Mary Ann Haley
Some workshop highlights: Ehren Dohler, Project Specialist with the North Carolina Coalition to End Homelessness, gave a compelling presentation on the lessons learned from their disaster relief work following Hurricane Florence in North Carolina. Beginning by posing the question, “what would you do differently if you knew your shelters were going to close soon?” to set the stage for the outcomes they were able to achieve in housing people in a very short period of time. By forming cross-agency teams tasked with finding immediate housing solutions they were able to achieve amazing results in a very short period of time. He contrasted this with the more lengthy processes of coordinated entry assessments, referrals, documentation, and inspections that can take the “rapid” out of rapid re-housing.
Training and Technical Assistance Coordinator
Providers from all over the country are recognizing the work to end homelessness must include identifying racial disparities and taking steps to address them. Many organizations have already run reports through their Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) and have identified that Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPoc) are overrepresented in the homeless population in the communities they serve. They want to take action but are not sure where to start. I presented in the “You’ve Analyzed Your Data for Racial Disparities: Now What?” workshop and shared the next steps we are taking in CT to address disparities that were found in our data. In CT, we’ve conducted trainings on racial equity, including cultural responsiveness, inclusion, and implicit bias. These trainings were in-person, through webinar, and this was a major topic at our 2019 annual conference. I also discussed the steps were are taking to collaborate with other state partners to develop a plan for addressing the disparities we are seeing in our system. I followed the full racial equity track at this year’s NAEH conference and was enlightened about what additional steps other communities are taking to make their systems and organizations more equitable. It was remarkable to hear where everyone was in their journey. While some communities pledged to analyze their data when they returned from the conference, some communities have already created and are implementing a racial equity framework. A constant theme that resounded at NAEH 2019 was that addressing racial inequities needs to be a collective effort all communities are committed to.
Waterbury-Torrington, Central CT Community Impact Coordinator
I attended sessions that focused on youth, particularly minors, and outreach. One particularly strong set of presentations was from “Serving Unaccompanied Minors via Cross-System Collaboration” that had a lot of ideas and practices about partnering with juvenile justice and school systems to include data sharing and introducing a common vision of goals and tactics that (new) partners can utilize. There was a constant reiteration of the need for true youth input at multiple levels of program design and how real ‘system mapping’ can clear the road for accountability for all partners. This is timely as we are currently working to formalize minor conferencing groups within each YETI in CT. The “Reaching the Mark” session was about training and keeping outreach workers and what the day-to-day work of outreach looks like. Angela Patterson from UNITYGNO (New Orleans) detailed some of her practices as a supervisor or the largest outreach team in New Orleans, particularly in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and the abandoned housing crises in her city. My own session was about the role of host homes as an option for housing for youth, including minors and how these homes and the relationships they begin can play vital parts in the well-being of youth in the long term. In CT host homes only exist as an extension of the services of developed Runaway Homeless Youth Providers and their Basic Centers and the relationship is sanctioned by the Department of Children and Families and youth are either released to parental care or DCF at the end of a 21 day stay. In other areas of the country host homes exist outside of DCF and with private funding and also have evolved to serve 18 yo and older clients.
David Gonzalez Rice
Eastern CT Community Impact Coordinator
I attended sessions on Homelessness and the Criminal Justice System, Homelessness Among Individual Adults, Integrating Day Centers and Drop-in Centers into Continuums of Care, Defeating NIMBYism, and responses to Unsheltered Homelessness.
Across these panels, multiple presenters and participants shared that the population most likely to fall off the CoC’s radar – to not appear in HMIS or in System Performance data – is people experiencing unsheltered homelessness. More distressing was data suggesting that people of color, women, and survivors of abuse are overrepresented among this group. But several panelists shared promising approaches to tracking, targeting, and effectively serving this population. All stressed cross-sector collaboration, good data and tracking tools, and outcomes-focused targeting of resources. As CCEH undertakes to support the CANs’ focus on unsheltered homelessness in the coming year, we will be examining these and other national models.