I’m reading this really interesting book by Jeffrey Sachs, The End of Poverty.
In it he describes a trip to Malawi and visiting a hospital where hundreds of people are literally stacked up in a ward as they lay there dying of AIDS because they cannot afford the dollar per day lifesaving medicine.
I’m watching the news this week and seeing the devastation wrecked by earthquakes that continues to erupt in Nepal and surrounding parts of India. Impoverished people barely subsisting before and now losing everything, including life, as leaders struggle to get resources where they’ll do the most good.
I’m sitting at lunch yesterday listening to a fellow Rotarian share about his trip this week to the Philippines to help bring relief in the wake of a devastating typhoon.
I’m thankful for those who seek to bring relief to the poor throughout the world. I often wonder if I shouldn’t be joining them.
I’m driving to work this morning through a neighborhood near the shelter, a route I’ve driven hundreds of times. Sitting on the side of the road is a woman I’ve also seen hundreds of times but haven’t really noticed. She’s huddled up shaking from the obvious signs of addiction withdrawal. I wonder what it’ll take to save her life, if her life will be saved. I can almost see this woman, in her present condition, transported to Malawi, or the Philippines, or Nepal. Would her situation be better or worse? Would she be noticed more or less? I have no idea.
What I do know is that there is suffering around the world, including right here in our own backyards. I also know that the resources, wisdom, and desire to address these issues exist. There are smart people in this world, like Jeffrey Sachs, who have figured out what needs to be done to save lives, alleviate suffering, and reduce poverty. I’ve heard it so many times now that I don’t know who to credit this saying but on a local, national, and global scale we don’t have a resource problem, we have a priority problem.
I still have this guilt, maybe its desire, to go to Malawi, or the Philippines, or Nepal to help in some small way bring relief to extremely poor people who face severe poverty, devastation, and death in ways I can hardly comprehend. Then, as I pull into the parking lot at the shelter, I think about the woman sitting on the road in my own backyard and I know what I’m going to do today.
I’m blogging early this week since tomorrow is Men’s Shelter of Charlotte’s Moving Men Home 2015 Community Partnership Breakfast and Fundraiser. We’re so looking forward to gathering with about 600 friends to show how MSC continues to end homelessness in our community.
This week the National Alliance to End Homelessness released a blog discussing the 3 components every Rapid Rehousing Program should have – Find Housing, Pay for Housing, Stay in Housing. You can check it out here.
It was cool to see the National Alliance’s blog post validating what we do at MSC everyday. Our team is constantly working to build relationships with landlords to find housing. In addition to helping men increase their income to pay for housing, MSC offers some short-term rental subsidies to those who really need such help. Finally, we strive to ensure every man moves out with at least 2, and preferably 5, supports in place to help him stay housed.
In other words, MSC’s equation dovetails perfectly with national best practices in Rapid Rehousing: Income (Pay for Housing) + Housing (Find Housing) + Support (Stay in Housing) = An End to Homelessness! So cool!
If you’ve paid any attention to the local news since yesterday [January 6, 2015] , you’ve heard the announcement that chronic homelessness will be solved in our community by December 31, 2016!
The Housing First Charlotte-Mecklenburg Ending Chronic Homelessness in 2016 initiative is now underway. A lot of conversations and planning have taken place over the past 18 months and I, for one, am proud that our community’s leadership – government, civic, nonprofit, faith, etc. – have finally drawn a line in the sand and said enough, our most vulnerable citizens deserve better! To learn more about the plan itself, I encourage you to go to the initiative’s website HousingFirstCharMeck.org.
The Men’s Shelter of Charlotte (MSC) is one of many homeless services agencies serving people in our community who are experiencing homelessness and are considered chronically homeless (meaning they’ve been homeless often or for an extended period of time and they have an disabling condition, often mental illness). In fact, MSC provides safe shelter and supportive services to about 200 chronically homeless men each year. In FY2013-2014, 24% of the men MSC moved into more appropriate housing were chronically homeless – that’s over 100 chronically men who moved out of the shelter in just one year! So far in FY2014-2015, about 20% of the moves to more appropriate housing at MSC are with chronically homeless men. At MSC, we know first hand how this Housing First initiative can, and will, work to end chronic homelessness in our community. Housing First Charlotte-Mecklenburg aligns well with MSC’s mission to end homelessness for each man we serve. That’s why we’re excited about the plan and actively engaged to help the initiative succeed.
