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June 28, 2010 / nick geisinger

How will Washington DC end homelessness?

by Karen FitzGerald (Meyer Foundation) and Maria Barker (Fannie Mae)

According to Laura Zeilinger (Deputy Director, DC Department of Human Services) and Kelly Sweeney McShane (Executive Director, Community of Hope), who briefed funders on DC’s new Strategic Action Plan to End Homelessness, DC plans to:

  • Continue to move individuals and families out of homelessness and into affordable, safe housing as quickly as possible.
  • Increase the production and preservation of affordable and supportive housing in the city. Some homeless families and individuals need the intensive services and deep rental subsidies of permanent supportive housing to end their homelessness, But about 80 percent of families who experience homelessness simply need an affordable place to live, and so affordable housing remains a crucial element of the plan to end homelessness.
  • Redouble efforts to prevent homelessness in the first place, by reducing evictions, and working with such agencies as the Department of Corrections and the Department of Mental Health to ensure that individuals who leave prison and other institutions have a place to live.

The City will also move to a performance-based contracting system with nonprofit organizations that serve our homeless neighbors, and track outcomes along ten indicators.
The Department of Human Services expects to have new contracts in place by October 1st.

Funders plan to meet with DHS leaders in the fall to hear how implementation of the new plan is progressing.  Stay tuned.

One Comment

  1. Hildy Gottlieb / Jun 28 2010 9:57 am

    These are all commendable steps. I am concerned, though, that they will not “end homelessness.”

    My concern comes not from the actions themselves, but from the thinking and context from which the actions derive. My experience over the past 12 years has been researching and experimenting around the question of why some social change actions succeed vs. those problems we assume are never going away simply because the things we keep trying are not working.

    What we have repeatedly found is that when we aim our plans at ending / preventing something negative, we tether our plans to what we do not like about today, and then move forward from there – reactively and incrementally.

    Social change initiatives that DO work do just the opposite – they focus on the future they DO want for the community, and tether their plans to that proactive, sweeping vision for change.

    In truth, we don’t want a community with “no homelessness / poverty.” What we DO want is a community that is healthy, vibrant, equitable, compassionate.

    On the way to achieving that affirmative state, we solve the problem. But the problem is not the focus point of the planning or the thinking.

    For more on this approach to considering sweeping social change, this 3-part blog post is a starting point.

    I hope this is helpful in furthering the conversation.

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