||After Pioneering Housing Search...
After Pioneering Waitlist Software Solutions...
A Plan to Reduce Homelessness by Building Social Capital
"Converting Broken Networks into an Ecosystem"
|What is Social Capital?|
|SOCIAL CAPITAL is what happens when people have extra time, money, and desire to invest in making their own neighborhoods and communities a better place to live.
The best way to to increase social capital is to simultaneously implement a host of initiatives and services, with a final goal of creating more mixed-income housing developments, while converting existing public housing into mixed income housing developments.
It's not enough to have mixed income communities; a critical mass of buildings must each contain mixed-income communities that include more than two income levels.
While there are ingenious ways to achieve mixed income housing even in the face of resistance from one or more populations, the key is for a local government to implement a number of initiatives that work in concert, rather than to implement them in sequence. Because this requires a level of political courage largely absent in any medium- to large-size city, activists and organizers have to be willing to work in small groups to creatively force change prior to spending energy trying to build large coalitions.
Homelessness is a symptom, and rebuilding lost Social Capital is the solution. We need to stop treating the symptom and focus on the solution.
|What are Features of a Plan to Build Social Capital?|
Starting in the 1990's, homelessness morphed from a problem affecting mostly single men with addiction issues, to a problem affecting households of all types. Multiple helping systems emerged, and they themselves became the primary obstacle to a solution, and the agencies responsible for these silos never chose to eliminate them, promising instead 'better coordination' - which did not happen. Faced with the inability of a large government to control its own bureacracies, many government planners now pin their hopes on single-sector solutions to fight homelessness; initiatives such as HMIS, Rapid Re-Housing, HomeBase, RAFT, and even the development of a 'centralized waitlist system' that is not truly centralized. These single-sector ideas have failed, and will always fail, at causing a serious reduction in homelessness. The Housing First model never was given a chance, but would have itself failed because, absent wrap-around services - Housing First is no magic wand. What is needed is the simultaneous launch of many coordinated services, at the same time eliminating silos. Unless all these things are done, people will not be able to sustain the long, upward climb to permanent stability .
What is needed is a multi-pronged approach that politicians and bureaucrats seem to find too risky to initiate. And also a change of focus from the symptom of homelessness to the solution of 'building social capital'. And to implement this multi-pronged approach from the ground up, while using activism and organizing to forcibly ensure the support of top-down institutions who generally feel threatened by the loss of (perceived) coontrol of turf. Small Town Hall meetings leading to larger City Wide programs that encourage state governments to mimic policy once it feels safe to do so.
It is ironic that the building of social capital necessarily falls on the shoulders of citizens who, historically, have very little social capital at present - but these citizens still have more chance to produce social capital than their existing governments. The process of building social capital is nothing like a baking recipe, which allows for no variation or scaling. Instead, It is more a set of plans, initiatives, and city or county-wide grass-roots conversations; activism occuring side-by-side with Organizing (in a big city, ten people with a creative, attention-grabbing action can force change more easily than a 10,000 person march; not asking but telling.
Solutions will likely need to come from towns upward, because there is powerful resistance at higher levels of government to the idea of implementing multiple coordinated initiatives at the same time. Also, a combination of initiatives working in one locale will not necessarily be effective in another locale; and in many neighborhoods, some initiatives may already be in place, but aare not yet coordinated with other initiatives and political actions that are needed to develop momentum. With that in mind, we present a partial, dynamic list of features collected from many sources. Please click on CONTACT in the striped bar at the top of the page to send us additional ideas or comments. We will grow the page with your contributions.
The first step is to introduce a one-stop search and apply service for all levels of non-market level housing that (ideally) involves housing advocates - unless you can provide an unduplicated count of who is seeking housing - across all types of subsidized, affordable, and special needs housing - planning becomes impossible. It is important to understand that the implementation of this resource does not require legislation, much money, or permission from anyone.
The second step is to admit that attempts to centralize Waitlist Management, must include a feature that allows applicants to apply to every kind of housing, even if the waitlist software is intended only for one type of housing. The data we need in order to reduce or end homelessness is only of value if it includes everyone seeking non-market housing. Undupliate data that only counts applicants for public housing is of little value in ending homelessness, because too many applicants who are homeless or at risk of homelessness will not be applying, or moving into, public housing.
The third step is to not provide a duplicate one-stop shopping service (see step 1). We need an unduplicated count of who is seeking housing, across all types of subsidized, affordable, and special needs housing, in order to end homelessness, so running two or more such systems ensures we will never have that unduplicated count.
Use the data from your one-stop Search and Apply to identify how many households and individuals are homeless or at risk of homelessness. If you are able to also implement some centralization of waitlist services, you can also run reports showing actual, average, and worst waitlist times, sorted by region and income level.
Implement a large number of initiatives simultaneously.You don't need permission for some; others may require meetings with city councilors, or even outright activism, where you disrupt and embarass people in power to force what you want. Remember that you can usually achieve these embarassments with a very few people and a creative plan, and that this is much easier than trying to rally 10,000 persons for a short-live protest march.
See a short list of initiatives collected as of 2019-01.
|HousingWorks, Inc. | P.O. Box 231104 | Boston, MA 02123-1104|
Converting Broken Networks into an Ecosystem
© HousingWorks.net, 2000