A note from our President and CEO Chris Megison:
Bolstered by an empowered community of believers who support the audacious vision to Solve Family Homelessness for North County, we see that our 15th year brings even bigger challenges for us, and for each of you, to weigh and consider. Last year at this time we had about 180 homeless kids enrolled in the Solutions University who were counting on us each and every day. Today that number is 300 kids.
You, who bring the vision of solving family homelessness to life for more families and more communities; you who give of your time, your energy, your resources and your passion; you are the wind beneath our sails. You are helping us solve homelessness by getting families quickly out of the shelters, cars, motels (and worse), and into 130 homes county-wide. And it’s not just shelter you’re giving them. With Solutions, you’re providing jobs and a new found passion for life, free of enabling programs. It is working because all of us are making it work, we are willing it to work despite the odds and the obstacles. We are working to innovate and succeed in the field of homelessness – alongside a 30-year-old system that doesn’t believe we can do it. But we know different. We know families can beat homelessness; we know once homeless kids can be set on an entirely different pathway, a path that ends the generational cycle of poverty and leads to newly enriched futures.
You may have heard that coming into 2014 we have made some programmatic adjustments. Due to priority realignments on the federal and state levels (and funding shifts from many of the foundations who have followed suit), we have had to get leaner, more focused and more resourceful. With now only 14% of our annual budget coming from government grants, finding new efficiencies and being even more resourceful is as important as ever. With many other Southern California homeless organizations getting 70% or more of their annual budget from government funding sources, nonprofits often find themselves in the dilemma of chasing government funding to simply stay alive, changing their programs to align with the latest trends in the field. We don’t chase funds because our 15 years in the field show that our program works. It’s that integrity to our core values and program that lead us to struggle at times, but we will stay true to our purpose. We are singularly focused on the one thing that we know we can do the best: solve family homelessness – one family, one community at a time.
Nationwide, the homeless services industry is moving away from the deeper, more service-intensive engagements, on which Solutions for Change prides itself. The sector is doing this in favor of a newly adapted model called Housing First. Housing First is a no-strings-attached housing model, where units are provided to the homeless free or near free without any expectation of changing destructive behaviors. The program builds in little accountability and even fewer support services for its homeless residents. Tammy and I, with our 23 years of work “on the ground” with thousands of homeless individuals, firmly reject that notion. In fact, we think that this model, unless modified with personal accountability structures soon, will result in significant failure to both the homeless and to the nation. We aren’t economists, but we cannot see how this model is sustainable economically. Without larger support services and a sense of accountability, the millions of homeless individuals going into these free or heavily-subsidized housing will still be there in 20 years. While physically sheltered, nothing will have changed and nothing will have been solved.
To be clear, the leadership at Solutions for Change believes that homeless families do need housing and they need it as fast as possible. They shouldn’t be languishing in shelters or transitional programs. But our model is based on the core values of personal accountability and personal responsibility, the bedrock of the American society. These timeless core values have always driven our programmatic decisions and, as long as Tammy and I are at the helm, they always will. We don’t think that providing homeless families with taxpayer-funded free housing with optional services and optional accountability is a good idea. We’ve tried it and all we can say is, “ouch”. It does not serve them. It does not serve their children. And it certainly does not serve you, our public to whom we are entrusted to serve to solve homelessness in a responsible way. There are much, much, much better ways both programmatically and financially to solve homelessness.
Solving family homelessness is tough but it is doable with the right set of blueprints, with the right design. But even with the right design, it’s impossible without you. I am asking you if you would pick up the Just Solve It Flag and get behind the Imperative to Solve Family Homelessness in North County. Will you? Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with the Subject: I’m In. I’ve Picked Up the Just Solve It Flag, and then please join Tammy and I for coffee and breakfast, and a conversation about what that might look like for you. We will do this on Tuesday May 6 at 7:30am at the Solutions for Change main campus 722 W. California Ave. I look forward to seeing you there! RSVP to Susan at 760-941-6545.
Serving to Solve,