Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Missed Hard Conversations: Housing First? Watch It Now!

This last Monday, September 19, 2016, MDHA, CitySquare, and the Dallas Public Library presented a book synopsis of Housing First: Ending Homelessness, Transforming Systems, and Changing Lives.  Randy Mayeux, renowned scholar and longtime book reviewer at CitySquare’s Urban Engagement Book Club spoke at the J. Erik Johnson Public Library, to a packed house, and you could hear a pin drop. Thanks, Randy! You hit it out of the park.

Cindy J. Crain, MDHA President and CEO, introduced Charles, one of many bona fide Dallas Housing First success stories to the crowd, and shared the numbers on client success in Housing First programs in Dallas. If you have read this blog before, you know those numbers already – 96%! Larry James, CEO of CitySquare spoke about how The Cottages at Hickory Crossing and other CitySquare programs utilize the Housing First philosophy, and both he and Cindy took questions.     

Our good friends from Two Hats Publishing taped the whole thing, so click here to download Randy’s handout and PowerPoint presentation, and then click here to watch the whole session:
We posted the above video, handout, and PowerPoint on the Key Documents and Hard Conversations pages on our website too, along with an audio recording (does not include Cindy and Larry’s parts). Enjoy learning, and spread the word!

Friday, September 16, 2016

This North Texas Giving Day, Give to What Works

Research shows that the only way to make real social progress is through collective impact – many organizations working together to achieve common goals. Research further shows that you need a strong backbone organization to lead the collective impact, in order for it to work. 

MDHA is a backbone organization. We partner with many organizations to work on a specific goal: Making homelessness rare, brief and non-recurring. That means that we never ask, "What's another cool program we can create?" We always ask, "What proven solutions will help us achieve our goal?"

In the last 18 months alone, we have made tremendous progress in implementing proven solutions that will help us achieve that goal. So, this September 22, 2016, North Texas Giving Day, please give to what works. Bookmark our North Texas Giving Day page - now, and mark that day on your calendar.

We count on, and appreciate your support. Happy giving!

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Will Housing First Work in Dallas? It Already Does!

The idea of Housing First is simple: A person experiencing homelessness is housed with two conditions only: That they abide by their lease, and meet periodically with their case worker. Wrap around services and supports are made available to them. They are encouraged, to avail themselves of these services and supports, but the choice to do so or not do so, is entirely up to them.

We talk about Housing First quite a bit, because it really matters. As we have mentioned, in general, across the country and the world, Housing First has become the consensus of researchers and practitioners in the field, and the official policy of not only our Federal Government, but other governments too.

While some may disagree with Housing First philosophically, it is hard to deny its success. In general, it is successful for around 85% of clients. This means, that 85% of clients in a Housing First program remain housed, in a permanent housing setting. Here is a question we have received recently, though, “Will Housing First Work in Dallas?”
Housing First, the recently published book by the
“father” of the movement, Dr. Sam Tsemberis
Well, the answer might just surprise you. We recently analyzed the aggregate Annual Performance Report on 25 Permanent Supportive Housing and Rapid Rehousing programs, funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development through our Continuum of Care. The total number of clients in these Housing First programs was 1,629, during the 12 months of July 1, 2015 – June 30, 2016. About 2/3 had a history of mental disability, about 2/5 had a history of drug and/or alcohol abuse, and more than half had two or three concurrent disabling or other health conditions. Here is what we found:

1,293 – Remained housed in their program

271 – Exited their program for another permanent housing setting

43 – Exited their program to temporary housing settings or homelessness

22 – Died

Total number that remained housed in a permanent setting – 1293+271= 1,564

Percentage of those who remained housed in a permanent setting – 1,564/1,629=96%

So, what is the answer to the question, “Will Housing First Work in Dallas?” It already does. Dallas has a 96% success rate in housing programs that utilize a Housing First approach. QED.

Supportive Services and Assessments Increased at Haskell Homeless Encampment – Racial Inequities Must be Addressed

On Tuesday, September 6, 2016, beginning at 9:30 am, the Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance and representatives from several homeless service providers will increase supportive services and client needs assessments for residents of the homeless encampment located at I-30 and Haskell in Dallas, Texas. 
Street outreach workers primarily from City Square, Austin Street Center, The Stewpot and Turtle Creek Recovery Center will embark on a “blitz” to methodically assess each person, and document their homelessness, in preparation for moving them into housing, as soon as feasible.

Effective evidence-based street outreach assumes that all persons have strengths and assets, enters into dialogue, figuratively and literally where clients are, and starts the conversation immediately, with a specific question, “What is your housing plan?” Persons are assessed using evidence-based tools, with an eye to facing the practical housing barriers the person faces. The attitude brought to such outreach is key: We are aware, that nearly all persons living unsheltered come from a position of trauma, and are coping with antisocial, destructive and avoidant behaviors. Therefore, we do not judge.

