Wednesday, February 14, 2018

My Invocation at the Dallas Furniture Bank CHAIRity Friendraiser Luncheon - Furnishing Hope for 15 years

Friends, allow me to begin by applauding you for being intolerant. Yes, you heard correctly, if you are here, you are intolerant, and you should be commended for it. Allow me to clarify, though, before I am dragged off stage.  

 
Before the Dallas Furniture Bank, folks exiting homelessness often moved into empty homes, where they had to sleep, sit and eat on the floor. In 2003, a group of people decided that they would no longer tolerate this. The founders of the Dallas Furniture Bank could not fathom that in the 21st Century, in Dallas, Texas, human beings should have to live like that. It was wrong, it was unjust, and they would no longer stand for it. 

Therefore, they founded the Dallas Furniture Bank. The idea was simple. Folks don’t have furniture. Give them furniture. It was so crazy; it just worked. 

By joining us here today, fifteen years later, you state, that you too will not tolerate other human beings living in a barren home. By giving to the Dallas Furniture Bank, you are ensuring that such injustice will not stand, especially when the solution is so simple. 
 
This gives me great hope. Why? Because it shows me how we can end homelessness itself. You see, Dallas’ homelessness crisis is quite similar to the crisis the founders of the Dallas Furniture Bank confronted fifteen years ago. 
 
In what way? Well, we now have 15-20 years of research that shows us how to end homelessness. The idea is simple. Folks don’t have homes. Give them homes. It’s so crazy; it just works. Sometimes they need some additional supports, but in essence that is all there is to it. 
 
In the 21st Century, in Dallas, Texas, human beings shouldn't have to experience homelessness. It is wrong, it is unjust, and we should not stand for it, especially when the solution is so simple. All we need is the will to make it happen, the same will that the founders of the Dallas Furniture Bank had fifteen years ago. For, as a great man named Theodor Herzl wrote in 1902, if you will it, it is no dream. 

Thursday, February 1, 2018

In Dallas Everybody Counts. OK, What Happens Next?

Wow. What can we say? Thursday night, you showed that, in Dallas, everybody counts.   

We had so many volunteers at our largest site, First United Methodist Church, Dallas, that the first floor of the sanctuary, which seats 800, could not fit everyone. Some of our volunteers had to go up to the balcony! Altogether, we broke the record we set last year, in what was, once again, the largest Homeless Count in Texas history, with over 1,500 volunteers.


 
So many organizations and individuals helped us pull this off. There is no way we could thank everyone who helped us. We did want to highlight First United Methodist Church, Dallas, and Wilshire Baptist Church, who hosted our two Dallas sites. And, as usual, our friends at United Way of Metropolitan Dallas proved indispensable, in spreading the word about the need for volunteers, and in running a special campaign, Warm a Sole, to give a pair of socks to every person experiencing homelessness in Dallas and Collin Counties.

 
Do you have pics, stories or impressions to share about that night, which you have yet to post? Please share them, using: #dallascounts2018.

If this is your first Homeless Count, and even if you have done a few before, you might be asking, OK, what happens now? Great question!

First of all, as we mentioned on our blog before, the use of the Counting Us app helped us and our partners immediately connect persons experiencing homelessness to services. Since the app automatically records the exact latitude and longitude of each person counted, we were able to supply outreach teams with this information. They were then able to go out the very next morning to assist individuals who might qualify for specific programs, specifically, youth, veterans, persons with HIV/AIDS, and pregnant women.



 
The main thing we will do now, though, is compile all of the results we collected, of both sheltered and unsheltered counts, "clean" them up, correcting for duplicates and other errors, and "slice and dice" them by specific demographic groups. We will carefully analyze the results, and figure what they tell us about trends in homelessness, what is working in our homeless response system, and where our community needs to course correct.

On Wednesday, March 21, 2018, 9.30-11.30am, we will hold our annual State of the Homeless Address at Goodwill Industries of Dallas. Cindy J. Crain, MDHA President and CEO, will share the results of the 2018 Point-in-Time Homeless Count, and the progress of the Homeless Response System. Please save the date!


 
Finally, we will submit the results of the Count to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). These results will go into a national report HUD will submit to the U.S. Congress in late 2018. You can check out the 2017 report by clicking here. 

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance Recruits Record Number of Volunteers for 2018 Homeless Count

Dallas, Texas – This Thursday night, January 25, 2018, 7pm-Midnight, the Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance (MDHA), and its partners in Dallas and Collin Counties will conduct the annual federally required Homeless Count, and for the third year in a row, the Dallas homeless response system’s backbone organization will be breaking records.

