Leaders 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:
Collaboration with others
Creation of shared understanding
Demonstration of a commitment to change
There are many people and organizations that demonstrate the practices above, but below we highlight two City of Austin partners who are currently embodying these leading methods: AHAC and HOST.
Practices in Change
Collaborating with Others
Leaders in change bring people together to plan, strategize, and execute. They work across boundaries, breakdown organizational silos, and diffuse competition. They also include 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.
Creating a Shared Understanding
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 them better understand the challenges they face. With this shared understanding, they open up opportunities to find more impactful solutions because they know what real problems they are solving for.
Demonstrating a Commitment to Change
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.
Austin's Homelessness Advisory Committee
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.
Projects that AHAC is currently working on:
The Toiletries Delivery Service is enabling a couple members from the Lived Experience Advisory Group to build, test, and develop a delivery service that fills a gap they see in the existing homelessness system. This process is helping us understand how we can proactively enable people experiencing homelessness to help themselves by developing opportunities for them to help their community.
An A5 zine booklet created by the 16 members of the Homelessness Lived Experience Advisory Group. It includes information on healthy coping skills for people experiencing homelessness as a more positive way of approaching difficult situations with the people they interact with on a daily basis, such as case managers, service providers, employers, and the public.
At Life University, people experiencing homelessness can learn personal self-care skills, professional development skills, and housing and life skills. Classes can be taught by service providers, voluntary community members and mentors, and people experiencing homelessness. Classes can be hosted in underused spaces that are temporarily repurposed for pop-up classes.
Homeless Outreach Street Team
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.
Human-Centered Design and HOST
Through this process, service providers gained a deeper understanding of how and why people on the streets of Austin behave as they do and what their challenges are. From this, the community of providers teams generated potential solutions and partnerships. Through prototyping, evaluation, and iteration, solutions are then evolved and produced.
It is important for us to also start with the providers serving those experiencing homelessness. Their voices are often not represented in the creation of new city services or policies that directly impact their work. The way that typical policy is made is very hierarchical and disconnected from the realities of providers' daily jobs.