As many of you know, in 2005 our community committed to ending chronic homelessness. This milestone is only a part of the larger vision our Continuum of Care (COC) has for homeless services to become a housing crisis response system that helps people facing a housing crisis stabilize their housing. The proof point of ending chronic homelessness is only a stepping stone on this path. One step we are imminently close to taking! When we made the commitment as a community to end chronic homelessness, there were over 200 folks in our community who were chronically homeless. Today we have only 12!
We have come a long way as a community of practice serving people experiencing homelessness. The changes we have made over the last 14 years to our system have been monumental…including the development of rapid re-housing, coordinated assessment, governance re-design, improved partnerships with HAWS, the VA, DSS, WFUBMC, better data collection and improved use of data in decision making. We have also strengthened our culture of partnership and collaboration including shelter/medical care partnerships at both Bethesda Center and Samaritan Ministries, the HAWS collaborative between Bethesda Center and HAWS, the sophisticated partnership between Cities with Dwellings and local faith communities to manage our winter over-flow and to support the development of supportive community as people transition into permanent housing.
This week, 8 of us attended the Built for Zero convening in Atlanta where we received training, guidance and support for innovative ways to better support you as we continue our progress towards Zero. As we have over the past several years since joining BFZ, we will continue to share this knowledge through Action Camps, the operating cabinet, and other work groups and partnerships across our CoC. A key concept of this work is continuous improvement. A key concept of continuous improvement is to “test” or try something on a small scale before bringing a change to full scale, as a way to learn what works or doesn’t work to improve our ability to end homelessness. Through the methodology of Continuous Quality Improvement we have made changes to how we support people getting their disability verification, documenting their length of time homelessness, orientations, improved housing search and placement and many other areas of our system.
In January at our CoC retreat, we committed to ending chronic homelessness by June 30! When we hit this milestone, it will be because of hard work, dedication, and compassion for serving our homeless neighbors.
I am committing in these last three months to this goal to sending out a weekly update celebrating the work we are doing as a CoC to end homelessness— all homelessness.
Andrea S. Kurtz