Building the Capacity of Critical Service Providers in Austin’s Homelessness Response System

January 15, 2022

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FUSE Corps

In spring 2021, city leaders facilitated the first Summit to Address Unsheltered Homelessness in Austin. The Summit determined that improving homelessness service provider capacity and responsiveness needs to be a top priority in order to effectively and significantly reduce unsheltered homelessness in the city. Austin will partner with FUSE Corps to lead meaningful organizational capacity building within a portfolio of homelessness service providers, ensuring the outreach efforts of providers are culturally responsive and informed by those with actual lived experience of homelessness. 

This fellowship project begins on April 25, 2022, and ends on April 24, 2023. The fellowship begins with a multi-day virtual orientation the week of April 25, 2022. The selected Executive Fellow will begin their first day of providing services to the host agency on May 2, 2022. 

PROJECT CONTEXT 

In the City of Austin, homelessness is a persistent reality that has amounted to a humanitarian challenge. Lack of affordable housing and healthcare, trauma and abuse, and racial inequities are all leading causes of homelessness in Austin. An estimated 9,000 residents in the Austin/Travis County area experience homelessness each year, with Black Austinites, disproportionately represented in the homeless population. Black residents represent 1 in 3 individuals experiencing homelessness, but fewer than 1 in 10 people in the Austin/Travis County population. Older Austinites are also over-represented, and their share of those experiencing homelessness continues to grow. In Austin, like in many other cities throughout the county, people experiencing homelessness are overrepresented in the criminal justice system and lack adequate access to basic healthcare. Individuals experiencing homelessness have also been amongst the most vulnerable populations during the Covid-19 pandemic. With service providers and shelters hobbled due to capacity limits, people experiencing homelessness in Austin/Travis County were more likely to be in unsheltered living situations during 2021.

Since 2018, ending homelessness has been the top priority of city leaders, and ensuring accessible services to those experiencing homelessness are focal points of Imagine Austin, the 30-year vision for the city. In spring 2021, city leaders facilitated the first Summit to Address Unsheltered Homelessness in Austin – which brought together diverse voices from across the community to tackle the crisis of homelessness that Austin faces. The summit’s purpose was to develop an implementation strategy to effectively and significantly reduce unsheltered homelessness in the city. This will include building a better system, scaling Austin’s homelessness response system to become a rehousing system that improves equitable access and outcomes for anyone experiencing homelessness. In the next three years, local leaders are dedicated to improving service provider capacity and responsiveness, ensuring the outreach efforts of providers are culturally responsive and informed by those with actual lived experience of homelessness.

The investment plan developed via the 2021 summit envisions $515M in additional system funding through 2024, with $20M set aside for improving the homeless response system generally, including investments in the organizational capacity and efficacy of local service providers. Starting in early 2022, the Homeless Services Division will issue an RFP for these funds, soliciting responses from 15-25 service providers in the homelessness response system. These responses should outline the unique challenges each provider faces in building the capacity of their organizations and map plans for how a grant investment from the city would support these efforts. This once-in-a-generation investment from the city will facilitate providers’ growth and development, essential to combatting disparities in the system and serving all that experience homelessness in Austin.

Austin will partner with FUSE Corps to lead meaningful organizational capacity building within a portfolio of homelessness service providers selected from this solicitation process. The FUSE Executive Fellow may first support the development of a prioritization framework to determine the initial allocations to each chosen provider and support the selected portfolio of service providers in reaching their outlined goals, ensuring the investment of funds in meeting the needs of the providers. The Executive Fellow will set up a city-wide learning community of these providers, determining overarching capacity-building tools and extracting case studies of successful providers. By 2023, critical homelessness service providers in the city will have the strength and capacity to can support those experiencing homelessness at scale, ensuring the city will reach the goal of making homelessness rare, brief, and nonrecurring in Austin.

PROJECT SUMMARY & POTENTIAL DELIVERABLES

The following provides a general overview of the proposed Executive Fellowship project. This summary and the potential deliverables will be collaboratively revisited by the host agency, the Executive Fellow, and FUSE staff during the first few months of the Executive Fellowship, after which a revised scope of work will be developed and agreed upon by the FUSE Executive Fellow and the host agency.

