There are a number of systems that serve people currently or at-risk of experiencing homelessness. All of these different programs and entities may do important work, but opportunities can be lost when they don’t work together effectively.
A recently released brief, co-authored by the Alliance’s Samantha Batko and Debra Medeiros from The National Center on Family Homelessness, discusses how one project in Chicago created a Systems Integration Manager position, currently filled by Ann Marie Grimberg, to better coordinate services for families experiencing homelessness. The project is called FACT (Family Assertive Community Treatment), and is a collaborative project between Beacon Therapeutic Diagnostic and Treatment Center and the Heartland Alliance.
You can read more about FACT and the impact the project and the new position are having on families in Chicago in the brief, but I’ll leave you with Ms. Grimberg’s advice for other communities trying to create greater collaboration between systems:
- Identify the service needs of the consumers and target those goals. Conducting a needs assessment of the gaps in services for the population you serve can provide a short list of the most important needs to target.
- Start with those groups who want to work with you. Many agencies and programs would greatly benefit your work. Go where there is energy and synergy—engage invested programs that you think can make simple changes to improve the situation of your population dramatically. After a few successes, others will not only follow, but will actually contact you to participate and ask for advice.
- Be neutral—do not judge current practices. The goal of systems integration is not to lay blame on a particular system for “failing” a family or individual. Instead, the idea is to build a foundation of cooperation and information sharing that can create positive changes for vulnerable populations. Often, an agency or program is not aware of the unintended effect of policies or procedures.