Roberta Machin, BA
At the most recent Decade to Doorways Tri-Annual Meeting, the group took a step back in order to evaluate the effectiveness of D2D’s structure and reflect on the successes and challenges of the past two years. With a goal of restructuring Decade to Doorways to maximize its efficiency and move closer to the end goal of eliminating homelessness within Chester County, the Action Team chairs posed the following questions to the group of community supporters, government workers, agency providers, and nonprofit members sitting before them:
- What should the role of Decade to Doorways be?
- What has gone well during the past two years in D2D?
- How has D2D changed or influenced what you or your organization does?
- Reflect on the meeting format of D2D.
- Where is there room for improvement within D2D?
These questions sparked lively discussions and debates amongst the approximately 80 individuals in the room, and for the next hour, the group dissected Decade to Doorways, praising its accomplishments and how the homeless support systems have evolved due to the implementation of D2D, and offering suggestions that could help to develop and expand current practices. The atmosphere was very positive, as everyone believed that the progress made so far has helped our agencies serve the most vulnerable people within our community, providing them with the resources and supports necessary to improve their lives.
The group generally decided that the role of Decade to Doorways should be to provide strong leadership that forges connections between nonprofits to build a robust, interconnected web of support, all while advocating on behalf of these organizations to the community to raise public awareness of the issue of homelessness, and to government officials to educate on the importance of these services and protect the federal funding that supports them.
Many attendees commented on the lack of affordable housing in Chester County, and the need for more supportive services that assist in diverting individuals on the brink of homelessness, so that they never have to enter the system in the first place. This could include rental and utility assistance, meals, or personal care items. An increase in case management once a client receives stable housing was acknowledged as a key element that would lead to future success with housing stabilization.
Another need identified by the group had to do with the lack of public knowledge about what Decade to Doorways is, and how it operates. By spreading the word via social media and news outlets, D2D will be able to gain public recognition and a potential increase in public support. Most importantly, the need for more consumer voices at meetings and events was brought up several times. This would allow individuals with lived experience to have an influence on the decisions that are made concerning the services they receive.
The group commended the collaboration between nonprofit agencies, organizations, and the government that has increased due to D2D’s support and leadership. This collaboration has increased communication about the types of services each organization offers, so that we can all work together to serve the homeless and at risk population more effectively. The implementation of ConnectPoints and the VI-SPDAT has allowed supportive organizations to identify and prioritize the needs of the individuals they are serving, so that we can ensure we are serving the most vulnerable people first.
To end the meeting, Lauren Campbell posed the question: How do we end homelessness by 2022? The answer is not straightforward or simple. But by ensuring that everyone’s experience with homelessness is rare, brief, and non-recurring, we can more effectively serve everyone in our community who is in need of support.