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February 19, 2022 75 mins

In this bonus episode, Baratunde learns how data, well-defined goals, and a sense of collective ownership are helping those at the front lines of America’s housing crisis work to solve, not manage, homelessness. His partner in conversation is Aras Jizan, the Portfolio Lead for Data and Technology for the Built for Zero initiative at Community Solutions.  

 

Guest: Aras Jizan

Bio: Portfolio Lead for Data and Technology for the Built for Zero initiative at Community Solutions 

Online: Community Solutions website, Twitter @cmtysolutions, and Instagram @cmtysolutions

 

Go to howtocitizen.com for transcripts, our email newsletter, and your citizen practice.

 

 

ACTIONS

 

- PERSONALLY REFLECT 

Say these aloud to yourself

Inspired by Aras's recommendations, repeat these: I believe that homelessness is solvable. I understand that we must fix systems, not people. I consider people experiencing homelessness in my community to be my neighbors. 

 

- BECOME INFORMED

Hear stories of homelessness from those experiencing it

Visit InvisiblePeople.tv which uses storytelling, education, news, and activism to change the narrative on homelessness. Their videos are compelling and tell a whole story we often don't see. They are on YouTubeInstagramTwitter, and .css-j9qmi7{display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-flex-direction:row;-ms-flex-direction:row;flex-direction:row;font-weight:700;margin-bottom:1rem;margin-top:2.8rem;width:100%;-webkit-box-pack:start;-ms-flex-pack:start;-webkit-justify-content:start;justify-content:start;padding-left:5rem;}@media only screen and (max-width: 599px){.css-j9qmi7{padding-left:0;-webkit-box-pack:center;-ms-flex-pack:center;-webkit-justify-content:center;justify-content:center;}}.css-j9qmi7 svg{fill:#27292D;}.css-j9qmi7 .eagfbvw0{-webkit-align-items:center;-webkit-box-align:center;-ms-flex-align:center;align-items:center;color:#27292D;}

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Transcript

Episode Transcript

Available transcripts are automatically generated. Complete accuracy is not guaranteed.
Speaker 1 (00:02):
Welcome to How to Citizen with Bartune Day, a podcast
that reimagine citizen as a verb, not a legal status.
This season is all about tech and how it can
bring us together instead of tearing us apart. We're bringing
you the people using technology for so much more than
revenue and user growth. They're using it to help us citizen.

(00:29):
Welcome to How to Citizen with Barraitune Day, a podcast
that reimagine citizen as a verb, not a legal status.
This is a bonus episode for season three, made possible
by mail Chimp. This season has been all about tech
and how it can bring us together instead of tearing
us apart. And I'm so excited to bring you one

(00:51):
more story of people using technology to help us citizen.
I'm your host, Barraitune Day Thurston and on this episode,
we're gonna talk about homelessness and how one organization is
using data to help communities across the US solve homelessness,

(01:12):
not just manage it. This is a lifelong and personal
topic for me. Every week from most of my grade
school years, I volunteered with my mother at a Washington,
d c. Soup kitchen and meal van, mostly Martha's Table
and mckinna's wagon. For those who know d C. They're
both still in operation. Today, I observed, listened and talked

(01:34):
to my neighbors who didn't have enough money for food
and often housing. Sometimes it was exhilarating. I mean I
got to ride around town in the back of a
van handing out donuts to smiling, grateful people. What kids
wouldn't love that? Sometimes it was heartbreaking. Often I cried
myself to sleep in anger and sadness at the number

(01:58):
of folks we let go hungry and unhoused, wondering what
else we could do about this. Today, the housing crisis
feels more widespread and acute in many ways. Even if
your own housing feels secured, you probably see encampments, read stories,
or even struggle to pay your own rent and mortgage.

(02:20):
Today I live in California, which by some measures has
the largest number of unhoused people of any state in
the United States. That little kid in me, he's still
there wondering what we can do about all this. Fortunately,
this podcast episode is a step toward answering that question.

(02:42):
So check out my conversation with a. Rash Jason of
Community Solutions, where they use data well defined goals and
a sense of collective ownership to help those at the
front lines of America's housing crisis solve homelessness by the
end of this EPISOD. So here's my promise to you.

(03:02):
You'll feel empowered, You'll have some more optimism. You'll see
how technology can help and how you can help take
responsibility for helping end homelessness where you live. Let's go.
My name is I asked Jason. I work at Community Solutions,
where I head up our data and technology team, supporting

(03:25):
communities to build and use technology and data stand homelessness.
I'll give you a concrete example, and a lot of
the communities that we work with, one of the first
things we ask that they try and engage with is
just getting their arms around the scope of the problem.
How many people are homeless today where you live in
your community? And you'd be surprised how few communities baseline

(03:46):
have the ability to meaningfully answer that question in a
way that passes the sniff test with the folks, the
boots on the ground right, or the key stakeholders in
that community right. People will say that data is out
of date, it's not comprehensive, it's missing a bunch of folks.
It has all of these different problems. And so then
what we've got actually is a really basic what I
think of as mixing bowl problem. A lot of different

(04:09):
people have data on who's experiencing homelessness, but it's not
in one mixing bowl, right, So it's not a shiny app.
It's just figuring out how can we get the data
from your database and your database and your database into
our shared mixing bowl. And the work there then is
not about creating a sexy app that does that. It's
about like building relationships and trust, making sure we're honoring

(04:32):
privacy and consent, getting folks on the bus, figuring out
the double data entry that's gonna need to happen, and
who's going to volunteer to do that, all that good stuff, right,
And so that's less about the technology. The technology enables
the ability for the partnership and collaboration to happen, but
actually the special sauces the partnership and the relationships um
and so I think that that idea feels like such

(04:53):
a through line that the tech is an enabling factor,
but it's not solving the problem. With the high level
explanation of what community Solutions is doing to help us
address this pretty broadly experienced and certainly at least witness
crisis of housing and lack of housing for people. So
Community Solutions is powering a movement called Built for Zero,

(05:18):
and that is a constellation of over nineties cities and counties.
We call them communities that are working to use data
and to tackle homelessness in a different way. And so
there are sort of four key elements to the approach
that we're sort of espoused and that we're working with
communities to support. The first one is sort of having
a collective accountability for ending homelessness using a particular definition

(05:42):
of what it means and homelessness let's The second piece
is having a shared aim, ideally making that a quantifiable
aim where we can have objective conversations about whether we're
making progress, what does good look like, what is better
look like? And what does ending homelessness mean? Right? Do
we have a shared definition of that across all the
different folks at the table. The third piece of the

(06:04):
puzzle is establishing sort of what I was talking about earlier,
that mixing Bowler, that idea of quality real time data
to inform decisions and also to tell us whether what
we're doing is working, which I think is often a
missing ingredient that I hear about when I talk to
folks about efforts in their community about ending homelessness. They're like,
we're doing all of these things, and I can tell

(06:24):
you about the activities, and then when we talk about
the outcomes, it's a bit of a head scratcher, right.
So I think having one shared sort of yardstick that
we're all using to use a sports metaphor, like we
all agree with what yard line we're on, right, last piece,
And I think this is important as well in a
lot of places that we're doing meaningful work is being
really intentional about targeted investments and tying those two reductions

(06:48):
in homelessness and so having to dig into any of
those four building blocks. But that's sort of our our playbook.
But then beyond that, I think really the overarching thing
we're doing is bringing folks together to learn from each
other in a lot of respects. Today, in America and
across a lot of the world, homelessness is one of
those sort of lagging areas where whether you live in

(07:10):
a big city or a small town or a more
rural jurisdiction. There's something about the sort of status quo
in our country that isn't working, and it's visible and
it's tangible in a lot of different communities. That's a
cult of action, yes, but it's also an opportunity because
you're not the only one working on this issue where
you are, and it's hard to see that often when

