08 | Flexible Housing Pool: Rapid Expansion to Address Regional Homelessness

08 | Flexible Housing Pool: Rapid Expansion to Address Regional Homelessness

According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, in 2020, there were over half a million people experiencing homelessness on our streets and in shelters in America.  Seventy percent were individuals, and the remaining 30 percent were families with children.  They lived in every state and territory, and they include people from every gender, racial and ethnic group.   

However, some groups are far more likely than others to become homeless.  In the same year, The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress revealed that African Americans are overrepresented in the population of people experiencing homelessness compared to their share of the overall US population. 

A recent report by the Chicago Coalition for the homeless found at least 65,000 people were experiencing homelessness in Chicago in 2020, including those who temporarily stayed with others in addition to people living in shelters and on the street.  Additionally, similar to national data, although African American Chicagoans make up roughly 30 percent of the city’s population, they represent 70 percent of the City’s homeless.  For housing advocates and activists, ending homelessness is connected to the moral imperative to end racial inequities within our society’s systems, policies, and social practices.


 The Center for Housing and Health’s unique program, the Flexible Housing Pool, works to address the region’s homelessness through system coordination. Through the Flexible Housing Pool (or FHP), Cook County is able to rapidly house and provide supportive services to some of the region’s most vulnerable populations, including individuals experiencing homelessness who cycle through the criminal justice system and utilize hospital emergency rooms for care.




In this episode, I’m talking with Pete Toepfer, Executive Director of the Center for Housing and Health .


The Center’s mission is to honor every person’s right to a home and health care by bridging the housing and health care systems to improve the lives of Chicagoans experiencing homelessness.  We’ll hear more from Pete about how FHP has expanded in the past three years to meet the growing demand for permanent supportive housing and how the organization is centering racial equity in its strategic priorities. 




Just last week, the Flexible Housing Pool, or FHP, housed its 1,000th resident. Congratulations on this milestone! Can you share more about its significance in the context of serving people in the Chicago region experiencing homelessness?

Kuliva. Thanks so much. As you pointed out, an awful lot has changed since 2019. The least of which was the covid 19 pandemic. For a little context, in the first year of the Flexible Housing Pool, like lots of projects that are starting up, it began fairly slowly. In the first year we housed just under 60 people, and now we’re at 1,000. So as you can tell, the growth has been very, very rapid, but very, very necessary when we’re talking about the tens of thousands of our neighbors who are homeless each year in Chicago. So, for me, the biggest takeaway is that we have dramatically improved the lives of a thousand of our neighbors, and many of those are children. About 350 of those thousand people are minors/children. So those are children who will not have to experience the trauma of living in cars and bouncing between an aunt’s house or grandma’s house, a shelter and that can focus on school, friends and playing. Just like every child should do.


One of the stories that I feel is really fitting around the Flexible Housing Pool is one of the first residents who received housing as a result of the Flexible Housing Pool. Her name is Kayla Wallace, and she was actually one of the residents who was at an early press conference talking about the promise that the Flexible Housing Pool could bring. She was also someone who had been bouncing between hospitals, got seriously injured on the job while working as a tour guide on one of the double-decker buses downtown, and was no longer able to pursue her musical career. Fast forward to today. Kayla is now chair of the Flexible Housing Pool governance council. This is essentially the Board of Directors for the Flexible Housing Pool that makes decisions about where we are going as an overall project that brings together all the community stakeholders. She is representing tenants of FHP, and is facilitating the meetings. It really is a full circle moment for her and for the Flexible Housing Pool.

I think that speaks to one of the points that you brought up about how we’re trying to live out the value of racial equity within the Flexible Housing Pool. That, within that governance council, residents of FHP have, per the bylaws, 40 percent of the seats. These are folks who have experienced homelessness and they have the same voting power as someone who put in six million dollars. They are truly the experts in the direction that we need [to go in].

