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The Threats & Promises/Opportunities of Downsizing Shelter Susanne Beaton Two Axions to Frame the Discussion From The Power of Intention by Dr. Wayne W. Dyer “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change” (principle of quantum physics) “If you always do what you always did, you will always get what you already got.” Applying Axioms to Homelessness If the intent is to end family homelessness, then we do have to think harder about keeping families housed, rapid re-housing strategies and shorter shelter stays. When we think of the Threat and Promise of downsizing the shelter system, we need to think about the threat coming from how we used to think about responding to family homelessness, and the promise coming from being viewed through a new lens change. Threats to Think About: 1. Community loses a publicly sited facility – safety net is lost. Staff become unemployed 2. Lack of trust in the politics and shifting winds – Section 8’s are here and then gone, etc… Government takes a walk and won’t respond, kids get hurt, no stable place for families. 3. Shifting economy resulting in more poverty 4. Fragile families living on the edge, too poor to live on their own 5. Families becoming invisible. 6. Loss of emotional connection- shelters are the holiday stops, volunteer opportunities and fundraising platforms 7. Family shelters are better than no place at all. Promises/Opportunities to Consider Now, with my new lens change I see... 1. Families getting what they really want: a home. 2. Local communities becoming engaged and aligned resulting in: • Better collaborations that can provide some new private/public partnership approaches and resources • A new “front door” to assess and respond to any family in need (not just eligible families) • Prevention becoming the real goal, facility re-use given a broader agenda…other populations (SRO’s, Aging Out of Foster Care, Drug and Alcohol rehab, etc…) • New assessment and stabilization centers 4. Re-thinking our budgets and allowing data to drive the resources, innovation and evaluation. If poverty is the issue, money and mainstream resources are the solution. 5. Coordinating the front door, better assessment, reduction in fragmentation, catching fragile families and packaging support before they lose it all More Opportunities….. 6. Bringing new stakeholders to the conversation, allowing new leadership and thus new solutions (In MA, the business leaders made the difference in our Governor creating an Interagency Council on Housing and Homelessness with real Commissioner participation across state agencies. It broke the isolation and the silos) 7. Raising private resources through community/stakeholder involvement, fundraising campaigns (i.e. supermarket debit cards, walks, etc…), 8. Creating stakeholder advisory committees help to broaden awareness of the issue. All data is published and public. The data tells the story and drives the resources. Keeps momentum going in community Successful Programs in Massachusetts Rental Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT) 436 Families assisted over a two-month period, with rental assistance, back rent, etc… $1,365 Average per household All of these families were prevented from falling into homelessness Department of Transitional Assistance’s Toolbox (stabilization supports) 476 families prevented or quickly re-housed over 2 months with flexible dollars $3,080 Average per household Shelter to Housing Pilot 207 families rapidly re-housed with stabilization services with a shallow subsidy $6,000 granted per household, per year After two years 80% success rate, families remain in housing These 3 initiatives keep 1,119 families housed for the same cost as 63 family shelter rooms Costs of Shelter vs. Housing Aid 60,000 47,000 50,000 40,000 30,000 20,000 10,000 6,000 3,080 1,365 0 Shelter 12 RAFT D T A T o o lbo x Shelter to mo nths H o using Compare the Costs oA shelter bedroom costs MA approx. $47,000 annually oWhile Prevention/Rapid Re-Housing costs MA per family an average of $2,222 annually. o Prevention Initiatives keep 22 families housed for the same cost as ONE shelter room Summary o Flexible resources (public and private), short term shelter, local design, mixed stakeholders will help convert minds and hearts toward a Housing First model because in the end, the data will drive the discussion. Aligning the universe will get you closer to the dream of ending family homelessness. o Government alone will never be able to get the job done. o Serving more families for less money with better outcomes requires public and private partnership both locally and at the state and federal level.
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