Thursday, October 23, 2014

The MDHA Model

If you follow this blog, you already know what MDHA does. It is an association of organizations devoted to ending homelessness in Dallas and Collin Counties, by putting people into homes. In order to end homelessness, we facilitate over $16,750,000 of annual federal funding, coordinate services, and drive improvement in more than 45 different transitional housing (TH), rapid rehousing (RRH), and permanent supportive housing (PSH) programs. 

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) does not directly fund service providers, rather mandates that they be funded through local Continuum of Care (CoC)[1] organizations, which coordinate services for those experiencing homelessness. HUD requires all service providers it funds to report on their performance through a Homeless Management Information System (HMIS)[2], which tracks, grades and drives improvement across the CoC, and in each individual organization. Increasingly, the federal government is requiring even service providers funded outside of the local CoC to report on their performance through HMIS. MDHA is the federally designated CoC organization and HMIS operator for Dallas and Collin Counties[3].

Interestingly, different communities build different models to fulfill the above CoC and HMIS functions, and these models can change in the same community with time. These functions may be fulfilled by the same organization, as in MDHA’s case today. They may also be fulfilled by two separate organizations, as it was in Dallas before 2010, when the Community Council of Greater Dallas was the HMIS operator. These functions may be fulfilled by a department of local government, as was the case with the CoC function in Dallas before 2004. Alternatively, as in Dallas today, these functions may be fulfilled by an independent non-profit organization, like MDHA. Finally, these functions may be fulfilled by an organization, that also provides some type of direct services, while in others, they are fulfilled by an organization that quite purposefully does not. Between 2007 and 2011, MDHA was an example of the former, The Bridge operating under MDHA, at the time. Now it is an example of the latter, having spun The Bridge off as a separate non-profit three years ago this month.
MDHA’s board and community leaders chose the current model very deliberately. MDHA serves as the lead agency for the CoC and as the HMIS operator. This enables the CoC and HMIS functions to work symbiotically, hand in hand. The CoC application process for federal funding is a competitive one, and the more MDHA can drive improvement of the service providers through the use of a high functioning HMIS, the better the odds of winning more funding. MDHA purposefully does not provide any direct services, and is an independent non-profit organization. This enables MDHA to be objective, with the exclusive needs of the consumer in mind, remaining nimble, efficient and responsive to those very needs.

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