So I think that one of the other things that’s exciting about where we’ve come is that we have two of the largest managed care organizations in the state who are now investors in the Flexible Housing Pool, because they see it as part of their best interest to help their members maintain health, achieve better health outcomes, and as a managed care organization is charged with doing, control costs. It is not a good investment to continue to have someone get hospitalized for conditions that could be better controlled in primary care settings, but that’s very difficult for people to do if they don’t have a stable place to live, and that’s exactly what the Flexible Housing Pool does. So, with CountyCare and Meridian Health Plan, we talk to them regularly about how we are serving their more complex members who really, but for having a safe and stable home, struggle, and cycle through different, high-cost crisis settings.


In the past, you’re reported chronic disease conditions, serious mental illness, justice system involvement and undocumented status as housing barriers experienced by FHP participants.  Considering the impact of the pandemic, what other barriers are you and your team working to address? 


One of the big ones is that we want to ensure that people joining the Flexible Housing Pool have a meaningful choice in where they want to live. We promote the value of “housing first” along with racial equity and both of those really hinge on self-determination. We want folks to be able to choose the types of neighborhoods they want to live in. That are close to their loved ones, close to transportation, the grocery store, to their health care resources. But what we were finding as we really dug into our data, was that people were being clustered in the same neighborhoods that have historically been red-lined and disinvested for decades and decades in Chicago. We alone as one program aren’t going to solve for that problem but we brought that concern to the larger governance council and the Chicago Department of Housing and said we want people to live everywhere in the city, but we want them to have meaningful choices, and we know that we’re not able to offer the same number of units in certain northside neighborhoods as we are in, say, Austin or South Shore. Continuing to have folks clustered in the same neighborhoods is not ideal. If that’s what people are choosing – wonderful. But we know that without that actual choice, that it isn’t necessarily realistic. So, what we are trying to do is set meaningful and achievable goals for increasing the number of units we have in what we’re calling “opportunity neighborhoods”. Ones that have lower percentages of poverty and lower percentages of violent crime, which generally are also correlating to places that have other types of resources. That’s an effort we have going this coming year, especially as we launch a variety of new programs.

You also mentioned the really disturbing disparity that exists within the homelessness system in Chicago where upwards of 70+ percent of people experiencing homelessness identify as Black, despite only representing about a third of the City’s population.  We’ve been tracking that since day one to ensure that the folks coming to the Flexible Housing Pool are representative of the larger homeless community so that we are starting there but then also throughout their experience in the program that they are not falling off and disparities aren’t developing in different steps in the project.  Like, once we find them, do they actually reach housing?  Do they stay in housing once they enter the program?  And I can say with pride and confidence that we don’t see those disparities developing.  So about 80 percent of participants that we serve that identify as Black or African American, which should be the case based on what we know about the larger demographics of homelessness in the city. 

My understanding is that the program cost is about $125,000 per household per year, which includes:

– Outreach and engagement

– Pre-tenancy supports (e.g., assistance with initial housing assessments and housing applications)

– Tenancy supports (referrals to community-based services, transportation and connect to health and social services)

– A housing subsidy

– FHP Administrative costs

Can you share more on how this represents a return on investment for FHP partners and investors?


A quick point of clarification:  so, you’re about $100,000 too high.  It’s only about $25,000 per household, per year.  Which is still a lot, frankly, given what investors often are typically used to paying especially in the health care space.  But that $25,000 per year, as you mention, does cover a really wide spectrum of needed services from the time that someone is identified as being homeless and needing a housing intervention, all the way through helping someone stay housed.  And just to underscore one important thing, once people enter the Flexible Housing Pool, 98 percent remain stably housed for a year or longer. So once they come into the Flexible Housing Pool, they stay and remain stable, which is hugely, hugely important.   

