Entries by Courtney LaCaria

Building Walls to Safeguard Failure

“Something there is that doesn’t love a wall…” opens the poem Mending Wall by Robert Frost. The poem describes an annual ritual between two neighbors, brought together to patch the wall between their two fields. As they go about the work, one neighbor asks about the purpose of the wall. The other simply replies, “Good fences make good neighbors.” But…do walls, in fact, ensure good relations?  Previously, the Building Bridges blog has addressed the lack of systemic alignment in the community through the image of failure hoarded in silos.  Given the need for distancing driven by COVID-19, this post will employ the idea of a wall. Since mid-March, the Building Bridges blog has been focused on housing challenges and solutions through the lens of COVID-19. Reviewing these posts, three primary themes have emerged: Housing is healthcare; what was previously thought impossible is now considered smart and strategic; and with new private and public dollars, communities can both mitigate a new wave of COVID-related housing instability and homelessness and address the factors that drove pre-pandemic housing and homelessness issues. In particular, the post from May 13, “What Does It Mean to Go “Home” in A COVID-19 World?” underscores the fact that, while housing has always been essential to individual health, the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the vital role housing plays in ensuring public health. The blog series first spotlighted the short-term interventions implemented as a crisis response to the COVID-19 pandemic that can (and should) be transformed into permanent solutions addressing the pre-existing conditions of housing instability and homelessness. Topics covered by the series include: eviction prevention; funding distribution and flexibility; shelter capacity; information sharing; evaluation and performance; conversion of hotel leases to permanent housing; and telecommunication. The blog series concluded by describing ways in which communities can use both a public health and an economic response framework to maximize COVID-19 funding.  By “stretching the dollars,” communities can prevent or reduce a new wave of housing instability and homelessness specifically related to the novel coronavirus.  Last week’s blog post covered this final impact area of the framework: strengthening systems as critical for an effective public health and economic recovery response. Strengthening systems requires cross-sector collaboration. Systems-level change can only happen through coordination across the entire service continuum, from funders to providers. Functioning as an integrated system, communities have the power to finally erect solutions to the complex, intractable issues of housing instability and homelessness. What role, then, do walls play in this work? This blog post will delve further into this question; the current state of housing instability and homelessness; and what it all means for Charlotte-Mecklenburg.

Public Health & Economic Recovery Response Framework: Part 5

Last week’s blog post covered parts four and five (of the six total) impact areas for communities to consider as part of a public health and economic recovery framework response to address housing instability and homelessness. These impact areas are locally extrapolated from a new tool, A Framework for COVID-19 Homelessness Response, which was released in May 2020 by the National Alliance to End Homelessness; the National Low Income Housing Coalition; and the Center for Budget Policies and Priorities. The framework provides guidance to homelessness assistance systems (like Continuums of Care or CoCs) on how to maximize new funding (whether from the CARES Act or other sources) to both respond to the immediate crisis and plan for a lengthy economic recovery using an equity lens. Communities can begin to adapt and implement this framework as part of both their near- and longer-term COVID-19 housing responses. Using the framework as a starting point, this week’s blog post takes a deeper dive into the sixth (and final) impact area: strengthening systems.

Public Health & Economic Recovery Response Framework: Part 4

Last week’s blog post covered the first three (of the six total) impact areas for communities to consider as part of a public health and economic recovery framework response to address housing instability and homelessness. These impact areas are locally extrapolated from a new tool “The Framework for an Equitable COVID-19 Homelessness Response” which was first released in May 2020 and updated this week. The tool has gained new partners and focuses on equitable decision-making. This link takes you to an important, 2-minute video about why communities should consider implementing such a framework. The framework provides guidance to communities on how to maximize funding to both respond to the immediate crisis and plan for a lengthy economic recovery using an equity lens. Communities can begin to adapt and implement this framework as part of both their near- and longer-term COVID-19 housing responses. Using the framework as a starting point, this week’s blog post takes a deeper dive into the fourth and fifth impact areas: sheltered homelessness and permanent housing.