Starting in April 2022, it is proposed that the FUSE Executive Fellow will work to support the Homelessness Strategy Division in selecting service providers and the allocation of the Summit to Address Unsheltered Homelessness’s grant funding. The Executive Fellow will work quickly to develop a prioritization framework for the Division, outlining the key indicators of successful organizational development and capacity building. This framework will utilize an equity lens, centering the need to provide additional support for culturally-competent service providers – especially for those servicing Black Austinites experiencing homelessness. The Executive Fellow will work in concert with APH leadership and a review panel to select the initial service providers that will receive investment. The selection will be based on the strength of the submitted plans in relation to the criteria in the framework. During the first few months, the Executive Fellow will also conduct extensive market research on capacity building for homelessness service providers, reviewing national best practices, models of success, lessons learned by other cities, and identifying third-party consultants and technical assistance providers to support capacity building efforts.

The Executive Fellow will then manage a portfolio of these service providers, supporting the implementation of the funds. The Executive Fellow will build deep working relationships with the providers, working collaboratively to ensure the capacity building investment is helping the provider accomplish their goals and positioning them to better serve people experiencing homelessness. This will include developing individual performance metrics for every provider, tracking and evaluating each providers’ use of their funds over the year, capturing progress to date relative to their plans. Simultaneously, the Executive Fellow will utilize these relationships with providers to build a city-wide learning community around organizational capacity building. The Executive Fellow will convene varying providers within their portfolio to discuss common challenges and solutions. The Executive Fellow should also work to extract information about how the city can better support these providers during implementation – in the form of additional monetary or technical assistance. The Executive Fellow will utilize these workgroups to develop case studies, forming an action-oriented guide that other organizations can use to build their organizational capacity and scale services in the homelessness response system.

By April 2023, the Executive Fellow will have overseen the following:

  • Review progress to date and develop a prioritization framework – Review any grant solicitation process completed to date and learn about each unique vendor that applied for funding; outline a prioritization framework for the selection of vendors; this framework should follow the general tenants needed for successful organizational capacity building and a lens of equity
  • Select service providers and distribute funding – Support the established review process to determine which service providers submitted the most robust applications; group the selected service providers into varying categories – categories may include: types of services provided, the profile of Austinites served, size of the organization, or new vs. institutional providers; based on these categorizations the Executive Fellow will support department leadership to distribute the funding across providers
  • Support implementation of funds and track capacity building efforts – Build strong relationships with stakeholders within each service provider; support each provider in effectively distributing the funds per each goal in the outlined plan; develop performance metrics, tracking and evaluating each providers’ use of their funds over the year
  • Build a learning community and facilitate systems-wide capacity building – Convene stakeholders and develop surveys to capture implementation challenges, lessons learned, and best practices; support providers in addressing barriers to success that they may face during implementation; create a guide that translates the progress/success of individual service providers to potential system-wide approaches and actions; share this tool across all service providers in Austin’s homelessness response system
  • Identify and engage third-party sources of training, technical assistance, and support – Based on common themes emerging from the application and review process, as well as the ongoing learning community, the Executive Fellow will facilitate access to relevant group training and technical assistance.

KEY STAKEHOLDERS

  • Executive Sponsor – Diana Grey, Homeless Strategy Officer, Austin Public Health Department – Homeless Strategy Division
  • Project Supervisor – Nirav Shah, Business Process Consultant, Senior, Austin Public Health Department – Homeless Strategy Division

QUALIFICATIONS

  • At least 15 years of professional experience in a relevant field; experience in the nonprofit sector or startup space beneficial
  • Background in organizational capacity building is a must-have; having led large scale development of an organization internally or as a consultant
  • Ability to track monetary and technical investments, translating performance metrics/data for various audiences
  • Homelessness services experience beneficial but not required
  • Excellent stakeholder engagement skills and the ability to use organizational management techniques to coordinate stakeholder activities
  • Cross-cultural agility, relating to a wide variety of diverse audiences with strong emotional intelligence and empathy
  • Proven success in cultivating partnerships, relationship and coalition building, and fostering collaborative environments
  • Exceptional written and verbal communication skills with ease in public presentations
  • A self-motivated, goal-oriented, entrepreneurial leader who is an independent worker
  • Superior critical thinking and analytical skills
  • Ability to synthesize complex information into clear and concise summaries and recommendations
  • Able to create direction and movement within potentially ambiguous environments
  • Flexibility, adaptability, persistence, humility, inclusivity, and sensitivity to cultural differences
  • Understands the strength of diversity, and the need for solutions to support all people in a community regardless of race, religion, gender, immigration status, or ethnicity
FUSE Corps is an equal opportunity employer with a core value of incorporating diverse perspectives into our work at every level. We encourage candidates from all backgrounds to apply for this position.
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