Apr 15, 2011

Jake Maguire's picture Posted By Jake Maguire

Tanya vs. the Bureaucracy

One of the Campaign's biggest long-term goals is to spur changes to the hopelessly inefficient housing placement process. Now, in Los Angeles, a brilliant young designer is helping us do it.

In most communities, the process for moving someone from homelessness into permanent housing is inefficient and unnecessarily complicated. It takes an average of nine months to complete as many as 40 steps! For a community's most vulnerable homeless people, that delay can be lethal.

But in communities like Washington, DC, dedicated thinkers and public servants managed to consolidate steps and remove unnecessary obstacles to boil their process down to just ten days! As a result, they moved more than 1,200 people into permanent housing in just two years.

In February, GOOD Magazine asked us to identify a tough challenge that they could hand off to an experienced designer and problem solver. We told them about DC and asked them to help us figure out how to distill the housing placement processes to no more than 10 steps that could be completed in just 10 days in any community.

GOOD had already decided to focus on Los Angeles, where Home For Good— a new plan by the United Way and the Chamber of Commerce's Business Task Force— is already building tremendous momentum to end chronic and veteran homelessness in five years. They gave our challenge to local designer Tanya Aguiñiga of Aguiñiga Design, and she delivered in a big way!

Aguiñiga decided to use Los Angeles as a model for a broad approach that could be adapted to communities across the country. Her main innovation was simple but brilliant: create a teaching tool that would help communities visualize their current housing placement processes and identify unnecessary steps.

A few months later, Aguiñiga debuted "Bureaucracy Boneyard", a fun board game for policymakers and public servants. 

It allows communities to map out the steps  from homelessness to housing, identifying which steps require money, waiting periods or third party involvement. By visualizing these steps on the board, participants see just how convoluted the housing placement process has become in their communities.  They also begin to spot changes that will help them maximize efficiency and reduce the time it takes to move someone off the street.

The 100,000 Homes Campaign and Home for Good will jointly host the first Housing Placement Boot Camp later this year. We're inviting public servants with actual authority to make changes to gather for a two-day, intensive ideas exercise guided by experienced quality improvement experts. Throughout the event, teams will use Aguiñiga's game as a hands-on tool to map out their existing housing placement processes and identify ways to improve efficiency.

Thanks to Aguiñiga's clever design, we think we can help every community streamline their system and shrink the homelessness-to-housing timeline to 10 days or less.

Bureaucracy beware!