Category Archive: Justice Reform

  1. Job Announcement, CEO – Regional Task Force on Homelessness, Greater San Diego Area

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    RTFH-Logo_400x400The Regional Task Force on the Homeless (RTFH) has created a new CEO-level position to lead its new combined organization, and help RTFH deliver on our mission of ending homelessness across the greater San Diego region.

    Candidates should have direct experience working with programs and organizations related to homelessness. Specific strategic priorities for this role include providing direction at the system-wide level to pull the San Diego region together under a unified, collaborative effort to affect real change.

    Applicants are encouraged to apply via LinkedIn: (, or they can reach out directly via email to Trevor Blair at:

  2. Wage Gap Puts Rentals Beyond Reach of Single Women Earning Median Income

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    Woman raising her handThe housing affordability gap is tied in many ways to the income equality gap. Single wage households are especially vulnerable and, according to recent research, single women earning median income wages or less are extremely disadvantaged. According to a February 2017 study published by the Thomson Reuters Foundation, single women cannot afford to rent a small apartment in nearly all of the biggest U.S. cities but single men could manage to lease in a third of those locations, a reflection of the gender wage gap.

    The median income of single women can pay for a studio or one-bedroom apartment in only two of the 50 largest cities in the U.S. – Wichita, Kansas and Tulsa, Oklahoma. Across the country, women working full time are paid 80 percent of what men are paid, according to U.S. Census Bureau statistics. In the 50 largest U.S. cities, a woman makes only 74 cents for every dollar earned by a man, a gender wage gap of 26 percent, according to In those cities, single men make an average of $32,451 a year, while single women average $24,115.

    The research on which the study is based used the U.S. industry standard that housing costs should not comprise more than 30 percent of household income. Among the 50 cities, men can afford to rent a studio or one-bedroom apartment on their own in 18, the research found. Those cities include Phoenix, Las Vegas, Oklahoma City, Memphis, Indianapolis, Omaha and Kansas City. In 14 cities, the median income is not enough to rent a studio or one bedroom by single women or men.

    The least affordable spots for singles are Boston and the New York City borough of Manhattan. Eight of the 50 most expensive cities are in California.

    For more information about innovative approaches to policy and real estate development, contact Jennifer LeSar, President and CEO at

    Jennifer LeSarWith more than 25 years of experience in the real estate development and investment banking industries, Jennifer LeSar brings a diverse background to her work in community development and urban revitalization. Her technical expertise spans from policy and program development to the origination and underwriting of complex investments in equity funds, multi-family portfolios, and historic and low-income tax credit properties utilizing federal and state financing programs.

  3. HUD – An Overview of the Uncertainties Ahead

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    The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), like every other agency of the federal government, faces major changes under the new Administration and Congress that have yet to be fully delineated but which could alter the organization for decades to come. The most immediate impacts will affect three key areas: leadership, budget and policy.

    1. Leadership: Ben Carson Endorsed by Senate Committee for HUD Secretary

    Ben CarsonThe Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs has cleared the way for Dr. Ben Carson’s appointment as secretary of HUD. The next step in his approval process is for his nomination to go to the Senate floor. Republican leaders have not yet set a date for the final confirmation vote. Carson is a retired pediatric neurosurgeon who has never worked in government.

    According to The Hill, “It is unclear how Ben Carson will shape the agency. He told lawmakers in his confirmation hearing that he wants to have “listening sessions” with housing officials around the country. It also remains to be seen whether Ben Carson would uphold an Obama administration rule that puts teeth into fair housing laws. When questioned by senators on the issue, he remained noncommittal.”

    The National Low Income Housing Coalition’s 2017 Policy Forum, to be held in Washington, D.C. on April 2-4, has invited HUD Secretary Nominee Ben Carson to share his thoughts about America’s affordable housing challenges, HUD’s role in addressing them, and his priorities for the future.

