Imagine trying to commute to work in a city where each bus makes up its own schedule and route and sets its own prices. You might eventually get where you’re going, but it would be an inefficient, frustrating process. It’s much easier to commute in a city with a coordinated transit system.
So why is it when we think of the response to homelessness in our communities, we often think of programs like shelters or housing programs that operate independently? That’s changing. Across the country a big shift is happening behind the scenes. Rather than a number of programs serving their clients as best they can on their own, whole communities are working together to build effective systems to produce a coordinated response to homelessness.
At the community level, it takes strong leadership to accomplish this huge task, because it requires persuading many programs to give up some of their autonomy in terms of who they serve and how they operate. In the homelessness field, this leadership responsibility falls to the Continuum of Care (CoC) governance.
How do you know if your governance is effective? I attended a workshop on this topic during the Alliance’s July conference which lent some valuable insights. Suzanne Wager of Housing Innovations shared some attributes of good and bad governance. Good governance uses data to make funding decisions. Decision making processes are transparent. No one constituency group holds more than 35 percent of the seats (that includes providers).
On the other hand, is everyone involved in every decision? Are some constituent groups completely excluded? Is there zero conflict? Then you have work to do on governance.
In the presentation below, Carol Falconer from Jacksonville, Florida shares their models of governance before and after making some serious changes. If the old governance model sounds like your community, it is time to face the tough work of making a change. Will you be the leader to that creates a system that ends homelessness?