This time we focus on Goal I on page 2: Increase Access to Affordable Housing. The only thing that truly ends homelessness is housing. However, like any other scarce resource, you need a delivery system to ensure that this resource is deployed in the most efficient manner. This delivery system is made up of all of the different entities who are working together in our community to end homelessness. Our role is to serve as the backbone organization that brings these partners together, and turns them into a unified homeless response system. This is systems thinking at its best.
Now, proper systems thinking entails, at its very basic level, figuring out what input is needed to arrive at the optimal output. Our homeless response system is a leader in recognizing that one of the most important inputs in such a system, is a flexible assistance fund, like the MDHA Flex Fund. This is why one of the action items under this goal is to raise money for this fund. Since its founding by MDHA and United Way of Metropolitan Dallas in late August 2015, it has proven to be one of the most powerful weapons we wield in the fight to end homelessness in Dallas and Collin Counties.
The idea behind the MDHA Flex Fund is simple: A minor but impactful expenditure inhibits a person from ending his or her homelessness. The MDHA Flex Fund pays that expenditure, and the person can make progress in ending his or her homelessness, if not end it altogether, in short order.
Much of what we do is, well, complicated. I usually say that if you need our elevator speech, we better be going up to the top floor of a very tall building! This why we have a Strategic Work Plan and a Playbook. In that context, one of the most beautiful things about the MDHA Flex Fund is its simplicity. In fact, we can even tell stories about it backwards, starting from the end, and as long as we include a link, you not only understand what it’s all about, but probably need a tissue to dab your eyes:
- $103.53. $103.53 allowed Jonathan to reconnect his electricity, and avoid a return to homelessness (and a miserable Christmas).
- $120.75. $120.75 allowed Daniel and Karla to remain housed, Abraham to pursue a job, and Richard to become eligible for a housing voucher. No, not $120.75 each; $120.75 total.
- $95, $149, $200. $95, $149, $200, respectively, allowed Kisha, Sarah and Laura to move from shelter into housing.
Even a cursory observation of these numbers tells you a number of interesting things. Most of us don’t realize how important critical documents are in escaping homelessness, yet this category is the top category in sheer numbers, while not being that high in cost. If you took the statement we opened with, “The only thing that truly ends homelessness is housing,” too simplistically, you might not realize the importance of basic furniture in ending homelessness. This is the fifth highest category in sheer numbers and the fourth highest in cost. And, not surprisingly, almost $30,000 was spent on categories that have the word “rent” in them.
These numbers remind us, when we dig a little deeper, that this program is fully dependent on the folks we call our “unsung heroes,” case managers, whom we celebrate in just a few days. The MDHA Flex Fund is an important tool in their hands, and any tool is only as good as the person wielding it. They also remind us that our system is most powerful when partners join hands to work together, be it these case managers, utilizing the MDHA Flex Fund, be it the MDHA Flex Fund and the Dallas Furniture Bank, be it MDHA and DART.
Based on the numbers we reported, here is our current estimate for MDHA Flex Fund expenditures for July 1, 2017-June 30, 2018:
This is why it remains vital, as this action item states, to continue to raise funds for this important and vital tool: the MDHA Flex Fund. Through adept use of this tool, we can and will increase access to affordable housing for our homeless friends.