02/25/2013 - Sustaining 100 Day Results:  Does Your Community Have the Grit to Solve Homelessness Among Veterans?

Ending homelessness among Veterans cannot be the responsibility of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) alone.  Communities are the key ingredient and are essential partners in ending homelessness among our Veterans.   Collective leadership, collaboration, civic engagement, and persistence are necessary to get the job done and end Veteran homelessness by 2015. This is never more palpable than when working with the participants of Community Solutions’ Rapid Results Housing Boot Camp.

As part of a Sustainability Review, I recently joined federal, state, and local leaders from Colorado, Phoenix, and Utah who gathered to share the progress of their 100 day goals in ending homelessness among Veterans as part of a Community Solutions’ Rapid Results Housing Boot Camp (Boot Camp). In all of these communities, multi-disciplinary teams work to target HUD’s Housing Choice vouchers and case management and clinical services provided by VA (HUD-VASH) to Veterans most in need. Boot Camps equip teams with the tools and commitments needed to set – and meet – 100 day goals that make immediate impacts and drive solutions and strategies that will help the community end Veteran homelessness. Boot Camps have been an important element for participating communities across the country to achieve the goal of ending Veteran homelessness by 2015.

During the Sustainability Review, we heard about the successes and challenges communities met head on as they moved through their first 100 days together, working to make a measurable impact on Veteran homelessness in their communities.  The day started with examples of leadership, how we turn ideas into habits, and how having determination can be attributable to success. Beth Sandor of Community Solutions and Nadim Matta of Schaffer Consulting, recently recognized by Foreign Policy Magazine as one of the 100 Top Global Thinkers of 2012, led participants in reflection, action, and planning that energized teams to confidently move forward into their next 100-day goals.

Each community’s experience illuminated how they combined strategy, persistence, and courage to drive solutions.  Here are some highlights of the successes of participating teams over the last 100 days:

  • Salt Lake City has been incredibly effective at implementing HUD-VASH and credit collaboration for their accomplishments. As noted by the team, implementing the HUD-VASH program was a true community effort, which required diverse partners to come together, each bringing their unique skill sets and expertise to this effort. They shared what they believed were key factors in making their collaboration a success, including:
  • Leadership support and buy in, including an understanding by all partners that compromise was a necessary part of the process
  • Adapting processes to incorporate active participation by different organizations
  • Embracing conflict and understanding that it is healthy to challenge each other’s perspectives and the status quo 

The Denver Metro team has also leaped many hurdles to improve collaboration, and have yielded tremendous results by reducing HUD-VASH lease up time by 43 percent.   At a recent Stand Down, the Denver Metro team was able to issue 15 HUD-VASH vouchers to Veterans experiencing homelessness: including issuance of a HUD-VASH voucher by a hospital bedside to a Veteran.  The Denver metro team described their commitment to and progress in collaboration as Kintsukuroi (n.) (v.phr.)–“to repair with gold”; the art of repairing pottery with gold or silver lacquer and understanding that the piece is more beautiful for having been broken.

  • Grand Junction, CO’s team housed 18 Veterans in 100 days, and 120 Veterans have been housed since HUD-VASH implementation in 2009.
  • Team Pueblo, known as Home for Heroes,"  has issued 70 percent of their HUD-VASH vouchers to Veterans experiencing chronic homelessness and reduced voucher issuance by 79 days.

Key leaders from VA, HUD, and USICH were on hand to listen and assist in providing solutions to barriers faced by communities, while also celebrating the many accomplishments of teams. Everyone in the room was energized by the work that has been done, acknowledging that there is still more work ahead.  It will take continued focus and commitment as well as collaboration among all the partners at every level of government and in the community to meet the next set of 100 day goals.  I was inspired by the leadership, collaboration and perseverance of the teams, and I know that they have what it takes to sustain their efforts. I look forward to the continued successes of all the communities participating in the Rapid Results Housing Boot Camp and all of us having the grit to achieve the goal of ending homelessness among veterans by 2015.

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