25Cities – Sharing ‘Best Practice’

It’s been eighteen months since the nationwide 25Cities initiative was started to help cities accelerate their existing efforts to bring an end to veteran and chronic homelessness.

For the first time, since the launch of the campaign in Washington DC in May 2014, 15 of the 25 cities came together for a convening in Los Angeles supported by Community SolutionsAtlas ResearchThe Rapid Results Institute and federal partners including the US Department of Veterans AffairsUSICH and HUD

The purpose? To get together to share experiences, best practices, keep momentum going and see if lessons learned in one city could help another.

Each city had its story to tell. The Las Vegas team in particular talked about their breakthrough of engaging landlords and property management companies directly to not only link up veterans to individual properties but also signing a ‘Memorandum of Understanding’ with them to create a partnership, allowing direct referrals, between the parties, to get vets in to properties more quickly, making landlords a true part of ending veteran homelessness in the city.

The team of coaches and facilitators for the event came from Atlas ResearchCommunity Solutions and RRI and worked closely together to design new exercises and facilitation techniques to help guide communities in thinking ‘outside the box’ and provide an open platform to learn from each other. The Rapid Results Institutes Chief Learning Officer, Milla McLachlan, said it was great to have federal partners at the convening as it meant a lot to the 25Cities attendees. “ Having representatives from our federal partners really added to the meeting. They weren’t there to tell people stuff, but to learn themselves. And they were really open to talking to everybody, exploring tough issues and joining in group discussions. It was very impressive.

Sean Whitten, who is now a Catalyst for the Rapid Results Institute, was previously on the other side of the fence dealing with homelessness issues in Fresno, California, as a member of their Community Design team. Sean said seeing the teams talk to one another at the event and listening to his old team from Fresno filled him with pride, “ It was really great to hear them present the work that I had been part of over the past year and to share that with other communities and for these communities to take from that showcase individual pieces that they would be able to take back home to their communities.”

The convening provided an opportunity for attendees to share their enormous wealth of experience, energy and commitment with one another and to identify city teams they wanted to stay in contact with. There was ample opportunity to talk openly about the challenges they each still faced, “ To go down the path of learning and experimenting, I think the meeting allowed them to do that,” said Milla.

December 2015 is a key milestone in ending veteran homelessness in the US and by all accounts many of the 25Cities are well on their way to achieving this goal in the next few months.

The convening in LA has created a buzz among the participating communities and another convening on the East Coast is on the cards for communities that couldn’t attend LA.