Public Health & Economic Recovery Response Framework: Part 3

On May 28, the Building Bridges blog introduced a new series covering a tool for communities like Charlotte-Mecklenburg to use: a public health and economic recovery framework response to address housing instability and homelessness. The new tool, A Framework for COVID-19 Homelessness Response, was released in May 2020 by the National Alliance to End Homelessness; the National Low Income Housing Coalition; and the Center for Budget Policies and Priorities. The framework provides guidance to homelessness assistance systems (like Continuums of Care or CoCs) on how to maximize new funding (whether from the CARES Act or other sources) to both respond to the immediate crisis and plan for a lengthy economic recovery using an equity lens. Communities can begin to adapt and implement this framework as part of both their near- and longer-term COVID-19 housing responses. The first blog in the series provided an overview of the new framework, including how it is organized and guiding values for what is included and how it can be used effectively. Last week’s blog described the new COVID-related funding sources, including local allocations. Using the framework as a starting point, this week’s blog post takes a deeper dive into the first three (of the six total) impact areas for communities to consider.

Public Health & Economic Framework Response – Part 2

Last week’s Building Bridges blog introduced a new tool for communities like Charlotte-Mecklenburg to consider adopting and implementing for the weeks and months ahead: a public health and economic recovery framework response to address housing instability and homelessness. In response to the pandemic caused by the novel coronavirus, and anticipated surges in the number of people who will experience housing instability and homelessness, there has been a significant increase of public and private funding at local, state, and federal levels. In addition, waivers have been issued to remove historic barriers; processes have been shortened or otherwise modified to be more flexible; and communities have improvised to deal with rapidly changing conditions. This is an important moment for communities like Charlotte-Mecklenburg to pause; then consider strategic alignment and appropriation of all housing and homelessness funding across the full housing continuum for maximum efficacy. On May 1, the National Alliance to End Homelessness; the National Low Income Housing Coalition; and the Center for Budget Policies and Priorities introduced A Framework for COVID-19 Homelessness Response. The framework provides guidance to homelessness assistance systems (like Continuums of Care or CoCs) on how to maximize new funding (whether from the CARES Act or other sources) to both respond to the immediate crisis and plan for a lengthy economic recovery using an equity lens. Communities can begin to adapt and implement this framework as part of both their near- and longer-term COVID-19 housing responses. This week’s blog post takes a closer look at the framework, focusing specifically on the complex web of funding sources, including new COVID-19 related funding allocations and waivers.

Public Health & Economic Recovery Response Framework: Part 1

In response to the pandemic caused by the novel coronavirus, and anticipated increases in the number of people experiencing housing instability and homelessness, there has been a significant increase to public and private funding at local, state, and federal levels. The $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act which was passed by Congress on March 27, allocated more than $12 billion to housing and homelessness resources. In Charlotte-Mecklenburg, United Way of Central Carolinas and Foundation for the Carolinas launched a local fundraising effort, which has raised over $19 million locally to support efforts including homelessness and eviction prevention. Another federal stimulus bill is currently under discussion. In addition to new and additional resources, waivers have been issued to remove historic barriers; processes have been shortened or otherwise adapted to be more flexible; and communities have improvised to deal with rapidly changing environments. The Building Bridges Blog series which began on March 18 highlights some of the short-term responses that can be transformed into long-term interventions to address the pre-existing conditions of housing instability and homelessness. COVID-19 has driven home the vital role housing plays in ensuring public health. In fact, most initial strategies targeted efforts to “flatten the curve.” However, it is vital that communities plan and prepare for the days and months ahead. Last week’s blog post discussed the importance of planning; that coordination, and collaboration across multiple sectors is required; the need to integrate new ideas and strategies evaluated during the last few months; and the value of harnessing the momentum gained, with a renewed focus on system-level strategies. This week’s blog post introduces a new tool for communities like Charlotte-Mecklenburg to consider adopting and implementing for the weeks and months ahead: a public health and economic recovery framework response to address housing instability and homelessness.  The two concepts are not in competition; successful communities will be those that have addressed both, as comprehensively as possible.

Long-term Intervention: Urgency as the New Normal?

On March 18, a new Building Bridges blog series was launched to share solutions from other communities and highlight key short-term responses as a result of COVID-19 that could be transformed into long-term interventions to address the pre-existing conditions of housing instability and homelessness. The blog series has covered eviction prevention; funding distribution and flexibility; shelter capacity; information sharing; evaluation and performance; conversion of hotel leases to permanent housing; and telecommunication. In addition, the COVID-19 Hub for housing and homelessness related information was published to provide regular updates on data, news, resources and best practice information. The ideas and strategies that have been shared in this blog series were birthed in a crisis and allowed to thrive only by use of a new lens. What might have been previously considered impractical or even impossible is now seen as smart and strategic. Last week’s blog post discussed another revelation from COVID-19: housing is healthcare. While housing has always been essential to individual health, the global pandemic caused by COVID-19 has also driven home the vital role housing plays in ensuring public health. This week’s blog post marks a shift in the blog series from the realm of strategy to a blueprint for action. The final intervention, introduced below, focuses on the concept of “urgency.” The COVID-19 pandemic has provided communities with this potent tool to address housing instability and homelessness. Like “housing as healthcare,” the “urgency” of addressing housing instability and homelessness is not new; but the concept of urgency has been driven home in response to COVID-19. However, how can/will/should communities transform this short-term sense into a permanent state in which they operate?

