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Glancing Back, Looking Forward: Sound Families and Beyond


Large majority of families made strides toward housing stability, economic ... 85% of families were headed by a single caregiver, typically a single mother ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Glancing Back, Looking Forward: Sound Families and Beyond

Glancing Back, Looking Forward Sound Families
and Beyond
David Takeuchi University of Washington School
of Social Work David Wertheimer Bill Melinda
Gates Foundation
  • Foundations Agents of Systems Change
  • National Conference on Ending Family Homelessness
  • Seattle, Washington
  • February 7, 2008

Framing Results from the Sound Families Evaluation
  • Ambiguous loss
  • Theory of limited difference
  • Seeking housing, finding place

Brief Background of Sound Families
  • Began in 2000 with 40M investment by the Bill
    and Melinda Gates Foundation
  • Initiative leveraged more than 200M of public
    sector support
  • Goal of tripling the number of service-enriched
    housing units for homeless families in Washington
  • 1,445 units funded, with the majority using a
    transitional housing model
  • Large majority of families made strides toward
    housing stability, economic independence, and
    improved quality of life
  • For more information, visit

Data Source for this Presentation
  • Evaluation of the Sound Families Initiative,
    Final Findings A Closer Look at Families Lives
    During and After Supportive Transitional Housing.
    (December, 2007). Seattle, Washington Northwest
    Center for Children and Families, School of
    Social Work, University of Washington

Some Characteristics of Families
  • 85 of families were headed by a single
    caregiver, typically a single mother
  • Domestic violence is one of the major
    precipitating causes of homelessness
  • Homelessness associated with different stressors
    that have no immediate conclusion (debt,
    separation from family members, substance abuse,
    mental health, issues, limited earning power,

What is Ambiguous Loss?
  • Pauline Boss Unclear loss or stress lacking
    closure that creates conditions that are
    stressful and confusing
  • Lack of clarity generates anxiety, depression,
    and immobilizes individuals and relational
  • Long term consequences are manifested as being
    unable to move on with ones life

Examples of Ambiguous Loss
  • Physically present, but psychologically absent
    (family member with chronic mental illness or
    substance abuse problem)
  • Physically absent, but psychologically present
    (family member separated from a family)
  • Some researchers are focusing on ambiguity in
    separation from places such as immigration and

A Focus on Ambiguous Loss Helps to
  • Frame problems beyond individuals and focuses on
  • Identify whether it is operating within an
    individuals family
  • Seek closure for the uncertainties

As One Family Member Stated
(Our life) is pretty consistent...Ive gotten a
routine down, were not struggling to make things
happen or worrying about how to survive. We know
were going to have dinner and were all going to
have a bath.
Some General Conclusions from the Sound Families
  • Individuals and families are quite diverse. While
    averages can aptly characterize individuals and
    families, there was no single distinctive
  • A number of facets are associated with
    maintaining permanent housing, finding
    employment, and educational outcomes for
    children. No single set of predictors explained a
    substantial proportion of the variance in various

Theory of Limited Difference (Cole Singer)
  • Refocuses from a search for variables that
    explain large effects
  • To a focus on how small effects over time create
    large differences at a single point in time
  • The theory centers on kicks and responses
  • Example of gender differences in scientific

Application of Limited Difference to Homelessness
  • Focuses on cumulative advantages and
  • Non-linear, dynamic analyses
  • Examines trajectories of families
  • Highlights importance of reactions of negative

Housing Outcomes for Families Successfully
Completing Transitional Programs
Exit to non-permanent housing
Secured permanent housing without any subsidy
Secured permanent housing without Sec 8 or public
housing but with other subsidy
Secured permanent housing without Sec 8 but in
public housing
Secured permanent housing with Section 8
N 651, excludes unknowns
Success in the Program is More than Finding a
  • As one respondent states
  • I (enjoyed) being part of the community ....I
    had built my own social life and all of our
    activities. I felt like I was a little safer

  • Empirical research on place typically focuses on
    built environments or physical spaces
  • Tends to have small effects on various outcomes
  • Need to expand definitions to include social and
    psychological facets of place

Place involves
A geographic location that has boundaries and
reference points
A nexus where social life is initiated and engaged
A holder of symbols, values, tradition, history
and a frame for organizing our experiences
Gieryn, 2000
Incorporating the Concept of Place Helps to
  • Focus on more than the built environment
  • Establish connections that make people feel
    established or in place
  • Focus on conditions that make people feel
    disconnected within communities and change these

