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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

1 Comment

  1. 30/05/2012

    Kay, I applaud you and NAEH for bringing this topic up in your blog. For CoCs that are interested in systems change and tightening up our service system in order to reduce homelessness, the strategies (thanks in large part to your work) are quite clear. What is less-than clear are the people and change management strategies used to move forward collaboratively.

    I have struggled with the particular strategy of finding a community/political champion, community leader, etc. There is a significant segment of our CoC that is extremely vocal about keeping things the same. The city has a long-standing relationship with this component and consistently outflanks any kind of coordination with the CoC, even with the Emergency Solutions Grant regulations. Local private funders are equally reluctant to assist with accountability due to their long-standing relationships with these entities.

    The political culture of our mid-sized city is also very much republican. Human services is largely left up to the private nonprofit organizations and there is a noticeable lack of government leadership in this area. This is in stark contrast to communities like Hennepin County, where the county government took a constructive lead role in actions that resulted in less homelessness.

    I work for the local CoC and we have taken a “motivational interviewing” approach with helping our system negotiate systems change. Although we’ve seen progress, it is by no means as simple as what you outlined above. I encourage the Alliance to explore what other communities are doing within a community cultural context that makes this kind of systems change extremely difficult.

    Thanks for all that you do to further the cause of ending homelessness.