In May 2020, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Continuum of Care (CoC) Governing Board adopted the Home4Good Framework. This structure is based upon work completed 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 on the ways communities can maximize new funding from the CARES Act (and other sources) to both respond to the immediate, pandemic-driven crisis and plan for the longer-term economic recovery. The Home4Good Framework has six areas of impact: Coordinated Entry; Prevention; Unsheltered Homelessness; Sheltered Homelessness; Permanent Housing; and Strengthening Systems.
Following the adoption of the Home4Good Framework, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg CoC formed a Home4Good Framework Workgroup to oversee the local adaptation and implementation of the Home4Good Framework recommendations. The workgroup subsequently formed six teams, with each dedicated to one impact area. The workgroup was charged by the CoC Governing Board to use data to analyze need across the housing continuum; identify and recommend alignment of funding opportunities and eligible activities; implement action steps, using the Home4Good framework; utilize an equity lens; and connect existing and new efforts to address housing instability and homelessness during the pandemic era, responding (and adjusting, when necessary) to changing conditions.
This blog post provides an update on the work related to the Home4Good framework, including what this means for Charlotte-Mecklenburg; and next steps identified for the work ahead.
“NEVER LET A CRISIS GO TO WASTE”
This quote is attributed to various individuals, including Saul Alinsky and Winston Churchill. Regardless, it is totally appropriate for the subject of this post. The initial focus of the Home4Good framework was an immediate response to housing instability and homelessness specifically caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result of national efforts like this, and other state and local actions, new funding sources were established. More importantly, many barriers were bulldozed. As noted in other posts on this blog, it soon transpired that options which were previously impossibilities became new standard operating procedures. This led the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Home4Good workgroup to the realization that the framework can, and should, be among the things that survive the pandemic. Returning to the “old ways” of doing the business of addressing homelessness and housing instability would only squander the progress that has been made.
FROM HERE TO ETERNITY
As each of the six teams went about their work, several interesting things happened. The first was that individual members who had self-selected to serve on only one of the teams started attending the meetings of other teams, organically cross-pollinating and collaborating. Another was that interested individuals and organizations who were not initially engaged were pulled in to the work of each team. Finally, consensus was reached that the Home4Good framework, as translated to Charlotte-Mecklenburg, could be an excellent skeleton for the newly reconstituted CoC’s strategic plan. In this way, the Home4Good framework would become a living document, updated as needed; and informed continuously by refreshed data.
By encompassing immediate actions, but taking the longest possible view, the Home4Good framework can be tested in real time. The framework can fold in approaches, rather than be exclusionary. Just as importantly, the framework can be evaluated by phase, as well as in total. This means that efficacy; efficiency; and equity can be monitored closely, and constantly. But all of that can only be the case if the work is done well; is truly relevant to Charlotte-Mecklenburg; and is adopted by funders as well as those charged with implementation.
An update on some of the workgroups was shared at the CoC Board Meeting on 22 October. A brief synopsis is provided below:
Coordinated Entry (CE) Team
The CE team recognized, early in the crisis, that there were many families who were residents in hotels and motels and shared that info widely. CE also adapted the response to individuals seeking assistance, including by implementing a Crisis Needs Assessment concurrent with the Housing Needs Assessment. The CoC Governing Board adopted the Temporary Housing Prioritization Policy in July. The CE Team also instituted weekly “match” meetings to better connect prioritized individuals on the “by-name” list with the appropriate provider and/or funding source. Finally, the policies and procedures of CE are being evaluated for equity, including through the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Equity Choice Program.
Challenges and Gaps
These include barriers to obtaining documentation (such as state ID’s and Social Security cards) due to agency operating changes in response to COVID-19; large families that may not be good candidates for rapid re-housing due to the large gap between income and housing cost, especially for large families; a lack of “housing navigators” at the CoC level; and the need for more long-term subsidies for families that may or may not be connected to supportive services.
The Prevention team was the “first responder” to the increased number of households seeking financial assistance as primary residents of hotels and motels. Collaboration by Mecklenburg County Community Support Services and Department of Social Services; Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools; Carolinas CARE Partnership; Roof Above; Salvation Army; Safe Alliance; The Relatives; Charlotte Mecklenburg Housing Partnership; Crisis Assistance Ministry; Socialserve; and Charlotte Area Fund has benefitted more than 2,000 Mecklenburg County residents, with 572 individuals currently enrolled and another 100 exited to permanent housing. This joint effort provided rental subsidies; other financial assistance; case management; and supportive services. The Prevention team is also in the final stages of crafting a program that will utilize ESG funds from the City of Charlotte to provide 100 households with one year of rental subsidies and supportive services.