In that sense, that investment is ensuring that a member or a patient or one of our neighbors has housing stability.  To me, there’s no price on that.  And, we know that we live in an environment where need to look at budgets, priorities, and costs.  And so, a way to think about it, especially, let’s say, for one of our insurance company partners, or managed care company partners; what if someone had 3 or 4 hospital stays over the course of the year?  What would those hospital costs average out [to be] for each stay?  What we hear, is that if someone ends up in the hospital, it can average about $10,000, roughly.  Of course, it can depend on medicines, procedures, things like that.  But, just alone, if we’re able to reduce even one or two of those hospitalizations, then the insurance companies have already saved money on that particular individual because they aren’t going to the hospital, especially for something that may not have been necessary in the first place, a condition that got worse because someone was outside on a day when it was -5⁰F with an additional -10⁰F windchill. Someone doesn’t need to have their toes amputated, and instead of being discharged from the hospital back to a tent, this person is going to their home.  And, potentially being discharged sooner because there doesn’t need to be long-term scrambling and planning for where a discharge can happen.  When someone has a stable address, it’s not hard to know where someone is going home to.   

What other positions (moral or fiscal) does FHP take to persuade institutions and systems to pay greater attention to clients they serve who experience homelessness?

To me the clearest answer to that is that housing is a human right. Everyone, no matter who you are, what you’ve done, where you come from, deserves a safe and stable home. To me that is a very clear moral imperative and one that we can’t say enough until we no longer have any of our neighbors sleeping out on the streets, on the el (elevated trains) or on park benches. To me it also speaks to the larger priorities that we have in society. We find money for an awful lot of things. Be it the City-level or at the national-level. To me the fact that we allow, that we tolerate our neighbors experiencing homelessness is part of a moral re-alignment that’s necessary for how we think about ourselves as individuals, but how, more importantly, we think of ourselves in community, and in community with others. Especially those that have been failed by our systems and have faced oppression, racism, and discrimination.


So the Flexible Housing Pool is here to say, “Come one, come all.  You are welcome here.  We’re going to help you find a home and we’re going to help you stay there, to help you get healthier, to reach your goals and to reach your potential”. 


Tell me what we can expect in scale and scope in 2023? 


So, I think there are three things I’m really excited about. The first is that we’ll be launching a Re-Entry Initiative for some of our neighbors who will be coming home from Illinois’ state prisons. These are folks who will be returning to Chicagoland, Chicago and Cook County, are going to need a place to stay and the Flexible Housing Pool is going to help them find those homes and to get back on their feet, and reconnect to people that they care about and to the places that were once familiar to them.

So that Re-Entry Initiative is going to serve between 50-100 people this year, and we’re excited about that opportunity. It includes a workforce component as well, working with the North Lawndale Employment Network, which has a deep history with the North Lawndale community and also working with folks within the re-entry space.  So that’s one thing that’s exciting. 

The second is in partnering with two of the state of Illinois’ Healthcare Transformation projects that are funded through the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services.  Part of their charge is to think about delivering healthcare in a new way.  Those projects have decided that the Flexible Housing Pool is going to help them achieve that charge.  So, Wellness West, based on the West Side of Chicago and the South Side Healthy Communities Collaborative  are both going to be connecting with the Flexible Housing Pool, identifying members in their collaboratives that are going to be the best fit for the Flexible Housing Pool and working with us in the next year.   

Actually, just last week, when (U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development) Marsha Fudge made a visit to Chicago to announce a $60 million dollar investment in homelessness, the Flexible Housing Pool was one of Chicago’s projects and one of the projects that I think helped our local application be especially attractive and competitive as part of the national review.  And so the Flexible Housing Pool is going to be connecting with a federally-funded program through HUD through the HUD Continuum of Care programs for another 100 households, and leveraging our existing experience and some of the resources we have towards this larger end.  So, a lot happening in this coming year, too, Kuliva.  Lots of exciting things and a lot more people to serve.  

Pete, thank you so much for talking with me today about the role of FHP in addressing homelessness, and improving health outcomes for the most vulnerable in Chicago. The links and resources you’ve provided today will be added to this podcast for our listeners.

