5th July
written by Kay Moshier McDivitt

A few weeks ago, my colleague, Kim Walker announced our new series of our Rapid Re-housing Training Modules, short, narrated presentations about different aspects of rapid re-housing. She also announced the release of the first of the modules on Housing Barriers Assessment. As Kim mentioned, the Alliance wants to provide information about best practices in a variety of ways. Since we all have different learning styles, some of us need short “snippets” of information on a particular part of a topic rather than the whole shebang at one time. And, for most of us, just doing our work keeps us so incredibly busy that is hard to find time to stay on top of what’s out there.

This week we are releasing the second short, narrated module of our rapid re-housing series, Housing Search, Location and Landlords Module, which I have the privilege of narrating. I love talking about this stuff because there are so many ideas and ways to make this work. Without landlords, we won’t have housing for our folks. I have included a lot of different tools and ideas to recruit landlords that we have learned from communities who have had a lot of success in building landlord partnerships. In addition, this module includes two activities for you to begin developing your own plan to partner with landlords and incentives to increase landlord participation. These activities are ones we use when doing our in-person rapid rehousing trainings and are good for those of you who learn by doing. If you have plenty of time on your hands and want to learn even more, a longer training module, Strategies for Working with Landlords and Finding Housing for Clients, also is available on our website.

Keep an eye out for the third topic on designing a subsidy, which will be released in the coming weeks. Again, these modules are great for people who are new to rapid re-housing and who want to begin to understand the basic concepts, as well as for those who would like to brush up on specific topics. As usual, let us know how you feel about these new modules, and if you’d like to see more on other topics!

27th June
written by Norm Suchar

A few months ago, we brought you a series of posts about Alameda County’s efforts to implement the HEARTH Act through performance measurement (here, here, and here). How have things gone since then? Well, they’ve just published another performance report, and the improvements are impressive. Here’s are a couple of highlights from the report:

  • The system demonstrated a 30% increase in the rate of persons exiting programs with permanent housing from 33% in 2010 to 43% in 2011
  • Both transitional housing and emergency shelter providers reduced the length of time between program entry and acquiring permanent housing by 8% and 6% respectively
  • Finally, providers increased the numbers of persons exiting with some income who entered the system with none. Helping people to secure earned income remained a challenge for our system.

Here’s a chart that summarizes some of the permanent housing outcomes by program type, and there’s a lot more in the report. Nice work.

Rates People Obtain Permanent Housing by Sector

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20th June
written by Kim Walker

I’m back to talk again about one of my favorite topics, coordinated assessment. But today I wanted to share something beyond information about how to do it, who’s currently doing it well, and how to structure it, though if you want that information our Coordinated Assessment Toolkit is always available (and expanding!)!

My secret to share today is this: A great front door is nothing without a great back door.

Imagine that a new and great restaurant opens in town. Tons of people flood to get reservations, and the restaurant does a great job of managing them – no one who calls needs to be put on hold and everyone gets the reservation they want. However, once you arrive for your slot, the kitchen isn’t properly stocked and only has one or two things on the menu. After waiting hours for the kitchen to get restocked, you give up and go home hungry.

For coordinated assessment to really work in its intended manner, the focus has to be not just on getting people to the programs that fit their unique needs and housing barriers best, but matching people with programs that will help them quickly re-enter permanent housing. Having a great system that can accept lots of people but offers no connections to permanent housing is a lot like sending people home hungry in the example above: they weren’t served properly and they didn’t get what they came for. The reasons people become homeless are varied, but the reasons they remain homeless are all the same – they lack permanent housing.

To prevent this from happening within homeless assistance systems, some individual programs are going to have to make some changes for the greater good of the people they serve beyond committing to allowing the assessment centers to make referral and admissions decisions. Programs will have to take a hard look at how they run, asking themselves questions like these:

  • Are we focused on the housing needs of our clients above all else?
  • Do we know how to provide support services in a way that addresses our clients’ barriers to obtaining and maintaining housing?
  • Do we have connections to the resources needed to help clients get into housing (subsidies, landlords, etc.)?
  • Do we know how to connect households with more intensive needs to permanent supportive housing?

Providers must focus on addressing the barriers preventing a household from re-entering permanent housing and helping clients build the strengths that will allow them to maintain it. Above all, all of us – providers and everyone else involved with homeless assistance –  must remember that our primary role is to help the households we serve get back into permanent housing as quickly as possible.

Programs – and systems –  that focus on helping clients move into permanent housing and supporting them in that housing they’ll get the outcomes that are best for everyone.  For some systems, that’s s a new focus, and a lot to handle, and it’ll take some time to get all the “kitchens” in a homeless assistance system in order. But the information we have shows us that a strong and effective front door paired with best practices like targeted prevention, rapid re-housing, and permanent supportive housing will help us end homelessness, which will be a great feat. And luckily, we also know that providers and homeless assistance systems everywhere are capable of great things.

