Continuum of Change

Blog post authored by Ian Fletcher, program manager of OneHome.

Is anyone else feeling the weight of change on the horizon? The Metro Denver community of homeless service providers are in the midst of a series of recent shifts that are occurring simultaneously across local counties and cities.

A few local recent happenings:

  • Boulder is overhauling the community’s systemic response to homelessness in a manner that could mean some major modifications for funders and providers.
  • Aurora is opening a day resource center but also dealing with a motel crisis at the Kings Inn where dozens of families are needing a place to live.
  • Denver’s Office of HOPE has numerous ideas to address housing and homelessness but which are to be determined in scope and priority.
  • Adams County is hiring a Homelessness Outreach Liaison, formally recognizing the need for a position to address the rise of homelessness across a county which has historically had trouble prioritizing a homeless response.
  • Jefferson County will continue pursuing Federal CDBG and HOME funding after legislative conversations that could have resulted their reduction. 

Across the state, the Colorado Division of Housing has unveiled $15M from marijuana revenue for housing vouchers and all three Colorado CoC’s are pursuing a new HMIS vendor. MDHI is figuring out coordinated entry, redefining HUD NOFA scoring, and changing the plan for the 2018 Point in Time. CoC partners across the nation are waiting for the HUD CoC NOFA to be announced.

Many of these new shifts are bound to bring conflict and differing opinions. Homelessness itself is traumatizing, so let’s not allow the potential for change in the way we operate to traumatize one another or the people we work to serve. How we operate in times of uncertainty defines our ability to handle important social challenges like homelessness.

As a community, we can choose to point out problems or, alternatively, provide opportunities for solutions.

As a sector, we can keep business as usual or summon the urgency to reflect and review how we must do better.

As a group of peers, we can learn from our seasoned professionals and equip new leaders to lead the charge.

As we engage in conflict, I recall a few tenets of community organizing that motivate my own work: 

1) Conflict is the only thing that brings about change. If we want anything to change, we have to engage in conflict (professionally and respectfully) and live into that tension of accountability.

2) Confrontation means foreheads together. Imagine if we are having these conversations with our foreheads literally touching! If we are to confront one another, we have to be in relationship and willing to have the tough conversations

3) Agitation happens out of love. Agitation is about shaking things up like a washing machine. It’s probably not enjoyable to be the dirty clothes getting agitated, but they come out clean on the other side. We must think about getting our laundry folded rather than whether or not the stains will be 100% removed.

4) For a long time, this community has had a sense of scarcity around resources and systems-level thinking. If we want to change that, we have to think in an abundant, non-anxious manner that drives action into our community by example.

5) There are no permanent allies and there are no permanent enemies, only those who can work together to achieve a common goal. I hope that we can find the right combination of people to achieve our goals of ending homelessness and care for one another along the way.

6) All politics happens locally, and if we cannot have civil dialogue about important community issues and value dissent, then we certainly cannot expect it to happen at any level above our own.

After a few relaxed breaths, I look forward to the second half of 2017 and all the challenges or conflicts it brings. Ultimately, nothing we’ll have to endure as providers will be as challenging as the day-to-day reality of homelessness for thousands of Metro Denver residents.

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