Released last month, A Home for All: Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s Strategy to End and Prevent Homelessness – Part 1: Strategic Framework reflects the community’s work during the past year to develop a comprehensive, transformative strategy to address both housing instability and homelessness. As the first document to be released from this effort, the Strategic Framework provides the roadmap for the work ahead. The framework serves to outline the vision and the major objectives across each of the following nine areas: prevention; shelter; affordable housing; cross-sector supports; policy; funding; data; communications; and long-term strategy.
While any one area of impact and intervention can help chip away at the gaps, the real work must be done on the sum rather than the parts. At the same time, it is essential that we understand each individual part so that we can best position them to complement each other and function effectively as a system. This week’s blog is the final in a new series that seeks to unpack each of the four impact areas in the Strategic Framework aimed at addressing a part of the housing continuum: prevention; temporary housing; affordable housing; and cross-sector supports.
This blog is focused on cross-sector supports, covering what they are, why they are important, what the recommendations in the Strategic Framework entail, and ultimately, what all of this could mean for Charlotte-Mecklenburg.
WHAT ARE CROSS-SECTOR SUPPORTS?
Cross-sector supports encompass all the other non-housing resources, services and interventions that help households access and sustain housing. In other words, they help make the math work, by closing household finance gaps. Cross-sector supports also encompass the specific strategies and programs, outside of the purely financial. The term also applies to policy-level and systemic change efforts. Offerings within cross-sector supports can include childcare; education and training; physical and mental health care; substance use services; financial health and asset development services; legal assistance; social capital assistance; food security; and transportation, either singly or in combination.
WHY INCLUDE CROSS-SECTOR SUPPORTS?
Communities have multiple levers available when it comes to ending and preventing homelessness. Using the example of the gap between what housing costs and what households can afford, some of the specific levers that can be used include efforts to decrease housing costs; strategies to increase household incomes; and/or both.
These high-level levers also have sub-levers. Decreasing housing costs, for example, can mean things like producing new, affordable units; to preserving existing, already affordable units; to subsidizing current market rate units. Increasing household income can include not only raises to wages, but other benefits that supplement earned income. Cross-sector supports, therefore, provide yet another way to help move the levers impacting housing and homelessness by reducing non-housing expenses and supplementing income. They also ensure households can access any other types of non-financial support needed to acquire and keep housing.
WHAT ARE THE RECOMMENDATIONS?
Listed below are the 19 temporary housing recommendations from the Strategic Framework, in priority order. Each of these recommendations have been informed by best practices and research. Included with the name of the recommendation is a description of what the recommendation means and, where relevant, additional context to help illustrate the “why” behind the recommendation:
A. Develop focused advocacy efforts to address barriers to housing for justice involved adults
This recommendation seeks to strengthen existing efforts, and create, where necessary, new initiatives to advance policy and/or practice changes that exclude individuals with criminal histories from permanent housing.
B. Increase Life Navigators / single point of contact for navigation across sector supports
By providing a single point of contact for navigation, including through Life Navigators, the goal of this recommendation is to help individuals access and maximize benefits available to them from other non-housing systems including workforce development, childcare, transportation and food assistance.
C. Eliminate/reduce barriers to accessing childcare subsidy
This recommendation seeks to establish a childcare subsidy set-aside for children in families experiencing homelessness as well as create an additional pool of funding for families who cannot meet the work and/or education requirements of current childcare subsidy programs or need additional resources to access childcare (transportation, non-traditional hours, part-time care arrangements, etc.).
D. Expand outreach teams, specifically with mental health & substance use focus
The purpose of this recommendation is to increase the number of staff who can support the needs of individuals with severe and persistent mental health needs who are experiencing homelessness in unsheltered locations. Outreach teams include staff as well as peer-support specialists who have lived experience with homelessness. Services include help with applying for services; and coordinating services among different providers.
E. Strengthen Community-Based Healthcare including Mobile Medical, Dental/Podiatry
This recommendation seeks to strengthen community-based healthcare, in which providers extend medical and non-medical interventions by delivering care and education in a community setting. Examples include Mobile Medical Programs, increasing telehealth, and incorporating Dental/Podiatry services. This recommendation would also expand coverage of telehealth to individuals experiencing homelessness. Telehealth allows those who do not have health care access to be seen by a provider from any location with an internet connection. Finally, this recommendation would target the prevention and management of dental and podiatry issues for individuals experiencing homelessness to avoid life-threatening infections that often lead to costly emergent care issues.
F. Expand coverage to pay for mental health & substance use services
The goal of this recommendation, which focuses on Medicaid expansion, is to help individuals experiencing homelessness who also need behavioral health and/or medical treatment access and receive the holistic, comprehensive care.