Links & Resources: 

Center for Housing and Health 

Flexible Housing Pool 

all Chicago making homelessness history 

National Alliance to End Homelessness 

HUD Annual Homeless Assessment Report 

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The New Season of In the Solution Podcast

The New Season of In the Solution Podcast

We return this spring with a podcast reboot and begin with our Healthcare Justice Series with episodes that:

  • Focus on the social determinants of health 
  • And highlight the needs of communities and populations experiencing barriers to health care    

We begin the series with an exploration of The Housing First Model.



 The Housing First Model 

Housing First for the chronically homeless is premised on the notion that housing is a basic human right, and should not be denied to anyone, even if they are  abusing alcoholor other substances. 


The approach offers permanent, affordable housing as quickly as possible for individuals and families experiencing homelessness, and then provides the supportive services and connections (such as health care) at the community-level that are needed to sustain housing and avoid repeating cycles of homelessness.   


Housing First is currently endorsed by the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessnessas a “best practice” for governments and service-agencies to use in their fight to end chronic homelessness in America and has been adapted in many countries across the world.    


Join me in the exploration of this health justice model of care as I talk with leaders in the US and abroad to better understand how existing policies drive system integration to support stable housing for the homeless.  


Stay Tuned!

 For more information on Housing First in the US, Click Here.

 For more information on Eisenhower Fellowships, Click Here.

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07 | The Flexible Housing Pool: System Coordination to Address Chicago’s Homelessness

07 | The Flexible Housing Pool: System Coordination to Address Chicago’s Homelessness

 In 1991 the United Nations declared housing to be a fundamental human right, and the United States has worked to reduce overall homelessness by over 20 percent between 2005 and 2013.  However, homelessness continues to persist across the country, with the highest concentration in mid-to-large metropolitan areas and disproportionately impacts those living in poverty, people of color and immigrants. 

Those experiencing homelessness also have the highest rates of chronic mental, behavioral and physical disease have significant barriers to health care and affordable housing and a lower life expectancy.  Their use of emergency services for episodic care also leads to higher treatment costs.    

In this episode, I’m talking with Pete Toepfer, Executive Director of the Center for Housing and Health, a subsidiary of the AIDS Foundation of Chicago.  The Center’s mission is to honor every person’s right to a home and health care by bridging the housing and health care systems to improve the lives of Chicagoans experiencing homelessness.  The Center is also the lead agency for Better Health Through Housing collaborative; an alliance of 28 supportive housing agencies across Chicago and Cook County dedicated to collectively working with health care partners.  Most recently, through Pete Toepfer’s leadership, the Center has been selected as the administrator for the FHP. 


By the most recent report from the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, in 2017, 86,324 Chicagoans were homeless. 

  • 81% of these homeless residents lived doubled-up in the homes of others 
  • 56% were African American 
  • 28% were Latinx 

Homelessness in Chicago also impacts the working poor, with: 

  • 21% of those experiencing homelessness over the age of 18 are employed 
  • Another 28% attended college or earned an associate’s or bachelor’s degree 

And many Chicago families with children and youth are also experiencing homelessness: 

  • A total of 34,870 families with children experienced homelessness 
  • 86% were doubled-up in the homes of others 
  • 24% were minor children experiencing homelessness 
  • CPS served 16, 451 homelessness students during the 2018-2019 academic year 

This year, the City of Chicago and its partners have collaborated to align funding towards a common goal through the Flexible Housing Program or FHP.  Through FHP, Cook County is able to rapidly house and provide supportive services to some of Chicago’s most vulnerable populations, including individuals experiencing homelessness who cycle through the criminal justice system and utilize hospital emergency rooms for care. 

FHP achieves this through pairing wraparound health and social services with a housing subsidy to support residents experiencing homelessness. The Program focuses on frequent-utilizers of crisis response systems such as hospital emergency rooms, police stations, paramedic calls, jails, and shelters. 


