Taking Stock: System Improvements and the 2022 NOFO Competition

Designing an effective homelessness system doesn’t come easy. Aligning and implementing best practices, making data-driven decisions, and leveraging all available funding is all part of the process of system improvement. And that process is not something that’s done once a year, it is continuous.

Over the past two years, homeless service systems have been pushed to the limit, revealing valuable insights about what works and what doesn’t. The influx of resources has presented exceptional opportunities for homelessness systems, but also presented numerous hurdles. The challenges of the past two years underscore the importance of creating and maintaining components of an effective system.

Throughout this period, homeless service systems have deepened their understanding of how health, race equity, lived experience, and the urgency of unsheltered homelessness are critical priorities in a coordinated response to homelessness. To continue this progress, communities must be strategic, coordinated, and collaborative in their efforts.

Alliance staff have been holding focus groups to listen to communities and understand the challenges they currently face. Although there is unprecedented funding for homelessness, challenges persist: providers are still underfunded, bureaucracy makes it difficult to rehouse people quickly, staff is underpaid, the field is experiencing staffing shortages, and turnover rates are high. This is all coming at a time when the need could not be greater. Soon, there will be yet another demand on communities: HUD will announce the Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) for the Continuum of Care (CoC) Program Competition. With the 2022 CoC NOFO on the horizon, it’s time for communities to pause and talk about what makes an effective system.

Applying for This Year’s NOFO

The CoC NOFO funding is critical to many communities’ homeless response. CoCs will soon begin the mad scramble to pull data, explain outcomes, and demonstrate the effectiveness of their homeless system in the hopes of maintaining or increasing their competitiveness for this funding. This work will consume communities for weeks and many will engage in “Monday morning quarterbacking” following application submission, thinking “if only we had spent more time building partnerships.” Or, “if only we had more intentionally addressed the racial disparities existing in our system.”

What if there’s a way to take a beat and re-evaluate what you are submitting – before you submit it?

Reintroducing the SYSTEM Series

The Alliance is revamping its SYSTEM (Strengthening Your System to Energize Momentum) Series to support ongoing system evaluation in anticipation of the 2022 CoC NOFO competition. The CoC NOFO competition is an opportunity to showcase a community’s observable impact in homelessness over the past year, as well as provide a preview of the impact that ongoing strategic planning will have. The Alliance encourages communities to focus some of that attention on what opportunities the CoC NOFO Competition can bring. The revised SYSTEM Series can help guide communities in this process.

The SYSTEM Series is designed to help communities:

  • identify the areas where they can make the most meaningful improvements to their systems,
  • continuously execute on those improvements for the greatest impact, and
  • leverage improvements to improve their NOFO application.

Over the next several months, the Alliance will produce webinars, blog posts, tools, and other resources focused on several topics, including: building effective homeless systems embracing Housing First methods; addressing unsheltered homelessness; advancing racial equity; engaging people with lived experience of homelessness; working to end criminalization of homelessness; meeting the needs of older adults; and sustaining partnerships with housing, health, and services agencies.

Ending homelessness is a complex social problem; there is no one-size-fits-all response. The Alliance intends to deliver a broad array of content to help your understanding of where the biggest impact can be made and raise awareness on other areas that may need greater focus.

The Alliance is looking forward to partnering with communities in their efforts; please let us know how we’re doing as we roll out our efforts.