Embedded Expert Driving Social Transformation
City of Houston, TX
In January 2012, Houston’s then-mayor identified ending homelessness among her top priorities. Throughout the next year, the mayor recognized that despite her political will to address this complex issue, the city alone lacked the expertise and resources to achieve large-scale social transformation to reach the goal. To overcome this, the mayor’s office appointed Houston’s first Special Assistant to the Mayor for Homeless Initiatives and articulated their vision of marshaling national expertise and resources to identify the best, evidence-based practices to assist and expedite local efforts. By design, the embedded-expert formula harnessed the power of the entire Corporation for Supportive Housing (CSH) organization, a national nonprofit working in 40 states to create supportive housing (affordable housing with services), which is a proven intervention for ending chronic homelessness. CSH also helps communities build coordinated services delivery systems to meet the needs of vulnerable people and this approach has been particularly valuable in Houston. By June 2015, the mayor’s office was joined by three federal Cabinet Secretaries and other dignitaries to announce an effective end to veteran homelessness in Houston, and by 2016, over 3,500 veteran households were living in stable housing and there has been a 70-percent reduction in chronic homelessness.