Let’s start with how the FHP is based on a best-practice housing model from Los Angeles.  In what ways did Chicago adapt this model to address our unique challenges in addressing homelessness? 


One of the really exciting things that we’ve done is that we’ve expanded the scope of who can participate in the flexible housing pool.  Los Angeles has an incredible and very committed effort on the part of County government.  We’ve gone beyond that to have an inter-governmental response, where we have the Cook County government, as well as the City of Chicago and the Chicago Housing Authority all working together from the public sector.  But we didn’t stop there.  We decided that we wanted to look across all the different stakeholders with an interest in ending homelessness and allow them an opportunity to participate. So with that, we brought hospitals, had conversations with managed care organizations, and we have philanthropy all at the table at the same time, working together towards the same end.  So we are making sure that everybody in this city has a home and decent health care. 


On top of that, we have what we call a Governing Board.  So the community and people who are interested in the flexible housing pool have a chance to help guide its direction.  Part of the Governing Board are people with lived experience of homelessness and soon to be people who might actually participate in the flexible housing pool.  They have the same power as any investor who is putting up a million dollars, because we know they are truly experts in what it means to be homeless, and can help us to craft the pool in a way that will be the most responsive and person-centered.   


The flexible housing pool also has an explicit racial/equity focus.  We use our data to look at different outcomes to make sure we are, in fact, aligned with serving the population that we’re trying to serve; and that’s in addition to making sure that people have real power at the Governing Board to make decisions about the pool itself.  Finally, we have a pretty unique tool for allowing people to participate.  We have an escrow account that holds all the money that investors put into the flexible housing pool.  Right now the City of Chicago is the holder of the escrow account and the Center [for Housing and Health] receives the funds directly from the escrow account as a way to bring the funds to one place.  That is the “pool” of the flexible housing pool.   


And lastly, we are doing amazing work with data.  So our partners at two different homeless management information database organizations; the Suburban Alliance to End Homelessness in Cook County, and All Chicago – along with our partners at Cook County Health have done a data match, where they are able to tell us who are the persistent users across these multiple systems.  Who is ending up in the emergency room or an in-patient in the hospital over multiple years.  Who’s touching the jail, cycling in and out, and who are staying in shelters or out in the streets for the longest periods of time. Those are the folks we’re trying to serve; those who have been failed by our system for too many years. 


Tell us more about the administrative role of the Center for the FHP. 


The flexible housing pool is really the latest chapter in the Center for Housing and Health and the AIDS Foundation of Chicago’s work to bring together the health care and housing worlds.  It started with a really important research study called the Chicago Housing for Health Partnership in the early 2000s, when we were really demonstrating the efficacy of the Housing First Model.  And that is still one of the most cited research studies around best practices Housing First and programs to end homelessness.  Also importantly, it showed significant reductions in utilization, in-patient hospitalization days, in emergency room visits and in-nursing home days.   


So that was in the early part of the story with our role, and the CHIP study was the genesis for the creation of the Center for Housing and Health as a distinct organization.  From there we began to work with our partners around other policy and research projects where we could see how people who were experiencing homelessness were interfacing with multiple different hospitals throughout the region.  How that homelessness is documented in electronic health records and who gets missed because if we’re not able to track who are experiencing homelessness, the chances that we’re going to be able to provide appropriate intervention to them decrease significantly.  And, at the same time, the Center [for Housing and Health] was helping to lead the Better Health Through Housing Collaborative, that you referenced earlier, that was a group of supportive housing providers who came together to say, with one voice, “Health care, we know you need us, but we also need you. How do we work together to make a true difference in our community?  And to show you we are going to be good partners, to build that trust, and to end homelessness for over 100 individuals over the last 4 years.  The Better Health Through Housing Collaborative was also able to reiterate what we knew from the CHIP study and from what we’ve seen from other national studies; that with high quality housing and great supportive services, that people do not use crisis services like emergency department or end up in-patient in the hospital at nearly the same rates.  And, importantly, if you’re making investments that there is a return.  There is cost avoidance and potential cost savings on the part of health care institutions; especially for those who are responsible for being payors.   


