Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Data Entry Competition in West Hollywood

Greetings from sunny Los Angeles!

This week Beth Sandor and I are delighted to be working with PATH Partners as they create the registry and apply the Vulnerability Index to the street homeless population in West Hollywood.  

Tomorrow morning is our last 4 am wake-up.   The sleep deprivation that is an unavoidable part of this work tends to really kick in on the last day and further warp our sense of humor.  Tomorrow should be fun!  

As you can see from the photo to the right, Beth and I are really suffering here in West Hollywood.  We're competing to see who can enter the Vulnerability Index survey results into the quickbase database the fastest.  As usual, Beth won.  

Monday night, we atteneded Santa Monica's briefing on the results of their annual point in time homeless count.  Congratulations for achieving an 8% reduction in homelessness! 

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Hope in the Mundane

Small groups of socially conscious, inspired people engaged on the fringes of society can do amazing things. Problems that seem intractable, impersonal and distant become glaringly hideous and embarrassing and, most importantly, solvable when ordinary individuals join hands and complete very mundane tasks. We meet at early hours of the morning, make coffee, collect pens, print copies, adjust cameras, pocket food vouchers, smile at our neighbors and go out into the cold with a higher purpose. What we have done locally has grown into something much larger. Thank you Becky Kanis and Common Ground Community for inspiring me and my native city.

In Nashville, here is what has happened in just a couple of months since our initial “survey blitz”:
**Nashville’s only “housing-first” program scrapped its usual referral process and is now only taking individuals off of the Vulnerability Index ™.
**Nashville’s housing authority promised 32 housing subsidies for the most vulnerable.
**$100,000 of city funds will match any private donations to create a local rental subsidy for the most vulnerable.
**The Vulnerability Index ™ is being used to address homeless encampments sprouting up around Nashville.
**In March, health care providers will begin completing surveys with their homeless patients. One such provider manages over 15 community health clinics in Nashville.
**The VA is considering a “pilot” that would help the most vulnerable veterans access VASH subsidies in a more timely manner.

As I list the successes above, I must confess that I am doing my own version of a Vulnerability Index ™ dance. Fortunately, none of my staff are around to see. Let’s just say it incorporates some moves from Slumdog Millionaire.

Less-than-graceful dance moves and goosebumps are occurring because I know the successes above are just scratching the surface. The future looks so promising; solving homelessness in Nashville doesn’t seem overly idealistic anymore.

The Vulnerability Index ™ galvanizes and inspires action because it tells a story, our human story. It reminds us of what happens when health fails and our systems of care disappoint. It inspires action despite geography, climate and culture.

I can’t wait to hear your stories of how you and your community have met death with hope in the form of a 5-minute survey. Thanks again Becky and Common Ground Community for what you do and this venue. Peace.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Welcome to the Vulnerability Index Blog

Hi -

Welcome! This blog is for everyone working to end street homelessness. Author invitations were just sent out to change agents across the US and Canada who have adapted the Vulnerability Index to their community. In 2008, over 4,300 surveys were administered in NYC, LA County's Skid Row, Santa Monica, New Orleans, Washington, DC, Portland, Nashville, Calgary, and Fort Worth. Not counting the housing placements in NYC -- there were many - this should be posted by those who did the heavy lifting on that! - more than 680 individuals identified as being homeless the longest with the highest mortality risk were placed into housing by the cities mentioned above last year. This is absolutely amazing.

I wanted to find a way to connect all of you with one another, a forum for the exchange of great ideas, best practices, success stories, lessons learned, and good questions. Please use this as a space to brag about your housing placements, the transformation of your outreach practices, and to share your opinions, knowing that you are among friends.

We will be adding content to this blog over the next several weeks so that it can become a "go-to" place to download relevant studies, reports, and useful tools. Please see this as shared space for anyone working to end street homelessness - I look forward to the community that this will build and to seeing each of you on my next trip to your town!

If you have an idea about how to use the Vulnerability Index --> post it!
If you have a question about the Vulnerability Index --> post it!
If you have a story about how the Vulnerability Index is being used in your city --> post it!
If you're one of the 680+ people who were identified by the Vulnerability Index and are now in housing --> post it!

If you're not sure how to post to the blog, or have suggestions for how to make this blog better, please contact me at