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.