(07:30):
you are boots on the ground, right you feel like
I'm rolling this ball up the mountain and it's just
me and my team. And so that opportunity to create
the space where folks feel seen, they feel connected to
others doing the work. They don't have to start from scratch.
There's a good chance of the problem you're facing somebody
else is facing two and they've thought about it. Maybe

(07:50):
they even have a place to start, right. I think
there's so much value in that connective tissue. You're using
so much language that isn't really about technology, you know,
community connective tissue, not feeling alone, learning from each other.
This sounds like, you know, trust exercises in summer camp
and team building much more than about servers and a

(08:13):
p I S and you know, other more technical features. Absolutely,
as do start to think about the operational weeds of
what would it take for us in our city to
have a shared aim and accountability and progress towards that aim.
That's where you start to I think, think about, okay,
some of what we need, write people at the table,
shared definitions, some wonky metric in the weeds stuff. But

(08:37):
then there's the enabling factors that I mentioned earlier, and
I think tech has a big role to play here. Right.
It can either be a barrier if creating the linkages
between these different systems requires fifteen steps and bending over backwards,
then people aren't going to do it right. Or it
can become an enabling factor, right, if it's really easy

(08:59):
to sort of send all of you the relevant information
to the relevant people. I think we all actually have
a lived experience here. I think many of us do
of navigating healthcare, right, and if you think about the
best experience that you've had, I think hopefully many of
us do have. Like that one time I didn't have
to refill all the forms from Scotch where like I

(09:19):
gotta referral and my information like just seamlessly they had
it and they didn't meet. They just verified that I
was me, and then they had all the information that
they needed to allow them to meet my needs or
for us to talk about my physical therapy or whatever
it is that dream scenario. What what what enables that
to happen? And why doesn't it happen more often? And

(09:40):
I think as you start to unpack that and get
into the weeds the answers sometimes not always, but sometimes
is tech working well or not working well? And so
I think that's really part of it for us, is
sort of figuring out what do we want to do?
Asking that question first before assuming that tech is going
to have the solution. But I think sometimes it has
a role to play and what it does. I get excited,
as you can tell I do. I can pick up

(10:01):
on your excitement. I share some of it. And you
mentioned that you're operating in these nine communities, which means
most places you aren't. Um I want to stay at
the kind of the how this feels level for a
place that's working with you and your method that's different
in these number of ways? How does that look and
feel differently from places that aren't. What? What's what are

(10:23):
the things that stand out? Really good question? And for
reference that communities that we work with, community is such
a squishy term, right, um, but really what I mean
by that is it's sort of folks who are self organized.
It often maps to a wonky federal jurisdiction. It's a
quarter of the country, right, that's the shorthand. So yeah, wow, okay, okay,

(10:44):
so it's not so rare. And what's what's different? I
think in terms of the experience, what would what what
would feel differently in one of those communities. I'll tell
you from the perspective of somebody working in homeless services
or homeless response, and then I'll tell you from the perspective,
hopefully of somebody who's experiencing a housing crisis. If your
job is case manager and street outreach worker, a city

(11:06):
official or county official who's in the Department of Housing
and Homelessness, for example. I think two things that we
really evangelize. For First, we view your homelessness as a
systems problem. And what that means is that it's not
about the individual people and um issues that they're having
or challenges. Yes, we need to know those things so
that we can support those folks, but that we're pulling

(11:28):
up and thinking about some top line metrics and and
most importantly moving from a space of thinking about individual
programs and projects, So like Burton Day, are you running
a great homeless shelter? Awesome? What is the impact that's
having on homelessness overall? In East l All the different
question starts to activate you and being like, well, you

(11:48):
alone cannot answer that question. You could tell me how
many of those beds are full, how long folks are staying,
whether their dignity is being met? All really important questions
to be answering. But I think the big paradigm shift here,
and this isn't just specific to build for zero, I
think it's happening across the country is moving to a
space where we review homelessness as a problem we need
to solve and not manage. And so if you need

(12:11):
to solve homelessness and not just manage it, you've got
to start asking a different set of questions. And so
that brings me to the second thing that I think
is true in built for zero communities, which folks are
either working to build a real time person level data
system that could answer questions like are we making progress
on ending homelessness for veterans, for folks over fifty five,

(12:34):
for LGBT youth, right lots of different ways you could
slice that data, but at the end of the day,
what is true. It's got to know who's experiencing homelessness
today or this month at least, right, And how is
that number trending over time? And what are some of
the inflow and outflow criteria right? So, how many folks
are newly experiencing homelessness, how many folks move from homelessness

(12:56):
into safe and stable housing last months? These kind of
questions or to become your bread and butter if you're
in the business of asking are we solving homelessness? And
how would we know? Right? And so that idea of
shifting the scoreboard, looking at a different set of information
to give us meaning about progress that we're making. I
think from the perspective of a person working on ending

(13:17):
homelessness or working in homeless services, my hope is that's
a big mindset shift. And even that idea of foregrounding
ending homelessness as the mission, even if my role day
to day is serving the fifteen people in front of
my caseload as a case manager, yes, absolutely, let's make
sure that we're doing that in a way that is

(13:38):
as sort of evidence informed and trauma informed and preserving
people's dignity and yes, all of that, and I've got
to see myself as part of a bigger project, right,
And I think that that's a big mindset shift. And
then the perspective of the person who is on the house,
who's experiencing homelessness, what is that like in in a
built for zero area? So I think the direction we

(14:00):
want to be moving is one where we are first
and foremost making sure that homelessness is rare, brief and
non recurring or one time. That's sort of the and
that is a a a sort of through line that
the you know, the federal government has said, like, that's
the goal, okay, but then in practice, what does that mean?
The hope is that folks first feel seen as a person.

(14:23):
We sometimes use this term about our idea of what
that data in the community might look like, and we
use a term called a by name list or by
name data. And that doesn't mean that we think you
should ignore privacy and share people's personal information, you know, everywhere. No.
So the idea is, though, is that if I'm telling
you today in my community, this is how many people

(14:45):
are experiencing homelessness, I sure had better be able to
tell you more about them. I had better be able
to know who they are, what their needs are, and
so that I can start to right size my services
and my resources to the people who are actually speriencing homelessness,
because I think if you're doing planning and advocacy and
resource creation without really having your arms around the problem,

(15:09):
you're missing half of the puzzle, so to speak. And
so then you know, you could start to measure things
like is the number of days on average that somebody
is experiencing homelessness from touching the system until being able
to move into their own apartment? What's the baseline and
what direction is that moving? And for that person who's
experiencing homelessness, the hope would be that number is trending

(15:33):
in a fewer days, right, and that the deer experience
of the system is one that's responsive, and that they
have some line of sight into some of the top
line accountability measures, which I think is part of the
tricks here is often I think conversations about how is
our work to end homelessness going exclude the folks who

(15:54):
are closest to the problem, right, And so I know
that in some past conversations you've talked to folks about,
you know, sort human centered design or making sure that
we're not you know, I think about some of the
example that you gave in our recent podcast where you're
talking about work in Detroit and sort of returning citizens
and who's in the room informing decisions about system design.

