Homelessness in Houston

HRC’s Involvement in Cross-System Planning Initiative

Homelessness in Houston 1Solving the issue of homelessness can’t rely solely on collaboration. We have to be system thinkers, says Mandy Chapman Semple.

Houston Recovery Center has been a vital partner from the very beginning in the homeless cross-system planning process, according to Mandy Chapman Semple, a nationally recognized social systems transformation expert who previously served as Houston’s first Special Assistant to the Mayor for Homeless Initiatives.

“As Houston Recovery Center has grown in its own sophistication and its own understanding of clients’ needs, it brings rich information to these cross-system discussions and helps us make better decisions on how to deliver care,” she says.

A Homeless Cross-System Planning Initiative is in the works in Houston, and Houston Recovery Center is part of the conversation and planning along with The Harris Center for Mental Health and IDD and other homeless service providers.

Solving the issue of homelessness can’t rely solely on collaboration. We have to be system thinkers, according to Chapman Semple. She is facilitating the current cross-system planning process.

One of the recommendations of the Harris County Homeless Taskforce is providing a facility where individuals can receive extensive mental health support to enable them to be more successful once they gain housing. The City of Houston and Harris County are both contributing $5 million to this initiative with a new facility, a COVID-19 Homeless Respite and Rehabilitation Center, operated by The Harris Center for Mental Health and IDD. While the new facility is going to help in response to that population, it is not considered the solution.

Homelessness in Houston 2“It became important for Houston Recovery Center to become part of that conversation of how do we maximize this facility for individuals with co-occurring disorders that are seeking services through Houston Recovery Center,” Chapman Semple says. “How does HRC become a primary intercept point for our system and that facility?”

COVID-19 as a Silver Lining

The COVID-19 pandemic often presents silver linings when you look for them. One such instance is Houston’s current re-housing initiative. COVID-19 accelerated the process in Houston out of planning and into implementation because resources were suddenly available (i.e., CARES Act).

“What’s so incredible about Houston’s collective impact system is that in the face of all those realities, Houston knew how to immediately execute and launch a massive re-housing surge for anyone experiencing or at risk of homelessness as a result of the COVID-19 crisis,” Chapman Semple states.

No one has seen homelessness as a public health need before, says Chapman Semple. But as COVID-19 happened and the city started to identify the best solution to mitigate the spread of infectious disease among a vulnerable population, ironically all roads pointed to re-housing as the best public health solution for Houston area, across the board.

“That’s an important message for folks to understand,” Chapman Semple says. “Housing First or re-housing isn’t just relegated as an idea advocates have come up with. It’s a proven public health crisis solution to a real public health crisis. Not having a place to sleep is a public health crisis.”

Houston has much to be proud of, according to Chapman Semple, by bringing agencies like Houston Recovery Center and The Harris Center squarely into the fold.

“Incorporating the facilities and services they offer as a central part of the broader part of the homeless response system is really exciting,” she states. “We have to think about scale and formalize those connections to provide the long-term care that’s going to be necessary to really combat this issue and move the needle.” Chapman Semple is facilitating the initiative as part of her consulting firm, Clutch Consulting Group.

Learn more about the new initiative with The Harris Center.