The BE THE CHANGE Program facilitates a person’s journey off the street by filling gaps, offering care coordination, transportation, advocacy, encouragement and support for those want to leave the street. The program works with, rather than duplicates existing services drawing on the network’s collective impact to make a difference.
Collective Impact has been defined as drawing together important actors from different sectors to a common agenda for solving a specific social problem [John Kania and Mark Kramer, Stanford Social Innovation Review, Winter 2011}, in this case the need and cost of homeless care.
The program draws together hospitals whose emergency rooms are frequented by the homeless, often for non-emergent, non-medical needs; homeless agencies that provide a wide range of services to the homeless; and businesses that frequently see the homeless as an annoyance or deterrent. Those that benefit financially share their savings with financial support. Non-profits that benefit from improved outcomes and efficiency provide specialized services, in-kind support and technical guidance which helps keep costs in check. It is a true collaboration with a common goal is to help the homeless off the street.
The BE THE CHANGE Program fills the gaps with an innovative, client oriented approach. Its outreach program centered on providing meals and transportation, on the street over 100 hours a week, builds rapport with homeless individuals, as well as an understanding of their story and challenes. The staff has also built knowledge of local agencies, their programs, requirements and capabilities that enables them to match individuals with services. Once in a program, the staff follows-up, providing support and encouragement throughout their journey off the street. The program works with individuals, providing advocacy and assistance in taking the next step. Frequently, that assistance involves identifying and accessing an agency providing the next service, but often it means providing lodging and care coordination for a few days or weeks until a bed is available.
But agencies are made up of individuals whose collective impact is seen in many ways. Last year, the Kansas City Chapter of the Emergency Nurses Association held a Walk for Woo. Over 80 people representing all the hospitals served turned out on a cloudy, cold fall morning to raise over $3,000 for the program. These are the same individuals that tirelessly serve the homeless night in, night out.
The result of this collective focus benefits the homeless, local homeless agencies, community emergency services and thus our community. In its first three years, the program helped emergency services avoid nearly $5,000,000 in hospital, ambulance, police and judicial fees and costs. That’s $6 for each $1 AHH spent. Saint Luke’s Plaza Hospital attributed much of an 80% decline in non-emergent homeless ED cases to the program. Over 100 chronic homeless and at risk young adults were helped off the street. The BE THE CHANGE Program lives out it motto: Helping the Homeless, Helping the Community.