Image courtesy of Fey Ilyas.

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13th June
written by naehblog

The following was originally posted by The Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness. We have reprinted it here with their permission. You can find the original blog here. Katharine Gale is a frequent trainer at the Alliance’s Performance Improvement Clinics.

Three Key Things with Katharine Gale

Key steps for making the transformation to a housing crisis resolution system.

Commit to using local data for change. Use information from HMIS and from grant and program budgets to understand system performance and cost. We need to learn what outcomes we are buying with our current mix of funding and programs and ask how we can more closely match our collective resources to the unmet need. While our efforts would certainly benefit from increased funding, the greatest resources our communities are likely to be able to direct to the problem soon are the ones we already have. Making sure that the data we have to work with is of high quality so we can trust it to inform our decision-making is everyone’s responsibility. (It also better positions us to expand our resource base in the future as more funders ask us to demonstrate return on their investment.)

Expand the range of reality-based housing solutions. Look at the lives of our clients, what their realistic housing options are and where they go when they leave us.  Most of the people our system works with do not escape being low-income through our efforts, even when we invest significantly in them at the expense of others we do not serve. Most can, however, regain housing with our help, even if deep subsidies are in short supply. We can rehouse more people, and continue to assist them with other resources, or connect them to other services (if they want them) that support further progress, by focusing our rehousing efforts on the right next step that resolves this housing crisis, instead of the forever solution. We shouldn’t stop advocating for long-term affordability, but we must also recognize that it is not reality now for many people who are just like the households we serve, but who have housing.

Work as a system with shared responsibility. Everyone should be clear (clients, providers and funders) about how people can access help from the programs that make up our system. If we currently distribute most of our support based on luck or persistence, we need to fix that; if there are people who no program will take we need to fix that. In setting up a coordinated front door, our responsibility is not just to make sure that agencies get the clients they will serve, it’s to get clients the support they need. Knowing who gets in and who goes unserved will help us refine programs and services to better meet the combined need. The importance of working more collaboratively to increase impact applies to funders as much as to programs. As one director I know puts it “we need to fix our relationships for the sake of our clients.”

Katharine Gale is an independent consultant from Berkeley, California with 20 years experience in the fields of homelessness and special needs housing.  She provides services to public and non-profit agencies including community-wide planning, new program development, data analysis, research and evaluation. Ms. Gale helped design and delivers the Alliance’s Performance Improvement Clinics. In 2011, she co-founded Focus Strategies, a joint venture dedicated to helping communities use local homeless data to prepare for HEARTH and make effective system change. Prior to consulting, she worked for seven years as a manager and Deputy Director for Alameda County Housing and Community Development Department. 

5th June
written by naehblog

Today we bring you another voice of a Performance Improvement Clinic (an intensive one-and-a-half day clinic that helps communities prepare for changes made by the HEARTH Act ) trainer, Iain De Jong. We ask Iain the question: Why should my community conduct a Performance Improvement Clinic?

The plural of “anecdote” is not – and never has been – “data.” Each community has a narrative to pull together on the great work that they are doing to end homelessness. But we need to move beyond samples sizes of one, good stories and intuition to prove to policy makers, funders and the general public that what we do makes a difference. In an era of limited resources, we also need to be sure that we are investing our precious time and money into those interventions that improve the system as a whole, not just a particular project.

While the HEARTH era expects communities to work as systems rather than a collection of projects, making the shift to do so has greater benefits than just meeting requirements of HEARTH. It makes good sense and it is in the best interests of the people we serve. A Performance Improvement Clinic provides the right forum to assist communities in taking increased strides towards a system-based approach to service delivery. This type of thinking helps ensure that the right person gets to the right organization for the right type of intervention at the right time. It leverages the strengths across the entire community.

With increased attention paid to data and performance in the delivery of human services, both “data” and “performance” are dirty words to some. Some well-intentioned people have overly complicated both rather than making them easily understood and useful in operations and decision-making from the frontline level right on up to management. We need to reclaim “data” and “performance” as a reflection of our efforts and hard work. We need to make them meaningful to everyone in an organization and across the entire community. And we need to know how to make the right decisions from the information to better serve homeless people by helping them access and maintain housing.

Simply put, what gets measured gets done. A community that conducts a Performance Improvement Clinic can count on having the tools in place to more easily understand and improve performance in an ongoing and sustainable way, making the best possible choices and investments for the people within their community, and explaining to one and all – including the end users of services – why performance matters.

