Hillsborough County of Florida become the latest community to use a CSH Charrette to update their plan to prevent and end homelessness. Hillsborough County has been identified by HUD as a Priority Community because of the significantly high number of homeless individuals and families reported annually by the Continuum of Care, led by the Homeless Coalition of Hillsborough County. The Charrette is part of an ongoing HUD Technical Assistance effort aimed at helping the community reduce homelessness through systems change. In addition to the facilitation and coordination of the Charrette, CSH staff have been on the ground in Tampa for over a year providing Technical Assistance on several key areas including performance measurement and HMIS.
Charrette Week kicked off on July 23 with two full days of powerful dialogue at Hyde Park United Methodist Church in Tampa. The conversation focused on key issue areas that the City of Tampa and Hillsborough County decided were priorities for the community:
- Systems Integration
- Discharge Planning
- Performance Measures
- Employment and Income
Over 150 people, including providers, government representatives, consumers, business owners and impassioned citizens, came together over two days to participate in “fishbowls” as observers and experts. Each of the issue areas was explored in a “fishbowl’ setting with a group of experts from diverse communities and organizations using their experiences to discuss best practices and make recommendations. Community members surrounding the fishbowl then responded to what they had heard and offered their own suggestions on the issue areas, bringing broader expertise and perspective to the discussion.
Recommendations which frequently arose concerned solutions to issues confronting homeless youth, the lack of affordable housing, increased collaboration among provider with an emphasis on bringing Faith Based organizations to the table more effectively, and the implementation of coordinated access to homeless services. The issue area with the most recommendations garnered from the community was Employment and Income, a representation of the difficult economic climate and a belief that income (either through employment or entitlements) is essential to self-sufficiency.
CSH staff drafted and presented the recommendations to the community at a public meeting, using the opportunity to collect feedback and refine the recommendations for the final report. The report included 83 recommendations across all six issue areas, plus two more that were added in light of topics and concerns which arose during the Charrette process:
Leading up to the Charrette, and during the Charrette process, the community showed openness to reviewing its systems and considering changes to improve the community response to issues surrounding homelessness, and praised the Charrette process for its effectiveness as a community forum. Hillsborough County and its Cities (Tampa, Plant City, and Temple Terrace) are poised to take the work that has happened with the Homeless Coalition of Hillsborough County so far, and move it to the next level to engage the larger community of institutions and individuals required to end and prevent homelessness.