Envision your community having all of the right partners and leaders around the table to implement an actionable plan with goals and strategies to end homelessness. It takes commitment, dedication, passion, and political will to create opportunities for partnerships and solutions to ending homelessness. These qualities are abundant in Lafayette, and Tippecanoe County, Indiana.
Last week in Tippecanoe County, Indiana, I had the privilege to participate in a charrette planning process “Solutions Beyond Shelter” facilitated by the Corporation for Supportive Housing (CSH). The charrette is a unique and efficient process for communities to articulate goals and strategies to end homelessness relevant to their community needs. The process provides opportunities to explore new systemic and programmatic solutions to end homelessness between national and local leaders, with the community providing reaction and input on particular issue areas. CSH has facilitated numerous charrettes with communities across the country to develop new plans and breathe life into existing plans to end homelessness through a thoughtful and strategic process known as the “fishbowl.” Fishbowls are issue-focused conversations between national and local experts which are open to everyone in the community to react to and provide direct input. After several days of fishbowls, a final report and recommendations are prepared and shared with the community within 7 days. The charrette process reduces a substantial amount of time in the community planning process while still capturing the salient issues determined by the community, all in concert with national efforts to promote evidence-based best practices.
While in Lafayette, it was energizing to participate in the fishbowl conversation with local and national colleagues on two of six issue areas: “Housing: From Homelessness to Permanent Supportive Housing” and “Interagency Coordination and Access.” I was impressed with the level of commitment and partnership from all who attended, including the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority, the Lafayette Housing Authority, the City of Lafayette and West Lafayette, the United Way of Greater Lafayette, the Chamber of Commerce, Mental Health America, the faith-based community, and the numerous service providers engaged in ending homelessness.
I was also inspired and struck by the representation of formerly homeless persons and persons experiencing homelessness during the charrette. It serves as a very important reminder of the inclusion of persons experiencing homelessness and formerly homeless consumers as an integral part of the community planning process in aligning our work. Several persons who were formerly homeless openly discussed the challenge of accessing services, having to provide the same information over and over, and navigating multiple providers and referrals to get assistance. It was also suggested that peers who have experienced homelessness should be directly involved in targeting persons experiencing chronic homelessness to assist in engagement and relationship building. The power and value of peer support in outreach, targeting, and program implementation is necessary to advance our collective efforts.
As I have begun to work across country in my role as a Regional Coordinator and in my past experiences, the tipping point on progress often comes through meaningful partnerships. These partnerships across the public, private and nonprofit sectors are the recipe for success. Partnerships have the ability to yield tremendous results in ending homelessness. These partnerships are fundamental in leveraging resources, and the ability for communities to act strategically. By providing a forum for meaningful input from a broad range of stakeholders, the charrette “Solutions Beyond Shelter” helped secure the ingredients necessary for strengthening existing and new partnerships, as well as setting goals with targets and measurable results. It was evident the political will and partnerships in Tippecanoe County are strong and with continued focus will bring systemic change to addressing the issue of homelessness.
As we move toward ending homelessness in communities across the country, Opening Doors provides a framework of goals and strategies communities can align with to present a unified voice on addressing ending homelessness as a nation. USICH encourages states and communities to join the campaign to prevent and end homelessness, Opening Doors Across America, by aligning with Opening Doors, setting targets for reductions in homelessness among specific populations and measuring results, acting strategically with the resources a community has to deploy to the issue, and partnering with other sectors and players to make it happen. The CSH charrette process and leadership in the community of Lafayette and Tippecanoe County are an excellent example of how communities can join in the USICH Call to Action to align with national goals and become a participating or joining community of Opening Doors Across America. Will your community or state sign on and join USICH in accelerating our efforts to end homelessness?