05/09/2012 - Local United Ways Playing a Leading Role

Imagine the possibilities if every local United Way across the country was engaged in solutions to end homelessness. What would progress look like if the business leaders and volunteers that support United Ways were pushing for real systems change and investing to create community impact to prevent homelessness?

I imagine there would be more high profile champions working with elected officials, providers and advocates to develop and implement local strategic plans to end homelessness that are aligned with Opening Doors. These champions would elevate the community engagement to increase resources directed toward solving homelessness.

I imagine that there'd be fewer projects stopped by NIMBY as business leaders would be joining forces with permanent supportive housing developers. They would help make the case to elected officials that supportive housing is a cost-effective solution to street homelessness and encourage land use approvals despite neighborhood objections.

I imagine that shelters would be better coordinated and able to be organized around a central access point: a result of United Way investment and volunteer support to create the most efficient approach by applying business technology and practices. The result would be shorter lengths of stay and more exits to housing.

I imagine that the real estate sector would be fully engaged in ending homelessness. Not only offering groups of volunteers to plant flowers and make apartments ready for occupancy, but also getting more apartment owners by offering units to help people with poor credit and criminal histories exit homelessness.

I imagine that more communities would be using the Vulnerability Index to create a Registry to get the most vulnerable people off the streets and into housing through the 100,000 Homes Campaign. The result would be significant reductions in chronic and Veterans homelessness.

I imagine that there would be greater private sector investment in rapid re-housing, supportive housing, and homelessness prevention.  This investment would be aligned through local funder collaboratives that bring together public, private, and nonprofit resources. The result would be reductions in homelessness.

I imagine that in some places the United Way would manage the Continuum of Care, the HMIS, and the implementation of the local plan to end homelessness.  Many of these places are small communities that would otherwise not be able to meet the HEARTH requirements.

In fact, this isn't just in my imagination. It's already happening in pockets across the country. I spent three days last week with local United Way leaders from across the country in Nashville. It was a diverse cut of the country from small to medium to large communities—all 50 states and many international United Ways as well. They enthusiastically described how they were creating momentum and progress in our shared work to end homelessness.  

If you want to learn more, check out our new online toolkit that points out those practices that are making progress and how United Ways are doing it. If you are a United Way that has a best or promising practice to share, please let Joshua Leopold know and he'll follow up to learn more.

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