10/23/2012 - How We’ve Made Progress: Valley of the Sun United Way Shares Their Journey

Valley of the Sun United Way has come a long way in four years. Together, with partners in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors, we have set ambitious yet achievable goals and have made progress towards the one big goal: ending homelessness in the Maricopa County region. By taking a look at our milestones and key actions throughout the past four years, we identified strategies that have worked for us, and we believe can work for other United Ways or community-wide partnerships across the country. Take a look:


They said it was impossible. They said we wouldn’t find support for the chronically homeless. They said an economic downturn was not a good time to talk about ending homelessness.


We, Valley of the Sun United Way (United Way) and our champion business leaders, said we think we can do it. With the assistance of Corporation for Supportive Housing (CSH), assessments and research were conducted in 2008-2009 for the Maricopa County region, or what locals affectionately refer to as “the Valley.”

April 29, 2009

Two community forums were held with stakeholders to share the goal and to seek partners for a PSH pilot. The City of Tempe raised their innovative hands and began to work with United Way to utilize stimulus dollars for homeless prevention and rapid re-housing through HUD’s HPRP program. This work, called the Tempe Pilot, ultimately resulted in a 35-unit program and a partnership that included Arizona Department of Health Services and Urban Outreach. Successful Strategy: By deeming the project a it a “pilot,”  we were able to learn from,  gain support, and implement the program quickly.

December 2009:

In late 2009 a peer visit was completed in Salt Lake City. More than 30 individuals representing business, direct service providers, government and elected officials spent a long day with hosts Gordon Walker and Lloyd Pendleton. The experience was a turning point for Phoenix City Councilman Tom Simplot and two neighborhood association leaders: by the end of the visit the Councilman committed to a PSH project in his district, and the neighborhood leaders asked how soon they would have a second project.Successful Strategy:  Peer visits allowed stakeholders to learn from other communities and to ask peers  tough questions.

Monthly in 2009:

United Way hosted monthly Project Connect events, based on the popular Project Homeless Connect, to not only serve individuals and families at-risk of and experiencing homelessness with immediate services, but to build community champions. Each month several hundred volunteers act as guest guides for Project Connect attendees, helping them navigate the event to get the services they need. Guides also learn more about homelessness in their community and the systems-wide solutions that work, helping them become champions for the cause. Elected officials, business and community leaders also attend these events. Successful Strategy : We expanded the concept of Project Homeless Connect to increase community awareness and to intervene earlier to end homelessness and prevent homelessness. We dropped “Homeless” from the event name to attract more individuals who did not consider themselves homeless but needed access to life-changing services.


                January 2010:

United Way Ending Homelessness Advisory Council is launchedthrough the leadership of Doug Parker, President of US Airways, and Mike McQuaid, local real estate developer and homeless advocate. The Advisory Council has brought the county and several municipalities, along with the Regional Behavioral Health Authority and the business community to the table. All efforts of the Advisory Council align to the Arizona Commission on Homelessness and Housing as well as the Maricopa Continuum of Care. Successful Strategy: Funders Councils involving region-wide action s provide governance and impetus for change.

April 2010:

With implementing the Tempe Pilot and another 50-person scattered site program after that, the need for clear Support Service Standards and a housing eligibility and assessment process was identified. Through working groups a common Service Standard was established and is now part of each PSH program coming online.

Monthly in 2010:

United Way continued to host monthly Project Connect events and began a partnership with Arizona StandDown to bring the guest guide volunteer component to the Veteran-specific event.

2011 and 2012:

United Way with Arizona Department of Housing sponsored the CSH Supportive Housing Institute to help build provider capacity and bring new partnerships together. Nine project teams have participated, generating several hundred units of housing, not only for the chronically homeless but additional populations in multi-use properties that also house families and single adults that are not considered chronically homeless.  Successful Strategy: The Supportive Housing Institute teaches a common language and service delivery model, while creating unique project teams and a local learning community.

September 18, 2012:

The Ending Homelessness Advisory Council was pleased to host Barbara Poppe and Matthew Doherty of USICH at their meeting. The Advisory Council is nearing its third year of directing the United Way in a public/private framework to end chronic homelessness through permanent supportive housing. Nearly 700 units are now either live, in construction, or about to begin construction.


The Advisory Council is also working with family providers to co-develop goals and right-sized interventions to end and prevent family homelessness. The Council intentionally connected to the Arizona Department of Veterans Services plan to end and prevent homelessness among Veterans and is partnering on Project H3 – Vets.  Lastly but possibly most importantly, the Council took Barbara Poppe’s recommendations and recommendations to heart, and is leading the investigation of a Valley-wide funders collaborative to ensure the sustainability of PSH and to align local funds to ending homelessness.

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