By Kris Kuntz, Principal, LeSar Development Consultants
As the year ends, inevitably we reflect on the last 12 months and consider the incredible work done and progress made, identify things we are thankful for, and look ahead to what 2020 has to offer. In the work to end homelessness, this reflection can be hard knowing that most of us get to do this from the safety and comfort of our own homes, while across the country there are more than a half million individuals – adults, families, children, seniors, veterans, young adults – who are homeless tonight, with many living unsheltered. Our thoughts are centered on these individuals and families as we review seven homelessness-related areas of impact in 2019 and progress to work toward in 2020.
- Housing + Homelessness: People are making the connection between the housing crisis and homelessness more than ever, and economic homelessness is on the rise as families are displaced due to rising rents. In California there has been an abundance of legislation passed to address housing development and affordability and there is strong understanding that one of the primary drivers of homelessness is a shortage of accessible and affordable housing. This year we have been excited to work with many communities at the intersection of housing policy and homelessness and more of this work is needed in 2020.
- A Focus on Real Solutions: Leaders in homelessness-related fields are sticking to their principles when it comes to the Trump administration and ending homelessness. Last month, Matthew Doherty, who prior to joining the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) worked at LDC, was released from serving as the executive director of the USICH by the White House. According to reports, Doherty was not willing to compromise his principles on policy and best practices and was asked to leave. This comes after the White House released a report on homelessness in September that was met with extreme opposition from national advocacy groups such as the National Alliance to End Homelessness that are focused on best practices. Ending homelessness is difficult, but we know how to do it. People like Matthew lead by example and do not waiver in their commitment to best practices, something we all should strive to do.
- Learning from Those with Lived Experience: Incorporating the voices and perspectives of people with lived experience of homelessness is considered a best practice and in recent years has been incorporated into homelessness-related efforts to ever increasing degrees. Homelessness systems have had more involvement from individuals with lived experience than in the past and this movement is continuing to grow. Who better to help provide feedback and shape policy than people who are experiencing or have endured homelessness? We are excited to see the expertise of those with lived experience included in development of homelessness-related policy, strategy, and action.
- California Funding Increases: In 2019 California dedicated unprecedented funding to communities across the state, including $650 million in new emergency aid directed to cities, counties, and continuums of care, and Governor Newsom is looking to further increase those commitments going forward. From our work in multiple counties across the state, we are seeing communities getting creative with these funding streams, bringing stakeholders and other potential collaborators to the table like never before to make large impacts. This is really encouraging as we enter the new year.
- Data-Driven Decision Making: We are encouraged to see increasing numbers of public-sector leaders, philanthropy, and nonprofit service providers using data to drive decision making. This year HUD released Stella, a performance strategy and analysis tool for Continuums of Care, and communities across the country are creating detailed data visualizations of their homelessness system. However, it is important to note that communities cannot just have good data dashboards and data visualization tools, they must also have the training and infrastructure in place to use the tools, interpret the data, and transform the interpretations into real-world strategies and action.
- Innovative Partnerships: It is exciting to see new partnerships between homelessness and healthcare systems. Housing as a key social determinant of health is widely adopted across housing, homelessness, and healthcare sectors. During 2019, California efforts such as Health Homes rolled out across the state and existing efforts such as Whole Person Care pilots continued to be refined into what works best for addressing the health, housing, and social needs of vulnerable populations. We look forward to seeing how new partnerships between health and housing sectors continue to evolve in the next year, increasing understanding that healthcare is part of the effort to address homelessness.
- Shared Housing: Communities are getting creative with their existing rental housing through shared housing models. Shared housing is a common living arrangement in high-cost housing markets within the general population, and now increasingly is being promoted as a strategy for addressing homelessness. Shared housing can take many different forms, including pairing two or more homeless individuals as housemates in a rental unit, working with homeowners who may have a spare bedroom for rent, or engaging individuals and families interested in serving as host homes for homeless youth. We are excited to see shared housing efforts continue to expand, to build on promising practices, and, at the end of the day, to be used as a strategy to ensure that everyone has a permanent place to live, even if it is with others.
Contact LDC Principal Kris Kuntz or LDC Senior Principal Jamie Taylor to discuss your community’s data visualization and training needs or implementing shared housing models in your community.