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27th September
2011
written by Norm Suchar

Today’s guest post comes to us from Alliance Director for Capacity Building, Norm Suchar.

I mentioned the webinar on reallocating and repurposing programs a couple days ago. The video and the slides were just posted, and I think there was a lot of great information. Hopefully this will spark more community conversations about how to house more people faster and reduce homelessness. I expect that it will continue to be a big topic at the national level. Here’s a quick summary of the webinar.

Kristy Greenwalt from USICH set the stage by talking about the federal context, a lot of it was good to hear—the HEARTH Act will provide more flexibility and more focus on outcomes and there’s a general shift to system-wide approaches. Some of it was a little gloomy, particularly the part about the federal budget. She also provided a lot of helpful information about how to change programs, including the reallocation process and repurposing grants through contract amendments.

I spoke next and talked about some of the questions you should ask when thinking about changing your program model and how you decide what kind of a program model to change into. I focused on transitional housing programs and those that provide services only, although it’s worth analyzing other programs as well. I also talked about the main options to convert to—emergency housing, permanent supportive housing, and rapid re-housing—and when each of those options makes the most sense.

Heather Lyons from the Corporation for Supportive Housing brought us home by describing some great examples of programs that have transformed, some of them initiated at the project level and some as part of a community-wide transformation process. She also provided a great list of key questions to ask and steps to take.

The community wide examples Heather described included one of my favorite examples, Chicago. They converted almost all of the transitional housing programs to various other program models. It was bold, especially for the time. While the process was certainly difficult, the results were very good, and I think everybody involved now agrees that it was a big and very positive step.

More conversation about retooling is happening at the national level and in many communities, and in many ways, it’s probably the most important conversation to be having. We unfortunately live a tough budgetary climate. It’s unlikely that we’ll have significant new resources for homeless assistance programs, which means we have to look at how we can use the resources we have more effectively. This webinar provided some great information, and there will be more to come.

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