Sunday, May 18, 2014

Communication 101


For those of you following this blog, you know that I am currently working on a list of words, (and their definitions), used in the homelessness industry.

It doesn't take long to understand that one of the biggest problems facing the homelessness industry is communication - communication between homeless service providers, the homeless, and the community at large.

In order to move the cause of ending homelessness closer to the goal, communication between all interested parties must be improved.  First and foremost, everyone most agree on which words, terminology, and definitions to use.

The history of homelessness is marked by a recent and significant change in how the industry responds to homelessness.   Until recently, the homelessness industry focused only on the care of homeless people, providing food, shelter and clothing.  That was the extend of it.  Then about a  decade ago, the homelessness industry started focusing on the task of ending homelessness.

Food, shelter and clothing are still important aspects of the work, but those things are now thought of as the beginnings of the work, not the end of it.

Ending homelessness is a bigger and more ambitious endeavor.  It requires not just a compassionate heart but also a mind big enough to comprehend the complexity of the work.  As the work of ending homelessness evolves, new terminology develops.  These words and their definitions must be understood so to effectively engage in the work of ending homelessness.

One difficulty currently exists in that, on the local level, many of these terms are used indiscriminately,  interchangeably, as if there are no real definitions to them.    This is happening partly because ending homelessness is still in its infancy, and it will take some time for the industry to accept an authoritative single definition for each term.  

To understand a little of the current difficulty, watch these short videos by Iain De Jong.