Dream House - Building your Dream House Outline: To develop a service that will transform the lives of homeless

people by empowering them to develop their social networks as a source for employment, accommodation and wellness. Concept: This unique service would empower homeless people to develop their social networks so that they have the power to achieve transformative change in their own lives. These ambitious goals will be achieved by supporting homeless people to access existing provision and the power of their social networks. The service will be designed and delivered at all stages by people with a direct experience of homelessness. The service would concentrate on three areas; 1. Working in partnership with the homeless person so that they can build new, beneficial relationships. 2. Brokering relationships between the homeless person and other assets (including public agencies and charities) so that they can better access help that is already available to them. 3. Working with the homeless person so that they understand the power their social networks give them and the influence their relationships have on them. Characteristics of this service: The service would be run along very informal lines in order to develop a trusting relationship between the homeless person and the worker. The basic structure of the intervention would be; 1. Referral - the referral could come from any source including public agencies. The focus should be people that are having difficulty accessing services. 2. Introduction - the worker would find someone (e.g. friend, family, religious leader etc...) to make an introduction to the homeless person. The introduction would make clear that the worker is there for the long haul (3-5 years), that they do not have any money to directly help the homeless person, that they want the homeless person to fulfill their dreams whatever they might be and that they will offer practical help. 3. Their dream - The worker supports the homeless person to codifying and record their goals. This is the first stage to producing a plan. It must start with the dreams and desires of the homeless person. 4. Map their network - the worker shows the homeless person an image of the worker’s networks as an example and then the homeless person draws their own network including gaps where they would like to have contacts. 5. Co-produce a plan - The plan is designed in such a way as to develop and utilise the homeless person’s social network. 6. Regular meetings - The worker regularly meets with homeless person helping to broker relationships and to pester the homeless person The need this approach is addressing: There is a stubbornly large number of homeless people in Washington DC. Research suggests that homeless people have very restricted social networks and therefore have very few people they can call on. This makes it harder for them to find employment, accommodation and wellness. The services that support homeless people are often ambivalent about homeless people’s

social networks, seeing them as potentially damaging to the homeless person in question. However, for homeless people to obtain housing, employment and wellness in a sustainable way, they need to both understand the power that their social networks have on them and to develop their networks. Benefits of this approach: This approach is sustainable since it develops the social networks of the homeless person, expanding the resources available to them and building their ability to draw on these resources as and when they need them. This approach is cost effective as it does not seek to introduce new services but rather empower homeless people to better access those services that are already available and to build their resilience and their autonomy so that they do not need to access as many services. The intended primary outcomes from this approach would be for the homeless person to find accommodation, employment and improve their well-being. The intended secondary outcomes from this approach would be for the homeless person to feel part of the community, to have more trusting relationships and to feel like they can influence decisions that affect them. Background: Homelessness in DC There are a large number of homeless people in Washington DC. The National Alliance to End Homelessness estimates that there are 13,205 in the greater metropolitan area. the Community Partnership for the Prevention of Homelessness’ ‘Point-In-Time’ survey found that there were 6,546 homeless people in DC alone. The District spends in the region of $15 million pa, HUD spends $15 million and philanthropists spend some $5 million on homelessness in DC. There are currently enough public and private beds to shelter or house about 8,875 persons. Services for homeless people in DC There are many services for homeless people in Washington DC. The Interagency Council on Homelessness (ICH) develops a Winter Plan which coordinates outreach activities among the Department of Human Services (DHS), the Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency (HSEMA), the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD), the Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department (FEMS), the Department of Mental Health (DMH), the Department of Health (DOH), and both public and private outreach programs. The Community Partnership for the Prevention of Homelessness coordinates DC’s “continuum of care”. Services provided include; ● Low Barrier Shelters, Temporary Shelters, Transitional Housing and Permanent Supportive Housing ● The Virginia Williams Family Resource Center is the central intake office for all families

requesting emergency housing and assistance in the District of Columbia.

● ●

● ●

The HPRP (Homeless Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program) provides homeless prevention including payment of rent and utility arrearages, security deposits and shortterm rent subsidy, case management services, housing counseling, legal services, as well as rapid re-housing, including housing search assistance. (http://dhs.dc.gov/dhs/ cwp/view,a,3,q,642442.asp) DMH’s 24-hour/seven-days-a-week Comprehensive Psychiatric Emergency Program provides mobile crisis services and extensive observation The United Planning Organization, the city’s designated community action agency, provides a fleet of vans to assist the homeless and transport them to shelters during hypothermia season. The DHS provides services during hypothermic season. DC’s Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency, the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD), the Department of Health (DOH) and Department of Mental Health (DMH) also are involved. Homeless Outreach Teams provide crisis assessment and interventions to homeless persons who may be experiencing a mental health crisis whether on the streets or in homeless shelters The Department of Employment Services (DOES) provides employment counselors The Addiction Prevention and Recovery Administration (APRA) promotes access to substance abuse prevention, treatment and recovery support services.