Challenges and Gaps
These include ongoing work by Legal Aid of North Carolina to establish households as residents of a hotel or motel, for the purposes of avoiding eviction; and the need to urgently target resources upstream in recognition of the fact that housing is really a public health issue.
Emergency Shelter (ES) Team
The ES team was forced to confront a rising tide of homelessness at the same time as the pandemic forced a reduction in shelter beds as a matter of public health. The roster of emergency shelter providers in Mecklenburg County consists of The Relatives, Roof Above, Safe Alliance, and Salvation Army. A partnership between Mecklenburg County, Roof Above, Safe Alliance, and Salvation Army allowed shelter beds and services to be expanded into three hotel properties. Roof Above and Salvation Army are furthering their partnership and connectivity as Roof Above expands capacity and provides access to the families served by Salvation Army.
Challenges and Gaps
A confluence of circumstances, including winter weather; the persistence of the pandemic; the end of eviction moratoria and lack of other supports; and the fact that Room in the Inn will likely not be operating all mean much greater pressure on emergency shelter in the near term. Long term repercussions may include not enough pathways out of emergency shelter. Increased collaboration among the existing providers is recognized as the first step in ameliorating these impacts.
Permanent Housing (PH) Team
The PH team truly started with the end in mind, using this opportunity to draft solutions that would solve the problem regardless of any pre-pandemic barriers. The PH team has been formulating recommendations, including at the policy level, to increase the amount of permanent, affordable housing in the community. The PH team has also focused on Source of Income Discrimination (SOID).
Challenges and Gaps
These include the need to require 30% of Area Median Income (AMI) (and below) units, to include Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) units, of any project or development receiving public monies; joint investment by the public and private sector to preserve existing affordable housing stock; and the need to better engage and incentivize landlords, regardless of business size or structure.
The Systems team has begun synthesizing the recommendations and issues brought forward by each of the other constituent teams. The focus of the Systems team is less on specific outcomes and more on creating a scaffolding for the strategic planning the CoC must undertake. Part of that scaffolding will include proposing metrics; suggesting evaluation criteria and methodologies; and seeking ways to communicate both the framework itself and the strategic planning efforts.
Challenges and Gaps
These include a current lack of funding alignment across all local funders; fear of change, in general; and reversion to a more competitive, less collaborative approach when the pandemic is no longer viewed as such an imminent threat.
COVID-19 will, necessarily, have more than one legacy. From the profoundly personal, to the grossly systemic, changes catalyzed in response to the pandemic will either become a way of life or immediately set aside when the crisis is deemed to have passed. This is as it has always been: remember when one did not have to remove one’s shoes to board a plane? What of wearing a mask at the bank?
The key is the wisdom, within Charlotte-Mecklenburg, to determine what changes will remain of value. Institutionalizing changes previously viewed as unwise or impractical to better address housing instability and homelessness must be part of that pandemic legacy. Connecting dots. aligning resources, and cooperatively planning; building and preserving housing; supporting our neighbors; and preventing families from becoming homeless by any means necessary is our shared work. The housing ecosystem must be made healthier. Solutions to the problems along the housing continuum must be “both/and.” And individuals and agencies must not be threatened by these changes, nor by each other.
Because no one can say with any confidence how the pandemic will proceed, or when we may safely alter our current behaviors. But what we do know is that the rent is due on November 1st. And, as things stand, evictions may resume in just two months. The work to end homelessness and housing instability has always been urgent. Today, it’s literally a matter of death, or life. The Home4Good Framework is a tool that communities, including Charlotte-Mecklenburg, can employ to demonstrate the way they value each of the lives impacted by a loss of housing, whether due to COVID-19; pre-existing societal conditions; or, simply, unfortunate circumstances.
Housing is healthcare. Housing is a human right.
Please connect with the Continuum of Care and the Framework, to help Charlotte-Mecklenburg get everyone Home4Good: yours, theirs, and ours. Email CharmeckCoC@mecknc.gov for more information.
Dennis LaCaria serves as the Chair of the Home4Good Framework Workgroup and as a member of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Continuum of Care Governing Board.
The Home4Good Framework Workgroup Impact Area leads are as follows: Prevention: Karen Pelletier and Deronda Metz; Permanent Housing: Stephen McQueen; Coordinated Entry: Mary Ann Priester, Trish Hobson and Megan Coffey; Emergency Shelter: Deronda Metz and Stephen McQueen; Unsheltered: Hannah Stutts and Angela Dreher; and Systems: Dennis LaCaria.