It is important to identify each person’s collateral and most immediate and achievable need, in order to build trust. Case workers must be mindful of the fact that change comes in stages: Some people can move quickly, while others require thoughtful motivational interviews and conversations. Persistence and consistency are key: Follow up, follow up, follow up, with that same question, “What is your housing plan?” Deadlines can be helpful, serving as antagonists to create bias for action, however, the best results depend on the resources available, including time.

To be effective, a ratio of one case manager to ten households is a must, since there is much to do for each person. Case managers must initiate contact, assess and prioritize for service, connect persons with services, staff each case with other relevant agencies, facilitate the development of a housing plan, follow up on said plan, directly assist with barriers to the plan, advocate for the person with other agencies, and document all of this in the Homeless Management Information System.   

It is this type of methodical work that was able to lower the estimated number of individuals experiencing homelessness in the largest encampments in Dallas’ urban core from about 300 to 200 individuals, since the May 2016 closure of the Tent City under the I-45 Bridge. Specifically, 57 persons were housed by CitySquare, 4 moved out of Dallas, 4 others were housed by other entities, 13 entered emergency shelter, and 18 have been fully assessed and prioritized, and are ready to be housed immediately, once housing units open. 

Doing this work, Dallas must come to terms with one more important fact: The persistence of racial inequality stands out in the area of homelessness. African Americans make up 13% of the population, both in the US and Dallas. Across the country, on average, African Americans make up 40% of the homeless population, and 28% of the unsheltered homeless population, which is troubling, in and of itself. However, in Dallas, African Americans make up 67% of the homeless population, and 70% of the unsheltered homeless population! And, unfortunately, true to Chief David Brown’s words on July 8, 2016, this too is one more “societal failure we put… off on the cops to solve.”

As we continue the ongoing work with the unsheltered homeless population, MDHA and its partners will seek to tackle this overrepresentation of African Americans in the homeless population. While no single initiative can end structural racism across all systems, we believe that it is possible to create positive change in attitudes and behaviors that will begin to close the racial gap that has led to the disproportionate prevalence of homelessness among African Americans. We will work to make that happen.

History of Encampment Tent Population Estimates in 2016:  
Jan (PIT)
Total Tents

Monday, September 5, 2016

Why Do I Give to United Way?

As Development and Communications Director of the Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance (MDHA), you might wonder why I would take the time to ask you to give to another organization. Well, allow me to explain.  

United Way of Metropolitan Dallas (UWMD) invests in Income, Education and Health, and is making measurable progress in these three areas. My organization, MDHA, leads the development of the homeless response system that will make homelessness in Dallas and Collin Counties, rare, brief and non-recurring. How does that connect to what UWMD is doing?

Research shows that the only way to make real social progress is through collective impact – many organizations working together to achieve common goals. Research further shows that you need a strong backbone organization to lead the collective impact, in order for it to work.

Both of our organizations are backbone organizations. UWMD partners with many organizations to work on a number of really big overarching community goals: improving the Income, Education and Health of those in need. We, at MDHA, partner with many organizations to work on a specific narrower goal: making homelessness rare, brief and non-recurring. That means that both of our organizations never ask, "What's another cool program we can fund?" We always ask, "What proven solutions will help us achieve our goals?"

Picture this: It is August 2015. There are tents and other temporary structures that have formed a Tent City under I-45. MDHA and its partners have been working with the folks living there for two or three months, getting to know them, building rapport, and connecting them to housing solutions. They know they are making progress, but it is a process.

Then, our VP, Rebecca, sees something she has never seen in any of her previous visits – a one year old baby. She immediately calls our CEO, Cindy, and they, being moms themselves, decide then and there, that this baby is not sleeping outside of a home that night. Rebecca asks the mom a few simple questions, and discovers that the baby's mom has a housing voucher and an apartment waiting for her. So, why on earth is she in a tent?
Well, she can't afford the $45 application fee for the apartment. And the program that got her the voucher is funded by a grant that does not fund application fees. So, she is stuck!

Fortunately, MDHA, with the help of UWMD, had just created the
MDHA Flex Fund. This fund is designed to pay for minor, but impactful expenses that can and do make a huge difference, in helping folks resolve their homelessness. So, Cindy had a $45 check immediately cut for the application fee. Rebecca ran back to the office to pick up the check and deliver it. The problem was solved. Mom and baby were housed. Since that day, with the help of the MDHA Flex Fund, we have helped more than 250 individuals and families, just like that mom and her baby. 

Now, think about the ripple effects of just those original $45. In the business world we would call it the ROI, the return on investment. Better still, think about what happens without those $45. Without those $45, that baby does not have a home. Without a home, how do you escape poverty? Without a home, how do you raise a healthy child? Without a home, how can you and your child concentrate on a kid's number one job, learning? Those $45 get you the package deal. They not only end that family's homelessness; they also give them a solid foundation for improving their Income, Education and Health.

That is why I run a United Way campaign at our office. That is why I give to UWMD. That is why I call on you to give to UWMD. So, do what I do. Figure out how much you can give, and then give that much, plus 10%.
On behalf of UWMD, on behalf of MDHA and on behalf of that baby and her mom, thank you for giving.