New Report Sheds Light on Impact of Service Silos on Housing Crisis in Massachusetts
Three years since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is clearer than ever that community health, education, housing, and the strength of the workforce are all linked – interlocking puzzle pieces that make up our community’s resilience. Yet many of these resources and service sectors operate in silos.
As Massachusetts sees increases in rates of homelessness, a new report released from United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Boston College School of Social Work sheds light on the impact of service silos on organizations, frontline workers, and the families these resources are intended to support. “Capacity, Burnout, and Trust: Insights from Frontline Housing Crisis Responders” also aims to uphold the potential of coordination to expand systemic capacity and build trust.
In This Report:
Highlights suggestions from Massachusetts frontline staff providing crisis response to families at immediate risk of losing their housing or who are already experiencing homelessness on ways to improve access and services.
Offers “big picture” principles that diverse stakeholders can use as they address unprecedented levels of housing insecurity across the Commonwealth.
Includes insights into the supportive services and funding necessary to meet the needs of those experiencing housing insecurity throughout the state.
Capacity, Burnout, and Trust: Insights from Frontline Housing Crisis Responders [PDF]
The report explores the ways that an uncoordinated system of services causes burnout among frontline staff and erodes the very trust that providers need to support families at risk of losing their homes. Addressing a classic vicious-virtuous cycle of stakeholders working in silos, the report also points toward the potential for better coordination among the various stakeholders who provide housing service to bolster systemic capacity to support unhoused families and build the resilience our community needs.
Key Policy Recommendations from the Report
|1||Invest in infrastructure to facilitate coordination among organizations and networks that support families experiencing housing instability.|
|2||Coordinate funding and create nimble funding approaches.|
|3||Re-center family voice in the design of organization and service experiences.|
|4||Streamline, coordinate, and enhance administrative data collection and utilization to improve system performance and outcomes|
Policy recommendations aim to offer a set of big picture principles that diverse stakeholders can use as they address unprecedented levels of housing insecurity in Massachusetts. These principles are developed with tangible suggestions for how legislators, funders, public administrators, and private service providers can implement, including concrete examples of success from cities and states across the US.
United Way envisions an accessible continuum of housing resources that meets people where they are, interrupts trauma, and contributes to their wellbeing. This report contributes to United Way’s movement building to shift the fundamental understanding of homelessness to adequately address this crisis and ensure that homelessness is a brief, exceedingly rare, one-time experience in an individual’s life.
The March 2023 report outlines key findings and recommendations drawn from participants in a learning community, called Housing + Education, implemented by United Way. The group first convened during the COVID pandemic, as nearly all schools in the Commonwealth operated remotely, to strengthen connections between housing and education providers, and lift best practices for keeping children without stable housing engaged in their learning.
To document some of these important insights, United Way turned to Boston College School of Social Work to co-convene a group of 40 frontline providers from Boston, the North Shore, Merrimack Valley, and the South Shore to gather feedback. The team used a research method called Community-Based Systems Dynamics (CBSD) to solicit insights.
The CBSD sessions were conducted to better understand the experiences of frontline staff providing crisis response to families at immediate risk of losing their housing or who are already experiencing homelessness. The report highlights the results of those CBSD sessions, including challenges related to funding, data collection, and use of data to support families who experience housing insecurity in Massachusetts raised by participants.
At a Town Hall on Housing last year, one participant commented: “emergency assistance, affordable housing – these important resources are beyond bureaucratic. It is difficult to access even for people who are employed as housing resource navigators. For families in crisis, it is nearly impossible and demoralizing.”
While we know preventing housing instability early is important to helping families avoid homelessness and reducing disruption to children’s education and overall wellbeing, this report aims to help all stakeholders better understand how to interrupt the cycle of housing instability and effectively support young people and their families so that the insights can be adopted at scale.
Given the complexity of the housing crisis, no one organization has a full perspective of all systems that touch a family’s life, nor can one organization solve the crisis alone. We hope these recommendations will help move the dial forward.
Capacity, Burnout, and Trust: Insights from Frontline Housing Crisis Responders
Report Authors: United Way, Boston College, and Technical Assistance Collaborative (TAC)
Learn more about this and other research projects from , funded by the WT Grant Foundation, the United Way and Boston College research-practice partnership, funded by the WT Grant Foundation, that focus on improving outcomes for youth experiencing homelessness in Massachusetts.