Posts Tagged ‘Center for Capacity Building’

14th December
written by Kim Walker

From the Prevention Targeting 101 brief

At the Alliance’s Center for Capacity Building, our job is to learn what works best in ending homelessness and share it with our community.

Our latest white paper on prevention targeting is meant to do just that. But I have a secret to share with you about prevention targeting – it’s tricky. Researchers have been looking for the keys to effective prevention targeting for years, and have certainly made progress, but have really struggled to find a key set of factors that differentiate households that become homeless and household that don’t.

Some communities have also made progress on this front – Hennepin County, MN, which is discussed a bit in our brief and who we have other materials on, is one of them – but even they have had to make adjustments and learn from their mistakes.

What it comes down to is this – we still have a lot of learning to do.

We can tell you, though, that is one main strategy that appears very promising, and, like many other strategies we talk about, is a data-based solutions. If you take nothing else away from this blog post, take this: Use the characteristics of your sheltered population as the basis for determining household eligibility for prevention funds. Prevention funds should be used to serve people at the highest risk of becoming homeless, so you should use the information you have on who is already homeless to identify the right households to serve. If you don’t have local data through your HMIS available, which is best, you can use a list of other barriers in the brief as a starting point – but make sure you start collecting data as well!

In general, it looks like helping higher barrier households and households with the most imminent housing crises is the way to go. The most important thing about doing prevention well is that you’re serving the right people –the people that are truly at highest risk.
We’ll of course produce even more materials as we learn more about this very important issue. But we think this brief is a first step in the right direction – we hope you think so as well!

For more information about the Alliance’s Center for Capacity Building, please visit the website.

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18th October
written by Catherine An

Our Capacity Building Team is at it again!

This fall, the Alliance’s Capacity Building Team is off again conducting their  Performance Improvement Clinic (formerly called the HEARTH Academy) clinics in communities across the country. Armed with the tools, models, and trainings they develop right here at the Alliance, the CAP Team helps local communities measurably improve the outcomes of their homeless assistance systems and prepare for the implementation of the HEARTH Act. The HEARTH Act, signed into law in 2009, will take significant steps to modernize and streamline the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants. While HEARTH won’t kick into effect until next year, it’s never too early to get prepared.

In the next few months, the CAP Team will be in Oregon, Maryland, New Hampshire, and Arizona. They’ll be taking with them the training tools, including the Homeless System Evaluator and the Qualitative Assessment Tools – both of which gauge the performance of local homeless assistance systems. Working together, the CAP Team and the local community can improve the way homeless people are served by the system and move towards preventing and ending homelessness.

For more information about the Capacity Building Team or the Performance Improvement Clinics, please check our website.

20th September
written by Norm Suchar

Today’s post comes to us – once again! – from the Director of the Center for Capacity Building, Norm Suchar.

USICH and the Alliance will be hosting a webinar on reallocation and the HUD CoC competition this Thursday, Sept. 22 – and you should be on the call.

When the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) released Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness, one of the key themes was to “Retool the Homeless Crisis Response System.” A retooled homeless crisis response prevents homelessness when possible, and when that’s not possible, provides safe shelter and helps people exit homelessness quickly, primarily through rapid re-housing.

One of the obstacles to achieving this kind of crisis response system is that a lot of the homeless assistance programs do great things, but aren’t really focused on helping people exit homelessness quickly. This is mainly an issue for transitional housing programs, but it affects services programs, shelters, and other programs as well. In a lot of cases, this lack of focus is built into their Continuum of Care grants.

That brings us to this webinar, which will describe how Continuum of Care funded programs can change.

The webinar will cover the reasons for change, different options for changing grants, program model options, and provide examples of how the process has played out in several communities. It will cover both what can be done this year and what communities should be doing to plan for the coming year.

Click here to read more and to register.

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14th September
written by Norm Suchar

This post is part of a series of blogs from the Alliance staff. Each day a different expert is taking the reins of our blog, Facebook and twitter accounts to share with you their perspectives and knowledge on ending homelessness. For more information, see this introductory post. Today’s post comes from Norm Suchar, Director of  Center for  Capacity Building.

