We all know someone who has a great idea to help people. They rally support, cast a vision, and recruit a few people to help them do the work. They start their mission of love and compassion and then they want to know why they aren’t getting the results they expected.
I love consulting with nonprofit startups. Seeing the passion people have to make a difference in the world is exhilarating. Whether it is starting a new agency or joining the nonprofit sector, the compassion people want to demonstrate never lets me down.
When Dillon and I started Relevant Hope, we wanted to fill a gap in services for the homeless community. After surveying the various agencies in Chattanooga, we discovered that none of them were consistently providing outreach services. If someone needed or wanted the help those agencies had to offer, they had to go to them to get it.
In our passion, we set out to serve people living on the streets, in tents, and under bridges. We developed relationships, provided resources, and helped a lot of people.
The problem we had to overcome was determining what the end result of our help was. We lacked the vision to accomplish an end goal.
That’s when we started to listen to peers and colleagues in the community and research best practices for helping people get off the streets. When we started we had an assumption that people wanted to be homeless, but what we learned was that if they had the opportunity for a house, they would take it. Of course, there is a small percentage who say, “No” to housing, but they are rare.
Our focus changed and we developed a plan for helping people that led to housing.
First, we would focus our efforts on survivability. We can’t help someone who is dead. We would provide protection from the elements and basic nutrition to get them through.
Second, we established sustainability. They needed to survive day-to-day without relying on someone else to keep them going. We referred them to services where they could provide for themselves while they were still on the streets.
Finally, we encouraged transition. Everyone deserves a home. We worked toward transitioning them from homelessness to housed. This took several agencies in the community working together, but over 200 people who have received help from Relevant Hope have made the transition from homeless to housed.
We discovered that when people who are homeless stabilize in housing, they are more likely to remain housed and become self-sufficient for their needs. Evidence-based, best practices demonstrated that we needed to adapt our services to fit the needs of the people we wanted to help instead of requiring them to fit a mold we required before we would help them.
This is the struggle of many startups I help. They have a great idea for how they are going to help people or how they are going to fix people so they can work their program.
Often these well-meaning people aren’t aware of or don’t know where to find the research that has led to best practices that make the most difference. That is where we have a responsibility to guide people toward resources that set them up for success.
Question: What evidence did you discover that changed the way you serve the community? You can leave a comment by clicking here.