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01 Ending homelessness

To further the city’s goal of ending homelessness, we commit to fostering civic participation and transparency​ by co-creating a systems map with a multi-sector team that works towards greater understanding and shared reasoning around this complex issue, and which strengthens collaboration and decision-making. Short Description:​ Co-create a systems map of homelessness for shared reasoning around this complex issue to better inform funding and policy-making. Leads: Civil Society Partners:​ Ann Howard, Ending Community Homelessness Coalition; Bill Brice, Downtown Austin Alliance, Christopher Kennedy, Leadership Austin Government facilitator:​ Kerry O’Connor, City of Austin Chief Innovation Officer. Project Brief: We design this project to answer two pain points from our civil society partners: 1. How might we increase multi-sector collaboration to reduce scenarios in which downstream problems are neither identified nor addressed? – Vision Zero ATX 2. How might we increase our collective shared reasoning around complex issues? – Leadership Austin Modern city challenges have strong, complex dynamics that make it difficult to anticipate the impact and unintended consequences of public action. Shared reasoning involves the 7 ​ sharing of assumptions and the understanding of tradeoffs of a complex topic, with the goal of creating informed choices and decisions. To demonstrate how the development of a shared reasoning might work, we chose the topic of ending homelessness based upon the readiness of a coalition of community and government partners to do this shared reasoning work together. We make this shared reasoning commitment in this context: Many people experiencing homelessness find themselves stuck in a relentless revolving door of emergency shelters, justice systems, and emergency services. In August 2015, the U.S. Department of Justice argued actions that have the outcome of criminalizing homelessness are unconstitutional. Interrupting this revolving door, preventing the criminalization of homelessness, while responding to community safety concerns, requires creative, multi-sector strategies as well as broad community awareness and understanding. One strategy involved the Homelessness Outreach Street Team (HOST), Austin’s new collaborative initiative to proactively address the needs of people living on the streets. HOST brings together the expertise of police officers, behavioral health specialists, a paramedic, and outreach social workers to bridge the gaps between social services and public safety for hard-to-reach clients. A second strategy involves systems mapping our resources and service delivery gaps. Leveraging these invigorating partnerships, we will build a systems map to inform policy from a bottom-up direction. The map will be informed by the pain points, experiences, needs, and barriers of a) those experiencing homelessness, b) those delivering services, and c) community members experiencing the symptoms of a system that has inadequate resources to effectively serve the needs of the most vulnerable. 1.1 Desired Outcomes 1) The City of Austin has better ways to manage community concerns around homelessness without criminalizing the condition of homelessness. 2) Funders of efforts to end homelessness can better coordinate to a) connect those experiencing homeless to housing, and b) prevent people from sliding into homelessness in the first place. 3) People who care and want to engage can figure out how to participate in helping to end homelessness. 4) City of Austin policies and programs related to ending homelessness are developed with, not just for, the intended beneficiaries and those responsible for implementing the tasks. 1.2 Exploration Questions 1) How might we focus our efforts in stages of the homelessness experience – from living on the edge, losing housing, living in survival mode, and reconnection into housing? 2) For living on the edge and reconnection stages: How can we create more affordable housing opportunities? 3) For living on the edge and prevention of homelessness: Why are people becoming homeless? What preventative actions can we take? 4) Survival and Reconnection stages: How can we engage the broader community? How can we reduce stigma and social barriers – remove “us/them” and create “us”? 5) Reconnection stages: How might we lower the attrition rate – those relapsing into homelessness? 6) What resources are lacking to meet the needs of those that are homeless, and to prevent homelessness, and address mental health issues and substance abuse?