(16:15):
I mean, that's a big thing. That's sort of a
core tenet of what we believe is you've got to
start to engage the folks closest to the problems, whether
that's frontline staff or folks formerly experiencing homelessness or even
currently experiencing homelessness, in reimagining how those systems are configured
so that you can reach that shared goal. So is
that the case with with community solutions? You've got people

(16:37):
on the front lines of service delivery and people who
are experiencing homelessness helping you design this this new approach
of shared accountability and person level data and real time
tracking and feedback that that has been collaboratively developed or
did you just whip this up, you know, on a
whiteboard by yourself. Such a good question. So I'll give

(16:57):
you a really concrete recent example. We are currently operating
in a world where there's no shared national definition in
the US for what it would mean for a community
to end all homelessness. How do we define that? Yeah,
what does success look like? What are we trying to
do here? What does success look like? Benga um And so,
rather than us saying we're pretty smart, we've got some

(17:18):
folks who have been doing this work for decades. Let's
just sit in a lab and figure that out, we
did exactly what you described, which is, we engaged folks
across communities who are currently experiencing homelessness or formerly experiencing homelessness.
We made sure to engage folks who are frontline staff
working in homeless services. We engaged folks who are system

(17:39):
leaders who are ultimately like sort of viewed as the
accountable authority for making sure homeless services are going smoothly
in those communities. And then we also engaged folks at
the federal level whose job is sort of policy setting
and resource management. Tried to synthesize all of those diverging
points of view to come up with how we should
define that shared end. And that, I think is is

(18:00):
the spirit of a lot of the work that we're
doing is saying yes, we have some of the answers,
or we have a hunch with some of the answers
might be. But we need to actually center some of
the folks who are closer to the work. And that's
what's really powerful about getting to work at scale, right,
because if I'm working with folks across the quarter of
the country, there's a good chance that I can sort
of pull up and see the themes that are true

(18:22):
across l A but also rural Ohio. Right, And so
then what is the through line? How do we start
to create things that are working across context? You know,
that's part of what the fun of my job and
what our team considered. And this is the moment where
you heighten your attention to pay attention to our advertisers.

(18:55):
I'm relatively new to Los Angeles still, and our municipal
government set up it's very confusing to my my East
Coast mind. You got the city and the county and
l A counties like eight individual municipalities, and it feels
like a game of you know, people pointing across the
table at each other in a in a hot potato

(19:17):
of not it, And so where does the buck stop?
How do you interact with different levels of jurisdiction around
this problem. So something that's true across the country is
that majority of homeless services funding, maybe not a majority everywhere,
but a lot of it comes from the federal government.

(19:38):
And the way that the federal government pushes that money
out is through uh sort of this big hut program
called the Continuum of Care Program c OC and and
these are these warm key jurisdictions. It's not quite a
county or a city. Often it's kind of a squiggly
line and it looks like a gerrymander, right, But every
part of the country is part of one of these

(19:58):
continuums of care. And what that means is that there's
already some pre existing governance architecture. Now not saying it
works well, but there's something there. You're not starting with
a clean canvas that presents some challenges to right. So
for example, in Los Angeles, it's messy, right, there's the
city and the county, and there's sort of thinking about also,
you know, you've got all these municipalities, like you said,

(20:20):
you've got Long Beach, you've got Glendale. So in a
lot of parts of the country that is true. You've
got these overlapping jurisdictions and bodies, and and ultimately, I
think a lot of our work is saying, let's get
the folks to the table, start with a broad, expansive
set of stakeholders, and see if we can't find that
shared accountability and shared in those first two building blocks.

(20:42):
What's really interesting to me at least in thinking about
somebody who wants to be involved in local politics or
or two to be attuned to like what's happening on
the ground in a city that you live in. And
so we did this this sort of recent support of
this Meninos survey of mayors, and so they went out
and they surveyed a bunch of mayors across the country,
big cities, small cities, and they sort of asked them

(21:03):
about their attitudes a bunch of a bunch of different things.
Over of them said they didn't currently have any sort
of way to know if homelessness is turning in the
right direction in their city. They didn't tie success on
homelessness to reductions and homelessness. And so for me, that
the alarm bells go off right. And again, I think
what we hope will be different in taking this sort

(21:26):
of different built for zero approach, and it's not just us.
Other folks are hopefully doing this too. Is to say,
if we are focusing on homelessness as a solvable problem.
Step one, let's define what that means ending homelessness. I've
got some ideas about that. Federal government has some ideas
about that. Great, let's get that shared aim. Step two,
let's what's the scoreboard? Where do I go to see

(21:48):
how we are doing in l A on ending homelessness?
And I think we've all gotten in the last two
years a crash course in what this might look like
on COVID dashboards. Right, I know where I live now.
I'm not gonna say it's perfect, but I know somewhere
I can go to understand the state of COVID cases
of hospital utilization rates. That's that's really great. That's a

(22:10):
really great because I've used those myself as I've traveled
and like I'm I going into a hot zone. You know,
can I afford to to twist an ankle? And then
this part of the country is now a bad time
to go hiking, you know, based on the icy U
capacity or will I will I will I be able
to get a bed pretty easily? Should something terrible happen,
and it really depending on the wave of COVID we're in,
It's affected my choices, and I felt like I've been

(22:31):
able to make an informed choice. And I think what
you're describing with this idea of a dashboard and you know,
shared aim and then shared progress reports is not just
useful for the service providers and government officials and those
experiencing homelessness, but all of us to know how we're doing.
Because here's my dashboard. I see tense cities, right I have.

(22:56):
I have an anecdotal visual dashboard. I see headlines as
I scroll through various feeds and news reports. I hear
about police actions and things being closed down, and have
a general feeling that housing is harder to come by.
I have some personal stories, but mostly that are slightly
distant removing. I just I could walk away from that
feeling like everything is just getting worse, you know, everywhere,

(23:19):
all the time, and that that might that might not
be the case. It probably isn't the case. So that
that dashboard, that shared progress report, it feels like that
can also help the public broadly understand how we're doing
and vote accordingly and fun things accordingly or change how
they're voting and what they're funding because we know the outcomes.

(23:42):
And so then something as simple as what you described,
which is like bar chart of how many people are
holmemlest today and what direction that is trending over time, right,
which is not like a revelatory you know, it sounds
very simple or really complex algorithm, right, Like, really, what
we're talking about here is descriptive statistics, like just tell

(24:03):
me what is happening, show me, make it visible to me.
That's I think a little bit of my view of
where we start. And then you start to unpack it, right,
and to ask some more interesting and sophisticated questions. So
I'll just name I think a thing that you need
to do as soon as you build that dashboard is
to be able to start to stratify it by at

(24:24):
least race and ethnicity. And the reason why is that
we have national data that shows us that even when
you account for poverty rates, black and Native Americans are
massively open represented and homelessness. I think there's some working
theories of the why there. But again, you're solving homelessness,
how do we know that we're doing that in a
way that's equitable that's not leaving anyone behind. And you know,

(24:46):
there's so many other ways that you might want to
look at that data, right by zip code or or
sort of neighborhood. You might want to look at that
data based on age or other demographic criteria. You might
want to look at where folks were before they experience homelessness.
There's some thing very anonymous about, you know, our national
experience of homelessness. I can remember, as a New Yorker

(25:08):
for twelve years the annual homeless census that would happen,
and so I'm just like, Okay, I know what a
census is. And they're they're sending people out with essentially
clipboards to like count faces and shopping cards and head
count as reported, it's very impersonal, almost dehumanizingly so where

(25:29):
it's just this anonymous pile of people with no personality
to it. And you've used the phrase in your website,
you know, repeats this person level data. Tell me how
you're what you're collecting in terms of personal data, why
you think it's valuable, and how it helps you approach
the problem more effectively than what we've historically been doing

(25:51):
around data. Absolutely, so I think I have also participated
in that homeless census or point in time count. I
think it's when you think about halflow is there's a
no loaf. So if the data that we're using UM
for apples to apples measure is that census, I'll take it.
If the alternative is not a But like you said,
it is dehumanizing, and I think that it also isn't actionable,