    2. Budget: No New Program Funding with Probable Cuts Most Likely

    In November, House Speaker Paul Ryan announced a stopgap spending bill effective through March 31, 2017 to keep the government spending roughly at last year’s levels. Without this action, government spending would have run out Dec. 9th. House Republicans are resurrecting a fiscal 2017 balanced budget resolution to use as the vehicle for dismantling the Affordable Care Act. That resolution will be followed by a fiscal 2018 budget resolution with fresh reconciliation instructions in order to push through Trump’s major tax cuts or reductions in entitlement spending in order to make good on GOP pledges.

    Development of the FY 2017-2018 Budget by the Trump Administration would purportedly strive to reduce federal spending by $10.5 trillion over 10 years. The proposed cuts adhere closely to the “Blueprint for Balance: a Federal Budget for 2017” published last year by the conservative Heritage Foundation, a think tank that has helped staff the Trump transition. The administration’s full budget, including appropriations language, supplementary materials and long-term analysis, is expected to be released toward the end of Trump’s first 100 days in office, or by mid- to late April. The budget offices of the various departments will have the chance to review the proposals, offer feedback and appeal for changes before the president’s budget goes to Congress.

    The Heritage Foundation’s plan would cut federal support for numerous departments and programs, including HUD. Funding for HUD would be cut $4.3 billion ($38.8 billion to $34.5 billion) in FY2017, with an overall reduction of $292.8 billion over the next 10 years. Heritage’s proposal would transfer fiscal responsibility of subsidized housing programs to state governments. It also proposes eliminating the Community Development Block Grant in FY 2018—and eliminating the Federal Housing Administration entirely.

    In 2016, the block grant program dispersed more than $3.2 billion dollars toward affordable housing and economic development, public improvements, and public services. The Federal Housing Administration guarantees mortgage insurance for homebuyers. The Trump administration has already reversed the Obama administration’s recent effort to reduce FHA mortgage fees (see below). The transfer of subsidized housing to states presents the biggest shift—the report points to the $53 billion spent in FY2015 and proposes reducing federal funding for means-tested housing programs at a rate of 10 percent per year for 10 years.

    3. Policy: Walking the Horse and Cart Backward

    FHA Mortgage Fee Reduction. Within hours after Donald Trump was sworn into office as President, he signed an Executive Order which overturned a mortgage-fee cut under a government program that’s popular with first-time home buyers and low-income borrowers. The Department of Housing and Urban Development on Friday said the agency is canceling a reduction announced last week while President Barack Obama was still in office. The Federal Housing Administration had planned to cut its annual fee for most borrowers by a quarter of a percentage point to 0.60 percent, effective on Jan. 27. The fee cut would have reduced the annual premium for someone borrowing $200,000 by $500 in the first year. Some housing industry groups lauded the change, saying it could increase home buying by offsetting recent rises in mortgage rates.

    Federal Legislation: Bill Introduced in Congress to Nullify Fair Housing Regulation.

    Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) introduced H.R. 482 and Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) introduced a companion bill, S. 103, on January 12th, 2017. Both bills are titled the “Local Zoning Decisions Protection Act of 2017.” The bills would nullify the new Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) regulation and the Assessment Tools associated with the rule. The bills would also prohibit federal funds from being used for the HUD database containing geospatial information regarding community racial disparities and disparities in access to affordable housing. The bills would also require the HUD Secretary to jointly consult with state, local government, and public housing agency officials to develop recommendations to further the purposes of the “Fair Housing Act of 1968” by means other than through regulations. The HUD Secretary would be required to draft a report based on the consultation, and the recommendations in the report could only be those reached by consensus.

    The Fair Housing Act prohibits housing discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, familial status, national origin, or disability – the “protected classes” of people. The act also requires “all executive departments and agencies to administer their programs and activities related to housing and urban development in a manner affirmatively to further the purposes” of the act.

    The text of these bills is not yet posted at However the text of H.R. 482 is on Mr. Gosar’s website at:

    For more information about innovative approaches to policy and real estate development, contact Jennifer LeSar, President and CEO at

    Jennifer LeSarWith more than 25 years of experience in the real estate development and investment banking industries, Jennifer LeSar brings a diverse background to her work in community development and urban revitalization. Her technical expertise spans from policy and program development to the origination and underwriting of complex investments in equity funds, multi-family portfolios, and historic and low-income tax credit properties utilizing federal and state financing programs.

