Nashville showed up in force at this year’s Collective Impact Convening in Boston, from May 23-25, sponsored by the Aspen Institute Forum for Community Solutions and FSG.
Our city was represented by the nonprofit, government, and philanthropic sectors to learn about effective ways to collaborate on solving large-scale, complex social issues.
How’s Nashville is a collective impact initiative that is organized around:
- A Common Agenda.
- Common Progress Measures.
- Mutually Reinforcing Activities.
- Ongoing Communications.
- And a Backbone Organization.
With our community’s discussion around strengthening and unifying our governance system around homelessness, we will revamp our How’s Nashville collaborative. It is useful to take time out and think what tools are available to us to make our work meaningful and engaging for all stakeholders.
Collective Impact provides such tools.
The key aspect of a successful campaign to end homelessness is landlord engagement. As communities we talk a lot about coordinated entry systems and a housing first approach.
However, without a clear, coordinated exit strategy, we will end up with a new way of creating a community waiting list, which is not our goal. Thus, landlord engagement is a key strategy that Nashville is building up on.
The main aspect is building and maintaining relationships with private market landlords as the city is expanding its work on retaining affordable housing opportunities. Often times, these relationships allow us to ask for a little lenience on a person’s background and convince a landlord to give a family/individual a chance.
Thanks to our efforts, Nashville has been able to increase its monthly housing placement rate since 2013. With an increasing difficult affordable rental market, we need more landlord engagements to maintain these relationships and create more opportunities for the people we serve.
We are working in partnership with our community on catching up with our 2017 Housing Placement Rates.
For January 2017, our community assisted 65 people experiencing chronic homelessness with permanent housing. In addition, 10 veterans who were literally homeless obtained housing.
The numbers are submitted by our community partners to the Metropolitan Homelessness Commission. The Commission de-duplicates numbers and then the How’s Nashville collaborative posts them online.
In our work, we come across a lot of situations where people are identified as “the homeless.” We sometimes forget that homelessness is a housing status – and nothing more. It is a description of a situation and not a person.
Even when we try to be person-centered, it can be hard to know how to change the language we use.
We found a great guide that offers suggestions on how we can talk about housing stability in a person-centered way. Here is a link to this Language Guide. We hope you can use it as a tool for your direct support workers who walk alongside the people accessing your programs.
Understanding Housing First principles and adopting them as a core element of a community initiative are essential if we are serious about reducing homelessness and creating a system that ends it for most people within 30 days.
The Housing First philosophy does not exclude the different aspects that a functioning system must contain. For example, shelters are needed for an immediate safe place with low barriers while people work quickly on re-housing. Transitional housing can serve as options for certain populations that do not want to enter into their own housing unit just yet and choose to receive more intense services before they want to access permanent housing.
A Housing First approach does not screen out people because they are too hard to work with (often the term “not housing ready” is used). Housing First shifts the focus from treatment first to help people access housing quickly.
But (!) Housing First is not housing only. We need to ensure that people receive the services they need so they can overcome the underlying causes that led to their loss of housing in the first place.
Is it easy in an economy where affordable, low-income housing is scarce to find enough housing for people with several barriers to housing? No. But that requires another conversation on prioritization and how we utilize, as a community, our limited resources.
Learn more about Housing First and how you, in your program, can adopt its principles at the National Alliance to End Homelessness and at the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness.
Our community launched the 2016 by 2016 campaign in January 2015. The campaign ended in December.
How’s Nashville partners have assisted a total of 1,742 people who had experienced chronic homelessness with permanent housing between January 1, 2015, and December 31, 2016.
Of those housed, 1,281 experienced chronic homelessness and 461 were homeless Veterans.
The initial goal was to assist 1,421 people who were experiencing chronic homelessness or who were extremely vulnerable. However, we never counted people who were vulnerable but did not meet the federal chronic definition of homelessness. Thus, while it looks like we fell short of our goal, we may have well come closer than our official result.
What we celebrate is that through this effort, our community increased our average monthly housing effort from 19 people experiencing chronic homelessness who were assisted with permanent housing to 54 people who moved into permanent housing each month. That is a 184% increase in our monthly housing placement rate!
In addition, our community’s support programs reported housing retention after one year of 80-82%. This compares to studies that show that without support, only about 25-30% of people experiencing chronic homelessness retain their housing after 12 month.