Friday, April 27, 2018

We Have Moved… Please Move with Us!

We recently unveiled our new website, at Please check it out, when you have a moment. It’s pretty cool, if we may say so, ourselves!

Courtesy of Kelly Kamowski, Unpakt

With the new website now fully operational, we will be moving our blog to the site. We’ll keep our old posts here, but from now on, to read our new posts, please go to:

We hope you will continue to follow our blog. See you at the new site!

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Homeless Response System Online Learning Clinic 2018 – Part VI: Dallas’ Homeless Response System in Action - 2017-2019

In 2015-2017, MDHA focused on building the necessary components of an effective unified homeless response system. In mid-2017, MDHA shifted its focus to utilizing the system to better house people quickly and permanently, while continuously improving the system. The Continuum of Care Strategic Work Plan 2017-2018[i] reflects this shift. Its goals are clear, and its objectives are bold.
        I.            Increase Access to Affordable Housing
      II.            End Chronic, Veteran and Elderly Homelessness
    III.            Improve Access and Coordination of Services and Emergency Housing
   IV.            Rapidly House Family Households with Children
     V.            Rapidly House Youth
   VI.            Drive Decision-making with HMIS Data
 VII.            Address Racial Disparities in Homelessness and Service Delivery

        I.            Reduce the number of persons experiencing homelessness by 5%
      II.            Reduce the length of stay in homelessness by 10%
    III.            Reduce the number of chronic, veteran and elderly homeless by 50%
   IV.            Increase the number of unsheltered persons prioritized for housing to 500
     V.            Increase incomes for 20% of zero-income households on housing priority list
   VI.            Increase occupancy rates for all available shelter and housing beds to no less than 98.6%
 VII.            Increase housing stability in homeless housing programs to 96%
VIII.            Increase HMIS participation rates to no less than 86% of all beds and housing types


We report quarterly on our progress[ii], as a Continuum of Care, on 60 individual action items under the above seven goals. Here are just a few highlights of action we are taking to make homelessness rare, brief and nonrecurring:
·         Homeless Count – In January 2018, MDHA conducted the most extensive and technologically advanced Homeless Count in Texas history[iii], mobilizing more than 1,500 volunteers, and using the Counting Us app, from Simtech Solutions. Use of the app was helpful in making the Count easier and more accurate. By capturing the latitude and longitude of each encounter, it enabled MDHA to send out outreach teams the very next morning to aid individuals belonging to specific populations. MDHA provided the results of the Count at its annual State of the Homeless Address on March 21, 2018.

·         Homeless Response System Leadership Training and Strategic Planning Retreat – On March 28-29, 2018, we brought together all of the major “players”, in Dallas and Collin Counties, who can affect systems change, for a groundbreaking gathering, facilitated by OrgCode, led by pioneering world expert, Dr. Iain De Jong. With De Jong and former HUD Deputy Assistant Secretary, Ann Oliva, leading a team of facilitators, this retreat, with more than 65 senior leaders in attendance, was designed to usher in a more strategic community response to homelessness. Participating leaders spent two whole days of intense action-oriented participative and interactive hard work. They focused on the critical nature of collective impact, and how an effective system of care can bring about an end to homelessness in our community. Together, through a strategic planning journey, utilizing the Breakthrough Thinking approach, participants made the necessary decisions and vital commitments that will chart our course, as a community.

Ann Oliva
Former Deputy Assistant Secretary, HUD
·         Homeless Helpline – A key part of any homeless response system, it refers clients to several hubs: youth, domestic violence victims, families with children, single adults, Collin County residents, and general assistance, with each hub managed by a key CoC service provider. Lessons learned through the current soft-launch period of the helpline (which began in December 2017) will be incorporated into the public launch.

·         Housing “Challenges” - We challenge ourselves and our partners to house a specific group of people, during a specific time period. We have already concluded our first Top 50 Challenge; the idea is to house as many of the top 50 persons on the Housing Priority List, as possible. This challenge proved extremely successful, with over 80% of persons ending or on the verge of ending their homelessness! We will now run this challenge every other month, using the off months to learn and improve. We will soon run a Veterans Challenge, focusing on the 67 unsheltered veterans found in the Homeless Count. In the Spring, in collaboration with Dallas shelters, we will run an intensive Emergency Shelter Housing Challenge[iv].

·         Youth Homelessness – The MDHA CoC Youth Committee conducted, “See Us Now” the most extensive youth outreach survey to date, among and with the help of homeless youth. The qualitative and quantitative data collected, once analyzed, will help service providers better understand the needs of homeless youth, and serve them accordingly. This effort will be capped off with a “See Us Now” event in April 2018.

·         Collin County – MDHA expanded its assistance to Collin County providers, with an MDHA team member officing out of the Assistance Center of Collin County three days a week, and assisting multiple clients with housing navigation and placement. 

·         Housing Resources – MDHA conducted Housing Resource Clinics for the staff of six different emergency shelters, to give them additional tools to house their guests. We expanded housing search tools for case managers. As part of the Emergency Shelter Housing Challenge, we will conduct Housing Planning Clinics for clients, and encourage every client to build a “My Housing Plan” framework to end their homelessness. An MDHA authored New Tenant Resource Guide, is now available to all CoC member organizations. It is distributed to individual clients upon housing.