  4. Uncertainty for Federal Tax Credit Programs

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    Uncertainty picture 2Since November, financial analysts have been concerned with the future of federal tax credit programs for investment in low income affordable housing and other community and economic development projects.

    With Donald Trump as President and a Republican-controlled House and Senate, the prospects of tax reform have increased dramatically. This has heightened concerns that the LIHTC program could be significantly hampered, or even eliminated, under a sweeping tax reform effort.

    Specifically, Trump has called for slashing the business tax rate from 35% to 15%. If the corporate tax rate is reduced, LIHTC pricing will have to drop to maintain current market yields. It is estimated that the drop could be between 5 and 10 cents drop per dollar of credit for a 9% LIHTC deal. The alternative is that investor yields drop and prices remain the same.

    According to Vihar Sheth, senior vice president and director of business development at U.S. Bancorp Community Development Corp., who spoke in November at AHF Live: The Affordable Housing Developers Summit in Chicago: “There’s almost a zero percent chance” that the tax rate changes alone. Other complex moves, such accounting and tax credit regulation changes, will be involved.”

    Another analyst, Jeff Weiss, president of Alden Capital Partners, has stated that he does not believe the LIHTC will be eliminated. Speaking at the AHF summit, he said: “Your choice is a public-private partnership or HUD. You have a Republican Congress and a Republican president. They’re not going to say, ‘Let’s go back to public housing.’ They’re going to go to states’ rights, with states having the ability to push credits.” Still Weiss acknowledged that LIHTC syndicators will have to “sharpen their pencils to make deals work.”

    Communication between syndicators and investors about placement and timing is also going to be critical to getting deals done. Although corporate tax reforms may take a few years to fully take effect, financial analysts are advising developers to close their deals if the numbers work.

    Another threat to community and economic development will surface if the pending House budget hews to the Heritage Foundation’s Blueprint for Change (see preceding article about HUD). The Heritage report advises eliminating the Treasury Department’s Community Development Financial Institutions Fund ($238 million), which issues New Markets Tax Credits on a competitive basis to certified community development entities. However, the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) provides a strong incentive for banks to invest in tax credits, and these CRA obligations will likely remain in place. In addition, the coalitions of investors and supporters of housing and economic development will strongly push back on threats to these federal tax incentive programs.

    Liz Tracey-4x5For information about affordable housing and community development financing resources, contact Liz Tracey, Senior Principal, LDC at:

    Liz Tracey is an expert on affordable housing and community development finance using tools such as the Low Income Housing Tax Credit and New Markets Tax Credits.

  5. Recognizing Key Social Impacts of the Obama Administration

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    ObamaAs we find ourselves only hours away from the inauguration of Donald Trump as our 45th President, I believe it is important to take a moment to appreciate many of the historically significant accomplishments achieved under the Obama Administration. The policy changes and program innovations implemented across so many agencies over the past eight years stand out as more than a “score card” – they represent, in fact, major breakthroughs based on positive values that have delivered large-scale measurable benefits for our cities and the country.

    The cabinet secretaries who led their agencies forward after the 2008 Great Recession also deserve recognition for their work in advancing a key agenda of the Administration – breaking down costly silos between departments and building bridges between major investment programs to accomplish shared goals. This principle was demonstrated early in the Administration by the Partnership for Sustainable Communities, which for the first time engaged the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the U.S. Department of Transportation, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in cross-agency planning, collaboration and incentives to integrate efforts and benefits for revitalizing communities at the local levels. This Initiative became a model for states and promoted effective leveraging of resources by counties and cities in a new era of reduced public funding.

    This article highlights what are arguably some of the most important impacts achieved in housing and health care under President Obama and his steadfast team. Efforts may be pending to set government policy on a different course, but we are certain that once progress is made in dealing with monumental challenges, such advances can never be truly “unmade.”