How does the FHP align with other housing and health initiatives of the Center? 

We recognize that if want to actually end homelessness, we need a bigger tent.  We’ve been biting around the edges and making, in my opinion, modest decreases in the number of people who are homeless in our city for a long time, and it’s not for lack of effort.  But it is for a lack of political power and political will.  As we continue to develop relationships with partners and for us, most importantly, in the health care sector, who have a tremendous impact on our city and the way that they can leverage their economic and political power to say “we understand that we have not just a stake in this, but a passion for it and a role to help end it”.  The Flexible Housing Pool offers that opportunity and also is a way for them to look at some of the folks that come to their institutions on a regular basis, who they don’t have a solution for; who just keep coming back and back and aren’t getting well because they don’t have the dignity of a home.  So the Flexible Housing Pool says “ok, we can help the patients that you have or the members that you have, and you can be part of ending homelessness for those individuals”.  Also, in thinking about this through a collective-impact model, where we’re not just stuck in our own lanes, but saying we all have a commitment to this.  We all want to be working together, and together we’re going to be able to end homelessness and be proud of the city where we don’t have our neighbors living in the streets. 


The FHP has already secured investments from non-traditional and cross-sector partners, including local hospital systems and foundations.  Who are these partners, what is the significance of their engagement with the FHP and how do they help to build sustainability? 


So the current investors in the pool are the City of Chicago, the Chicago Housing Authority, Cook County Health has made a commitment, the Blue Cross Blue Shield [of Illinois] foundation has made a commitment, Advocate Aurora Healthcare and UI Health have all made commitments to the Flexible Housing Pool to date.  And that’s in addition to a number of philanthropic partners who have helped to support the development and the facilitation of the pool.   


Sustainability is a huge question, because if we’re going to put someone in a permanent, supportive housing unit, where there’s a rent subsidy and strong supportive services that are what we like to call the “secret sauce” of the program, if that goes away after one budget cycle or one fiscal year ends, then we are doing a disservice to our community rather than making a true impact.  THe more investors we have at the table, the more stakeholders who are contributing to the flexible housing pool, the better chance that we will be able to stretch our dollars farther, have a multiplying effect with those funds and also have the funds to eventually begin to transition folks to other sources.  So that the Flexible Housing Pool serves as the payor of last resort, if you will, to transition folks to more traditional subsidy sources.  When we have more partners at the table, we have greater buy-in and the stakes become higher, so that any one investor has a little more pressure to stay involved and stay committed. 


Since the implementation of the program in March, how many residents have been housed? 


To date there are 40 people that have been housed, half of those are in their permanent, supportive housing units where they will likely reside for many years. The other have are in bridge units and have their own safe place to call home but is not the permanent destination. 


Help us understand Bridge Units. 

The idea behind bridge units is that we’re often working with folks that are living outdoors, in encampments, under bridges, on lower Wacker Drive.  We want to be able to meet someone, and talk about the Flexible Housing Pool, and then offer them a place to come inside that day.  We’re not quite there yet, to be able to do it exactly in the moment, but the bridge units are generally single room occupancy units where we have people move in for a short period of time so that they’re living in their own space and can conduct a proper housing search rather than coming from living under a bridge, then going to meet with a landlord, and putting in a housing application. 


Of those who are housed, do they represent the race, ethnicity, gender and age of those most impacted by homelessness in Chicago? 

That’s correct.  In fact, for folks who are the persistent [and]  frequent users that we’re looking at, there’s even a higher proportion of people of color. The Flexible Housing Pool is looking [to make sure] we’re serving them at multiple time points. So at the time of referral, does that align with the demographics?  And then, are people falling off in the process? Are they making it to housing in the first place so they’re staying housed?  So throughout those different time points, we are consistently serving the demographic that we’re intending.  


What, so far, have been the challenges to program implementation and housing placement? 

