Ending Homelessness is Simple, but It Ain’t Easy

Housing is the only known cure to homelessness. If your entire organization or community is focused on getting people out of homelessness as rapidly as possible and into housing with the supports customized by their choice and needs, then you are doing it right.

If your organization or community is making people jump through hoops, being engaged in programs that they must graduate through, demonstrate “readiness” or prove that they should be housed, then you are using housing as a reward and you are doing it wrong.

See, homelessness is a really simple situation to solve. If you do the right things in the right order with the right people, you get the same (positive) results over and over again – the homelessness for the person/family is ended.

That doesn’t mean it is easy.

First of all, it can be difficult for an organization to figure out what the right things to do are, especially if they are winging it and trying to figure it out as they go rather than being thoughtful and intentional in their planning and training.

Secondly, it can be difficult for an organization to figure out the right order in which to do things because by the very nature of working with human beings, each person/family is different and comes to the process with different strengths, as well as opportunities for growth. Complexity doesn’t mean it is impossible to figure this out, it just means that the order of what to do what will be customized. I can assure you, though, if anything in that order is not focused on permanent housing as rapidly as possible, you are doing it wrong.

And third, it can be difficult for an organization or community to figure out the right people to serve. Why? Because this means knowing what every single service and support provider does and does not do. All eligibility has to be known. You also have to know something about availability (flow through) within each of those services and supports. And you need a “centralized brain” to orchestrate the match between an opening in a program and a candidate for the program, otherwise everything comes down to luck rather than design. On top of this, it is difficult because organizations and communities rarely talk about and agree on what the shared principles are for anchoring the work, nor do organizations and communities have robust conversations and generally come to an agreement readily on which populations or subpopulations are the priority for which services and why. Without doing that, it is impossible to answer whether or not the “right people” are being served because that can only be measured against that which the community agreed was the “right people”.

Maybe if we can make the tough decisions we will realize just how simple it is to end homelessness. And the more something is done, the easier it gets.


About Iain De Jong

Iain is a playful nerd, hellbent on ending homelessness, increasing affordable housing, creating vibrant communities, and expanding the knowledge amongst leaders that influence social issues. Having held senior management and professional positions in government, non-profits, and the private sector, Iain has a wealth of experience and has garnered dozens of awards for his work across Canada and internationally. His work has taken him across Canada, the United States, and to Australia. In 2009, Iain joined OrgCode as its President & CEO, and in 2014 assumed full ownership of the firm. In addition to his work with OrgCode, Iain holds a part-time faculty position in the Graduate Urban Planning Programme at York University.

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