This third and final blog post in the series on the report release focuses on a key component of driving change to end and prevent homelessness: matching, managing and maximizing existing and new resources and roles to needs.
To complement, not compete
In 2016, Frameworks Institute, a non-profit that explores the most effective way to reframe social and scientific topics, teamed up with Enterprise Community Partners to produce an article on why current housing messages are failing as well as ways to counteract those backfires and promote a progressive housing agenda.
In the article, Frameworks Institute introduces the “zero-sum thinking” backfire, in which the public views the issue of housing in terms of competing interests: in order to solve housing issues for some, there must be a sacrifice made by someone else. The perception of competition for scarce resources trumps any notion of shared public concern.
Often, this kind of backfire gets activated when nonprofits and funders describe the trade offs that families must make in order to meet their housing needs.
However, it is not just families that get pitted against each other for scarce housing resources. Agencies and nonprofits compete, too. When groups compete rather than complement each other, the result is a fragmented system where resources are mismatched, overlap or fail to cover needs that exist.
Managing Lanes, Maximizing Resources
To effectively end and prevent homelessness requires a system wide, community response where resources are aligned under a shared strategic vision.
By definition, zero-sum thinking pits providers, funders and the individuals and families they aim to serve against one another where in order to win, someone else has to lose.
What if we viewed the system to end and prevent homelessness as one entity in which we all can play a role, leveraging our strengths and maximizing our resources?
Imagine a pool where everyone is guaranteed a lane. When each entity has a dedicated role that is matched appropriately with identified need, they are better positioned to complement each other. Rather than having nonprofits separate services by population or limiting scope by funding, what if they look at how areas where they overlap and can serve as a resource for each other?
It is possible to set up a system with identified roles – or lanes – in which all providers, funders, and other stakeholders like community members, the faith community, and other public and private groups are effectively positioned to use their assets and resources in a way that complements each other, maximizes existing resources and is in alignment under a shared strategic vision.
While possible, it is not easy, given a variety of factors including our society’s tendency to compete with each other.
In order to shift toward a new way of operating, it is important to reframe how we view the system, how we fund programs, and how we match resources to need across the full spectrum of housing needs.
This requires courage to move past the perception of winning and losing and toward a common vision where everyone has a role to play so that everyone can have a path home.
ABOUT THE REPORT
Mecklenburg County recently released the newest report from the Housing Instability and Homelessness Report Series by the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute: 2018 Charlotte-Mecklenburg State of Housing Instability and Homelessness.
This is the first annual report on housing instability and homelessness data in the community and is the first time Point-in-Time Count information is combined with data from other homeless system measures and housing instability metrics to provide a full picture of housing needs in our community.
In addition to the report, Mecklenburg County released a toolkit to help take the information from the report and translate it into action: the next steps or “So, What.” This blog post is the third and final in a series focused on the next steps outlined in the toolkit, looking at change at the community level.
Courtney Morton 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.