10 Ways We’ve Advanced Equity in the Past Year

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1. Shared our Equity Evaluation with our community, our County elected officials and staff, and our peers across the country so others can learn and grow with us.

Advancing equity cannot be done by the homeless service sector alone, and therefore it’s our responsibility to share our data with others. We shared our Equity Evaluation with the County’s Board of Commissioners and Senior Staff, the Health and Human Services Cabinet, and our community of over 50 nonprofit providers and regional funders in addition to making it publicly available online. Additionally, Your Way Home has presented the evaluation at recent regional and national events including the BuxMont Collaborative annual conference, the National Human Services Data Consortium spring conference, the National Coalition for Veteran Homelessness annual conference, and the National Alliance on Ending Homelessness summer conference.

Read Parts 1 and 2 of our Equity Evaluation Here
Tags: Data, Building Anti-Racist Organizations

2. Launched an LGBTQ Action Team to assess how we can create a more welcoming and inclusive human services system.

In fall 2018, Your Way Home received a grant from the HealthSpark Foundation Innovation Lab to support efforts to improve access to human services in Montgomery County for persons who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer (LGBTQ). Through this grant, Your Way Home has hired three LGBTQ community advocates to host focus groups and interviews with their peers this summer and fall. Community advocates will use this feedback to develop recommendations on how the human services sector can create more welcoming spaces for LGBTQ persons. An Action Team is overseeing this project, which includes representatives from the County’s Department of Health & Human Services, the Housing Equality Center of Southeastern PA, the Two-Spirit Society, Laurel House, the Abramson Center for Jewish Life, and the LGBT Business Council.

Read About the LGBTQ Innovation Lab Grant Here
Tags: Focus on At Risk Sub Groups, Cross-Sector Collaboration, Equity-Based Prioritization and Assessment

3. Supported cross-sector partnerships to prevent homelessness among families with children.

Your Way Home launched the Sprout Initiative in 2018 in partnership with the North Penn School District and Keystone Opportunity Center to improve the housing stability of at-risk families with young children in the North Penn region. The project targets families that are housing unstable but otherwise do not qualify for HUD-funded homeless services. While the pilot program is ending in 2019, Your Way Home is working with its partners to modify the program, incorporate lessons learned, and enhance offerings to at-risk families with schools in the future.

Read the Sprout Initiative Interim Report Here
Learn more at our panel sessions at
Homes Within Reach and Young Children Experiencing Homeless Conference
Tags: Upstream Prevention, Cross-Sector Collaboration, Focus on At-Risk Sub-Groups, Data

4. Used feedback from over 100 consumers and service providers to re-tool our prioritization process so it is more consumer-focused and responsive.

HopeWorx of Norristown helped us to survey over 100 current and recent program participants as part of our Coordinated Entry Evaluation. This evaluation concluded with recommendations on how to improve access to services for consumers, including changes to how we prioritize for emergency shelter and rapid re-housing. Two major changes include:

1.    Your Way Home now uses a ‘dynamic prioritization’ process for referral into  rapid re-housing and permanent supportive housing emergency shelter. In practice, this means that the VI-SPDAT assessment is used to determine priority into shelter our housing programs in combination with other factors, such as mental health diagnosis, medical acuity, length of time homeless, age, and others. We believe this will make our prioritization more responsive to local vulnerability and the quickly changing circumstances of people living in the streets.

2.     Second, 2-1-1 no longer conducts the VI-SPDAT assessment over the phone for most households, since we were concerned about the accuracy of responses provided over the phone. Now, our Street Outreach team or emergency shelter staff conduct the VI-SPDAT assessment face-to-face with each household. We believe this will improve accuracy, especially for persons with limited English, a mental health diagnosis, or with cognitive impairments.

Read the Program Operations Plan Here
Watch a YWH 101 Training to learn more
Tags: Equity Based Assessment and Prioritization, Data

5. Re-designed our data dashboards and performance analysis to use an equity lens.

Your Way Home data and performance analysis has shifted towards using an “equity lens,” meaning that outcomes are analyzed by race, ethnicity, gender, disability, and household size as part of any program or system outcomes review. We updated our website to include system performance dashboards that are publicly searchable by race, ethnicity, gender, and age. Our program reviews, such as our EPIC Impact Analysis, will now always be rooted in an equity analysis of our data. Finally, we’ve started posting short data blogs that use this equity lens to analyze key system performance indicators, so that our community continues to evaluate its data with an equity lens even after our formal SPARC evaluation has been completed.

 Read Our Blog Posts and Reports
Tags: Data, Building Anti-Racist Organizations

6. Designated scarce resources to support populations most at risk of becoming homeless.

Your Way Home’s housing voucher preference program began in early 2019. In order to respond to the high rate of homelessness among African American families with young children, the preference program prioritizes families with children, in particular those with high rates of stay in shelter or with significant barriers to housing stability. To date, 50 high-need families have been referred to the voucher program through this process. The Montgomery County Housing Authority has been a strong partner in this process.

