The greater metro area of a Midwestern city and a contiguous city in a neighboring state had more latent capacity than realized among its many community organizations serving the homeless. There was an abundance of overlapping and competing services needing rationalization. Resulting freed-up capacities could then potentially address unmet homeless population needs. Moreover, many service agencies competed for funding from the same sources and competition reinforced established agency boundaries.
What was needed was a unifying organizational capability sanctioned by all agency stakeholders serving the homeless. With the initial assistance from the charitable arm of a major not-for-profit health care system, all community leaders and agencies serving the homeless were convened in a historic in-depth design session. A range of perspectives were explored, including deeper understanding of homeless clients, day facilities, legal/law enforcement considerations, health care, the near-homeless population, community schools and civic government. After reaching consensus on short, medium and long term strategic goals, a network organization was created in the form of a charitable 501c3 to lead and coordinate the efforts of the community agencies. Initial tasks were undertaken to determine the organizational design of the new network, secure funding on a concerted basis, improve the effectiveness of day facilities and shelter housing for the homeless, identify and close existing service gaps, establish new services and address health care needs.
After launching the new network organization, the metro area’s Continuum of Care for the Homeless, established, savings from service duplication and unnecessary competition for funding were applied to new services and unmet needs of the homeless population. This collaborative network, in addition to championing efficiency and intelligent resource allocation, continued to persevere in its efforts in attempting to address the root causes of homelessness.