Ending Homelessness is No Longer a BHAG
If you’ve ever read Jim Collins work then BHAG is familiar to you. For those who don’t know, it stands for Big Hairy Audacious Goal. It’s supposed to describe a strategy that may seem improbable to the world but certainly within the realm of possibility to those on the inside. The idea that we, as a society, can end homelessness has often been referred to as a “pipe dream,” “pie in the sky thinking” or just plain crazy. But at the Men’s Shelter of Charlotte, ending homeless is not only possible, it’s probable, and we’re already doing it. National statistics show that homelessness is decreasing. According to The State of Homelessness in America 2014, published in May by the National Alliance to End Homelessness, overall homelessness decreased nationally by almost 4% from 2012 to 2013. Furthermore, homelessness decreased in “every major subpopulation – families (7 percent), chronically homeless individuals (7.3 percent), and veterans (7.3 percent). In North Carolina during the same period, overall homelessness has dropped by 10%, with homelessness among veterans down by 20%. What about Charlotte? The National Alliance report doesn’t drill down that far, but our local community’s point-in-time count of people experiencing homelessness, conducted this past January, demonstrated even greater progress.
At the Men’s Shelter our mission is to provide safe emergency shelter while working to end homelessness for each man. When we developed this mission statement almost 5 years ago, we certainly thought it was a BHAG. We soon realized that BHAGs with strategic focus begin to lose the “big,” “hairy,” and even “audacious” aspects and what’s left is what’s most important – a goal! As we begin our new fiscal year on July 1st, we’re proud of the fact that 500 men moved into more appropriate housing over the past 12 months and that only 2% returned to our shelters. We’re even more excited that in the coming 12 months our GOAL is to move 500 more men into appropriate housing, help 500 men increase their income through benefits and employment, and provide support so men who successfully leave the shelter don’t have to return. Since 2012, we’ve reduced the number of men coming into emergency shelter in our community by 57%. We plan to continue that trend in 2014-2015 and beyond. Not a BHAG at all. By focusing intentionally on Income + Housing + Support, our mission of ending homelessness is actually happening now.
In September 2008 I became the Executive Director of the Men's Shelter of Charlotte. I've spent almost 15 years working to end homelessness in North Carolina. After working with homeless and runaway youth in Raleigh, I served as the Director of the South Wilmington Street Center (men's shelter) in Wake County and then worked on Orange County's 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness. I am a former board chair for the North Carolina Coalition to End Homelessness and former chair of the Homeless Services Network in Charlotte. In 2014 I served as the partner agency representative on the United Way Central Carolinas board of directors.