Long-term Intervention: Telecommunication

On March 18, a new Building Bridges blog series was launched to share solutions from other communities and highlight key interventions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Last week’s blog post focused on how communities are exploring options to transform gains in temporary housing capacity during the response to COVID-19 into permanent housing stock following the pandemic. In response to COVID-19, organizations have pivoted to ensure that people at risk of or currently experiencing homelessness can continue to receive the supportive services they need. Supportive services can include a range of interventions such as case management; housing search assistance; budget and credit counseling; medication management; mental health and/or substance use counseling; or other therapeutic services. Generally speaking, supportive services are designed to help households obtain and sustain permanent housing; and may be needed from a few weeks to years. Coupled with rental assistance, supportive services are a critical component of the work to address housing instability and homelessness. This new Building Bridges series looks at community responses to COVID-19 using a prospicient lens: What short-term, community responses can become long-term, systemic solutions?  Which immediate interventions can effectively and efficiently address the structural issues that lead to housing instability and homelessness? What “new thing” can evolve into “business as usual?” And what is needed to create healthy, stable communities permanently? This week’s blog post is dedicated to how communities are continuing to provide supportive services during the response to COVID-19 and how some of these changes can be transformed into permanent solutions.

Long-term Intervention: From Hotels to Housing

On March 18, a new Building Bridges blog series was launched to share solutions from other communities and highlight key interventions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Last week’s blog post focused on how communities evaluate and report performance on the housing instability and homelessness services system in response to COVID-19. In response to COVID-19, communities across the United States, including Charlotte-Mecklenburg, have turned to non-congregate settings like hotels to help reduce pressures on emergency shelters; provide alternate, safe spaces in which people experiencing homelessness can isolate or quarantine; and help local businesses by filling vacancies. The degree to which communities have established partnerships with local hotels varies widely; some communities have just started the process to secure the first community hotel, whereas others have comprehensive networks statewide. The focus has understandably been on entry into non-congregate shelter; now, some communities are considering what exits from non-congregate shelter could look like. This new Building Bridges series looks at community responses to COVID-19 using a prospicient lens: What short-term, community responses can become long-term, systemic solutions?  Which immediate interventions can effectively and efficiently address the structural issues that lead to housing instability and homelessness? What “new thing” can evolve into “business as usual?” And what is needed to create healthy, stable communities permanently? This week’s blog post is dedicated to how communities are exploring options to transform gains in temporary housing capacity during the response to COVID-19 into permanent housing stock following the pandemic.

Long-term Intervention: Evaluation & Performance

On March 18, a new Building Bridges blog series was launched to share solutions from other communities and highlight key interventions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Last week’s blog post focused on how communication among and across communities has improved in response to COVID-19. That post also shared information about the launch of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Hub for Housing Information related to COVID-19. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been an increase in funding from both the public and private sectors to assist those at risk of or currently experiencing homelessness to safely shelter-in-place. With the release of these new dollars is a requirement to collect and report on outcomes to gauge the efficacy of federally funded efforts. Homeless services organizations have, by virtue of implementing new protocols and procedures, started to gather new data. An example of this new information is the extent and degree of COVID-19 symptoms among people requesting housing assistance. In addition, special attention has been paid to context during this time; if there is fluctuation, this perspective will minimize sweeping generalizations when changes occur. This new Building Bridges series looks at community responses to COVID-19 using a prospicient lens: What short-term, community responses can become long-term, systemic solutions?  Which immediate interventions can effectively and efficiently address the structural issues that lead to housing instability and homelessness? What “new thing” can evolve into “business as usual?”  And what is needed to create healthy, stable communities permanently? This week’s blog post is dedicated to how communities evaluate and report performance on the housing instability and homelessness services system in response to COVID-19.