I have to confess that I love data and outcomes, and like many people, I think those are vital parts of any strategy to end homelessness. So it’s great to see communities embracing data and outcome measures to help reduce homelessness. One such effort comes from Alameda County, CA. Alameda is home to Oakland, Berkeley, Fremont, and a host of other cities. Everyone Home is the organization that leads the effort to end homelessness there, and they’ve recently published their 2010 Progress Report on Ending Homelessness.

The report shows performance on a few key performance measures, like rates of exit to permanent housing, increased income, and rates of return to homelessness. Some of the measures are broken out by provider using anonymous identifiers. Although reports like these take a lot of work, they can paint a very clear picture of what is working in a community and what needs improvement. More importantly, they shift the focus of the system to achieving better outcomes.

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9th September
written by Catherine An

Greetings Alliance friends and supporters!

The week of September 12, we – the usual guards of the Alliance blog, Facebook, and Twitter accounts – will be away from the office. But during that time, you will have the great opportunity to hear directly from some of our colleagues.

Each day, a new expert will take the reigns of our online community and share with you their perspectives on the Alliance, our work, and ending homelessness.

Monday, September 12: Elizabeth
Our resident fundraiser will share with you news from our latest Annual Report, how fundraising happens here at the Alliance, and how your hard earned donations make the difference in our program and policy work. If you have questions about the way the Alliance conducts fundraising, nonprofit development news, or have suggestions about online fundraising for the Alliance, make sure to shoot a note to Elizabeth on Facebook or Twitter on Monday!

Tuesday, September 13: Pete
Research associate and fan favorite Pete will share with you the poverty data that the U.S. Census Bureau will release that day and help break down what the data means for low-income and homeless people. It’s no surprise that many poor people are at risk of experiencing homelessness and that poverty is often associated with the highest homelessness risk factors including doubled up housing situations, severe housing cost burden, unemployment and/or low wages, and the like. Got research questions? Tuesday’s the day for them!

Wednesday, September 14: Kim & Norm
Wednesday’s tag team include members of our Capacity Building Team. These are the people who go into communities and work, on the ground, with people doing the hard work of ending homelessness. They take the lessons they learn, distill them into best practice briefs, and share them with other community leaders trying to do the same. If you haven’t seen their work, you should check it out. And don’t hesitate to ask them Twitter/Facebook questions on Wednesday.

Thursday, September 15: Amanda & Kate
Thursday means advocacy day! If you’re looking to get hands-on experience with advocating for homelessness programs and policies, today is your day to engage online. Amanda and Kate, our resident advocacy experts, are geared up and ready to recruit you to be a champion defender of solutions to homelessness. Current advocates, prospective advocate, policy wonks, and everyone interested in making a difference through federal policies (especially in this legislative climate!), take a moment on Thursday to let us know who you are, where you are, and how we can help you become an advocate!

Friday, September 16: Lisa
Remember that stuff a while back about healthcare? Lisa does. The Affordable Care Act is going to expand Medicaid and increase access to health care for very low-income and homeless people. What will this mean for you, your program, and your community? Tune in on Friday and find out.

Signing off for one week,
Cat & Anna

16th August
written by Kim Walker

Today’s guest post is written by Alliance Capacity Building Associate Kim Walker.

Hi all!

We’ve been moving forward with our development of “front door” materials (have you visited our Front Door Strategies page?), and this week we’re unveiling our new brief on shelter diversion!

What’s diversion, you ask, and why do we care? Glad you asked.