By declaring a date certain to end chronic homelessness, our community leaders have endorsed a solid plan that will work with everyone’s commitment. I was proud to stand with so many colleagues and community leaders yesterday as the plan was announced. I’m grateful for Mayor Clodfelter and County Commission Chairman Trevor Fuller for fully committing our local governments to make this plan succeed. I’m grateful to hear my colleague Fulton Meachum, CEO of the Charlotte Housing Authority, once again publically declare that homelessness would continue to be a preference for access to public housing. I’m proud of my colleague Dale Mullenix, from the Urban Ministry Center, for committing his agency to manage this project. Our business community, especially Bank of America and Wells Fargo, are to be commended for rallying the business sector around this plan. And last, but far from least, much credit goes to Michael Smith, CEO of Charlotte Center City Partners. Michael is the mastermind who quietly pulled everyone together and insisted we create a bold approach to solve the problem of chronic homelessness, first for those most vulnerable citizens who need our help, and then as another way to make our community a vibrant place in which to work and live.
The clock is now ticking and there is much work to be done. We will end chronic homelessness in Charlotte-Mecklenburg by the end of 2016. But that’s not the end of the story. We will then complete the work of ending homelessness for all in our community. MSC will certainly play it’s part. In addition to our stated mission of ending homelessness for each man, our agency’s vision to realize an end to homelessness in our community through fostering systemic change. Yesterday we all witnessed a seismic shift in our systemic approach to solving homelessness that will prove that, collectively, this community can realize an end to homelessness for all!
I’m always excited about New Years Day because with it comes a renewed vigor to accomplish so many things in life.
At the Men’s Shelter of Charlotte (MSC), the New Year is also the halfway point in our fiscal year. By New Year’s Day we can see how much progress our men have made over the past six months, which excites us for the progress to come over the next six months. Please be on the lookout for our community Impact Report to be released in early 2015. In it you can share in our excitement over progress being made at MSC to end homelessness for each man, thus ending homelessness in our community.
As we all think about our New Year’s resolutions, maybe one of yours will be to get involved or become more involved in the incredible success happening at the Men’s Shelter of Charlotte?
Happy New Year!
As I bring this series about best practices at the Men’s Shelter of Charlotte (MSC) to a close, I decided to save diversion until the end for two reasons. First, it’s a relatively new, emerging best practice that MSC has been experimenting with for a couple of years. Second, through MSC’s strategic planning process we have decided to formally launch our diversion component in early 2015! So, what is diversion? Kim Walker at the National Alliance to End Homelessness summarized it succinctly in a post she wrote as diversion emerged in 2011. Kim laid out the following bullets and I’ve added some comments relative to MSC’s use of diversion:
- Diversion is defined by the point at which intervention occurs and the type of assistance a household [or person] is seeking – in other words, only use diversion when someone is at the shelter door asking for a place to sleep;
- Diversion reduces homelessness – by helping people determine alternatives, we’ll be able to divert many folks from ever staying in a homeless shelter;
- Diversion conserves resources – I’ve blogged about that before; only use resources when absolutely necessary and only in sufficient amount to get the job done; providing too little in the way of resources sets someone up to fail, while too much is a waste;
- It’s not for everyone, but everyone should be assessed for it – this is one of the reasons that MSC is a coordinated assessment center and provides staffing to complete assessments;
- Service coordination is crucial – it’s the third leg of MSC’s equation to end homelessness: income + housing + support, and I’ve previously written that it may be the most important piece of the puzzle;
- The ultimate goal is a return to permanent housing – again, at MSC this is a goal for every man the moment they set foot into our shelters.
I’m appreciative of the informative way Kim laid out these six bullets and I hope my added commentary gives you a clearer idea of what diversion is and why its a best practice adopted at the Men’s Shelter of Charlotte. Look for more information as we prepare to roll out our diversion component in late February 2015. It’s one more way that MSC is fulfilling our mission to end homelessness for each man.
I hope you’ve found this latest series about best practices informative. Whether it’s diversion, rapid re-housing, medical respite, SOAR, or employment access, MSC is constantly looking for ways to better serve men experiencing homelessness in our community. Promoting these best practices is also a way MSC carries out our agency’s vision to be a catalyst for systemic change to end homelessness.