Volunteers prepare for the Homeless Count on the night of January 26, 2017
 
“We are still compiling final numbers, but as of Tuesday morning, we are looking at about 1,550 registered volunteers in Dallas and Collin Counties, who will fan out across over 250 different routes, to count our homeless friends,” said David Gruber, MDHA Development and Communications Director. In 2017, MDHA and its partners conducted the largest homeless count in Texas history, to date, with an estimated 1,300 volunteers in both counties. That year, volunteers found 1,087 unsheltered persons, out of a total of 3,789 persons experiencing homelessness that night. (The remaining 2,702 persons were in shelter, safe haven or transitional housing.) 
 
MDHA leveraged its relationship with its many service providers, funders and supporters, in a recruitment effort that began in late November, and ended Monday. Notably, United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, an MDHA funder, lent their hand to the recruitment effort, and even launched a campaign to give every person experiencing homelessness in Dallas and Collin Counties a new pair of socks the week of the count. “We are tremendously thankful to everyone who helped us spread the word, and organize this year’s count. We could not have done this alone,” said Rebecca Cox, MDHA’s Vice President, who is spearheading the Count, “It is quite humbling.” 
 
MDHA radically changed the way it counts the homeless in 2016. It began recruiting more volunteers than before, and utilizing them to count the unsheltered homeless, exclusively. Shelters, in turn, provide an accurate count of their guests, electronically. “By recruiting more volunteers, and focusing their efforts on counting the unsheltered, we can canvas more areas, and improve the accuracy of the count,” said MDHA President and CEO, Cindy J. Crain. Impressed with the record breaking recruitment in the 2016 and 2017 counts, the National Alliance to End Homelessness invited Crain to present about homeless count volunteer recruitment, at their recent annual conference in July 2017.
 
Technology plays a part in improving accuracy too, as well as making for a smoother volunteer experience. Since 2016, MDHA has utilized geographic information system (GIS) mapping software to plan volunteer routes, as well as tier them, according to the likelihood of the presence of homeless persons in any given area. And, beginning in 2017, in place of paper surveys printed out on double-sided legal-size pages, MDHA began using the Counting Us app from Simtech Solutions. The app eliminates the need for volunteers to return to their deployment sites to drop off completed surveys, as well as the need for more volunteers to transcribe hundreds of surveys in the weeks following the Count. Instead the app uploads each survey immediately. It also allows MDHA to gather data more accurately, and better analyze the results after the Count.

http://pointintime.info/countingus-mobile-app/
Counting Us app (Courtesy of Simtech Solutions)

Use of the app can also help MDHA and its partners connect persons experiencing homelessness to services. The app automatically records the exact latitude and longitude, of each person counted, using GPS. Then, the night of the count MDHA can supply outreach teams with this information, so they can go out the very next morning to assist individuals who may qualify for specific programs, including youth, veterans and persons with specific medical diagnoses.

http://pointintime.info/regional-command-center/
Dallas Counting Us command center – January 26, 2017
 
Thursday night, volunteers will gather at First United Methodist Church Dallas and Wilshire Baptist Church, as well other sites throughout Dallas and Collin Counties to check in and receive their routes, as well as receive final training and instructions, before they fan out across the two counties. Meanwhile, MDHA will monitor the data as it is being gathered in real-time, in a virtual command center. MDHA will share the results of the Count, with the community, at its annual State of the Homeless Address, on March 21, 2018, at 9:30am, at Goodwill Industries of Dallas.

Friday, January 5, 2018

The 2018 Homeless Count - There’s an App for That!

It’s time for the annual Homeless Count, Thursday, January 25, 2018, 7pm-Midnight, and if you’ve seen one Homeless Count, you’ve seen them all, right? Wrong! In 2016 and 2017, the Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance (MDHA) radically changed the way it conducts its annual Homeless Count, in order to get much more reliable data. So, what changed?

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/PITCountDallas
Volunteers prepare for the Homeless Count on the night of January 26, 2017
 
  • We recruit more volunteers – With more volunteers, we can canvas more areas, and that means improved accuracy.
  • Volunteers count the unsheltered homeless only – We know where the sheltered homeless are. They are sheltered, after all! Shelters provide MDHA with an accurate count of these folks, electronically. That way our volunteers can concentrate on finding the unsheltered homeless.
  • We use geographic information system (GIS) mapping software – The software helps us plan volunteer routes, as well as tier them, according to the likelihood of the presence of homeless persons in any given area.
  • We ask volunteers to register in advance as teams – This helps us plan the exact routing of volunteers, streamline the Count, and utilize volunteers’ time during the evening of the Count. 
http://pointintime.info/countingus-mobile-app/
Counting Us app (Courtesy of Simtech Solutions)
  • There’s an app for that – If in previous years, we used paper surveys printed out on double sided legal-size pages, in 2017 we said goodbye to paper, with the Counting Us app from Simtech Solutions! This app eliminates the need for volunteers to return to their deployment sites to drop off completed surveys, as well as the need for more volunteers to transcribe hundreds of surveys in the weeks following the Count. Instead the app uploads each survey immediately. The app also allows us to see survey data as it is being gathered in real-time, in a virtual command center, full of intuitive dashboards and maps, and better analyze the data after the Count.
  • We use the information we collect to connect people to services – We ask volunteers to collect names and contact information of those they count (with their permission), and the app automatically records their exact latitude and longitude, using GPS. Then, the very night of the count we can supply outreach teams with this information, so they can go out the very next morning to assist individuals who may qualify for specific programs, including youth, veterans and persons with specific medical diagnoses.

