●HOME­LESS­NESS S IS BAD DE­SIGN

BY ROSANNE HAG­GERTY The CEO of Com­mu­nity So­lu­tions, a non­profit that com­bats home­less­ness, on de­sign­ing a sys­tem that ac­tu­ally puts roofs over peo­ple’s heads

Bloomberg Businessweek (North America) - - Strategies -

Home­less­ness is what hap­pens when peo­ple fall through the cracks of dif­fer­ent sys­tems, so if we’re to put an end to it, we need to cre­ate in­te­grated teams—the U.S. De­part­ment of Vet­er­ans Af­fairs, the mayor’s of­fice, the non­prof­its, the hous­ing au­thor­ity. It’s only when you get every­one to­gether in the same room that you can con­struct a well-per­form­ing hous­ing place­ment sys­tem that isn’t send­ing vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple down all sorts of dead ends.

Every­one at an ini­tial meet­ing would say, “We get that we need to col­lab­o­rate, but how?” We need a per­for­mance man­age­ment sys­tem that helps a col­lec­tion of lo­cal or­ga­ni­za­tions fo­cus on a com­mon goal and test their way into a so­lu­tion, but that’s grounded in per­son-spe­cific data, so you can see if a sit­u­a­tion is ac­tu­ally work­ing for cer­tain users of the sys­tem.

Another de­sign prin­ci­ple is the no­tion of hous­ing first—you re­design your ap­proach to get­ting peo­ple hous­ing as your first or­der of busi­ness, then help with the other is­sues that have been con­found­ing them. Mov­ing a sin­gle per­son from home­less­ness would re­quire more than 50 steps. We worked with de­sign­ers to cre­ate a mag­netic board that looks like Chutes and Lad­ders. We asked peo­ple to map out what’s re­quired for a sin­gle per­son to move from the point where you iden­tify them on the street to a sta­ble home. You’d see this crazy, wind­ing trail.

Wash­ing­ton, D.C., looked at the amount of time it was tak­ing from when

an apart­ment be­comes avail­able to a lease-sign­ing and turn­ing over keys. They cre­ated a day where they’d have all the land­lords and all the peo­ple who had been matched to them show up and sign their leases at the same time and get their keys. Imag­ine that.

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