor our strategies. For assistance or more information, please contact your field organizer. If you live in Texas or the Mountain or Pacific time zones, contact Mike Shore. If you live in the Eastern or Central time zones (minus Texas), contact Linda Kaufman.
Thanks for everything you do!