It is quite an effort,  but I also want to recognize that it is not one that we do alone.  We don’t do it alone because we have a large stakeholder group that has come to the table from the beginning to really vision this project, and that we talk to on a regular basis.  I mentioned the contributers, but I also think it’s important to recognize some of the other partners like the Chicago Department of Public Health, the Chicago Department of Family and Supportive Services, the Corporation for Supportive Housing.  They’re all key members of this group of leaders who are making sure the Flexible Housing Pool works as intended.   


And, yet still, we have these housing challenges, Kuliva!  Oh, and I didn’t mention the agencies that the Center for Housing and Health subcontracts with.  We consider them key partners, too.  Housing Forward, located in the suburbs.  Thresholds, Debra’s Place and Renaissance Social Service are part of the folks doing the direct work on the ground, so I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge them, too. 


Thank you for acknowledging them! 

And so, what are we collectively still struggling with?  The first is, despite this amazing data match, we still have a hard time locating people.  So we’ve only located about half of all the people who are part of the initial cohort that we identified, and that’s in spite of many still returning to the hospital for care or at different health care sites operated by Cook County Health.  And, you might ask, well why is that?  If they keep coming back, why can’t you find them?  It’s not that we can’t find them, its that we can’t find them, and keep them, or find them again once they’ve been located.  And a big part of that is because folks often end up in the emergency department overnight, and to date we don’t have staff that can respond at 2am, and who can go to Stroger and engage folks.  We are talking about the solutions. We need to adapt to the realities of the lives of the people that we’re serving, so what do we do to stay true to that value of being patient or person-centered. 


This is a new program, and as any one who’s started a new program knows, there are hiccups in the way you designed the program, the way that you set up the process, the flow and the way it plays out on the ground.  We’ve experienced some of those growing pains in the first six months of operation, and the team has worked really hard to identify those challenges and then to implement solutions and to test those.  We also haven’t gotten people into houses as quickly as we’d like.  We talked a lot about housing as a human right, and making sure we can bring people to a safe space.  We still have room to grow in making sure we are able to get people into their homes as quickly as possible, and I will acknowledge that that’s a place that [Los Angeles] has a leg up on us to date, but we’re going to be there soon. 


What are the established measures of success for the FHP? 

THe first is around housing retention.  That people will stay in housing for at least 12 months from the time that we move them in.  That we can move people in quickly; as I’ve said, that’s an area that we’re still working on.  And that as we have these successful housing placements, and people stay in stable housing, we wrap the services around them, go to their homes to provide services, connect with care-coordinators, [and] that we’re seeing those reductions in crisis care at the hospitals, and that folks aren’t ending up in-patient or in nursing homes.  If we’re reducing the utilization of those services, we’d expect an accompanying decrease in costs. 


What can we expect in 2020? 

In 2020, I think first and foremost, you can expect to see every one of the initial referrals housed someplace safe. Whether its with the Flexible Housing Pool or another option they’ve identified.  The second is that we’ve planned to continue to expand, and that we’re not stopping here.  That we bring more health care partners to the table and potentially some other non-traditional partners to the table, so that we are making good on that commitment to looking beyond the traditional players and to engaging partners that maybe have been somewhat interested but not involved in the way that they could. 

Learn More about the Center for Housing and Health: 


Better Housing Through Health 

AIDS Foundation of Chicago 

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Our Latest Podcasts

07 | The Flexible Housing Pool: System Coordination to Address Chicago’s Homelessness

01 | Collective Impact: On-the-Ground Strategies for Community Engagement

The South Chicago Neighborhood Network uses the Collective Impact model to build a “trauma-informed” community.  Often in community development work, too many organizations are working in isolation from one another, reducing the collective power of resources and networks.  Can the collective impact model provide a structured way to bring people and organizations together to achieve social change?

In this episode, we talk with the Coordinator of the South Chicago Neighborhood Network about how collective impact works on the ground in community development.   

