Friday, June 30, 2017

What Does Success Look Like?

In recent meetings of the City Council, both the Council members and the City Manager have complained that they are unclear “what success looks like” in their planning and execution of programs funded to respond to the homeless housing crisis.  I’ve asked many within the homeless service and resident community what their successful outcomes would be to achieve the goals of the City’s Housing Action Plan, for both the short-term and longer-term.  Here are some ideas which have been suggested:

Short-term Homeless Program Successful Process Outcomes
  1. A complete and detailed Scope of Work and Performance Outcomes for Catholic Charities contract, including sheltering and transitioning to permanent housing for residents of the Family Shelter, Sam Jones, Safe Parking, and Palms Inn for 2017-2018. For example, moving from temporary housing to permanent housing could be considered an upgrade, as could moving from shelters to transitional housing.
  2. The expansion of use of CHAP and recently-approved Safe Parking Program funds to insure continuation of 80 safe parking spaces in the City.
  3. The establishment of a legal support service which assists complaining tenants of rental housing and shelters to file grievances in appropriate public entities in a timely manner.
  4. The collaboration of the Sonoma’s cities with the County of Sonoma on an application to California’s No Place Like Home funding, targeted at developing and supporting permanent housing models designed for chronically homeless, with serious mental illness.
  5. The identification and establishment of a Safe Haven Outdoor Navigation Center with security and sanitation, with staff capable of assisting campers to improve their ability to qualify and be accepted in permanent housing.
  6. Collaboration with the County and other stakeholders to produce 2200 or more units of homeless-targeted low and no income housing.
  7. Convene the recipients of the Affordable Housing Pilot Project, recently awarded by the City, and strengthen their capability and interest in working with the City’s homeless service providers to insure that residents of the City’s shelters and encampments obtain access to the resulting housing units.
  8. Securing additional Section 8 Housing Voucher landlords, especially for  VASH voucherholders.

Longer-term Homeless Program Successful Process Outcomes
  1. The development of a system, in collaboration with the County of Sonoma Community Development Commission, to place Santa Rosa’s homeless population into the housing units which have been, or are currently being, developed with public funds.
  2. The development and completion of a homeless community and service provider-engaged public planning process for the 2017-2018 City Homeless Service contract RFPs.
  3. Strengthen the ability of Community Development and Housing Authority staff to work together to support private development projects to include the maximum financially achievable affordable units, as early in their planning process. 
  4. The development and completion of a comprehensive set of performance impact outcomes for each of the contracts and scopes of work funded by the City and County which minimize service agency confusion and duplication, and maximize successful placement and retention of residents in permanent housing.
  5. The expansion of the capacity of shelters and limited stay facilities to include pets.

Affordable Housing Successful Impact Outcomes
1.    The number of individuals contacted, enrolled, assessed, or receiving services from a particular organization by facility.
2.    The number of individuals whose housing is upgraded, the number of individuals in permanent housing, or the number of individuals whose days of homelessness in the preceding 30 days has decreased. This includes the average number of days residents stay in shelters, transitional facilities, or subsidized limited length housing.
3.    The number of homeless individuals enrolled with an organization who have earnings, increased their earnings, are employed full-time, or increase their number of hours worked over a given month.
4.    Measuring individuals who have no drug use, whose health has improved, or whose mental health status increases.
5.    The number of youth who are reunited with their families, attend school, or earn their GED.
6.  The number of those who continue their residence in permanent housing upon placement from a shelter or limited length facility for at least two years increases.  The average stay in permanent housing upon placement from shelters of limited length facilities increases.    


  1. The Continuum of Care or other County agency receiving a report of the number of *involuntary exits* from each shelter, grouping the exits by reason (e.g. intoxication, fighting, no show, returning after curfew, minor rule infractions, unable to do a chore due to disability, etc.). Then compiling that data into a table tallying the number of exits from each shelter during the previous month, and sending this table to all the shelters and stakeholders. Purpose, to motivate shelter staff to find ways to reduce involuntary exits. Involuntary exits endanger clients, undermine sobriety and health, increase emergency service costs, and require thousands of dollars in bed space at the next shelter per client while the client spends 2 months getting acclimated and regaining lost ground in searching for benefits, housing and jobs. Involuntary exits waste the shelter system likely hundreds of thousands of dollars per year, because many of these exits are preventable.

  2. I meant to write, "while the client spends *3* months acclimated at the next shelter." (Typo.)

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  4. The vision for ultimate success must be a primary gage of the success of the programs in motion now.

    The most recent count of how many homeless people living on the streets in the county of Sonoma indicates that it has gone down from a high of 4800 at the bottom of the recession of 2010 to a figure now that it's about 2800 - nevertheless 1897 individuals are sleeping outside tonight.

    How can sleeping outside in the only place that you have be a crime? People are not allowed to sleep in their cars, people are not provided with adequate bathrooms, people are not provided with adequate showers, there's not even a place that people can buy these services except at a motel, which many cannot afford.

    What does success look like? Success looks like what the person wants. The guy named Maslow said there was a hierarchy of these things; when considering success we should explicitly use that a lot: physiology, safety,belonging,esteem, self actualization. [I add competence to these]

    Successful endeavors to address homelessness would provide a roof and a door and a bed and a pillow. Personal choice and preferences would be a key factor. Free choice and Independence is a factor to the extent that the resident is capable of exercising choice which maintains the long-term stability in their housing. With some people their ability to make choices that assure stability, and therefore harmony and security, is so different than everyone else that they have housing instability. Anyone who thinks they can succeed in helping any single individual keep their housing has to understand people's needs and be compassionate and accommodating, and very forgiving.

    Success will assure that each person has a right to a safe place to spend their time and they have a safe place to get their rest.

    Safety, health, and privacy are desirable but forgone at homeless shelters. While acknowledging that healthy clean and respectful environments are best, it is not possible for homeless shelters to achieve this. Successful transition to the ideal living situations must account for the adverse conditions which still fester during the journey.

    Success for community and municipality is manifest by the positive benefits to the people housed, satisfied citizens, and, appropriate costs associated with housing, health care, law enforcement and services. Notice lower costs are not the object; appropriate costs are. Transparent measurement reporting of benefits and costs should be factored in to what appropriate costs are measured.

    The vision for ultimate success must be a primary gage of the success of the programs in motion now.

  5. Thank you for this Gerry. You say it with eloquence and your experience is clear.

    I would only add that a key is key. The ability to lock a door and have privacy in (at least) a room is important for rest and stability. Remember Virginia Woolf: A room of one's own. It's still a dream for so many.

    1. Good point. For me the pillow was an indicator of the personal but a key also indicates control of a healthy nature. . We'll rely on Gregory to edit this as an introduction to the specifics he cites.