    Key Accomplishments of HUD during the Obama Administration

    In his January 5th Cabinet Exit address, “Housing as a Platform for Opportunity: A Memo to the American People,” outgoing HUD Secretary Julián Castro highlighted many of the major milestones achieved by his agency.
    • As the nation recovered from the Great Recession, HUD was a driving force in stabilizing the housing market.
    • The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) served as a stabilizing force by providing access to mortgage credit for underserved borrowers, and preserving a path to the middle class that can be passed on from one generation to another. FHA provided new purchase mortgages to 5.7 million homebuyers and refinance mortgages to 3.4 million homeowners between 2009 and 2016, in a post-recession era when the market reacted by making it extraordinarily difficult to obtain a home mortgage, even for responsible, hard-working, credit-worthy Americans.
    • An emphasis on customized place-based initiatives resulted in the creation of the Choice Neighborhoods program in 2010; the development of the Partnership for Sustainable Communities with DOT and the EPA in 2011; the establishment of the Strong Cities, Strong Communities Initiative in 2012; and the launch of the Promise Zones in 2014 with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and 16 other agencies.
    • In 2016, HUD began administering the Housing Trust Fund’s first grants, totaling more than $173 million last year.
    • In 2010, HUD estimated that the backlog of capital needs among the nearly 1.2 million public housing units was $26 billion — a figure that is estimated to grow by $3.4 billion every year thereafter. In response, HUD launched the Rental Assistance Demonstration Program (RAD). Since October 2015, RAD has successfully generated more than $3.3 billion in new investment from the private sector to preserve and improve public housing stock.
    • To leverage open data and technology to increase economic mobility in communities around the country, HUD created the Opportunity Project, which has yielded more than 40 new digital tools or features including those helping to find affordable housing near jobs and transportation, matching unemployed Americans with jobs that meet their skills, and enabling local leaders to use data to better target investments.
    • Through its implementation of the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing program, HUD has provided clear data and guideposts establishing proactive partnerships with local governments to prevent and end housing segregation. To date, 15 communities across the country have completed comprehensive fair housing assessments and are working locally to set and start working on fair housing goals that are priorities for their communities.

    HUD has played a vital role in preventing and ending homelessness in America, supporting innovative approaches to move people who are living on the streets into permanent, stable housing:
    • Through the President’s Opening Doors plan, the first-ever federal strategy to prevent and end homelessness, HUD and its partners made historic progress toward ambitious goals. Since 2010, when the plan was launched, overall homelessness has dropped by 14 percent. Homelessness among veterans is down by nearly half (47%). Family homelessness and chronic homelessness have each been cut by roughly one-fourth.
    • The First Lady’s Mayors’ Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness inspired more than 850 elected officials to lead local efforts, leading to 36 communities and three states that have so far achieved the goal.
    • In its intensified quest to reduce family and youth homelessness, HUD also focused for the first time on young people who are homeless, up to 40 percent of whom are LGBTQ. HUD also introduced new protections for transgender individuals seeking emergency shelter, another important step to ensure full acceptance of transgender and gender non-conforming individuals in the programs HUD supports.
    • HUD has provided critical support to the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH), which is encouraging states and local communities to focus on the proven best practices that employ data-driven, collaborative efforts to reduce homelessness across the board.

    In addition, HUD has introduced science-based strategies and programs to make public housing and communities more climate-resilient, safer and healthier through smoke-free policies, better design, and improved collaboration between federal, state and local disaster response planning. The agency also has repositioned its thinking to transform public housing into places of opportunity by providing funding to close the digital divide and support equitable access to the internet.

    During the Obama Administration, HUD was named the “most improved mid-sized agency” in 2015, reversing years of waning public confidence in the management and effectiveness of the agency. The programs introduced through HUD under the Obama Administration represent pioneering, bold initiatives that have yielded returns not only by improving the lives of children and families but also by advancing knowledge in the field about how to improve essential partnerships between agencies and public and private investors.