Often in community development work, too many organizations are working in isolation from one another. According to the Collective Impact Forum, collective impact brings people together in a structured way to achieve social change.


Collective impact: 

  • Starts with a common agenda (coming together to collectively define the problem and create a shared vision to solve it;
  • Establishes shared measurement (agreeing to track progress, in the same way, allowing for continuous improvement;
  • Fosters mutually reinforcing activities (coordinating collective efforts to maximize the end results); and
  • Encourages continuous communication (building trust and relationships among all participants)

It also has a strong backbone – such as a team dedicated to orchestrating the work of the group.

With principles of practice that places a priority on equity, uses data to continuously learn, adapt and improve and includes community members and cross-sector partners, the collective impact model has become a “best practice model” for philanthropy and strategic grantmaking at the community-level.

In this two-part episode, I’ll be exploring the efficacy of the collective impact model from two perspectives:  Philanthropy and Community Development.

Today I’m talking with Tevonne Ellis (of Claretian Associates), who is the Network Coordinator for the South Chicago Neighborhood Network. The South Chicago Neighborhood Network is one of the 10 funded neighborhood networks of United Way of Metro Chicago.  The Network uses the collective impact model, to support the common agenda of creating a trauma-informed community by 2020 and is comprised of over 22 South Chicago community civic and non-profit organizations, leaders, businesses and health partners.

Tevonne and her team convene Network members monthly to review ongoing activities, assess effectiveness, and determine next steps.  The work is led by and coordinated through Committees, and the Committee Chairs convene members and key partners to deploy the planned activities and programs.


How does the SCNN engage the Collective Impact model to support the creation of a trauma-informed community in South Chicago? 

Our goal is to engage youth, between the age of 8-26, to reduce violence in the community. Each of these organizations has a strength to help us engage young people, in particular, around violence. 

How has your funder, United Way of Metro Chicago, guide and support the network in utilizing the collective impact model? 

Our funder provides us with a community engagement officer so they’re basically the boots on the ground in the community from the funder’s office. Really helping, directing and guiding the collective impact process. They were there to help us create our common agenda, our three-year plan as well as looking at our goals and indicators on how we’re meeting our goals in the plan. 

Also, to help us build capacity. They provide an evaluator to look at the concept of the indicators of our plan. I think there is a struggle, I think trauma is a really hard concept to measure so we kind of struggle around data collection and tracking and evaluation. 

What, in your opinion are the strengths and challenges of utilizing the collective impact model in the Network’s effort to create a trauma-informed community? 

One of the challenges is keeping network members engaged and at the table. Another challenge is looking at the topic in which you are approaching. This is a relatively new concept, what is trauma-informed? What does it look like? 

It’s just a really broad topic and I think we struggle with focusing it and really looking at how we can create an impact in using the collective impact model. Rally kind of showing that bc we created a trauma-informed neighborhood, we reduce violence. 

Strength is when you show funders as well as other key partners, that if you’re working collectively to move the needle it’s always powerful to show in numbers vs one organization. Also, I think it creates a movement when you have more than one person at the table around trauma-informed. When one organization hears about it, you start to hear other people talking about it as well. 

Being intentional about making sure we are meeting the needs of collective impact. Common goal, common agenda, having a lead agency and making sure that we are collecting data are some of the key pillars. 

The common goal and the common agenda are always at the head of the conversation. Collective Impact can make a shift and you have to revisit the common agenda and the common goal to make sure everyone is still invested in the key themes. 

What would you share with funders who embrace this model for community-level work? 

People are at different levels of the collective impact model. They may have common goals or common agenda but are they really making an impact in unison. Are you just looking for collaborative work or are you looking at unison where all organizations are working together to make an impact? 

I think you have to be really clear on what you’re looking for when you’re looking at collective impact work. 

Starting from scratch is a very difficult challenge. You have to educate your potential funder what collective impact means to you. It has different definitions for different funders. 

Learn More about the South Chicago Neighborhood Network: 


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