  1. Diversion is defined by the point at which intervention occurs and the type of assistance a household is seeking. At the Alliance, we say that in order for the intervention to be diversion, the household being served must be coming to the homeless assistance system specifically seeking shelter.  Target households for diversion believe they have need somewhere to stay that night.
  2. Diversion reduces homelessness. Shelter diversion works by helping individuals and families seeking shelter find alternative housing options (such as staying with friends or family members).  Diverting households, then, means fewer households will be entering homelessness.  Reducing entries into homelessness is one of the stated goals of the HEARTH Act.  Diverting households from shelter also can reduce the stress and disruption that shelter entry may cause in a household’s daily life. [CA1]
  3. Diversion conserves resources. By finding other housing options for some households, communities can ensure that shelter beds are reserved for those households that literally have nowhere else to go.  Successful diversion, therefore, can ease the demand for shelter beds and reduce the need for overflow shelters and hotel/motel rooms.
  4. It’s not for everyone, but everyone should be assessed for it. Everyone coming to the homeless assistance system should be assessed for diversion eligibility. However, communities should not hesitate to admit people to shelter if they are ineligible to be diverted. Additionally, in situations where a household’s safety may be compromised by being diverted (e.g., the family is fleeing domestic violence and their abuser may be able to locate them if they stay with known family or friends), they should be sent to the safest possible program that can meet their needs.
  5. Service coordination is crucial. Having services available that do not require shelter entry is key to making diversion work. Providing case management at the intake center or where the household is currently living that provides crisis stabilization as well as connection to mainstream resources is just one way communities can make this happen.
  6. The ultimate goal is a return to permanent housing. Although diversion includes a temporary stay somewhere, ultimately the intervention is about getting people back into permanent housing. Therefore, traditional rapid re-housing activities such as housing location and the provision of short-term subsidies or financial assistance are important pieces of a successful diversion program.

We hope you’ll check out the paper to learn more about this approach. As always, I encourage you to connect with me or any of us at Capacity Building if you have any other questions or thoughts!

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1st June
written by Catherine An

While the Alliance is identifies primarily as a policy organization, we do some other things that you may not know about.

In fact, we have this great little department called the Center for Capacity Building. And lately, they’ve been really busy with a project called the  Performance Improvement Clinic (formerly called the HEARTH Academy).

Refresher: In 2008, Congress passed the HEARTH Act which was intended to streamline and modernize the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants. You can find out more about the HEARTH Act on our website.

The Performance Improvement Clinic is designed to prepare communities for the HEARTH Act, which is going to change the way communities both apply for federal funding under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants and they way that money can be applied within communities. Moreover, the HEARTH Act asks communities to change some of the ways they operate and measure the progress of their efforts to end homelessness and meet specific, numerical goals.

The Center for Capacity Building (CAP Team) is traveling to help communities prepare for the new legislation with an arsenal of new tools to help communities evaluate their systems and implement systems change. You can find these tools, including the Homeless System Evaluator Tool, as well as webinars, briefs, and resources on our website.

So far, the CAP Team has been to Mississippi, Iowa, Washington, Connecticut, Missouri, North Carolina, and Texas. This week, our intrepid capacity builders are in California before they hit West Virginia next week.

If you’re interested in the Performance Improvement Clinic or if you’re interested in bringing us to your town, let us know. For more information about the Alliance, check us out outline!

25th May
written by Kim Walker

Today’s post comes to us from Kim Walker, capacity building associate at the Alliance.

The Center for Capacity Building just released our paper on developing a coordinated intake system for homeless families!

We’re so excited because we’ve gotten so many requests for more information on this approach from participants in our HEARTH Academies and other providers across the country. (Need a refresher on what coordinated entry is? Check out this blog post from Norm from a few months back.)

So, what kinds of things do we cover in this paper? Answers to questions like:

  • What are the different types of coordinated entry models?
  • How are other communities doing coordinated entry?
  • What changes will my system have to make in order to adopt coordinated entry?
  • How will I be able to tell if our coordinated entry system is functioning properly?

Not enough coordinated entry content for you?

Lucky for you, we have two webinars on coordinated entry in June.

  • On June 9 at 2 p.m. ET, we’ll host a webinar with Joyce Probst MacAlpine from Dayton/Montgomery County, OH, who just completed a six-month review of their brand new coordinated intake process. You can register for that webinar here.
  • Toward the end of June (date and time TBD), we will highlight the coordinated entry model in Columbus, OH and provide insight into their systems for singles and for families.

Still not enough? No worries – we’ll be rolling out more and more “front door” related materials, including papers and interactive tools, as the summer goes on, including resources on prevention targeting and diversion (which we know are also hot topics out there in the field).

We hope, as with everything else we do, that you find the materials we provide useful to you in your daily work. If you have any questions about anything, please feel free to contact the Center for Capacity Building at

18th May
written by naehblog

Today’s guest post comes to us from Aaron Bowen, Chief Operating Officer at the Community Action Partnership of Lancaster and Saunders Counties.