As well as public agencies there are a number of community and religious providers of services to homeless people in DC e.g. Thrive DC, Community of Hope. A list of these organisations can be found here http://www.community-partnership.org/cp_resLinks.php A list of resources for homeless people in DC can be found here http://www.ich.dc.gov/ich/lib/ ich/pdf/Homeless_Resource_Sheet_92110_Final.pdf Social networks Housing is ultimately gained and sustained by people not services. Services are resources that people draw on with varying degrees of success. One of the key factors that determines how successfully people use these services is our social networks and our ability to benefit from these connections. Many services focus on homeless people’s deficiencies. To compliment this approach, I am proposing to start a service that that helps homeless people to develop their clients social networks. Homeless people’s social networks are complex. On the one hand, they can be limiting because homeless people often do not benefit from the connections that help most of us find jobs and housing and instead make friends with other people in a similar situation to themselves. This can reinforce exclusion. On the other hand, their connections are often an important source of advice and emotional support. Rather than attempting to ignore or disrupt the homeless person’s social networks, this service will work with homeless people so that they understand the power that their connections have on them, and the potential power that their networks give them.

Inspiration This approach has been heavily influenced by a number of innovative projects including Learning Dreams (http://www.learningdreams.org/), Connecting People (http:// martinwebber.net/2011/12/26/connecting-people-intervention-model/), Scottish Social Networks (http://www.scottishsocialnetworks.org/home) and Nurture Development (http:// www.nurturedevelopment.ie/index.html) The worker The role of the worker in building the homeless persons Dream House is to work in partnership with the homeless person. They will expose the homeless person to new ideas, help them to overcome barriers to them expanding their social networks and help them to access the resources that are already available to them. Ideally, the worker should be a person that has had personal experience of homelessness. They should also be someone that is well aware of the various resources and process that are important to homeless people. For example, they should be well aware of different benefits, programs and centres that might assist homeless people. Worked example Housing Dreams is notified by a homeless shelter that a young man has turned up at the shelter asking for a bed for the night. A worker from Housing Dreams asks who the man is friends with. They are told that he goes to a local church and is sometimes seen talking with people in a nearby park. The worker approaches the priest at the local church and some people that the worker knows who often go to the park. The worker talks to these people and they promise to give the worker an introduction to the homeless person. The next day the worker approaches the homeless person. The worker explains that they have heard about the homeless person’s situation and that they would like one minute of their time to explain what Dream Housing. The worker then explains that they want to help the homeless person achieve their goal of a dream house. They will explain that they do not have much in the way of money to help the homeless person but that they have personal experience of getting their own accommodation and that they have a large number of connections in the local area. They will also explain that they will support the homeless person for a minimum of 3 years. The homeless man says he is interested and the worker asks them to explain what their dream house would be like. For example, the homeless man may say that they would like to have a small place of their own near a metro station in the Shaw neighborhood. They start to draw pictures of the property in a book or ‘dream journal’.

The worker then asks the homeless man who they know using a structured set of questions using a methodology adapted from the RSA’s Connected Communities project (see http:// www.thersa.org/projects/reports/how-social-networks-power-and-sustain-the-big-society). Finally the worker starts to draw up a plan, with the homeless person, of how they will get their dream house, by using and developing their social networks. For example, the plan may involve looking at rents in the Shaw neighborhood, talking with a friend that has a job on a building site and finding out about different forms of financial assistance that the local church may offer. From that point onwards the worker regularly checks in on the homeless person. They will make referrals for the homeless person if they need them, for example, to a legal clinic. They will help with small expenses such as bus fare to get to interviews. They will hold the homeless person accountable and check that they are following their plan. At every opportunity, the worker will suggests ways that the homeless man can solve his problems in such a way that develops their social networks. For example, rather than encouraging the homeless man to research the current price of rents in Shaw by going on Google, the worker would suggest that the homeless person ask if there are any congregants at the local church that live in Shaw and ask how much they pay in rent. The worker will regularly check in with the homeless person and go through their dream journal, adding in progress and discussing ways of achieving their goal. Costings Each worker could work with up to 20 homeless people at a time. The main expense would be the workers’ time. This would be a highly skilled job and have to be paid accordingly, in the region of $60,000 per year. In addition, the worker would need a small amount of petty cash, in the region of $1,000 per year per homeless person. Finally, although the project would be run in an informal manner, a degree of back office cots would be incurred at a rate of roughly $1,000 per year per homeless person. My background Thomas Neumark was Associate Director of Connected Communities as the RSA from 20102012. He was also elected as Councillor for Camden Town with Primrose Hill in London, UK from 2010-2012, where he chaired the Camden Mental Health Forum and the Camden Development Control Committee. He sat on the management committee of the Primrose Hill Community Association and the Castlehaven Community Association as a school governor at Holy Trinity and St Silas school.

He has volunteered extensively in homeless shelters including the Central Union Mission in Washington DC, Arlington House in London, St Michael’s in Oxford and Jimmy’s night shelter and Wintercomfort in Cambridge. He worked as a housing officer, managing 700 properties rented to people with low incomes for Octavia Housing Association from 2006-2009. He has a Masters Degree in Housing and Regeneration from the London School of Economics, for which he was awarded a distinction and the Titmuss prize.

Thomas Neumark thomas.neumark@gmail.com 1(202) 374-6965