(26:13):
right because I don't necessarily have the information about those
folks to be able to understand their needs and so on.
So we are not sort of collecting that level of
data because we're not trying to be the national homeless
database data warehouse. But what we are doing is supporting
local teams to make sure they have that integrated data
source at home and that they can push aggregated data

(26:36):
to us that's tied to that person level data, so
that they could do the version of run me a
report that gets me that homeless census equivalent or at
least the way there on any given Tuesday. That's the
sort of test or goal that I sort of have
folks orient around. And so then you start to ask
who would need to be at the table for us

(26:58):
to feel confident that we knew all the people who
are service connected, and then crucially, how would we know
about the folks who aren't yet service connected? And often
that means street outreach, that means setting up a two
on one hotline. Depending on where you are, it looks different.
It's not going to be bulletproof. But again just saying like,

(27:19):
what is the direction that we can head into where
we're getting closer to comprehensive, real time person level data.
And then on the person level side, I think there's
this question too of what information do you really need
about folks to be able to understand what their housing
needs are? Right? And I think depending on program eligibility
and design, those pieces of information vary. Some of it

(27:42):
is a sensitive information. And so then we do want
to design data systems that do retain sort of privacy
controls and maintain people's right to anonymity. You know, we
know that there's overlap between you know, runaway homeless youth
for example, folks who are survivors of demandstic violence. So
I don't want to take lately the idea of privacy.

(28:03):
And I think we all live right now at a
time where we know so much of our personal data
is made accessible right um, so we want to safeguard
some of that and at the same time we can't
be paralyzed. I think our team has a point of
view on how you can coach or support a team
to not have to start from scratch and to start
to do some of those things like all right, what's
the structured exercise do you do to figure out who
needs to be at the table? How would we print

(28:25):
out or use a sort of r G I S
map to look at our continuous care or our community's
footprint and talk about where are we doing street outreach?
I gotta pause you. You threw out a term and
some letters next to each other that I am confident
most people don't understand, and arc G I S map
break that down for me? Happy to just a virtual
geospatial maps. So basically think about Google Maps as a

(28:49):
really helpful touch point, right, but Google Maps with sort
of a boundary around our community and then the ability
to sort of drill down and talk about, all right,
do we have some foe to go and actually canvas
walk the blocks right to see who's experiencing homelessness, to
talk to them, not just to sort of count their
faces like you were saying but to actually build some relationships,

(29:10):
understand people's needs and so on. And I think especially
in places, um where it's a mix of urban and
sort of more suburban or rural together, what you'll often
find is folks are really attuned to walk in the
downtown blocks and nobody's going over there to that residential
neighborhood that's mostly people of color or lower income folks, right, um,

(29:31):
and so what about the folks camping over there? How
will they get service connected? Right? How will how will
we know them by name so to speak, or allow
the system to feel on the hook for resolving their
experience of homelessness. Because again I think if we've if
we're creating this beautiful dashboard or a place that you
and I are going to know, how are we doing
on homelessness? A big risk is that if you're missing

(29:53):
a slice of the pie, we start to pat ourselves
on the back for making gains that don't benefit South lay,
that don't benefit you know, folks on the other side
of the river in d C. So to speak, Like,
those things I think for me really stand out as
so earlier you can start to think about those things
and make sure folks from those neighborhoods and communities are

(30:14):
at the table. The more reliable the data is going
to be, the more confidence we can have in that
as our understanding of our shared score board towards Saurday.
There's a lot of money in trying to solve some
of these big societal problems, like you know, unhoused folks,
and in every arena where there is a lot of money,
there can be a lot of competition, even in including

(30:37):
the nonprofit sector, and that can lead people to not
play well with others, to want to keep things proprietary,
to hoard information or resources or connections their rolodecks. Do
you encounter that level of isolationism competition as you work
across so many existing silos. There's some, but I think

(31:00):
it it sort of depends on how you frame it
and how you activate folks. For a long time, I
think the status quo in the homeless response sector was
that we thought about program and project level metrics. Right, So,
how is bartun Day's homeless shelter doing. Let's make a
dashboard that shows their outputs and outcomes um and then

(31:20):
make sure that they're getting the important funding they need
from federal partners and elsewhere. In the last ten years,
there's been an exceed change, and not just because of
our work, but lots of other good folks doing work
out in the field to say, actually, what we need
our coordinated systems that start to look beyond program project
to talk about system or community language. And I think

(31:41):
that's part of the challenge, honestly, is to create the
space for people working in homeless response or homeless services
to see how their work rolls up to that big
picture aim. Because I think if we don't do that,
you're totally right, which is what We'll have one dashboard
that the mayor and that you and I are looking at,
and the other one that's meaningful for the boots on

(32:02):
the ground, and we got to sink those things up.
There has to be some way in which I see
how my contributions on the front line roll up to
that COVID dashboard number, right, And I think that again,
what's awesome is that we have this accessible, I think
for all of us today, for better and worse, involuntarily.
So but yeah, we're all way too familiar with infection

(32:26):
rates and are not and hospitalization rates, and I see
you capacity and how you as a citizen in your
community or somebody working in a hospital. What is your
role to play in that data? You have one right
and we've really like tried to public health message with
mixed results where am as socially distance you have a

(32:46):
role to play. Then the curve right, and so what
is the analog here for homelessness in housing? I think
there there is one or there is a role for
us to play. And especially if you work in the
space right like, it's crucial that you see the work
you're doing, whether as a policymaker or a frontline staffer,
or somebody working in a healthcare system or another adjacent system.

(33:07):
What's your role on the work to end homelessness where
you live? And how do we make it easier for
people to ask and answer that question. I mean a
lot of the tools you're using sound like the way
many of his experience. You know, any digital service at
this point right there trying to know their customers. They've
got dashboards, whether it's like a ride share company or

(33:30):
an e commerce company, auto business, there is much more
real time. You know, you don't take a snapshot once
a year and use that to guide your decision making,
and you don't exist for years on end without actually
understanding who you're serving, you know, and and getting user
feedback and observing folks. So you're you're applying some of

(33:51):
the things from tech and business in part to this
this place that could really use a boost and really
use some innovation. But I'm I'm also hearing it's not
just throwing machines, and there's a lot of soft skills
going on here, some local politics, some cajol ing and
enticing maybe, and and literal meetings. You know, it probably

(34:14):
moves a little slower than than a server would then
some code would compile, because you gotta get somebody to
that meeting and make them see Glendale. You gotta sit
next to burd Bank and we're cool and we're not
trying to fight each other over this, and you gotta listen.
It sounds like you do a lot of listening rather
than kind of swooping in with your preferred solution to

(34:35):
the problem. And my categorizing this balance pretty well or
is there a piece that I might be missing it.
I think you're categorizing it well. And what I'll say is,
I think part of working at scale forces you to
view the forest, and what I mean by that is sure,
I could try and create the perfect bespoke tech solution

(34:56):
that really fits today's workflows in my one community. And
the reality is, what we've seen is that the portability
of those awesome solutions. Right. I've been part of multiple
hackathons that involved large fortune tech companies bringing top engineering
talent to bear on trying to create something that's going

(35:16):
to meaningfully contribute to ending homelessness where they are and
I laud those efforts and I think that there's value
in them. And what makes the transportability of those solutions
hard is that today, at least a lot of the
plumbing the foundational work nationally isn't there. I think this
is not just true in homelessness, right. Um, you know,

(35:38):
I think a year or two ago, a lot of
the country started to pay attention to police data and
police incident data, right, police involved shooting data, if we
want to use that language, and again it's apples to oranges.
I could build something awesome that works for one city
and then the ability for another police department to piggyback
and say, let me just download that from the app
store and start using it, right, And so what is it?