    Other Landmark Accomplishments: Expanding Health Care Coverage to Millions

    The Affordable Care Act, which expanded health care coverage greatly and ended many detrimental insurance company practices, is a signature legislative piece of the Obama Administration that is now targeted for elimination by Trump and the GOP members of Congress. However, as noted by The New York Times, “the transformation of American health care that has occurred over the last eight years – touching every aspect of the system … has a momentum that could prove impossible to stop. Expanding insurance coverage to more than 20 million Americans is among Mr. Obama’s proudest accomplishments, but the changes he has pushed go deeper. They have had an impact on every level of care – from what happens during checkups and surgery to how doctors and hospitals are paid, how their results are measured and how they work together.”
    Specifically, the ACA and Obama’s healthcare initiatives have had these impacts, among others:
    • Allowed children to be covered under their parents’ policy until they turned 26.
    • Provided tax breaks to allow 3.5 million small businesses to provide health insurance to their employees.
    • Millions of people receive help in paying their health insurance company premiums.
    • Expanded Medicaid to those making up to 133% of the federal poverty level. (Note: except for those states have opted out and refused to take the extra money.)
    • By 2014, the ACA dropped the number of uninsured Americans by 22.3%, which amounts to more than 10.3 million people with insurance who didn’t have it before. Only 13.9% of Americans are uninsured, a drop from 18.9% in 2013.
    • The ACA has increased the life expectancy of Medicare greatly.
    • Through the ACA, health insurance companies now have to disclose how much of each premium actually goes to pay for patient care.
    • Medicare costs actually declined slightly, for the first time in decades in 2011, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
    • Since passage of the ACA, health care inflation is at its lowest level since 1960.
    • Created the HIV Care Continuum Initiative, to strengthen the government’s ability to respond to the continuing domestic HIV epidemic.

    The ACA gave the government sweeping authority to test new models of care, including examining different ways of paying for cancer care, heart surgery, primary care and other services covered by Medicare and Medicaid. In 2015, the Obama Administration set a goal for half of all Medicare payments to be tied to the quality, instead of quantity, of care that doctors and hospitals provide by 2018, i.e., basing payment on the patient’s health outcomes rather than how much care the patient receives. As the cost of health care and drugs promises to rise throughout the United States, the progressive policy movement toward outcomes-based funding for health care coverage using reliable metrics is not likely to be repealed.

    The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office issued a study on January 17th that repealing major provisions of the Affordable Care Act, while leaving other parts in place, would cost 18 million people their insurance in the first year. It could also increase the number of uninsured Americans by 32 million in 10 years, while causing insurance premiums to double over that time.

    Jennifer LeSarWith more than 25 years of experience in the real estate development and investment banking industries, Jennifer LeSar brings a diverse background to her work in community development and urban revitalization. Her technical expertise spans from policy and program development to the origination and underwriting of complex investments in equity funds, multi-family portfolios, and historic and low-income tax credit properties utilizing federal and state financing programs.

  6. White House Launches Data Driven Justice Initiative

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    By Kris Kuntz, Senior Associate

    In June I was invited by the White House Office of Social Innovation to speak on a call to highlight different ways communities can use their local 911 data to reduce health care and criminal justice costs. The call was with 67 city, county, and state governments who have signed on to the recently launched Data Driven Justice Initiative. Criminal justice reform and re-entry was chosen by President Obama as the top domestic priority for his final year in office, and the initiative’s aim is to use data-driven strategies to divert low-level offenders with mental illness out of the criminal justice system. Many communities across California will be participating, including Los Angeles County, San Diego County, Santa Clara County, the City of San Francisco, and the City of Oakland. My experience with 911 data comes from being a part of Project 25 operated by Father Joe’s Villages and working side-by-side with the City of San Diego’s 911 Resource Access Program. I briefly highlighted using data to identify by name who is in fact a frequent user, using 911 data to help locate people if you are trying to perform outreach, electronic alerting systems, and using 911 as a data source for outcome measurements and performance. The White House is pushing communities to use data to drive decision-making to help vulnerable populations as well as decrease costs. I am glad they highlighted the 911 system as a way to do this, since it is one of many data systems communities can use to do system planning and improve service delivery.

