The truth is housing-first works. The truth is a strong Continuum of Care works. The truth is, having a by-name list works. Our community is fortunate; these initiatives were implemented and continue to prove they work – especially for those with lived experiences.
But if the Coronavirus has taught us anything, it’s that we need to do better, and we MUST choose equity as the foundation.
How? By asking our community members with lived experiences to be part of the process of improving it. Clients are subject matter experts; their voices should not only be heard but respected and valued. To make real change and real progress, we must include all demographics; race, ability, age, and gender. We must continually evaluate the data and ask what upstream factors lead to these findings. Finally, we must adjust our strategies, keeping in mind the impact these decisions make on our most vulnerable citizens.
As an example, SafeHouse Ministries offered a survey to share with those experiencing homelessness. They intend to collect responses and host a forum; asking clients with lived experience that are also diverse demographically, how the survey responses compare with their insight, what would they add, and how can SafeHouse improve. SafeHouse Ministries will then use these findings to adjust their programs and practices, improve their system, and create a more equitable environment.
The SafeHouse Ministries survey is the beginning of our community-wide focus group initiative. These focus groups will be facilitated by those with lived experience. We want to continue what is working – the Continuum of Care with shared knowledge and responsibility – while improving and altering the system to consider who is most impacted. We want to remind everyone that the actions or inactions of your organization affect our entire community.
During this prolonged period of difficulty, many of us feel overwhelmed. You may be wondering, how can we do more? The real question is, how can we not? Homelessness is the outcome, not the cause. In addition, homelessness disproportionately affects Black, Indigenous, People of Color. Our chance to make serious, systemic change is now. And we can get there – but equity has to be the first and fundamental goal.