We’re getting ready for the annual Point-in-Time (PIT) count. This year we’ve had a record number of community volunteers, and we can’t thank you enough.
The United States Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) requires that all communities that receive HUD funding to address homelessness conduct a Point in Time (PIT) Count sometime in the last 10 days each January to identify how many people are experiencing homelessness on a given night.
It’s all part of our community’s participation in Continuum of Care, as well as our belief that the best way to address homelessness is through proactive, coordinated community efforts.
Let’s take a deeper dive into the Continuum of Care
The federal framework for local communities to use in responding to homelessness is called the Continuum of Care. Because no single entity – even the City! – has decision-making authority over other stakeholders working on this issue, a formal framework for shared decision making is our best approach. Nonprofits, healthcare providers (including mental health and substance use), landlords, housing developers, employers, public safety staff, funders, and local governments all have a role to play, but none have oversight over the others or the ability to direct their work.
The Continuum of Care is a framework for independent organizations to join together to make and implement plans, identify and allocate resources, evaluate what works, and adapt as needed. The Continuum of Care doesn’t own or operate services, but is a collaborative planning body with 3 components:
- Membership Body: this group of stakeholders is open to individuals and organizations interested in homelessness and in taking action together
- Board of Directors: this leadership body is elected by the Membership to act on its behalf, including setting policy, strategy, and priorities and directing funding
- Lead Agency: this is an organization designated by the Board to provide strategic and administrative support, including applying for federal Continuum of Care funding for local services
In our community, the Membership Body has never been formally created or had opportunity to elect a board. Instead the Homeless Initiative Advisory Committee has functioned as that board and been appointed by City Council and County Commissioners. This has confused people about the City’s role and inadvertently communicated that the City is fully responsible for homelessness response. Additionally, the City is the designated Lead Agency, and the Homeless Strategy Division in CED fulfills that responsibility.
What’s happening now
Communities with effective Continuum of Care structures have a more effective homelessness response, meaning quality services with enough capacity working together as a unified system, a focus on performance and outcomes, and a shared sense of responsibility and accountability across the community. We have a long way to go to get to that point, but we’re starting now by restructuring our Continuum of Care to promote community ownership of developing solutions together. Based on recommendations from the National Alliance to End Homelessness, we are:
- Creating a new membership body: membership will be open on an ongoing basis, but we’re making a big push now for a successful launch. The membership will hold its first meeting in February to adopt a new charter that will outline how the Continuum of Care will work.
- Establishing a new board: the membership will meet again in March to elect a new, community-based board to replace HIAC. The board will set strategy and priorities and will appoint members to serve on committees based on their areas of expertise.
What’s the City’s role?
The new Board will include a dedicated seat for City leadership staff and a non-voting liaison from City Council. The City is an integral partner in homelessness response and will continue to provide leadership, but through this structure will have the opportunity to share that leadership with organizations and representatives across the community.
The City will also continue as the Lead Agency, and Homeless Strategy Division staff are working hard to support this transition and build our community’s capacity to work together more effectively. Many people are concerned about homelessness in our community and are looking for action to take: if we can channel their energy into an effective and collaborative response, we can go further together than anyone working on this has been able to do alone.
What can I do?
Join the Continuum of Care! When the board is ready to establish committees for deep work later this year, they’ll appoint individuals from the membership body based on their expertise. City staff have strong skills to contribute to this work, and you are needed!