December 31, 2008

Chasing Symptoms – Banging Heads

My IT guy has been digging around in my server for five weeks trying to fix a problem of intermittent server outages. He comes in, finds what appears to be the problem gives me the “good news” and then about two days later, it happens again. After 30 hours and numerous head on the wall banging episodes later he has come up with this analysis: “Chris, we are trying to locate and resolve the root problem, but it’s very hard to find, and once we do find it we have to have the right fix to make sure it doesn’t come back”.

Chasing and slapping the quick fix on the symptoms of the root problem has been a costly and frustrating experience. For me it’s only a few thousand bucks and a quick plaster patch job on the wall. But what about when we translate this to the problem of homelessness?

In my humble opinion of nearly two decades working in this field, this is what many communities STILL do with their homeless problem. Slap a quick fix on the problem. Feel better for awhile. Get more homeless impacts…more quick fixes. And the cycle continues ad nauseam. The press drives the issue constantly saying that we need to do more, more shelters, more money to help, more, more, and more. And for the most part, most people out there really DON’T have the time to learn and understand such a complex issue, so they take one of two sides: Help them, or don’t help them. But there should be a third way and it’s the way that Solutions for Change has been proposing for many years. SOLVE the ROOT problem! But that message gets drowned out in another newspaper story, another meeting, and another plan.

So we end up doing more. All the while it LOOKS like we are doing something because after all, we have our emergency winter shelters, our ten year plans, our consortiums and meetings and it goes on and on. I’ve been a participant in this process and I have seen firsthand how the system works.

Someone once said that every organization (or in this case our homeless policies) is perfectly designed to get the results that they are getting. There were 1.3 million homeless children in America this year. How do you like those results?

A friend of mine, Tom Suddes, puts it this way. Three powerful insights: ABANDON, REDESIGN, REIMAGINE.

- Abandon the old way we approach and manage the problem of homelessness.

- Redesign using new entrepreneurial intervention and engagement strategies cemented in the absolute non negotiable bottom line: SOLVE IT! Solve it for the person. Solve it for the community. Period. End of planning process.

- Reimagine our North County community with NO homeless families. No homeless people in the parks. No homeless impacts in our cities.

Maybe 2009 will be the year. We never give up hope here.

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