From January through May 2018, the Community Shelter Board brought together representatives of various service organizations to meet and discuss the implementation of a new, three-year community plan with the goal of effectively ending homelessness in Franklin County and Columbus
Problems and Purpose
Homelessness is a pervasive problem throughout the United States of America, and Ohio is not immune to its effects. In January 2017, an estimated 553,742 people were experiencing homelessness in Ohio alone (HUD, 2017). The purpose of the Community Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness is to combat these numbers in Franklin County and Columbus County through a three-year action plan. The ultimate goal of this case is to prevent homelessness and, if it cannot be prevented, to make it “rare, brief, and one time” (CSB(c), 2018). The Community Shelter Board sought input from many different service providers as well as people who have experienced homelessness in order to create a holistic plan that considered every option equally.
Background History and Context
The Community Shelter Board (CSB) was created in 1986 and exists to create community efforts to solve problems related to homelessness and housing instability (CSB, 2018). Some of these services include “homelessness prevention, shelter, street outreach, rapid re-housing, and permanent supportive housing” (CSB, 2018). CSB has used the citizen engagement process once before. The last time that CSB created a plan to prevent and end homelessness was in 2008 and was a ten-year plan called the Rebuilding Lives Plan (CSB, 2018a). Since 2008, many things have changed, which made the planning and implementation of a new strategy for solving these problems necessary. For instance, CSB has noticed that, though their 10-year plan in 2008 helped house many people experiencing homelessness find housing, the family shelters are “still packed full due to a very competitive housing market” (CSB, 2018a, p. 1). Additionally, CSB saw the need to scale down the timeline of their plan from ten years to three in an effort to make the goals and objectives more reasonable and achievable. Because of some of the successes CSB saw in the 2008 plan, CSB decided once again to use citizen engagement and participation techniques to form a collaborative plan that involved the entire community of stakeholders.
Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities
The Community Shelter Board organized the planning and implementation of this plan. CSB is funded by City of Columbus, the Franklin County Board of Commissioners, the United Way of Central Ohio, The Columbus Foundation, Nationwide Foundation, American Electric Power Foundation, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the State of Ohio, and many other public and private investors (CSB, 2018b).
Participant Recruitment and Selection
The board members of the Community Shelter Board utilized targeted recruitment to find different entities related to homelessness in order to receive input on the community plan before it was finalized. Among those whose input was considered were people who experienced homelessness, homeless service organizations, neighborhood and family service providers, local government officials, and members of the faith-based community. In total, 25 different organizations and approximately 194 individuals were involved in this planning process.
Methods and Tools Used
The Community Shelter Board used a Multistakeholder Group Process in order to engage stakeholders and community members for contribution to this plan. All the traits of this process, as identified by Wageningen University’s Multistakeholder Partnership guide, apply to CSB’s participatory planning process including “the involvement of two or more different parties, a voluntary and collaborative nature, a common purpose, sharing risks and responsibilities, understanding that all participants will both contribute and gain something, [and] the conviction that working with diverse actors will achieve more than working alone” (Coulby, 2009, p. 6).
What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation
After the three official face-to-face meetings, CSB decided to base focus their action plan by using a specific definition of literal homelessness. For this process, and the following processes, stakeholders and community members were broken up into small groups initially and later, all the small groups came back together to finalize the details of the plan. Next, after defining their target population, CSB and community members and organizations decided to focus on 13 goals in the three-year action plan. These 13 goals encompass all the populations that are experiencing homelessness in Franklin County and Columbus County. The thirteen areas of focus are: veterans, chronically homeless, families with children & pregnant women, youth, single adults, affordable housing, equity, employment, benefits, health care, criminal justice, domestic violence, and homelessness prevention (CSB, 2018c). For each focus area, a comprehensive framework was created and specific strategies were compiled to aid those populations or services in order to best combat homelessness. Additionally, each focus area had either one of multiple organizations assigned as “Lead on Strategy & Implementation” as well as other organizations assigned as “Conveners” (CSB, 2018c). The assignment of these organizations were decided when the small groups reconvened. The final decision process included CSB board members. Once the board members approved the plan, groups related to the 13 focus areas began their work to implement the strategies laid out in the framework.
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
There are many influences that can affect the outcome of these strategies including money, time, cultural context, resources, and willingness of participants to receive these services. Although the outcomes of the plan have not yet been evaluated, the desired effects include a decrease in homelessness by preventing homelessness on the outset. However, if homelessness cannot be prevented, the desired outcome would be for that experience of homelessness to only be brief and happen once.
Analysis and Lessons Learned
The community plan has been put into action after its approval on May 2018. The strategies that were agreed upon in May 2018 are ongoing for the next three years, as is stated in the community plan. The strategies and goals will stay constant, but with CSB approval, can be edited in order to fit specific needs that may present themselves in the future. The CSB board will update the stakeholders annually about the progress of the community plan and any changes that need to be made in order to best utilize their resources and promote the right fit for the focus area. Since it has not been one year since the implementation of this plan, there is no evidence of how the outcomes of the plan align with the purpose, or the objective and subjective effects, of this plan.
Multistakeholder Group Process
Participatory Urban Planning
Community Shelter Board (2018a). Community plan to prevent and end homelessness. Retrieved from https://66381bb28b9f956a91e2- e08000a6fb874088c6b1d3b8bebbb337.ssl.cf2.rackcdn.com/files-Retreat-Record- Community-Plan-to-Prevent-End-Homelessness.pdf
Community Shelter Board (2018b). A framework for action to prevent homelessness in Columbus and Franklin County, Ohio. Retrieved from http://06472761d4d844f990cd- e08000a6fb874088c6b1d3b8bebbb337.r15.cf2.rackcdn.com/file-A-Place-to-Call- Homecommunity-summary.pdf
Community Shelter Board (2018c). A place to call home. Retrieved from http://06472761d4d844f990cd- e08000a6fb874088c6b1d3b8bebbb337.r15.cf2.rackcdn.com/files-A-Place-to-Call- HomeFINAL53018.pdf
Coulby, H. (2009). A guide to multistakeholder work. Retrieved from http://www.mspguide.org/sites/default/files/resource/guide-to-multistakeholder.pdf
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (2017). Continuum of care: Homeless assistance programs & homeless populations and subpopulations. Retrieved from https://www.hudexchange.info/resource/reportmanagement/published/CoC_PopSub_ NatlTerrDC_2017.pdf
Community Shelter Board - http://www.csb.org/
HUD Continuum of Care document- https://www.hudexchange.info/resource/reportmanagement/published/CoC_PopSub_NatlTerr DC_2017.pdf
Lead image: Community Shelter Board, http://bit.ly/2VEky2V
This Participedia case will be updated with new information as the results of the community plan begin to be published.
The original submission of this case entry was written by Alex Tingquist, a Master of Public Service candidate at the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service. The views expressed in the current version are those of the authors, editors, or cited sources, and are not necessarily those of the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service.