(36:01):
And you know, we started to dig into some of
these foundational questions just in the last year or two, honestly,
to think about what would enable the space to be
more like that. I I brought up the example of
healthcare earlier, and top of mind for me these days
is if you are somebody who's experiencing has in crisis
or homelessness, you can today almost anywhere download your own

(36:23):
profile so that you have tangible ownership of that data
so that you can just forward it onto your next
case manager or choose to disclose or not disclose. Right,
So that feeling of what does it feel like to
be on the receiving end of this service machinery? Right,
all really well intentioned. But again I think there's this

(36:44):
quote that we often talk about. Every system is perfectly
designed to achieve the results that it gets, right. It's
it's sort of credited to outward DEMI is like the
father of quality improvement science. But but to me, what
that means is not malintention. It's just the thing that
we've chosen to prioritize. Right. For a long time has
been are we spending money? Well, that has been the question,

(37:08):
and more narrowly than that, are we running effective programs
and projects to manage homelessness. And so we've got a
ton of machinery and a ton of infrastructure designed to
answer that question, and folks are trying to bend that
machinery to answer a different set of questions. And that's
what a lot of our work is is designed to
help people pivot those systems that are designed to answer

(37:29):
one set of questions to try and solve homelessness and
asking answer the questions needed to do that. There's ah,
that's this is good. Now we're now we're GM and
not that we were before. But I'm really feeling this
because so much of our experience with technology as users
sometimes victims is uh, we're engaging with a system designed

(37:52):
to answer a question we're not aware of. No, we
think by way of of loose and slop. Example, we
think that you know, Facebook is answering the question how
can I stay in touch with my friends and family?
And the question they're trying to answer is how can
we monetize our knowledge of your behavior by selling it

(38:15):
to brands and agencies? Right, That's that's probably a higher
priority question. There are is answering many questions, but their
system is designed to optimize outcome for monetization of user
behavior and data, not necessarily the quality of your relationships
with your friends and family, much less the fabric of
our democracy and the sustainability thereof. So if we were
designing a system that was like, how do we build

(38:38):
healthy communities where people feel seen and can interact even
across difference, we probably wouldn't build this version of Facebook.
But that's not what the VCS funded. That's not the
question they were asking, and they were in charge of
how that tool got deployed ultimately, So this is really
good around homeless services as an example, are we trying
to manage are we trying to optimize program output, or

(38:58):
are we actually trying to in homelessness and achieve this
thing that that your organization calls functional zero in terms
of the experience and the quantification of homelessness in any
given community. So my question to you, what is the
community look and feel like when it achieves functional zero
when you actually end homelessness overall or at least for

(39:20):
major categories that you're tracking, because your data is so
much more personalized. So I think it looks two ays. Uh. First,
for the person who's experiencing a house in crisis, it's rare.
That's one one important piece. It's a brief. Right. So
the amount of time you spend in the waiting room,
so to speak, right, if we want to use the

(39:41):
analogy of a hospital, is relatively little. The waiting room
of available housing. That exactly right. How long is somebody
in a homeless shelter or sleeping outside? Right? How long
are they experiencing homelessness but connected to services before they're
able to get some support? Right? That ultimately is sort
of so let me, let me, let me I want
to Actually, I'm gonna split this into two different questions.

(40:03):
So first, what is your definition of ending homelessness or
or what are some examples of definitions your team has
seen from the various places in which you're operating. Sure,
so we have a shared definition that we use nationally
that you mentioned called functional zero. The shorthand version of

(40:23):
it is that very few people are experiencing homelessness at
any given time. And then when you double click on that,
what needs to be true is that few people enter homelessness,
you're able to support the folks who are experiencing homelessness
pretty quickly, and that when folks leave homelessness, they don't
cycle back, right. So again just at a conceptual level,
pretty straightforward, and we sometimes you sort of the analogy

(40:45):
of what would it look like if you started to
think about an empty bathtub. Well, I want to make
sure that the rate of which water is draining out
of the bathtub is pretty high, and I want to
turn the faucet off, right, and so both of those things.
And then when you start to get into the weeds,
well we got to figure out where are people coming
into homelessness from, what is the precipitating events or what

(41:09):
what is happening in people's homeless histories. And unsurprisingly, what
you look at across the country, I think is that
we don't know a ton because our data hasn't been
that strong. But what we do know is that it
maps largely to network poverty. In other words, you can't
make rents and nobody can fill the gap for you.
And you know, I think we know which groups historically

(41:31):
in America are have been most likely to experience network
poverty and the deep structural racist roots of that truth, right,
Black Native Americans. I mentioned it earlier. The other thing
that I think is true is that there's this moment
of you know, I mentioned your conversation about returning citizens, right,

(41:52):
And there was a line in there that I think
Shaka said where he said something along the lines of
I'm having trouble getting an apartment or I didn't know
what it would be like to try and meet eligibility
criteria or get screened out of being able to rent
an apartment. Right. Is that we've got all of these folks,

(42:13):
whether they returning citizens, folks discharging out of foster care systems. Um,
we talk about adjacent or upstream systems. Right. So the
idea of what parts of the social safety net shabby
though it might be in America or other systems, are
people touching before they experience a housing crisis or before

(42:33):
they become homeless? Right? And the answer is often one
or more systems? Right? And so what would it look
like for those systems to start to view their responsibility
as Hey, I've got a metric of nobody leaves our
system and enters homelessness, right, and can we even track that?
And what would that look like? What would it take?
And and we're doing some cool work right now. I

(42:54):
don't think we've got it figured out, but there's cool
work with some some big not even public just like
private healthcare entities, to just say like, hey, you've got
this huge footprint, you have all these emergency rooms. It
actually benefits your bottom line to have fewer people homeless
because we know that those folks can cycle in and
out of emergency rooms and have adverse health outcomes. So

(43:14):
it's not just the right thing to do, but it
also sort of aligns with your profit motive. Great, awesome,
Let's figure out what it looks like for you to
have a goal of nobody leaves your hospital and enters
homelessness over a window of time, or start to activate
you as feeling part of solving the problem. And I
think that's the thing is more than anything, what is
true in communities that have ended functional zero is more

(43:37):
and more people feel like they have a role to
play in making sure homelessness has ended in their community.
It's not something somebody else is doing, it's something we
are doing collectively. And I think that feels really powerful.
After a short break, we'll be right back the connection.

(44:08):
It's something that we've lost in so many parts of
our society and even in our own bodies. But you
made me think of like a bodily injury metaphor where
you know, I've had issues with a knee, and you know,
if I can work on that issue by just focusing
on the knee, I can get X rays of the knee,
I can inject steroids into the knee. But I can

(44:29):
also work on the muscles around the knee right. I
can give massage therapy. I can do strengthening exercises for
the hamstring and the quads and the calves and the
shin muscles, and that can provide extra support so that
a weak quad isn't exacerbating my knee pain and my
knee problem. And so as you move upstream and maybe
down to know where people coming from, where they're entering

(44:51):
the crisis point from where you're seeing knee pain, Um,
there may be a quad issue going on higher in
the leg. And where are they going to you know,
after this brief, increasingly brief period of not having housing,
do you have somewhere for people to go? You know,
and what role do you play in creating a resilient

(45:13):
kind of network and shared responsibility about reducing the flow
into that tub and also you know, draining it quickly
when people find themselves in there to begin with. So,
so where do people go in these functional zero communities
when things were hmming along. I'm working much better than
a lot of us have seen from the outside. Yes,
so I think um to use that healthcare hospital analogy.