“I’m mad as hell and I’m not gonna take this anymore.”

In the Oscar award-winning, Sidney Lumet-directed film “Network,” protagonist Howard Beale is just fed up – and I think many of us in the homeless assistance community can sympathize with his frustration.

Here in Lincoln, Nebraska, just over 830 people in a city of around 250,000 were identified as homeless during our January 26, 2011 Point in Time count. Though our overall homeless count dipped slightly from last year—thanks to a very well-run Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program—we remain worked up knowing that so many people still are homeless in Lincoln.

The trouble is, every group, task force, or coalition that does get together enters the strange and often frightening world of “planning” which can sap the life out of groups attempting to tackle the issue that matters to them most. But, like holding a magnifying glass at just the right angle to gather sunlight to its hottest point, planning is necesary in order to focus that “mad as hell” moment into a powerful force for change.

In Lincoln, that’s just what our Continuum of Care did—we planned! Partnering with experts from the National Alliance to End Homelessness’s Center for Capacity Building, we laid Lincoln’s homelessness services system on the table for dissection. We talked candidly about what we believe we do well and where we continue to stumble.

Through this work, we zeroed in on four main objectives:

  • To assess and get folks appropriately housed as quickly as possible;
  • to increase employment options for our consumers;
  • to tackle youth homelessness; and
  • to build more effective partnerships with landlords and realtors who may house the people we serve.

This resulting plan is something we’re proud of, but it’s the planning itself that produced something even more important. The process brought that magnifying focus to our work, helping us to find clarity in the midst of the million things we know must be done or changed to get and keep everyone housed, healthy, and safe.

We’re getting somewhere more quickly than we would have otherwise. We’re developing a shared housing assessment for local HMIS users. An initiative to make sure kids graduate is in the works. Landlords have assisted in drafting partnership agreements, and we’re focusing more on building and showcasing the employability of our consumers rather than on combating the barriers that stand between them and a good job.

My message to other communities out there: Your planning might not be perfect or all that pretty. Goals may shrink, go dark, and then resurface. People might not be as committed once they have to commit. But you’ll get better each time you try it. New people will listen and want a piece of the plan. You’ll find new purpose and perhaps new support, and you’ll likely lead some other coalition or continuum to planning.

Best of all, through it all, you can still be mad as hell.

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31st March
written by Kim Walker

Today’s post comes to us from Alliance Center for Capacity Building Associate Kim Walker.

Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to work with a group of seven different Chippewa bands located in northern Minnesota on developing ten year plans to end homelessness.

It was remarkable to learn about the struggles that many tribal nations face in defining, preventing, and ending homelessness. Tribal leaders share many of the challenges that rural areas face, like serving people spread over a large land area, finding adequate funding, and providing shelter amid a startling lack of housing infrastructure.

But beyond that, tribal homelessness is still unique.

  • Because tribes are officially considered sovereign nations, funding can become complicated or come with limitations that may prove difficult to overcome (i.e., some funding may be unavailable to tribes unless they are able to become an incorporated non-profit).
  • Additionally, homelessness, or near homelessness, on a reservation looks different than what people might expect. The Wilder Survey, one of the most comprehensive surveys of tribal homelessness, found that many Native Americans living on reservations are doubled up for long periods of time, often moving from one doubled up situation to another as long as that’s sustainable. Street homelessness is less common, meaning homelessness is less visible. Even the term “homeless” can cause confusion on a reservation, as the land itself is often considered a “home” for all tribal members.
  • Tribes may also struggle in gaining attention for this issue from external sources. Although they share common concerns, it can be difficult to build a coalition when reservations have such distinct cultures and are often times far away from each other.

For a community that has long been overlooked my mainstream American culture, it’s disheartening to hear that even with this issue – an issue confronting all Americans – we continue to neglect this important part of our national community.

So what can we do? I think the most important thing is to educate ourselves about these issues – helping end homelessness for one population ultimately means improving our ability to end homelessness for all. A good start is reading the 2006 Wilder Survey on the topic.