Register today to volunteer for the Homeless Count, Thursday, January 25, 2018, 7pm-Midnight: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/PITCountDallas. For more details: http://www.mdhadallas.org/2018-homeless-count/
 
http://pointintime.info/regional-command-center/
Dallas Counting Us command center – January 26, 2017
 

Friday, December 29, 2017

Single-Loop Learning, Double-Loop Learning and Homelessness – Bonus Post - Total Consciousness

Homelessness is no laughing matter, but in thinking about single-loop learning and double-loop learning, I could not help, but think about this iconic scene, in which the character says he was a “looper”:


The thing is, if you think about what the story is really all about, you must admit, it is obvious... single-loop learning and double-loop learning! 

These parts of the story go against the “governing variables” of what we know or assume we know about Tibet and the Dalai Lama:

  • The existence of a golf course in Tibet;
  • The Dalai Lama playing golf, in his robes no less;
  • The Dalai Lama’s strength, as a “big hitter,”;
  • The Dalai Lama, the epitome of morality, “stiffing” his caddy.

However, the Dalai Lama then engages in double-loop learning, at its best:
 
  • He does not accept the idea that the caddy’s tip must be monetary;
  • He tells the caddy that the tip he will give him is much better;
  • He convinces the caddy that total consciousness on his death bed is better than money!
 
The postscript to this is that many years later, someone actually asked the Dalai Lama about this story:
 
 
This too is an instance of single-loop learning vs. double-loop learning. After all, an important implicit governing variable of interviews with the Dalai Lama is that you probably don’t want to ask him about Caddyshack. Brett Baier was not deterred by that. He questioned the governing variable, and finally, we have our answer…

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Single-Loop and Double-Loop Learning and Homelessness – Part III – Capitalism

In Part II of this series, we wrote: “Nothing is preventing us from investing more in housing for those on the lower rungs of the economic scale, than we do for those on the upper rungs. Nothing is preventing us from enacting policies that will make all the investments we make, as a nation, in a more equitable manner. We can create a more equitable society, with much less income and wealth inequality.”

Implicitly, though, up until now, in this series, we have accepted capitalism, which undergirds our economy, as an unquestionable governing variable. The language we now use, across the country, that we will make homelessness rare, brief and nonrecurring, implicitly, if not explicitly, is based on the acceptance of this governing variable. We can make homelessness rare, brief and nonrecurring, but we can’t end homelessness in the absolute sense of the word, because in a capitalist society, there will always be economic churn. 

What if we were to question that governing variable? Double-loop learning compels us think about this. In a recent episode of the excellent KERA show, Think, Can Capitalism Work Forever? the host Krys Boyd interviewed Raj Patel and they considered this very question. Patel and Jason W. Moore recently published A History of the World in Seven Cheap Things: A Guide to Capitalism, Nature, and the Future of the Planet. The book is a marvelous example of broad and encompassing double-loop learning

https://www.amazon.com/History-World-Seven-Cheap-Things/dp/0520293134

As Bill McKibben writes, it, “helps us see the startling reality behind what we usually dismiss as the obvious and everyday.” It does this by looking back, and according to Kim Stanley Robinson, offering a, “compelling interpretation of how we got to where we are now.” More importantly, it offers some ideas for, “how we might go on to create a more just and sustainable civilization.” We highly recommend listening to this Think episode to learn more about what might replace the current system. 

Obviously, we don’t know if Patel and Moore’s ideas will work. It is thinking about the ideas we have raised in this series, and not being afraid to question the governing variables that undergird our society, which is important. Such thinking has particular urgency because the effects of our current way of life are, quite literally, killing us. 

Raj Patel
(Courtesy of Raj Patel and Sheila Menezes)
This is not hyperbole. Homelessness kills: As our President and CEO, Cindy J. Crain warned us, in a haunting piece about a year and a half ago, the life expectancy of chronically homeless individuals, in the United States, is in the mid-sixties. Inequality kills: As the World Bank tells us, “Crime rates and inequality are positively correlated (within each country and, particularly, between countries), and it appears that this correlation reflects causation from inequality to crime rates, even controlling for other crime determinants.” Capitalism, unfettered and unregulated, as it is practiced today, kills: As Patel and Moore remind us, it threatens to leave us all homeless, as it endangers, our very existence, as a species, in this, our home, Planet Earth.