(45:37):
Something that we've seen as a missing link in a
lot of communities is that even when they start to
think of themselves as a system with that shared aim,
the triage function. So the first thing that happens when
I go to an emergency room is they asked me
a couple of questions and they figure out if I
can chill for a couple of hours or if they
need to get me into a bad space ap right,

(45:59):
And that I yeah, I think you know it's it's
not new, And I think a lot of communities over
the last couple of years they've been trying to build
that muscle of sort of leveraging data and process and systems,
thinking to figure out how to match individual people with
a level of support. But I think the challenge here
is that for a long time, the tools that we

(46:20):
were using for that process were a little bit opaque,
and like you were saying earlier about Facebook and your
Facebook is operating with one North star aim and you
are operating with a different one. It's not to say
these weren't aligned, but I think that the people closest
to the problem weren't at the table for designing how

(46:40):
that triage process would work. What was important to people,
Like a really interesting experience that I had just in
the last couple of years is we started to think
about how could we support communities to measure the equity
of their systems right. So you can imagine a world
where community they're hitting all these quantitative stats, very few
people are homeless. The system is is churning along and moving,

(47:03):
and they're not serving everybody equally, or somebody is getting
left out. And what we realized is that when you
engage folks, it's not just the quantitative side. They also
want to know how did it feel? And so so
to bring it back to your question about, you know,
the outflow or the moving into permanent housing in these
communities that have achieved functional zero or that are doing

(47:24):
something right or different, I think what is true is
that the experience of receiving support preserves people's dignity, and
more than that, they feel like the system was responsive
to them. And for me, I'll admit this was a
blind spot. Right. It's not just how many days somebody
was experiencing homelessness, But there's this more subjective piece of it,

(47:45):
which is like what quality like the quality of those days? Right? Uh?
You know? And again like I have been in a
hospital bed where you press the button and a nurse
doesn't come for like an hour, versus you press the
button and they show up, and the two days in
the hospital bed feel very differently depending on the responsiveness
of that push button feeling right, And so there are

(48:06):
so many things we know, right like that about the
quality of care. And again, because we've been used to
this resource scarcity and trying to optimize resources, which yes,
I get it and I understand, but that scarcity mindset
activates in you efficiency over everything, and the reality of
being on the receiving end of an efficient system can

(48:27):
sometimes be pretty decumanizing. And so how do you threat
the needle there? It's hard, right, I'm gonna admit, I mean,
part of it is how do we get out of
scarcity so that we don't have to do that? And
you know, in the last couple of years, there's been
an influx of resources that means that in more and
more places, we might not have to choose between equality
of care and an efficiency standard, which is a false

(48:47):
economy anyway. But I think we're getting to a place
where people are asking those questions more often. The health
care metaphor is really appropriate because it's also it's life
and death is it's really a high impact sector versus
like the retail shoe experience some of us have, right
it's just less critical, you know, to our daily lives

(49:08):
as important as sneakers are. Too many people listening to
us right now. No offense to my sneaker heads. But
a dashboard could show a hospitals having great success in
their surgeries. The patient can tell you a different story
about how they were ignored or disrespected or treated without
any sense of ownership or agencies. I've been in that situation,
family members have been in that situation, and you feel used, abused, ignored,

(49:32):
and you realize I'm not a doctor or a lawyer,
and I need to be both those things to get
my needs met here effectively. And so if you're going
through a not a health crisis but a housing crisis, yeah,
the idea that you don't have control of your own
profile and you're just kind of being passed around and
somebody else's database and they're telling you things about you
that aren't even true or not even asking um and

(49:54):
the quality of your time and what's up. Well, I
was just gonna say, I think I think not just
telling you things that are not true, but maybe asking
you to relive something super traumatic over and over and
over again because their data systems can't talk to each other.
So I've got to ask you about the domestic violence
that precipitated you experiencing homelessness, and maybe you're not really
trying to talk about that this morning. And then does

(50:15):
that inhibit you from being eligible for this rental assistance program?
Because I don't know the thing that's gonna unlock the
door because finger right, Like again, what we've surfaced is
a way in which the system is not designed with
that user initially in mind. And a lot of folks
have done really meaningful work to start to try and
transform these systems, but I think we've still got work

(50:36):
to do as a country on it. You're so, should
we just put like community solutions in charge of the
remaining of of this sort of homelessness response in the
United States? No, and I'll even correct you and say
we're not responsible for either. But I do think we
should do, though, is try and get more and more

(50:57):
of the country feeling like they're of a movement of
ending homelessness. I think there's something really powerful in that.
And what I see is that when folks start to
expect or understand that things can be better, they start
to show up in a different way, right, whether they're
working in the system, whether they're an informed citizen in
their community. I think starting to do this mindset shift

(51:20):
work to say, you know, I expect there to be
accountability for results. I don't think this is a problem
that's intractable. Obviously, we've got a housing crisis at a
national level, yes, and even within that context, there are
shades of doing better and worse right with the hand
that you're dealt. And so not to say we shouldn't

(51:41):
push on the structural barriers that exist, Yes, absolutely we should.
And you and I both know that in a community
like Los Angeles, there's just been a big influx of
resources from the state from a local ballot measure, multiple
local ballot measures, right, And so how are we thinking
about the impact that that has on people's experience of

(52:02):
housing instability and crisis on our experience of living in neighborhoods,
and you know, starting to get curious about how we
would know if we were making progress towards and then
homelessness where you live. I think it is a good
first step. This is a good segue because I'm I'm
hearing you as a listener, not just as the host
of this show. And I want to be a part

(52:24):
of this community solution. To use your organization's name. I have,
you know, been saddened by and frustrated by and feeling
impotent about this perceived an actual level of increased you know,
housing crisis and the failures of our society in so
many ways to have people living on the streets as

(52:46):
one example, What are some ways that I can get
more involved, that I can bring to bear, that I
can plug in in some way I want to help
share some of this responsibility that you talked about, shared accountability,
these shared goals. Where can I be a part of that?
Such a good question. So I think three things come

(53:07):
to mind. The first is just to start to understand
homelessness as a solvable problem that's about systems and not
about the failing of individual people. I think a lot
of us don't know anybody firsthand who is currently experiencing
homelessness or has experienced homelessness recently, and so it becomes
a dehumanizing story. Right that person who is almost over there.

(53:30):
I don't know anything about them. They may not look
like me. It's hard for me to see myself in them,
and so I start to view the matter a move
right or to center them in the narrative about homelessness
in my community. Oh, those people and their substance use,
or they're out of town or nature or whatever. Right
there are neighbors, and I think that there's something really

(53:53):
powerful in leaning into that discomfort, though may make you
feel impotent, as you were saying, of viewing those as
people deserving of a home, not about fixing the people,
about fixing the system. So that mindset you have feels crucial. First,
The second thing for me is I mentioned those continuums
of care won key term CEO c S. Type in

(54:14):
your your community name and CEOC into a web browser.
You'll figure out some information about local folks doing the work.
And I think I would encourage for people to get
connected to those entities. It's a little bit of a
learning curve, I know, but you know, you can sort
of choose how you want to approach it and get connected.

(54:34):
For folks who want to feel more involved in direct,
tangible material support, tons of opportunities, I think, especially as
fingers crossed the pandemic starts to wane wherever you live,
for folks to show up and start to get face time,
to humanize some of the folks experiencing housing crisis in
their neighborhood with their community. And then for people who

(54:54):
are maybe looking for a little bit more of that
system angle or orientation, I'd invite you to to start
to get some of those committees or decision making groups right, So,
how are we deciding policies on how the money gets
spent or how we're measuring success. A lot of those
have participatory processes where they're really excited to have people
show up. And just like so much of participatory democracy,

(55:15):
the people who tend to show up often I think
aren't maybe are the listeners of your program, And so
I'd encourage more people to start to get involved and
tap in. And then maybe the third thing that I'll
say is that you know, I mentioned these themes of
data and accountability and shared aim. You know, I mentioned
that Menino mayor survey and how few mayors across the

(55:37):
country said they view success on homelessness as tied to
reductions and homelessness, which is bananas. Right. If I ask
anybody you know, or my parents or whoever, how should
we think about if we're doing better on homelessness? One
of the first things people say is we should have
fewer people who are homeless. How is that arrow trending? Right?