Iain De Jong is the President & CEO of OrgCode Consulting and a long-time conference presenter at National Alliance Conferences. He will be making at least two presentations at the conference, and looking forward to learning much more from the other presenters and attendees. You can learn more about Iain at or or follow him on Twitter @orgcode.

If your community would like to learn more about the Performance Improvement Clinic, contact us at

30th May
written by Kay Moshier McDivitt

By Nicolas NovaAs Continuum of Cares (CoCs) begin to coordinate the network of homeless service providers in their communities in preparation for the HEARTH Act, many continue to look for ways to engage all providers, particularly those who receive no federal funding. Here at the Center for Capacity Building, we talk to numerous communities and help them improve their performance as a system. We often find that in many communities, some providers have not “come to the table” due to their concern that their participation with the CoC may compromise their organizational missions.

Communities that have successfully engaged all providers, including those who are not federally funded, have one thing in common: their community leaders actively worked to build relationships with those providers.  While it may seem as though there are vast philosophical divides, when folks sit down together to learn about each other’s work and begin to build a relationship, we often find we have a lot more in common.

I believe most of us work to end homelessness because we care. On the deepest level, what we as community leaders and providers strive for is to make sure that folks in our community don’t experience homelessness.

We need to take that first, huge step of taking time to listen to each other, learn from each other, and focus on our shared thoughts and ideas instead of our differences. Even when individual providers continue to have different visions, by shifting the focus to the shared goal of ending homelessness, communities can connect with reluctant providers and bring them to the table.

In the end, it is all about relationships. Recognizing our differences, while focusing on our commonalities, and knowing that when a community works together, everyone benefits, is what matters. It matters for our community, it matters for our organizations, and most of all it matters for those experiencing homelessness.  Being creative in breaking down silos and learning to work as one CoC takes time, it takes energy, and it can be frustrating, but it matters and in the end it is well worth the effort.

Image courtesy of nicolasnova

23rd May
written by Kim Walker

At the Alliance, we’re always looking for ways to help people learn more about best practices as quickly as possible.  We know that the more good information you have at your disposal, the more likely it is that you’ll be able you are to get results in your communities when it comes to adopting strategies that really work. However, we also realize that, as providers in the field, you don’t always have the time or energy to read through long reports or other documents to get to the good stuff. Rapid re-housing is a great and very important strategy, and though we already have in-depth guides, online trainings, webinars, and PowerPoints to teach you about it, we also wanted to provide you with something short, sweet, and to the point. That’s why we’ve begun developing and releasing our Rapid Re-housing Training Modules, which are 10-15 minute narrated PowerPoints on the most important elements of a successful rapid re-housing program: a housing barriers assessment process, housing location and developing landlord relationships, subsidies, voluntary service provision, and outcome measurement. We introduced the first of these modules on housing barriers assessment last week (narrated by yours truly), and will be releasing the next four over the coming weeks. Included with the slides are some interactive activities we’ve used when doing in-person rapid re-housing trainings, for those of you who learn best by doing. The modules are great for people that are new to rapid re-housing who want to begin to understand the basic concepts, as well as those who would like to brush up on specific topics. As usual, let us know how you feel about these new modules, and if you’d like to see more on other topics!

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16th May
written by Kate Seif

When our blog readers think of Washington, DC, they often think of politics (and politicians, of course), soaring monuments, and hopefully, the Alliance’s advocacy efforts.  But in all seriousness, coming to our nation’s capital is a great opportunity to learn what’s happening with federal policy and to make an impact on it.  We talked last week about how to participate in Capitol Hill Day, but our National Conference on Ending Homelessness also offers a great opportunity to learn more about federal policy and advocacy, including messaging and how-tos.

This year, we’ve got a great track of workshops for anyone who wants to better hone their advocacy skills, for seasoned advocates, for Capitol Hill Day participants, or for folks who are just curious.  Here’s a basic overview of some of the great advocacy workshops we’re planning:

  1. Building a Systems Change Movement: Engaging Local Leaders – This workshop will provide attendees with concrete examples and how tips for getting your local community leaders (elected officials or otherwise) to work together to support and affect positive systems change.
  2. Impacting Policy: Making the Most of your Advocacy Meetings – Ideal for Capitol Hill Day participants, this workshop will cover the nitty-gritty of conducting a meeting with your Member of Congress or their staff.  The lessons imparted will also translate to local and state policymakers or other key stakeholder meetings.
  3. The Federal Budget: Update and Impact on Ending Homelessness – There have been many changes to federal funding and the funding process this year, and these changes may have a big impact on key programs working to end homelessness.  This workshop will give you an update and provide an outlook on what’s next for Congress, and what it means for our nation’s efforts to prevent and end homelessness.
  4. Impacting Policy: Developing Effective Advocacy Messaging – Getting the right message for the right audience is a key aspect to effective advocacy. This workshop will offer participants successful strategies for developing a policy agenda and what messages work best for key policymakers.
  5. Election 2012: Engaging Consumers, Candidates, and Your Community – the election season will be in full swing following our conference. Elections offer a great opportunity to get involved in the political process and ensure that candidates are aware of the issue of homelessness in their communities.  This workshop will provide ways in which nonprofits can get involved in the election cycle, the importance of doing so, and legal limitations.

