From: Andrea Kurtz , Senior Director, Housing Strategies, United Way of Forsyth County
In my call with our BFZ coach this week, Eddie asked me, what would help create the sense of urgency in our CoC that would propel us to meet our goal of ending Chronic Homelessness. So this week, I’m inviting the team to email me what they think will help create the urgency we need as a CoC to improve our system of care to help the 13 folks on our By Name List (BNL) and 17 folks on our not by-name list (nBNL) get housed (Note: the BNL are people who have consented to some service that connects them to our CoC, the nBNL are folks who outreach services have identified as homeless but have not consented to services connected to the CoC)and what changes do we need to make to ensure that people who are not chronically homeless don’t age into chronic status.
As we reflect on my question this week, think how far we have come. And we have come very far. In 2005, we estimated there were over 200 chronically homeless folks in our community. We were not sophisticated enough to even accurately count them all. Now, we know them all, by name. We have the tools to assess their vulnerabilities and goals. We have the systems to target supportive housing resources to the most vulnerable based on community determined priorities. We have data on programs’ success in placing people in permanent housing, on recidivism from these programs, on the flow of people in and out shelter, and many other markers of system function. You can see in our metrics that shifts have happened.
I believe we have the skills and the resources to make the final shift: from being a system that manages homeless people to being a system that helps people resolve their housing crisis; from being a system that defines people by their housing status, to being one that helps them build a better life based on their gifts, skills, and talents.
There will always be reasons that people lose their housing whether from natural disasters or accidents, fires, family break-up, sudden or chronic illness or significant life changes. I believe Winston-Salem, and specifically the staff and programs in our CoC have the talent and resources to help people manage through these crises without keeping them homeless so long that it becomes an indelible part of their identity. I also believe, we are close to the day that we are fully living into our vision of being a crisis response system, not a homeless management system.