(55:58):
And we've got to be able to see that more
than just annually, and we have to be able to
see that in a way that passes the sniff test
for the people doing the work on the ground across
a variety of communities, right, And so start to ask
for that accountability for that line of state into the
data where you live. I think we should start to
feel in the same way that if I if tomorrow
they started to tell me we can't tell you how

(56:19):
many COVID cases there are you know a county, I'd
be like, what do you mean? I mean, who do
I call? Right? We should start to expect that, right, like,
let us raise the bar on what we expect um
and again not just seeing the data, but understanding which
way is headed and why um and start to unpack
and have those conversations. There's always a set of elections

(56:42):
going on, and mayor is a very important one. And
so just to have in mind a question to ask
your mayor or the people who want to who want
that job, you know, what's your definition of success? How
will you know if your plan to you know, reduce
homelessness is working and if they are, I don't know.

(57:02):
And let me tell you another red flag too, right,
which is if you live in California, or in Washington State,
or in somewhere where of homelessness is visible. I think
a real risk to us having a scoreboard that's about
how visible homelessness is is that we create a big
old set a warehouses and we shove people into that.
Not because that's the ultimate end state goal, but if

(57:24):
we create a set of incentives, if we say to
our mayor, the measure of your success on homelessness is
the number of tents on my block. Think about the
easiest way to shrink the number of tents on my block.
It's a lot easier to move people out of sight
and out of mind than it is to solve some
of the underlying structural challenges that we face in our

(57:45):
communities that are leading to the homelessness crisis. And so
I think, more than anything, I think I want to
also say, if you're going to engage with elected folks,
be sure to ask not just what's the plan for
the encampments or of folks sleeping on my block? Not
to say that isn't important. I know for a lot
of different reasons that matters to people. But that second

(58:07):
question of how will I know that the data is
showing those folks are in safe and stable, permanent housing
and not just in a homeless shelter that we've built
last week down the street, because that's not really success.
That's a step in the direction, for sure, and especially
if that homeless shelter is high quality and is a

(58:28):
tune to people's needs and experiences. Sure, by all means right,
but I think we have examples of major cities on
the East Coast or and other leather places where they've
invested really heavily in a really big and expensive shelter system,
and while it definitely meets some of people's immediate humanitarian needs,
it's a bit of a band aid, right, And and

(58:50):
so how do we avoid creating a set of incentives
that push people to invest more and more in just
bigger band aids, right, because that makes them look good.
So I think that's important catch forty to to stay
on top of. I'm glad you pointed that out. Thank you.
We call this show How to Citizen. We consider citizen
as a verb, not a legal status, and you know

(59:12):
it means all kinds of things to Our definition of
citizen is like premised on these four basic blocks. But
you got your four blocks, right, your four elements of
built for zero. We have ours for How to Citizen,
which involved number one showing up and participating. Number two,
you know, investing in relationships with yourself, with others and

(59:33):
with the planet around you. Number three understanding power. That
is something we all have and it shows up in
more than just votes and dollars. There's a lot of
different ways to exercise it and generate it. And number
four that we use all these to benefit our collective selves,
not just our individual cells. So as you hear that overview,
and you've you know, done some homework, I hear too.

(59:55):
I appreciate that you know what the show is about
what does in the context of you're doing for work,
what does it mean to citizen? What does citizen as
a verb mean to you? I love those four building
blocks that you have. What resonates most with me is
the citizen is to feel responsible for the circumstances of

(01:00:16):
your community. Right. So it's a bit of a blend
of showing up and investing, but also benefiting the collective
as you've had in there. And to me, I think
when we bring it to the issue of homelessness, viewing
yourself as playing a role in your community beyond just
like are you nice to people? Are you humanizing? Do

(01:00:38):
you smile? Yes? Does matter? But more broadly, at the
system level, are you starting to think about showing up
in that space as having a role to play, um
as feeling part of the collective ownership? Right? I think
more than anything, one of the things that happens when
you start to humanize people, to make eye contact, to

(01:01:00):
not look away, to ask people their names, to see
how they're doing, to view them as your neighbors, is
it unlocks a sense of responsibility, right, um, And and
I think that we are we are accepting of the
conditions in our communities. Right to me, how the citizen
also means to feel responsible for the status quo where

(01:01:22):
you live and to feel responsible for making it better. Right,
And like you said, that might be about exercising your
power in terms of elections or money. It might be
about exercising other things. Right, Um, I don't know. But
what I do know is that if I accept, If
if I walk through skid row in Los Angeles and
I accept that it is what it is, and I

(01:01:43):
don't know what to do about it, it's out of
my hands or it's untractable, it can't be solved. It's
the easiest way. Don't let myself off the hook. And
I think more than anything else, I asked people not
to do that. Right, almost this is solvable. Look around.
If your community is not ending homelessness, try and figure
out what you can do to change that. And so,
like I said, I think folks can go to our

(01:02:04):
website and figure out how to get involved. See if
their community is part of Built for Zero And if not,
what's the website? What's the website? Say at Community dot Solutions,
how did you get that? How did you get that
cool domain name? That's a domain name? I'm the tech
and data guy. Man, that's what we do. Very cool.
Speaking of you being a tech and data guy, you've

(01:02:26):
shared a lot about the programs and about your approach
and some of the victories and some of the challenges.
Why are you working here? What what's led you to
spend you know, your full time work efforts in this
organization working on this problem and these solutions More importantly, Yeah,
I appreciate that reframe. So I started at Community Solutions

(01:02:46):
a little over seven years ago, which is wild. Um.
It was one of the first handful of jobs I
had out of college. My academic background is in international development,
and then I went back to school there in my
career and double down on statistics. And the reason I
did that, and the reason I stick around at Community
Solutions is because what I learned in those first handful

(01:03:10):
years in my job was that we've gotten pretty good,
especially around issues like housing and homelessness, at helping one
person or one family, Right, something really compelling about homelessness
as an issue area. So there's there's a really obvious
we don't need to go to the lab and come
up with the cure for homelessness, right, It's not like,
you know, biomedical research is needed here, right. The cure

(01:03:33):
for homelessness is housing, period And what we know is
that we have a really robust set of evidence informed
social work practices, housing models, and housing stability and support
models that say, and for folks who don't know that,
there's this great term called housing first, and there's a
whole bunch of associated research and models for how you

(01:03:58):
successfully implement housing first to help one household, one family,
run one excellent program. So okay, we know how to
help one person, one family, one run one excellent program,
and yet the sum total of all of that activity
isn't resulting in the outcome we care about. And that
is a really interesting and thorny puzzle. It's what drives

(01:04:19):
me out of bad every morning is to say, how
can I help contribute to us unlocking that thorny puzzle.
But what also gives me a lot of hope is
because we know how to help those one family and
one person how to run one excellent program project. These
feels like an easy place for us, easy air quotes,
place for us to start to take a stand on

(01:04:39):
raising the floor on what we are willing to accept
as a society and a culture in terms of poverty
and minimum standards of quality of life in our communities.
I think about the fact that we have collectively decided
that if you get hit by a bus and you
don't have insurance, we give you healthcare. And we've decided
collectively that if you can't afford something to eat, you

(01:05:02):
can qualify for a foods type and or about of it.
These are human rights. And when you look at that,
you know some of your listeners may be sort of
familiar with Maslow's hierarchy of needs, a long y term
for what's the bread and butter stuff you need to
stay alive as a human being? Right? Housing is on
that bottom level. It's the base of the pyramid. It
is a thing that we know people need, and yet

