Wednesday, August 31, 2016

We Need to Talk…

Research has shown that the best way to end someone's homelessness is to house them. Now, if you were unfamiliar with the arena of homelessness, you could be forgiven for wondering why the last sentence even needs to even be written, or why this even needed to be researched. Isn't this self-evident? You certainly could be forgiven for not realizing that within the homelessness arena, throughout the 80s and 90s, and in some quarters still today, such a statement would be seen as ill-informed, wrong, and irresponsible!

Thankfully, as we have pointed out on this blog before, the jury is in, and so this idea that the homeless, just like you and me, fare best when they are housed (with adequate supports in place, where needed), is now the consensus of researchers in the field, the federal government, and most practitioners. The story of how this transformation came about, beginning with one small group of practitioners in New York City, to sweeping the nation and the globe, is vividly told by those very practitioners, in a book that is both extremely readable and full of all of the relevant research, Housing First: Ending Homelessness, Transforming Systems, and Changing Lives.
We are, therefore excited to announce the return of our series of Hard Conversations, with a book synopsis of this work, presented by Randy Mayeux, renowned scholar and longtime book reviewer at CitySquare's Urban Engagement Book Club.
This event, co-sponsored by MDHA, CitySquare, and the Dallas Public Library, will be held on September 19, 2016, 12-1.30pm, in the Auditorium (1st Floor) of the J. Erik Jonsson Central Library, 1515 Young St., Dallas, Texas 75201. (Follow signs to underground parking on Wood St.) Coffee and water will be provided. Attendees may bring a brown-bag lunch.

RSVP to: David Gruber, MDHA, at 469-222-0047 or
and share this ad: Hard Conversations - Housing First - September 19, 2016 - Ad

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

MDHA Website (and Related) Updates

These last few days we updated and spruced up some of the content on our website, and tweaked one of our programs. We hope you will take the time to check these out!

·         The main changes were made on these two pages:

o       About MDHA -

o       MDHA in Depth -

·         We added a self-explanatory page called, What Can You Do to Help?

·         Lately, as a staff, we have been discussing and analyzing the MDHA Flex Fund, as we come up on its first “birthday”, and as a result we made some tweaks to it. Accordingly, we updated and spruced up our MDHA Flex Fund Guidebook, and published it on the MDHA Flex Fund page on our website: We then updated that page itself too.

·         Finally, we updated the documents we call MDHA in One Page and the MDHA Flex Fund in One Page, to accurately reflect all the above. You can find these on our Key Documents page -
Once again, we hope you will visit our website, and read all about MDHA, and how we are leading the development of the homeless response system, that will make homelessness rare, brief and nonrecurring!

Friday, August 19, 2016

What Does NOT Cause Homelessness? (Oh, and What DOES?)

At the meeting held by Council Members Gates, Kleinman and McGough earlier this month, Cindy J. Crain, our President and CEO, touched upon what does not cause homelessness[1]. This is an extremely important point to elaborate on, as it is frequently misunderstood. The “noise” created by this misunderstanding takes up much “bandwidth”, that could and should go into what does cause homelessness. After all, even the sharpest archer will find it hard to hit a target, if she can’t even see it.

So, what does not cause homelessness? 

Now, you may believe, nay there is evidence, that poverty is bad for society, that there is not enough affordable housing, that substance abuse causes problems, that folks with mental illness need help, and that faith has positive influences in people's lives. True, but that still does not negate the truth of each of the bullet points above. 

So, what does cause homelessness?

Most of us will never become homeless because of the fact that we can and would lean on our network of social connections. Our families, friends and social groups would be there for us to call on. The facts are that homelessness occurs when this network of social connections breaks down, and can no longer be activated. 

The way we solve this problem is to put in place a homeless response system, that steps into the gap created by that breakdown, and ideally helps rebuild it too. That is why the focus of Opening Doors, the national strategic plan to end homelessness, is on developing in every community an effective and unified homeless response system. That is the only thing that will make homelessness rare, brief and non-recurring.

[1] Cindy’s remarks and this piece draw upon ideas we have learned from our good friend, Dr. Iain De Jong.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Help Us Make Someone’s Day!

The day we helped Solomon end his homelessness for about $200, was a great day.

The day we helped Paul end his homelessness for less than $70, was a special day.

And the day we helped Judith (and her little dog, Simon!) end her homelessness for less than $44, was a phenomenal day!

And these are three examples from just one of our programs – the MDHA Flex Fund.  

There is one really important day coming up, when you can help folks like Solomon, Paul and Judith (and her little dog, Simon!) end their homelessness:

So, please, before you forget, add this to your calendar for that day:

This link will take you straight to our North Texas Giving Day page.

Of course, if you don’t want to wait, and prefer to donate to MDHA today, just go to our website, and click on Give to MDHA - or send a check to: 2816 Swiss Ave., Dallas, TX 75204

With your help, we will continue to make someone’s day every day!

Thursday, August 11, 2016

It's All about the People

Our new not so secret weapon, Lester Collins, Jr., with our veteran not so secret weapon, Freda Coleman, HMIS trainer extraordinaire (and expert selfie taker!)
We may talk about systems and solutions based research, results and data, but what really ends homelessness is people, doing the work, to build those systems and implement those solutions. This is the reason for MDHA's most recent hire, Lester Collins, Jr., in the newly created position of Continuum of Care (CoC) Performance Analyst. Lester possesses an array of skills earned as a clinician, chaplain, social science professor, and program manager of federal and state programs. He is a doctoral candidate at The University of Texas at Arlington (UTA), and helped conduct a 2012 UTA-DHA-MDHA collaborative study on homelessness. Simply put, the man breathes research, results and data! That said, Lester always keep in mind, "that any numbers I work with and policies and programs I work on, represent and affect real, living and breathing people, who deserve communities that are responsive to their needs."