·         Harvey ReliefMDHA, the City of Dallas, the Dallas Foundation and Catholic Charities of Dallas joined forces to provide housing, services and case management to 200 non-FEMA eligible families, rendered homeless by Hurricane Harvey.

·         Faith-Based Organizations – The Salvation Army is now using HMIS for 100% of their programs. Discussions have begun with the Samaritan Inn to join HMIS. We will seek to add other faith-based organizations to HMIS with funding from the City of Dallas. A new CoC Faith-based Collaborations Committee now meets monthly, to help faith-based organizations do their part to help end homelessness.

·         Street Outreach – MDHA provides support to the City of Dallas’ expanded street outreach eorts, with resources and training, and in solidifying inclusion in the Housing Priority List, as a standard practice for street outreach.

·         Racial Equity – MDHA is committed to ensuring that racial equity permeate its work, as one of six communities working with the Center for Social Innovation’s SPARC project. MDHA has begun publishing a Homeless Response System Community Dashboard Race Addendum[v], to highlight racial disparities in homelessness and service delivery. An MDHA delegation participated in the Center for Social Innovation’s first-of-its-kind national summit on Racial Equity and Homelessness, in partnership with the Raikes Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. MDHA will soon conduct a survey of the demographic make-up of the senior management and board officers of all federally funded service providers, with the goal of increasing the diversity of these groups, so they better reflect the homeless population.


Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Homeless Response System Online Learning Clinic 2018 – Part V: Building Dallas’ Homeless Response System – 2015-2017 – Data Transparency

All homeless service providers must practice full transparency, by reporting all data into the Homeless Management Information System (HMIS), the federally-mandated community wide database, that drives improvement of homeless services programs, without exception (barring issues of safety). Reporting into HMIS is not simply an issue of bureaucratic compliance. This is the only way we know if and how much progress our community is making. More importantly, this is the only way we can improve and self-correct, where we are not[i].
In the last three years, Dallas made huge strides, specifically, in this area. For instance, as late as 2014, no emergency shelter beds were reported into HMIS. It is impossible to assess system performance, in the absence of data on the point of entry into homelessness. Therefore, communities that do not have that data in their HMIS are routinely penalized for it, as Dallas was. However, unlike the housing programs, funded through the Continuum of Care (CoC) Program, MDHA cannot simply require shelters to enter their data. MDHA methodically worked with each of the major shelters, and over the last three years brought most of them into the system. As of December 2017, with the Salvation Army adding all of their 700 beds into the system, 57% of shelter beds are now entered into HMIS. In 2018, we will meet and exceed the standard set by the Federal Government, 86%.
These simple numbers, important as they are, bely a more fundamental shift in the HMIS, here in Dallas. In early 2015, MDHA and its partners began a discovery process that led the Continuum of Care (CoC) to adopt a new HMIS system, built from the ground up, by a non-profit founded by the Parkland Health and Hospital System, PCCI[ii], and its for-profit affiliate, Pieces Tech[iii]. This system was designed to be part of a larger ecosystem tracking individuals as they move through the healthcare system and social service organizations, Pieces Iris.

Dr. Steve Miff, PCCI

Pieces Iris was born out of the recognition that limited communication between the healthcare system and social service organizations, may cause vital information to slip through the cracks. The idea was to create a seamless system that connects healthcare and community-based organizations, allowing for smart sharing of information that makes a tangible difference in the lives of the most vulnerable populations[iv]. As PCCI President and CEO, Dr. Steve Miff, told the Becker Hospital Review[v], in September 2017, “Up to 50 percent of clinical outcomes are driven by social, economic or environmental factors, and not necessarily related to the direct care the individual received. That has basically set the stage and created the need for this solution to connect communities, and through that, to drive personalized medicine."

Over the course of the last three years, MDHA, PCCI and Pieces Tech worked hand in hand to launch the new HMIS, which went live in mid-2017. As Politico Magazine[vi] wrote in December 2017, Pieces Iris is already, “having a powerful impact on overwhelmed homeless organizations in Dallas… The availability of data showed… that homeless people were 167% more likely to have emergency room visits than the non-homeless population, and that from 300 to 400 homeless were arrested in Dallas each month. Neither of these pieces of information was shocking, but they gave [MDHA President and CEO, Cindy J.] Crain data she could take to officials to try to influence policy on homelessness. If she could show that housed people needed fewer EMS transports, ER visits and less time in jail, then, she reasoned, ‘I can make a business case to say, it’s not only the moral thing to bring housing to these homeless, mentally ill people. It’s going to save you money. If you don’t serve these people they’ll die in the street or eat you alive with these public response systems.’”

Finally, one glaring fact that “jumps out” at anyone who analyzes the data on homelessness in Dallas, is the overrepresentation of African Americans in the homeless population. Since late 2016, with the support of the United Way of Metropolitan Dallas[vii] Unite Dallas Relief Fund[viii], we are partnering with six other cities, towards establishing more racial equity in homeless services, through SPARC (Supporting Partnerships for Anti-Racist Communities)[ix], a new research and action program from the Center for Social Innovation (C4)[x].