The creation of a permanent governing structure that can continue the work
The purpose of the first nine dynamics is to create a leadership organization within a community that can preserve and build upon gains that are realized through a collaborative approach to homelessness. The process of ending homelessness is not a short-term operation; it is a new way of “governing” the local homeless problem. So in the same way that a community’s top leaders must create a structured approach to solving problems related to transportation, tourism, economic development, and the other necessities of infrastructure, that community must create the systems and structures that can provide long-term solutions for homelessness.
Once homelessness is addressed through collaboration and advocacy, multi-jurisdictional leaders must find a way to work together in a formal and perpetual manner in order to “manage” the problem of homelessness the same way that a city would “manage” drinking water, garbage collection, code enforcement, or public education. And while this may be a radically new way of doing business for most people involved in the work of addressing homelessness, it is the only way that a community can make real progress in this fight.
All the various sectors in a community are affected by homelessness in some way, and each of these sectors will have a different paradigm regarding the problem and the best ways to deal with the problem. Therefore, to successfully combat homelessness, top leaders in local government must collaborate with top leaders from the business community, the faith community, the philanthropic community, the Housing Authority, the Veterans Administration, the local Continuum of Care, law enforcement, the nonprofit service providers, mental health and healthcare, education, and the criminal justice system in order to assess homelessness annually, formulate strategies for dealing with the problem, and coordinate resources in a way that can satisfy the basic needs of each stakeholder group. Consequently, a permanent governing body is the best way to hold each stakeholder group accountable while fulfilling the ultimate mandate of ending homelessness within the community. And that governing body must routinely ask itself some hard questions in an effort to accurately assess the progress it has made:
- Where do we currently stand in our efforts to end homelessness?
- What does success for our community look like during the year ahead?
- What is our strategy this coming year for blending our efforts to achieve this common goal?
- How can we combine our resources to achieve this singular goal?
- How do we hold each other accountable for our various assignments in this process?
The utilization of data to assess progress and to create transparency and accountability
Numbers, when handled honestly and objectively, do not lie. Data, therefore, must be constantly utilized in the war against homelessness to give engaged communities a true picture of where they stand in real time in their efforts to deal with the problem. Using data, a governing organization and its leaders can create the ongoing transparency and accountability that is necessary for collaboration among stakeholders and for successful fundraising.
If a community cannot measure a problem, that community can never truly solve that problem. But transparency and accountability based on hard data will always yield good results, because good, accurate data—data that tells the story of real people and the real urgency of saving their lives—can show homeless strategists where to invest their time and money, what their next steps should be, and how they can hold themselves and local providers accountable for real results.
A resource strategy to actually end homelessness
Unlike the eleven dynamics that precede it, this dynamic is positioned last in the list for a reason, because the implementation of this dynamic is contingent upon the successful implementation of the first eleven dynamics of social change. When a community’s top elected officials are dedicated to solving the homeless problem, when business leaders are finally bringing accountability into the discussion, when an aggressive advocacy campaign has successfully changed local beliefs on homelessness, and when a governing structure has been created to devise real strategies and to make homelessness a meaningful focus of the community at large, then a case can be made for a community to invest the adequate resources that can actually end homelessness in that locality (create a system where homelessness is rare, brief, and a one-time occurrence for those who experience it).
Nobody likes to spend taxpayer dollars, and nobody likes to raise millions of dollars from the philanthropic community, especially if that process has to be repeated year after year with little success. But when a community gets to the place where it can show that the chronically homeless will never be able to help themselves, that homelessness has real solutions, and that we can invest money toward this worthy cause in a smart and businesslike manner and in many cases can actually save money, then it becomes easy to justify the expenditure of proper resources to fund a local homeless initiative on an ongoing basis.
The financial solution for homelessness could be derived by the creation of a new, recurring public revenue stream. This funding stream could also be created by bundling philanthropic donations from numerous contributors each year. But this process would only be appropriate for the community that has implemented or substantially implemented all of the preceding dynamics in the process of social change.