These workshops are all scheduled during different slots so you can attend all of them (and we of course encourage you to do so!) For more information on our conference and what you can expect there, check out some of the other recent and upcoming blog posts.

If you have any questions about how to get involved in advocacy at our conference or elsewhere, please don’t hesitate to contact me!

4th May
written by Sam Batko

I used to work in the Alliance’s Center for Capacity Building and spent a lot of time in local communities working with providers and local governments to implement rapid re-housing programs.  About a year and a half ago I shifted to our policy team and the amount of time I spent in communities doing trainings decreased significantly.  I spend much more time up on the Hill now—educating Congressional staff and analyzing federal programs and policies to try and improve the national response to homelessness.  This week provided me with the opportunity to get back out in the field and talk to providers about a topic I am particularly passionate about—making sure that survivors of domestic violence are able to safely access the housing they need to move forward in their lives.

Yesterday, I presented at the Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness’ (CCEH’s) 10th Annual Training Institute in Meriden, CT.  Approximately 300 attendees representing homeless service providers and government agencies from throughout Connecticut attend the training institute to learn about what is happening on the federal and state level as well as learn about successful strategies being implemented by other communities in the state.

I was joined in my session by Shakeita Boyd from the District Alliance for Safe Housing (DASH) in Washington, DC and we presented on the basics of the rapid re-housing model, survivor specific adaptations to the model, examples of successful programs, and systems level considerations to make the homelessness assistance system more responsive and safe for survivors.  At the start of the presentation, no one in the room was currently using rapid re-housing to serve survivors and, in fact, some programs were actively screening survivors out of their rapid re-housing programs.  But, by the end of the presentation, I think we had them convinced: rapid re-housing is a successful model for ending homelessness for families and individuals and that it can be just as effective and intervention for survivors of domestic violence as non-survivor households when implemented properly.

The Alliance has a variety of resources available online that communities can use to begin to implement a rapid re-housing model for survivors, including a 45 minute video training, sample safety planning tools for staff and survivors, and case studies of successful programs.  Additionally, DASH has a Housing Resource Center that has extensive online resources.  The presentation Shakeita and I gave yesterday will be available on the CCEH website as well.

2nd May
written by naehblog

On our new weekly blog series, Field Notes, we have talked about the experiences of Alameda County and Whatcom County with our Performance Improvement Clinics (previously called the HEARTH Implementation Clinic). Today I wanted to share the experiences of the people who conduct these Clinics. Katharine Gale, an independent consultant from Berkeley, California with 20 years experience in the fields of homelessness and special needs housing, helped design the Performance Improvement Clinic and has presented at a number of clinics in communities large and small. Below are Katharine’s words about why she enjoys being a part of these clinics.

I enjoy being part of the Performance Improvement Clinic team because the give and take is always so great and I learn so much.  The Clinic helps communities grapple with the importance of a performance measurement perspective, and it supports them to make concrete plans to work together to improve outcomes across the system. Some of this work is a little scary because it’s a different framework than most of us are used to — one in which we are holding ourselves and each other accountable for our combined impact on the problem. But I find that everyone is pretty excited and willing to engage in lively debate! 

Working with communities across the country has given me a great opportunity to see what we all share and where we face different challenges. It’s interesting to me how often people think their community has so much less housing than anywhere else or much more troubled people. That feeling seems to be universal – which makes me glad that we are learning how to rehouse people quickly and securely without having to wait for permanent subsidies for most of them. On the other hand, communities face unique realities around funding, politics and historic relationships which mean each place has different potential paths to improvement. Communities that make progress identify where they have inroads to build on: some have developed strong relationships with mental health services, some with their public housing authority, some with the education system. They see that to transform to a housing crisis resolution system means lightening our touch and relying more on other systems of care to do their jobs.

I think our field is at an important crossroads – we have much better information about what works and we finally have the local data to begin to ask what outcomes we are achieving and how can we deploy available resources to improve them. But we also have existing infrastructure, agencies, programs and experience and we don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater!  Identifying how to use our data, our existing resources and our historic infrastructure strategically is what is going to move us all forward. Everywhere I go I find amazing local players who are quietly doing what it takes to change their organizations and their systems, and I am fortunate to get to go and share their stories with others.