G. Increase support for teens and young adults exiting foster care
This recommendation seeks to develop housing programs with supportive services that can support emerging adults (between the ages of 18 and 21) who have previously been in the foster care system and have no housing options available to them. In addition, programming is needed for individuals who may have been in custody at any time in their lives.
H. Link families experiencing homelessness to family supports and education resources
This recommendation supports that use of universal home visiting as part of any supportive services model, especially for families experiencing crisis and/or trauma.
I. Increase access to non-food household supplies that are critical to basic needs
This recommendation seeks to improve access to purchase non-food household items such as diapers, hygiene products and laundry detergent, which are supplies that are often cost prohibitive and are not covered by the Supplementation Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
J. Expand the scope of services provided in rapid rehousing and permanent supportive housing beyond just housing
This recommendation seeks to address gaps in the understanding of Housing First as well as expanding the scope of services provided within housing programs to match the need. This includes both providing a higher level of supportive services as well as helping individuals exit supportive services.
K. Significantly expand and formalize Charlotte’s Second Chance Business Alliance
This recommendation focuses on strengthening and expanding Charlotte’s Second Chance Business Alliance, which is an alliance of businesses that provide second chance employment.
L. Create an Employer Assistance Program that supports low wage earners
This recommendation targets assistance to businesses with low wage earners providing financial literacy and other resources.
M. Advocate for creation of Postsecondary Success programs for Housing Insecure/Homeless Youth
This recommendation leverages existing programs to deepen academic and social supports for students experiencing housing instability or homelessness by connect students to workforce development and vocational training programs; emergency aid and assistance programs; other educational programs; and employment opportunities.
N. Expand access to the CATS “Charlotte Everybody Rides” program for access to transit
This recommendation builds upon similar models from other communities whereby transit passes are made available to households who are experiencing housing instability or homelessness.
O. Enable expanded access to transit outside of CATS Operational Hours / Locations
This recommendation seeks to expand the vanpool services provided by CATS in which participants share the costs of the monthly service, drive the van and determine their own schedule, allowing for flexibility.
P. Standardize the Care Transition Program
Samaritan House currently operates medical respite programming for individuals experiencing homelessness who need short-term recuperative care after an illness or injury and who do not meet the diagnostic criteria to be in the hospital. While enrolled in the medical respite program, individuals recuperate in a safe, transitional housing environment and receive follow-up medical care, medication education and assistance, and case management. Because the need exceeds what Samaritan House can provide, this recommendation seeks to increase the capacity of the medical respite care system in the community so that anyone who needs this service has access to it.
Q. Increase housing opportunities for justice involved adults
This recommendation focuses on closing the gap in housing for justice-involved adults, including reserving units and partnering with landlords.
R. Leverage literacy programs that provide tools to navigate supports/housing
This recommendation seeks to leverage adult and family literacy programs to help individuals experiencing housing instability or homelessness develop the tools they need to access and sustain housing.
S. Augment the Continuum of Care sub-committee for homeless students with broad task forces
This recommendation seeks to increase the number and coordination of programming to serve students experiencing housing instability and homelessness. Programming would span multiple sectors, including child welfare, education, workforce development, juvenile justice, mental health and substance use, and healthcare.
Collaboration is obviously fundamental to the provision of cross-sector supports. Consider this excerpt from a 2018 Stanford Social Innovation Review article by Jeanine Becker and David Smith:
“Think, for example, of the challenge that is most pressing to you, and consider the various individuals affected and the systems at play. Can a single policy, however finely crafted, or a social program, however well run, or a new technology, however innovative, by itself solve that problem? Developmental psychologist Robert Kegan suggests that in dealing with an increasingly complex world we have two choices. Our first choice is to see the world as simpler. Our second choice is that we can increase the complexity of our own perspective to the extent necessary to meet the challenges. This means that we, as solution seekers, can choose to focus on a piece of the problem and tackle just that piece, or we can engage multiple stakeholders to craft solutions that are complex enough and possess the various perspectives and resources necessary to adequately address the challenges. While the former can effectively address specific challenges, the latter approach holds the greatest potential for sustainable change in complex challenges at scale. The grand challenges of our time also present a striking opportunity for new processes of cocreating change and new outcomes.”
The need for the effective and efficient application of all the cross-sector supports an individual or household needs is key to ending and preventing homelessness. Scaling from one household to an entire community requires the same coordination and collaboration; and speaks to the reason that the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Housing and Homelessness Strategy was created. If we can harness the power of an aligned system, we can change the trajectory of each household in need. Cross-sector supports are truly the keys to the door of A Home for All.
Courtney LaCaria coordinates posts on the Building Bridges Blog. Courtney is the Housing & Homelessness Research Coordinator for Mecklenburg County Community Support Services. Courtney’s job is to connect data on housing instability, homelessness and affordable housing with stakeholders in the community so that they can use it to drive policy-making, funding allocation and programmatic change.