Working together with a diverse group of people tends to be tricky under the best of circumstances. After all, we each come with our different expectations, ways of being, backstories, ideas and passions. But imagine how tricky it can be working across diverse organizations! Even if we’re all working in the same general direction, a lack of good communication and coordination of efforts can sink the work; or at very least cause significant frustration and a waste of precious time and resources.
A Place to Call Home: Edmonton’s Updated Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness:
Update Feature: Part 3 of 3
Stronger collaboration between organizations responding to homelessness and extreme poverty has been a front-line emphasis for some time now, and an amazing amount of ground has been covered. The chart below illustrates the gradual shift in movement the last years have seen toward better communication and coordination.
Jarrod Bayne, the Chief Strategy officer from Homeward Trust Edmonton (HTE) makes the following observations about how this work has progressed:
- Before the Ten-year Plan, waitlists to get into housing were the norm. With the implementation of the Plan and of Housing First, prioritization based on need (and standardized assessment tools) became the approach for HF programs.
- Housing First agencies adopted a “No Wrong Door” approach, whereby a person presenting at any agency could expect to be screened and prioritized for service – they didn’t have to be referred elsewhere and repeat their story in other words.
- No Wrong Door as an approach had a lot of strengths and consistency, but weaknesses as well. Agencies were prioritizing largely individually, and it was more challenging to optimize as a sector. A person could also have a service relationship with multiple agencies, complicating matters.
- Homeward Trust established some central capacity for “Coordinated Access” to services funded under the Plan. Given that Homeward Trust administered the shared database and provided other capacity for the sector as a whole (such as landlord relations, rental assistance, and training), it made most sense to locate this function within HTE.
- Several opportunities locally served as “proof of concept” for Coordinated Access as a shared practice. One example is our efforts through Housing First to address crisis levels of families in hotels.
- Through our participation in the 20,000 Homes Campaign, the homeless-serving sector took the opportunity not only to increase our reach in identifying people experiencing homelessness, but also to combine and consolidate prioritization lists into a single shared list.
- Building on international leading practice, HTE and our partners in Edmonton are now active participants in the “Built for Zero” initiative. This initiative emphasizes a real-time, shared “By Name List” as the cornerstone of community-wide efforts to end homelessness. This approach not only builds on the Coordinated Access capacity we have established locally, but also broadens the potential to directly involve multiple partners and providers in “working the list”. A shared community-wide list in real time gives us tremendous ability to react to trends, to learn more about how people move in and out of homelessness, and to show the impact of our collective efforts.
How does the new Plan update talk about the next stage of the journey? Here’s the basics:
Unpacking the Third Goal:
Develop an Integrated Services Response
Engaging people with lived experience.
If you want to do a good job on anything, you want to be able to see what you’re doing from many angles. Frontline staff, along with participants in a program provide critical input to ensure providers are getting it right; with quality shelter, and in delivering housing and support services. The plan says “the need for specific engagement with key subpopulations, including youth and indigenous people will continue to be assessed and expanded to other groups where needed.”
Continued partnership on access and information-sharing.
Building on the work done already, specific goals are set to bridge the significant gaps that remain. The ‘no wrong door’ policy has helped to reduce the run-around and frustration people experience when trying to find help and support with housing. But there is still work to do on making sure people are able to be assessed and referred to the most appropriate kinds of help, and of course trying to ensure the right help will be available to meet the needs.
The System Planner Organization
With so many organizations and partners engaged together in the work across Edmonton, it can be difficult to gauge the health and needs of the larger picture. Homeward Trust Edmonton is currently positioned and resourced to be the system planner. Much of the work they do is targeted to streamlining the communication and information gathered from the many partner organizations in order to understand and research the larger trends. This helps inform where there are shortfalls and gaps in the work being done, and provides critical evidence to inform decisions as to where scarce resources are best spent.
The Accountability Framework
How will we ensure the work stays on track? Who will help resolve issues, sort out conflicts, and discuss the tough questions? An accountability framework will be developed by 2018 that will “identify resource and funding coordination processes, roles and accountabilities to support plan strategies.” This framework will (most likely) involve setting a table, gathering appropriate partners, and together formulating tools and structures so the group is able to understand and respond effectively to issues and challenges that emerge.
Areas of possible engagement for faith communities:
1. Engage with Local Service Providers in your community. Here’s a list of different resources and the different kinds of basic needs they work to respond to:
2. Understand the best points of contact. Visit our website for emergency contact numbers and service providers: https://wp.me/P20ewB-o6
3. If you know someone in search of a place, call the Coordinated Access Hotline: 780.496.1300