This work is hard. It’s boring. And, we’re moving too damn slow

The Alliance asked me to share why a gathering like the Rapid Re-Housing Leadership Summit matters. At Homeward, I talk about homelessness a lot and why data-driven collaboration matters, but today I want to share three reasons why pulling people from across the country together to think about taking rapid re-housing to scale, matters.

Rapid re-housing is working.

In my community, homelessness is down by more than a third since the peak of the housing crisis and we are serving even more people over the course of a year. Across our state, we have seen similar decreases, largely due to our work in adding a permanent housing focus to our homeless services system through rapid re-housing.

And, for all of us, this is the message. Rapid re-housing is not just another cool program; it has been the opportunity (or requirement) to rethink most of what we were doing before rapid re-housing. Adding and expanding rapid re-housing to our communities’ responses to homelessness has enabled (or forced) us to question what we’re doing, who we’re serving, how many of these folks exit to permanent housing, and whether it’s all working.

Asking questions is a powerful activity that engages hearts and minds and changes lives.

This work is hard. It’s boring. And, we’re moving too damn slow.

First, let me clarify that homelessness is hard — life threatening.

This is not to compare our work in any way to the trauma of homelessness. This is acknowledge solely that our work is hard. Working to transform our systemic responses inside-out and sideways-in, and to build buy-in from providers, funders and our local community members is hard. Targeting resources and saying no to people in need is hard. Constantly critiquing and improving our work is hard.

That brings me to boring. Compared to fieldwork or helping a family move in to their new home, our work is not exciting. With apologies to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, reading HUD regulations is boring. Developing policies and procedures is boring. Taking minutes at countless Continuum of Care committee meetings is boring. It’s challenging to remember and remind others that this planning and coordination work is necessary if we want sustainable change in our communities and for our neighbors experiencing homelessness.

And, yes, we’re moving too damn slow. We know we need to do the hard and boring work of system transformation if we really want to end homelessness and to do that quickly. But, we’re not doing enough. We’re not making enough progress.


We can do difficult things.

This brings me to my final point. The Rapid Re-Housing Summit was important because by changing our response to homelessness we proved that, despite it being hard, we can do difficult things.

We owe it to our community members experiencing homelessness to bring our best to our work. That means we need to collect data, collaborate, build cross-sector partnerships continue continuing to tweak and improve our housing interventions.

We can come together to align investments and programs with client needs and housing outcomes. We can do the hard, boring, and slow work, to bring our best thinking to address a problem, which represents the failure of multiple systems and assists people who have been marginalized in most communities.

We can use what we learn in responding to and constantly improving our response to homelessness to solve other difficult problems. Imagine the power we can unlock in our communities with our powerful questions and commitment to learning.

That’s why this matters.