Tags: Data, Focus on At-Risk Sub-Groups, Upstream Prevention

7. Recruited new organizations and diverse leadership to our Advisory Council.

With turnover of the Your Way Home Advisory Council in late 2018, we prioritized recruitment of organizations and sectors that serve the primary demographic groups experiencing homelessness or groups that are underrepresented in our services. This included organizations that support African American communities, Hispanic and Latino/a persons, and women and children. We also sought to increase diversity on the Advisory Council so that it is more representative of our population. In 2019, persons of color represent 29% and women represent 54% of Advisory Council members, up from 20% and 48% in 2018, respectively.

Learn More About the Advisory Council Here
Tags: Building Anti-Racist Organizations, Cross-Sector Collaboration

8. Centered our regional annual convening on advancing equity, and featured diverse speakers throughout our program.

The Your Way Home 7th Annual Summit, hosted on June 7, focused on how organizations across the region are putting equity into practice. This included a keynote presentation on advancing racial equity in the homeless service sector by the CEO of Funders Together to End Homelessness, Amanda Misiko Andere. As well, we crowd-sourced breakout sessions so our provider network could share how they are advancing equity within their own organizations. Finally, the Summit included a panel session on how the sectors of government, philanthropy, human services, and healthcare are advancing racial equity in practice. Our agenda and speakers are below:

Breakout sessions:
Equitable Grantmaking for Housing and Homeless Services: Philanthropic Perspectives

Teresa Jackson, The Seybert Foundation
Vanessa Briggs, Brandywine Health Foundation
Louis J. Beccaria, Ph.D., Phoenixville Community Health Foundation
Marisa C. Ferst, Genuardi Family Foundation

Partnering with Young People in the Fight to End Youth Homelessness

Zahra Cornelius, Valley Youth House
Andrew Palomo, Valley Youth House
Alyssa Weinfurtner, Valley Youth House

Strengthening Supports to Vulnerable Populations in Housing

Kayleigh Silver, Your Way Home
Owen Camuso, Resource for Human Development
Matt Tice, Pathways to Housing

Using Strong Partnerships to Combat the Affordable Housing Crisis

Marianne Lynch, Habitat for Humanity of Montgomery and Delaware Counties
Judy Memberg, Genesis Housing Corporation

Working Together to Build a Healthier Community with Positive Birth Outcomes & Family Stability

Nelly Jimenez-Arevalo, ACLAMO Family Centers
The Montgomery County Maternal and Early Childhood Consortium

Lunch Panel

Tara Gaudin, Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services
Amanda Misiko Andere, Funders Together to End Homelessness
Karen Hudson, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
Nefertiri Sickout, City of Philadelphia

Tags: Building Anti-Racist Organizations, Cross-Sector Collaboration

9. Joined local and national learning groups that are advancing equity in human services.

Your Way Home and its partners joined national networks dedicated to building anti-racist and equity-focused homeless service systems. The Office of Housing and Community Development (HCD) joined the National Alliance to End Homelessness’s Racial Equity Network, a small working group of communities across the country who are developing toolkits for advancing racial equity within homeless services. HCD also joined the Montgomery County Office of Public Health’s Maternal and Early Childhood Consortium, which focuses on reducing infant mortalities with an equity lens.

HealthSpark Foundation, a partner of Your Way Home, has joined the “Foundations for Racial Equity” community of practice through Funders Together to End Homelessness. This community of practice will convene philanthropic leaders working at national and local levels to build relationships with other funders, learn together about systemic racism in housing and homelessness, and lead the field in creating a more equitable world.

Download the Racial Equity Network ToolKit
Learn about FTEH
Tags: Building Anti-Racist Organizations, Data

10. Prioritized Fair Housing trainings to ensure compliance.

1.    Your Way Home has partnered with the Housing Equality Center to deliver a mandatory Fair Housing training to all providers and partners.  The training covers basic provisions of the Fair Housing Act, best practices for ensuring the fair housing rights of constituents, Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing obligations for recipients and sub-recipients of federal funding, and technical issues for local governments such as zoning and land use, code enforcement, reasonable accommodations for persons with disabilities, group homes and recovery homes, and implementing non-discriminatory policies and procedures.

2.     During the quarterly monitoring of Your Way Home contracted partners, service providers are expected to provide knowledge of Fair Housing best practices and actions taken to guarantee clients are informed about our partnership with the Housing Equality Center. 

Learn more about the Housing Equality Center here
Tags: Fair Housing

Where We’re Headed: Next Steps for Advancing Equity in Your Way Home

1. Prioritize and bring to scale programs and policies that will reduce homelessness among people of color.

In our recently released Program Operations Plan, Your Way Home set a goal to increase access of Your Way Home housing and homeless services to under-served, under-represented populations who may not meet HUD’s definition of literal homelessness. This includes specific efforts to:

1.     Expand our court-based eviction prevention program, EPIC, into Pottstown in 2020. EPIC has a 90% success rate of preventing evictions among African American women in the Norristown court. If we can bring this program to scale in other key jurisdictions, we believe we can have a significant impact on reducing housing instability and homelessness among this population.

