Helping the Homeless through Service Design
The last 5 weeks of my internship, here at Konrad+King, I have spent researching and designing a tool that would assist in ending homelessness. Walking into this project I had grand ideas of designing this world changing service that would not only end homelessness but also prevent it. However, I soon came to realize that there was more to this problem than I had anticipated.
As I began conducting research I found that there are so many programs out there trying to end homelessness and all of them provide various services that outreach to all types of individuals facing this problem. This brought me to the question, why are there all these homeless people if there are more than plenty of programs out there to assist them?
Many of these programs are funded and working under the rules of the government’s urban development sector called Continuum of Care (CoC). CoC has various charters through out the U.S. and they are a group of people who say which outreach programs get funding. They then over see implementation of the rules and technical systems that are required to be used. I discovered that there were a lot of issues about this system lacking collaboration and communication. This prevents outreach programs from properly assisting an individual’s needs and wants, therefore causing homeless people to not trust these services and to not look for help off the streets.
As I began narrowing down into why the CoC and outreach programs were having collaboration and communication issues I discovered that there were new models and systems being integrated that would begin solving this problem. A new system that caught my attention was the Coordinated Assessment and Housing Placement System (CAHP). CAHP sifts through the homeless people database to identify which individuals are in immediate need of housing and connects them to housing programs that best fit their needs and wants. This system is beginning to work closely with the CoC and training them on best practices and how to properly implement CAHP in order to create successful results.
Discovering this new system showed that this would help solve the collaboration and communication issues occurring within the CoC and outreach programs. CAHP would be able to assist programs into understanding homeless people’s needs better and providing them better assistance. However, this would only be helpful to people who were currently in the database and reached out for help. This got me thinking, what about all the homeless people who aren’t in the system and how can we get them in it?
Due to the small amount of time I had for researching and developing a concept I couldn’t dig into this question as much as I would have liked. However, I was able to find a possible area of the system that could answer my question. Below I have a system diagram of the relationship between the CoC, outreach programs, and homeless people. In this diagram I highlight that the CoC has an opportunity to have field representatives for outreach programs. These field representatives can rebuild the trust that many homeless people have lost with outreach programs by building relationships, providing small services, and providing assistance or information on apply for an outreach program ( once the trust has been established of course). These field representatives can also help build the homeless database by getting people’s information when they apply for a program. This is only an identification of a possible area to focus on, I have yet to truly explore it to know if it is the best solution.
Though I have finished my internship with Konrad+King and have taking the project as far as I could there, I am no where close to being done with this subject. I’m still going to research and learn more about this issue and maybe someday I can come back with a real solution.
[Godspeed Analicia. We are behind you all the way – the K+K team]