This year THN, as the CoC Lead Agency, provided a scholarship to support 10 local leaders from across the Texas Balance of State Continuum of Care to attend the 2020 Solutions for Individual Homeless Adults: A National Conference presented by the National Alliance to End Homelessness.
Katherine Hennecke, a community leader in Lubbock, offers her reflections on the conference.
Accelerate. Flexible. Inflow. Solutions. These words frequently were mentioned throughout the National Alliance on Ending Homelessness conference. Attending sessions focused on PSH, harm reduction, impactful outreach programs, business models to landlord retention, and many other topics, the NAEH conference expanded my overall knowledge of both current housing services and the national direction of future growth needs within the facet of ending homelessness.
Accelerate – Conversations focused on the speed in which we can accelerate individuals exiting homelessness into a variety of permanent housing programming. Similar to Lubbock where I practice, many communities witness individual’s experiencing homelessness sitting on a Coordinated Entry waiting list for years. Therefore; his/her overall needs and the trauma he/she experiences while homeless are exponential the longer he/she is not in permanent housing. Accelerating someone’s journey into housing often decreases the longevity and intensity of needed services.
Flexible – Interventions must be tailored to the specific needs of the individual you are helping in that moment. This is a prevalent thought and conversation but often harder to practice day in and day out. Barrier free models to housing and shelters allow unsheltered homelessness to end quicker. Utilizing harm reduction frameworks within one’s practice allows direct service providers to love people through change from a strength’s-based perspective. This requires extreme flexibility and creativity from the top down in every service provider in the BoS CoC. Flexibility values the humanity of each person experiencing homelessness and allows him/her to be the expert in one’s own life.
Inflow – The last decade focused on housing first initiatives. One of my favorite sessions discussed the need for this decade’s focus to be on communities identifying upstream approaches to understand how and why new people are experiencing homelessness for the first time in each community. Inflow takes a systems approach at understanding and dissecting root causes of homelessness in a community. Decreasing the initial inflow in a community directly correlates to making homelessness rare. Diversion and rapid resolution programs assist a community in decreasing inflow and in many states have been shown to immediately decrease the number of new people experiencing homelessness for the first time.
Solutions – Housing First ENDS homelessness versus many homeless services and homeless crisis response systems are more inclined to MANAGE homelessness. I’m encouraged to challenge my local Coordinated Entry system to be focused on providing services that are directly tied to solutions. Focuses on housing as the primary solution to homelessness need to be a unified priority and approach for each community within the BoS CoC.
Because the causes of homelessness increasing across America are multi-sectored, the solutions must be multi-sectored as well. Housing costs, financial debt, lack of resources, and affordable housing all contribute to the current state of homelessness. Beyond that, multiple systems such as child welfare programs, education systems, behavioral health care programs, medical health care facilities, and jails/prisons need to have a seat at the table when addressing solutions to homelessness as a community. Without each sector addressing homelessness from that perspective, homelessness will continue.
Many speakers shared empowering notes that all direct care staff need to hear repeatedly in our CoC. I’ll leave you with Lauran Hall in San Francisco’s view for utilizing harm reduction and homeless services which provided the encouragement that I needed from this conference:
Be real. Be kind. Be relentless.