Implications for Moving Forward
NAEH Conference, February 2008
Where we have been The Sound Families
Initiative -- a significant set of partnerships
  • County/State leaders
  • Service Providers
  • Housing Authorities
  • Gates Foundation
  • City
  • leaders

Triple the number of new supportive housing units
in Pierce, Snohomish, and King counties
1,445 units 2,700 children and 1,500 families
served to date
  • 2/3 found permanent housing
  • School absenteeism dropped by 24

60 of families increased their
incomes Employment increased by 22
Acknowledging the successes of our collaborative
efforts to date
  • Sound Families was highly successful in achieving
    initially articulated goals
  • Unit production
  • Linking services to housing
  • Helping families recover from the trauma of
  • Ensure graduating families were able to access
    permanent housing resources

Key Lessons Learned From Sound Families
Individualized housing and services, links to
Housing services works
All families needs are not the same
Rapid re-housing and short-term supports v.
permanent supportive housing and ongoing,
intensive services
Jobs education is a critical lever
Not enough is being done to bring employment
opportunities to wage earners in recovering
Key Lessons Learned From Sound Families The
need for improved response at the systems level
  • Our family homelessness system
  • is not functioning as effectively as it could

Families dont know where to turn to for help
Families arent always getting the right type of
Emergency services are necessary at times of
crisis, but insufficient to solve the larger
Current system assumes one size fits all model
Recognizing the need to move forward, mindful of
the lessons learned
  • Sound Families evaluation data point towards what
    we could do differently or better
  • Increase efforts to prevent families from
    becoming homeless in the first place
  • Match housing and service needs more precisely to
    each familys individual experience and
  • Minimize the disruption of multiple family moves
  • Ensure the right intensity and mix of services as
    we support each family in efforts to move towards
    both stability and self-sufficiency over time

Implications of looking through a different
research lens
  • We know homelessness is a complex phenomenon
  • The symptom or result of a constellation of
    complex causal factors
  • Each familys story, or the way these factors
    combine, is unique
  • Different factors may have different
    significance or impact, depending on the nature,
    sequence, geography and results of a chain of
    related or unrelated events
  • Recovery from homelessness requires addressing
    each and all of these complexities
  • Individually tailored services The right mix at
    the right time at the right level of intensity
  • No one system or agency has the resources,
    capacity or skill set to do it all

From Conversation to Action Plan
  • Joseph, a homeless man in Seattle I am not
    incompetent. I just need help moving the
    obstacles out of the way.
  • Reframing the solutions Its not just about what
    families have to do, but what systems must do to
    better support families
  • We may be part of the problem Many of the
    issues have more to do with how housing and
    service systems are organized and accessed than
    the individual problems families face

Systems integration Complex work for auto
mechanics, a mystery to the rest of us
When it works well Integration is invisible to
the end user -- we get where we need to go
Looking under the hood of the family homelessness
engine A coordinated and tailored approach
Families stably housed
Coordinated Intake
  • Prevention

  • Opportunity
  • Families in crisis
  • 20,000 children and their parents in WA
    experience homelessness
  • High (gt50) rates of recidivism

Rapid housing
  • High quality organizational capacity aligned to
    meet the needs of homeless families and those on
    the brink

  • Local provider networks collaborate to integrate
    and match the most effective resources to the
    needs of each family
  • Data systems support real time decisions for
    homeless families, improve provider practices,
    and support broader advocacy efforts

State / Local Systems
  • Advocacy builds collaboration and sense of
    shared accountability enables use of existing
    money in new ways promotes new money into sector

Moving Towards a Coordinated and Tailored System
  • Requires that we think about how we do business
    in a different way
  • Asks much of all current stakeholders
  • Challenges how existing resources across multiple
    systems are currently allocated and spent
  • Identifies the need for new resources in capital
    projects, operations and supportive services

Must leverage buy-in to both a willingness to
change current practices and a new way of doing
Supporting and/or questioning the status quo when
and where needed
  • Extensive dialogue before anything changes
  • Convene the right stakeholders, prepared to do
    business together and differently
  • Identify leaders and mechanics who can serve as
    agents of change. Find change agents among both
    the familiar and the unexpected constituencies
  • Provide infrastructure resources required to
    support change. (Lead agencies, boundary
    spanners, advocacy, etc.)
  • Create incentives to realign existing funds and
    add new resources in pursuit of new ways of doing
  • Evaluate results

Systems change Four key roles that can be
played by philanthropy in partnership with others
Convener Getting right people into right
places and dialogues
Knowledge Generator Investing in research
to inform policy practice
Advocate Providing credible voice to
advance systems change
Strategic Investor Funding innovations
that drive systems change