2.     Starting in fall 2019, Your Way Home will fund an Emergency Rent and Utility Program, in order to target homelessness prevention resources to Hispanic/ Latino residents. Our goal is to support this underserved population by providing funds directly to a community-based organization with bicultural and bilingual staff. 

2. Upgrade our leadership structure so consumers with lived expertise and lived experience of homelessness have decision-making power.

Your Way Home will be establishing a dedicated Consumer Advisory Board and a Youth Advisory Board. Both boards will recruit people with recent lived experience and lived expertise of homelessness in Montgomery County and their allies. These boards will have authority over funding, policy, and programmatic decisions. Your Way Home will provide paid compensation, supports to attend meetings (childcare, transportation, meals), and a flexible meeting structure that is more conducive for those who do not work in the human services sector.

In addition, Your Way Home will conduct yearly consumer feedback surveys and focus groups to build a more consumer-focused system.

Tags: Share Power with the Lived Experience, Focus on At-Risk Sub Groups, Data, Upstream Prevention, Cross-Sector Collaboration

3. Further support the development of equity-based homeless service organizations by funding diversity & inclusion training and supporting efforts to increase the pipeline for staff of color into leadership positions.

Through a grant from the Wells Fargo Foundation, Your Way Home has hired the firm Corajus (Coalition for Racial Justice) of Philadelphia to develop and deliver a four-part workshop series on diversity and inclusion for all Your Way Home staff and Council members, and leadership at the County’s Department of Health and Human Services. The training series will take part over four half-day sessions, starting in September and ending in January. The workshop series will focus on creating a shared language and understanding of equity, racism, and privilege; and offer resources for building a rich and robust culture grounded in diversity and inclusion. Towards the end of this training, Your Way Home will invite participants and other stakeholders to join a collaborative effort to write a Statement of Racial Equity Principles.

Additionally, Your Way Home’s Senior Manager has joined the County of Montgomery’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee. The role of the Committee will be to provide input and recommendations to the County’s Department of Human Resources.  Areas of relevance that the Committee will be focusing on include recruitment, training, outreach and cultural/social awareness. Lessons learned from this group will be shared with the broader Your Way Home community as they become available.

Tags: Building Anti-Racist Organizations, Data

4. Adopt equity-based practices for policy-making, funding decisions, and data analysis.

Your Way Home’s lead public agency and funder, the County’s Office of Housing and Community Development, will update its program data dashboards to include demographically- disaggregated outcomes. Providers will be able to view their own data by race, gender, age, and household type. Starting in 2020, the Office of Housing and Community Development will be including requirements to report agency outcomes by demographic group into its annual funding application process, as well as narrative on how individual organizations will be addressing any disparities in their data in the next grant cycle. HCD will provide technical assistance and training to support these changes.

The Your Way Home Operations Team will be adopting the use of an Equity Policy Review tool to support equity-informed policy and program design. The Equity Policy Review tool will evaluate programmatic, policy, and funding decisions through an equity lens. The Operations Team will share lessons learned and the impact of this tool in future Your Way Home communications.

Tags: Building Anti-Racist Organizations, Equity-Based Assessment and Prioritization, Data

5. Take a leadership role in advancing cross-sector solutions to increase access to affordable housing and to strengthen the safety net system.

In 2020, the Office of Housing and Community Development will be releasing its Homes For All report. This project, completed in partnership with the Commerce Department and Planning Commission, is a two-year, multi-sector planning project whose purpose is to identify, evaluate and recommend public, private and social sector strategies to ensure that everyone who lives, works, learns and invests in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania has the opportunity to live in an affordable home and a thriving community. A cross-sector council composed of banks, developers, faith leaders, nonprofits, local government, and philanthropy oversees the work.

Your Way Home is an active participant in the Safety Net Resiliency Initiative, led by the HealthSpark Foundation, to create a resilient and financially sustainable safety net that allows anyone in Montgomery County to access high quality, coordinated, equitable and culturally appropriate services no matter who they are, what they need or where they live. This includes organizational and leadership development, grants to fund collaborative community projects to advance the safety net’s goals, and systems change advocacy.

Through the Office of Housing and Community Development, Your Way Home will be participating in the County Department of Health and Human Services 2020 Strategic Planning process. This process will help to develop agreed frameworks, directions and strategies for Key Issue Areas/Key Performance Indicators, promote organization-wide collaboration for greater impact and articulate approaches that would lead to tighter, more focused, and high-impact programs for the Health and Human Services Department.

Tags: Long-Term Solutions, Cross-Sector Collaboration, Building Anti-Racist Organizations, Upstream Prevention