Office of Family and Adult Homelessness Newsletter – January 2020

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Office of Family and Adult Homelessness Newsletter

Jan. 6, 2020

Please forward to your sub grantees and contact your OFAH grant manager if you have any questions.

Reflections on 2019


The end of the year is a perfect time to reflect on accomplishments and look forward to what comes next. Below, our staff reflects on some of the highlights of our work in the Office of Family and Adult Homelessness (OFAH) during 2019:

Julie Montgomery: Expansion of the System Demonstration Grant (SDG)

The second SDG contract period kicked off in July with Clark and Spokane counties joining King, Pierce and Snohomish as grantees. SDG provides the 34 small and medium-sized Balance of State Continuum of Care communities Continuum of Cares (CoCs) with opportunities to set their own HEARTH-based system performance requirements in sub--grant agreements, and provides more flexibility for Consolidated Homeless Grant (CHG) management in the areas of documentation, forms and procedures. This summer, Commerce will host a forum for SDG to help grantees share information and discuss needs specific to larger counties in Washington state. SDG folks will be receiving a survey in early February to determine forum topics. I’m looking forward to finding more opportunities for Commerce to support the big counties in their efforts to reduce homelessness.

Kathy Kinard: The OFAH team championed and supported hard work this year in support of our vision that no person in Washington state should be left living outside. We started the year with listening tours in four counties, collecting over 100 comments from people experiencing homelessness. These stories ground our work every day as we examine program guidelines with a critical eye to make sure services are easy for providers to deliver and people can receive them in as barrier-free a manner as possible. What stands out most for me in 2019 is the shift in conversation I hear from service providers across the state. I hear a solid commitment to working with people who are the most vulnerable, the hardest to serve and most likely to die from living outside – those people matter and agencies are shifting how they will support bringing them inside. As Bill Hobson, former DESC director said, “There is no such thing as a throwaway person.”

Jessica Simon: Reflecting back on 2019 brings a lot of gratitude. I am grateful for an amazing OFAH work team that supported me during my maternity leave and while my baby, Svea, was in the office upon my return. I am also grateful to grantees who attended phone call meetings with Svea present. Thank you for your patience! Commerce’s Infant in the Workplace program allowed me and other working parents, the opportunity to grow our parental bond with our children at work. It truly was a wonderful experience! This program promotes a more human workplace, fostering a culture where we uplift each other both personally and professionally. No babies are due to be in the office for 2020 (that I know of!), but the OFAH team will continue with our passion and dedication for our grantees and the people experiencing homelessness in Washington state!

Megan Kendig: This year I’ve had the opportunity to coordinate a competitive process to identify nonprofit organizations to assist homeless students and families experiencing homelessness through the Homeless Student Stability Program (HSSP). In addition to offering important services to students and families, the HSSP will grow partnerships between schools and housing providers, and updates to the RCW added an emphasis on promoting evidence-informed strategies to address racial inequities for students experiencing homelessness. The five grantees selected to receive grants have an exciting opportunity to receive technical assistance from Building Changes, in partnership with Commerce, to further develop their programs. Additionally, Building Changes will evaluate the HSSP outcomes and identify strategies that had the most impact helping students achieve housing stability and better educational outcomes. I’ve personally learned a ton through working with Building Changes on the HSSP the past couple of years, and am really looking forward to seeing how the program continues to develop to best serve students and families.

Sarah Harrison: The OFAH Team examined support services, more specifically housing stability support services for people experiencing homelessness. We had discussions regarding case load size and the inability to provide quality support to people who are most in need when caseloads are overwhelming.  OFAH continues to work on methods to address this issue so vulnerable populations do not fall through the cracks. On the topic of support services, Commerce hosted a breakfast discussion at the Ending Homelessness Conference for HOME TBRA providers. We talked about the inability for HOME TBRA to fund operations and how providers can braid in other funding sources to cover this important service. Two providers from Grant County Housing Authority and Community Action of Skagit County spoke about incorporating intensive support services into their programs and provided feedback for providers in the room to think about with their teams. Commerce looks forward to continue its partnerships with grantees, constituents and stakeholders to ensure all people have a home.

Kathryn Dodge: When I think back on 2019, I hear a statement from an individual experiencing homelessness at a listening tour session: “When the most vulnerable of us thrive, we all thrive.” This really speaks to the concept of targeted universalism, a strategy that involves addressing the circumstances of those experiencing the greatest barriers, with the belief that by doing so, everyone will benefit. Since then, this concept has been in the forefront of my mind throughout OFAH’s work, whether it’s ensuring the low-barrier requirement is met in each community, or considering changes to our coordinated entry guidelines and technical assistance approach. I look forward to keeping this concept close as we move into the New Year!

Housing and Homelessness Advocacy Day 2020

Washington Low-Income Housing Alliance (WLIHA) invites advocates to attend the 2020 Housing and Homelessness Advocacy Day. The event is for anyone interested in learning more about housing policies, building advocacy skills, meeting law-makers, and fighting for safe, affordable housing in Washington. Visit the WLIHA website to register and get more important information about how you and your community advocates can make a difference.

NEW! HMIS Newsletter, Survey and Data Quality Dashboard

Love Your Data

The HMIS team is working to improve its offerings to the homeless services community and has several new ones:

  • The first step in providing better offerings is gathering feedback and we need yours! Please click here to take our 10-question survey. Hurry - the survey closes Jan. 15.
  • Our new HMIS newsletter offers updates, news and helpful practices for your data management.
  • Don’t forget to check out the new Data Quality Dashboard!

Questions about these new tools? Email

Equity Corner

OFAH Equity Corner

New Coordinated Entry work group to Examine Prioritization

The recent Balance of State (BoS) Coordinated Entry (CE) Assessment found that many communities using the VI-SPDAT to make prioritization determinations were unhappy with this tool prior to a recent report by C4 Innovations. Commerce does not require using a tool that generates a score, including the VI-SPDAT or any other SPDAT tool. Additionally, the assessment found communities struggle to comply and implement the current Washington CE Guidelines.

In consideration of these findings, Commerce is convening a work group to consider our role in the governance and rule-making process for CE in the BoS, and to recommend new guidance for CE that will address the inequity experienced by people of color. We look forward to collaborating with the BoS steering committee, CHG grantees and a diverse array of stakeholder groups on all CE changes. If you are interested in learning more about this work, please contact Andrea Avila at or 360-725-2914.