Experts and Service Providers

Scroll down this ​ page to find information about: 

  • Human-Centered Design

  • Pathways Through Homelessness

  • Our Insights

  • An Overview of the i-team's ongoing projects

  • Leaders in Change

Human-Centered Design

There are many ways to approach innovation and new ideas. 

Some people start with the business need, the social need, or the bottom-line. Some start with the social or political landscape; they go where there is pressure. Some even start with the capacity of stakeholders and staff. 

In Human-Centered Design, we start with the human, or the users, for whom we are designing the solutions. 

In this project, the main users are people experiencing homelessness and providers who offer homelessness-related services. By focusing on their real needs and experiences, we can create solutions that fit their lives and realities. 

Why Does Human-Centered Design Matter in a Civic Context?

In government and large organizations, elected officials or leaders create policies. Those policies influence the types of programs that are developed. Those programs inform how services are delivered. Finally, the public uses those services. Disconnect can happen by doing things this way. The policies, programs, and services that are created for communities often do not meet the realities, needs, and contexts of people's lives. Human-Centered Design reverses that hierarchy and starts with the people. 

It is especially important for us to start with the people experiencing homelessness because they understand the challenges better than anyone else, yet their voices are rarely considered and are often marginalized in communities. Human-Centered Design humanizes homelessness by capturing real experiences, joys, and pain-points to debunk stereotypes and assumptions. 

We want their feedback and stories to inform decisions regarding services, programs, budgets, operations, and policies that directly impact their realities of homelessness. 

Human-Centered Design Methods

Human-Centered Design methods help unpack and solve for complex challenges. These are some of the Discovery Activities we used for our homelessness research and projects: 

In-Depth Interviews

These interviews were 90 to 120 minute conversations with both people with lived experience of homelessness and service providers. The intent was to understand people's stories, experiences, and aspirations from both sides of the desk. These interviews revealed the journey of why and how someone becomes homeless, the challenges of surviving on the streets, and the complexity of working within and navigating the homeless system. 

Guided Tours 

Staff led tours of agencies that serve people experiencing homelessness. We toured multiple service facilities that uses different types of models to deliver shelter, housing and resources. We visited locations within Austin and all over the country. Having an expert give us a Guided Tour helped reveal not just the physical space but the routines, flows, and activities that animate it. We learned about the best practices and challenges of running such complicated operations.

Interview Activities

In order to bring richness to the intercepts, interviews, and group sessions, we used different activities to elicit conversation and stories that would otherwise not come up. Some key activities include journey maps to illustrate the steps of an experience, photo prompt cards to trigger different memories and perspectives, and a future state activity to help people  image their ideal future and identify the blockers that are prevent that from becoming a reality.

Pathways Through Homelessness

Through the i-team's research, we discovered three different pathways that people can take during their experiences of homelessness. A person experiencing homelessness can experience one or all three of these pathways during their journey.

Deteriorating Path

People get sicker when services are not grounded in their realities and not designed to meet their needs. People deteriorate to the point where they need intensive services, costing the system more money.  

Relapsing Path

Services struggle to support long term behavior change, often resulting in relapse. People fall back into the cycle of services again.

Resilient Path

When people’s self-determination increases, they become more resilient and more likely to avoid deterioration and maintain their new behaviors.  

Our Insights

An insight is a learning, an "a-ha" moment -- a provocative statement of truth that is grounded in data and is usually a new way of viewing the challenge we are trying to solve. 

 

Based on our Discovery Phase, which included personal contact and interviews with over 120 people with lived experience of homelessness and service providers, the iTeam developed our list of "Insights" along the Pathways Through Homelessness described in the previous section. On this site, we describe 15 Insights with 2 Bonus Insights into the daily life of people experiencing homelessness in Austin. 

Insights Spotlight

Insight 4

The working individual cannot achieve financial stability. Holding down a job and receiving services are often in conflict. 

Insight 9

Homelessness can occur when families fall apart. This can repeat in the next generation.

 

 

Insight 15

People can wait years or never even receive housing due to a limited supply. People stay hopeful and confident when they can work on other goals.

Leaders in Change

Practices in Change

In our Austin community, there are many people working to make positive changes happen to help solve homelessness. Change is difficult, but through our work, we have identified practices that successful change leaders are using:

Collaborating With Others

Creating A Shared Understanding

A Commitment to Change

Leaders in change bring people together to plan, strategize, and execute. They work across boundaries, breakdown organizational silos, and diffuse  competition. They also included others early on in decision-making, which strengthens a community’s buy-in to change. They value relationships and actively work to build and strengthen their networks.

Leaders in change explore what needs to change and why change is needed. They explain the purpose of the change- how it connects to our community values or how it benefits  the community. These leaders honor a diversity of voices in the process because multiple points of view helps us better understand the challenges we face.  With this shared understanding, we open up opportunities to find more impactful solutions because we know what real problems we are solving for.

Leaders in change know change can be very difficult, but that doesn’t keep them from trying. These leaders are persistent, patient, and brave. They commit their time and efforts even though they are busy because they believe it is important. These leaders are willing to step outside their comfort zone and continuously learn and improve. They focused on the big picture and celebrate the wins in order to maintain their focus, energy, and hopes in making a difference in their community.

Leaders Spotlight

AHAC

Austin's Homelessness Advisory Committee (AHAC) was created in the fall of 2017 by the City of Austin’s Office of Innovation’s Bloomberg i-team in coordination with the Department of Public Health and the Ending Community Homelessness Coalition (ECHO). Collectively, these entities are the “Organizers” for the committee. 

 

We started with a  6-months pilot project that included 13 members who have previously or are currently experiencing homelessness to help with the development of research tools, consult on findings, and test possible solutions. By March 2018, we had grown to 16 members with a 90% attendance rate for each meeting.

HOST

The Homelessness Outreach Street Team (HOST) brings together the expertise of police officers, behavioral health specialists, community health paramedics, and court case managers in a collaborative initiative in Austin’s Central Business District to address proactively the needs of people living on the streets. This multidisciplinary team helps bridge the gaps between social services and public safety where hard-to-reach populations get stuck in the revolving door of emergency shelters, justice systems, and emergency services. Modeled after similar successful homeless outreach programs in other cities across the U.S., Austin’s team is somewhat unique in the multi-disciplinary approach to proactive deployment on the streets.

Ongoing Projects

We have separated our ongoing projects into 3 different categories: Tools, Prototypes, and Recommendations. 

Tools

Tools enhance service delivery by solving for a specific need. Our tools address the needs of both people experiencing homelessness and service providers.

These tools include:

Prototypes

Prototypes are future services under construction. These are the services we are currently testing, and we co-create these projects with people who have lived experience of homelessness.

These prototypes include: 

Recommendations

Recommendations suggest a way to change services to fit people's realities. Successful services empower the humans at their center, accommodating for their strengths and their needs. 

These recommendations include: 

Projects Spotlight

COMMUNICATIONS

CENTER (C4)

C4 stands for the Collaborative Care Communications Center. C4 will provide first-responders across Texas and Travis County with a single point of access to homelessness related services. First-responders will be able to connect people experiencing homelessness to needed services including medical care, mental health services, social services, sobriety treatment, etc. Additionally, C4 can help provide a warm hand-off to services and help coordinate logistical processes like transportation and setting up appointments. 

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