If you accept the argument that what really makes up our system is people, what follows is that each person's best resource is... all the rest of the people in the system! One of the first things our Vice President, Rebecca Cox, noticed, when she joined MDHA a little over year ago (Congrats on the work anniversary, Rebecca!) was that the most important folks, the very lynch pins, without whom there is no system, Case Managers, were not familiar enough with their own colleagues. They are just so busy doing the work, helping those experiencing homelessness! With this in mind, she founded the Case Manager Networking Round Table, where these professionals are able to get together every month. Together they study an important subject that will help them, help those experiencing homelessness, while getting to know each other a little better. Then when they have a need or hit a roadblock in their work, they can call upon the variety of colleagues they now know, who do what they do, day in and day out.

Our CoC Assembly leaders, Edd Eason and Dustin Perkins, with the able help of our CoC Resource Manager, Shavon Moore, recently "imported" this idea to the recent meeting of the Assembly. This last meeting was spent not sitting in rows listening to reports and doing regular business, which is always important. Instead, as you can see in the picture below, seating this time was "family style", and the groups discussed specific questions regarding the NOFA and CoC Competition. However, an openly stated goal of this session was to allow participants to get to know each other, so they could draw on each other's help throughout this important process, and beyond. It was a fabulous session!
CoC Assembly hard at work
We depend on people in one more very important way. People, as individuals, and making up organizations and businesses, provide financial support, without which we could not do our work. This past month we were honored to receive two notable contributions: The Carl B. and Florence E. King Foundation contributed $15,000 to the MDHA Flex Fund, and the East Plano Islamic Center (EPIC) contributed $2,500 to MDHA's general fund. These contributions, show the Federal Government that our community is willing to "have skin in the game," and considers the former as a true partner. Let's make sure King and EPIC don't get "lonely" now! Join them in making your own contribution, as an individual, a business or an organization, and strike your own blow in the fight to end homelessness, in our home, Dallas and Collin Counties.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

It’s Important to Do What Works

Opening Doors - the national strategic plan
to end homelessness
Sometimes folks tell us that we should not let HUD dictate what we do. Who are they, in Washington, to know what is right for us in Dallas?! Well, in fact, HUD does NOT dictate what we do; the evidence does. Decades of research, culminating in the landmark national strategic plan to end homelessness, mentioned above, Opening Doors, guide our work in every community. This plan came about through the specific contribution of 750 leaders and experts from around the country (including in our community), but also "through thousands of individuals (emphasis ours) who contributed online, in meetings, and in Agency analysis", whose "wisdom and experience helped determine priorities based on data, research, and results."

So, while there are certainly philosophical reasons to advocate for Housing First, not Housing Readiness, for Rapid Rehousing, not Transitional Housing (except for youth and domestic violence survivors), and for a coordinated homeless response system, rather than an uncoordinated homeless service environment, what really matters is that in each of these examples is that the former works, and the latter does not. We have to follow data, research and results. Would any other approach be fair to those we ultimately serve, those experiencing homelessness?  

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Busiest Time of the Year

The official seal of HUD
Things never seem to slow down at MDHA, so after writing the above headline, I hesitated for a moment. However, it is difficult to argue that now is not the busiest time of the year for us. In fact, if you happen to interact with any of the folks, who are funded through the Continuum of Care (CoC), don't be surprised if they look a little harried, perhaps mumbling strange sounds like NOFA, eSNAPS, PRAC, LOCCS, and more. If they are worried about their APR, it is not their mortgage they are preoccupied with, and if they are filling out a scorecard, they are not wasting their work hours on their fantasy baseball teams.

So, what is going on? Once a year, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) issues its Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA), through which it makes (this year) about $1.9 billion for the funding of CoC programs in every American community (a little less than $17 million for Dallas). The vast majority of these funds go to housing programs for those experiencing homelessness, with the remainder going to the infrastructure of homeless response systems. Programs do not apply on their own, rather as part of their local CoCs, and the entire process is managed by lead agencies, like MDHA, who are the designated collaborative applicants, on behalf of communities.

All of this seemingly dry technical work is guided by HUD's robust vision is to end homelessness. As the HUD website states: "HUD is committed to working with our federal, state, and local partners to end homelessness. We've made tremendous progress in recent years, including a 21% drop in chronic homelessness and a 33% drop in veteran homelessness. To achieve the goals of Opening Doors, and end homelessness, we've got to build on what we know works by strengthening interagency collaboration and investing in proven approaches such as Housing First." (Emphasis ours)

Here is the kicker, and one of the reasons this process, which can occur at a totally different random time every year (Yay!), pretty much subsumes the CoC collaborative applicant, and those in each agency that are in charge of the agency portion of this huge application: This funding, which for Dallas approaches $17 million, is anything but automatic! In fact, the process is referred to as a competition, because that is what it is. Communities and programs that do a good job at ending homelessness get funded and can even get extra funding, and communities and programs that don't do a good job, well, you know the rest...

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Give to MDHA Any Day and on #NTxGivingDay!

Your donations are essential to ending homelessness in our collective home, Dallas and Collin Counties. Check Our Wall of Champions, to see who has already joined the fight to end homelessness. Click here to make your donation online, or send a check to MDHA, 2816 Swiss Ave., Dallas, TX 75204. Help us take the fight to the next level!
Though any day is a good day to give to MDHA, North Texas Giving Day is a particularly good one. This year on September 22, 2016, make sure you give to MDHA. In fact, before you forget, take a moment to copy and paste this into your calendar for that day:
North Texas Giving Day - Don't forget to give to MDHA -
This link will take you straight to our North Texas Giving Day page. Happy giving!