(01:05:23):
somehow along the way we are not yet out of
place where all the people eligible for housing assistants get
it right. And so there's a resource constrained angle, but
there's also a set of system decisions and designs, and
I'm excited to get to work on those things. Where
did you grow up? So I am the child of refugees,

(01:05:44):
I'm an immigrant. I grew up across Toronto, Washington, d C.
And then throughout my childhood increasingly more upscale suburbs of Washington,
d C. So we started out in Congress Heights. Back
when I was a little kid, we lived in public housing.
We had the opportunity to sort of move up that
socioeconomic ladder. I got to see it firsthand. I spent

(01:06:06):
a lot of my childhood formative years either living in
subsidized housing benefiting from some of these public programs, or
turning around and having folks live with us. Uh So
sort of that chain migration story of having relatives or
even community members who am not related to sharing space

(01:06:27):
in our home. And so what feels true to me
is that there's a really crucial linkage here in terms
of housing and opportunity, right, those things are linked, and
I think sometimes we missed that. And so as we're
having these conversations about what kind of country you want
to be or what kind of person I want to
be in my community, I think this issue area I

(01:06:48):
really feels like it hits close to home and it
moves me. And then in terms of the data and
tech side of things, I think, after having worked in
this space for a couple of years, what felt true
is that people were in the field, we're experiencing data
and tech as a barrier to their work and not
as a catalyst. And that felt bananas, right, And I

(01:07:08):
have this this quote actually that it sits on a
sticky note on my monitor. I'd love to to share
it with you, which is from somebody who's a frontline worker,
and they said, I've seen how our data and tech
systems contribute to people spending time on the streets and
being more likely to die on the streets, and it's unacceptable.

(01:07:28):
And we know we have data that says if you're
experiencing homelessness, you're life expectancy decreases by about seventeen years
on average. And that's not. That's real, right, that's real harm.
It's not I'm having fun sleeping on the beach stuff, right.
And so once you start to see that and you
think about, you know, what does it mean to be

(01:07:48):
doing international development work? But then you come home and
there's an encampment on your block. Who's got that ball?
Who's doing domestic development work? And lots of people are
doing it. But I think we have an opportunity to
shift what that looks like. Thank you for letting me
in there. That it you make sense doing what you're
doing to me who just met you, and you snuck

(01:08:09):
a pun in there bringing it all home. I caught
that that was good, And I think you know, it's
something you started off with a while ago about seeing
folks in a housing crisis, seeing people who are unhoused
as people and as our neighbors, and and it feels
like you know something that you got to experience and
be a part of as a child yourself. You're taking

(01:08:31):
people in, You're being taken into something like we're all connected,
we're all family here to some degree, and take an ownership,
you know, for our communities. It's it's our responsibility the
way things are, and it's also our responsibility to change
the way things are. And if we can, you know,
say we more on both sides of those as opposed
to they or you or just anybody but me. That

(01:08:55):
sense the ownership, I hope, is more empowering. You've left
me feeling more empowered. I'm going to be contemplating, you know,
housing as a is a human right and as that
base level of Maslow's hierarchy, as well as my unhoused
you know, neighbors as neighbors, and I definitely have some
questions for these people trying to represent us in the

(01:09:15):
various halls of a form of political power. Because you've
raised the floor, I think on what we should expect
from ourselves, and for that, I thank you for citizening
so much. Thank you wonderful to be in conversation with you,
and I feel excited for us to continue to build
the movement across the country that believes some lessness is solvable.
We're doing it, yo. That was That was a dope conversation.

(01:09:42):
Like Ura said, homelessness is solvable, and we're doing it,
so true to form for our podcast. Here, here's some
actions you can take to be part of the solution.
As always, we offer this in three levels. First, try
these personal reflections. This is something you can do all

(01:10:03):
by yourself. I prefer if you try to do this
out loud though. These are inspired by Ross's recommendations, and
I just want you to repeat after me. I believe
that homelessness is solvable. I understand that we must fix systems,
not people. I consider people experiencing homelessness in my community

(01:10:29):
to be my neighbors. Guys. It play it back. If
you need to look at yourself in the mirror, think
it out loud inside your head, but really I want
you to try to say those things and believe them,
because so often we behave as if we think the
opposite is true. And I think if we start saying

(01:10:51):
something different to ourselves, we might show up differently in
the world. All right, here's the next level. Let's get
more in full formed in a way that continues to
humanize these neighbors of ours. There's a really cool website
an organization called Invisible People. You can find them at

(01:11:11):
Invisible people dot tv, and they use storytelling, education, news
and activism to change the narrative on homelessness. These videos
are really well done, really compelling, and they tell a
whole story most of us don't see if we just
rely on the news and social media. From their site,

(01:11:33):
you can find links to their Facebook, their Instagram, their Twitter,
and their YouTube, so there's no excuse not to find
them because they're they're everywhere. After watching two videos myself,
I became a supporter on their Patreon. It's that good.
So check that out and just adjust the information sources

(01:11:54):
you rely on to tell you the story of a
house people, and this is one that put to that
narrative in the hands of folks much closer to that experience. Finally,
our level three publicly participate. What single action have we
come up with feed to do on this one? Well,
in this case, we're outsourcing. We're leveraging existing efforts through

(01:12:18):
arosis organization Community Solutions. They set up a whole page
literally devoted to citizen action. Like I'm not kidding. You
go to this page and there's a big old icon
that says for citizens. And they don't mean people with documentation,
they mean people like you if you're listening to this podcast.
They built a whole page for you. We're partners and

(01:12:40):
didn't even know it. So here's the website, Community dot
Solutions slash take dash as an hyphen action, Community dot
Solutions slash take dash Action. It's a whole playbook to
learn more, to connect locally to those continuums of k
are that we're all a part of, and to hold

(01:13:02):
our communities and our elected officials accountable for hending ending homelessness. Now, look,
we got links to all this and more as usual
at how to citizen dot com and in the episode
show notes of whatever software you're using to listen to
this podcast. Right now. Follow us on Instagram at how

(01:13:23):
the Citizen. Tag us in your posts, use the hashtag
how the Citizen. And here's a special ask because I
didn't know I was going to get a chance to
talk to you again before we dropped another full season
on you. Season four. We're thinking about it, we're figuring
it out, and I want your thoughts. So if you're
if you're on the Instagram, you d m U, s

(01:13:43):
apt message tag, whatever the lingo. It's always changing, get
at us on Instagram, or if you want a more thorough,
direct and less public line, email comments at how to
citizen dot com. We still have that channel open, and
I would particularly be interested to know who you want
us to bring on the show, what types of topics

(01:14:04):
do you want us to engage in, and how else
might you want to connect with each other and with
the show, Because I gotta be real, I missed making
this show which on Zoom like we did in the
first season. It was a little lower tech in some ways,
a little lower sound design, but it was nice to
be there within the room with you in some ways.
So whether it's you know, live during recordings or with

(01:14:27):
some kind of online forum, let me know how you
might want to connect with me, with the show and
with each other more as we figure out what to
do for season four. Look at that poet. Didn't even
know it alright, Chell How the Citizen with Barrett Tune
Day is a production of I Heart Radio podcast. Our

(01:14:48):
executive producers are Me Barrattum Day Thurston, and Elizabeth Stewart.
Original music by Andrew Eapen, with additional original music for
season three from Andrew Clauses. This episode was produced and
edited by Max Williams and special thanks to Joel Smith
I Heart Radio, Mischa Yusuf and Samika Adams from Dusklike Productions.

(01:15:09):
Thanks y'all, m m HM
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