    For more information about homeless programs, data, or policy, contact Kris Kuntz, Senior Associate at

    krisKris Kuntz is an expert in systems change, particularly as applied to homeless assistance. He is passionate about using data to drive policy change and improve the lives of vulnerable populations.

  7. Challenging Structural Racism in All Facets of Our Work

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    By Keryna Johnson, Senior Associate

    I was recently invited to give a presentation on Equity and Food Justice at the San Diego Food System Alliance’s yearly showcase. During the presentation I pointed to several alarming facts, including how minority neighborhoods have been found to have six times as much fast food, five times less supermarkets, 40% higher heart disease, and twice the number of diabetes-related deaths. I shared a redlining map for the City of San Diego and pointed out how the same neighborhoods that we denied mortgage loans beginning in the 1930s are still the most inequitable today. We discussed structural racism – or the patterns of policies and institutional practices that produce barriers to opportunity for people of color. Most importantly, I shared that structural racism has been central to the creation of wealth and power in our nation, and that it continues to shape a society of sharp inequities. Recognizing this presents a challenge to all of us, mainly what are we going to do differently moving forward to undo some of our past missteps? I closed by sharing some Challenge Questions with the group (adapted from this great paper):

    Do the solutions we are developing speak to the issues that low-income communities and communities of color have identified as crucial (i.e., living wage jobs, housing, child-care, educational attainment)?

    What are we doing to provide people with the resources and information they need to identify their own solutions? (If not, whose solutions are they really?)

    Do our policies and programs truly challenge the practices that have been central to the development of current inequities?

    Do our policies and programs change the power differential between low-income and higher-income communities? (Or do they reinforce them?)

    If we are talking about changing the system(s) but the vast majority of people looked to as leaders are white, middle-class, highly educated folks, we need to ask ‘WHO is in control?’ and ‘WHO has the power?

    RaisedHandsI shared these questions because racism needs to be explicitly recognized – especially in the times we find ourselves in today.

    “When we don’t have the courage to speak our truths, we help hold oppression in place and get habituated to maintaining the system.

    Moderated language only confuses people about what we are trying to accomplish and allows us to not be accountable to those most in need of liberation, including ourselves.”

    Through my work with HUD’s new Fair Housing Rule I’ll be helping jurisdictions look at the effects of structural racism on access to housing, education, employment, and other opportunities in our cities.

    For more information about new strategies, policies, and regulations to address fair housing, contact Keryna Johnson, Senior Associate at

    Keryna JohnsonKeryna Johnson has worked with clients throughout California to support planning for housing, health, equity, and economic development. She brings several years of expertise in the creation of 5-Year Consolidated Plans and fair housing assessments.

  8. Sharing Data and Using it to Drive Decision Making… All the Cool Kids are Doing It

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    By Kris Kuntz
    DataImageIn April I presented at the National Human Services Data Consortium (NHSDC) Spring conference in Los Angeles on a panel highlighting San Diego’s Community Information Exchange (CIE). The conference theme, “Advancing a Technology Culture in Human Services,” seemed very timely for a lot of the work that is happening at the local, state, and federal levels to improve the lives of vulnerable populations, especially those experiencing homelessness. The NHSDC conferences are a bit different from other national homeless conferences as the audience consists almost entirely of people who would proudly self-identify as “homeless data geeks.” Not sure that I can say I have reached “data geek” status, but it’s something to strive for! The NHSDC conferences are always interesting as in general they highlight the relationship between communities’ Homeless Management Information Systems (HMIS) and their role in ending homelessness, which is something I am passionate about. The panel I was on with Marina Baroff from 211 San Diego and Dolores Diaz from the Regional Task Force on the Homeless addressed the legal process that CIE went through to share data, how data is shared across multiple systems, including HMIS, and how to use data to drive decision-making and improve client outcomes. In general, these topics were well represented across the majority of sessions at the conference.

    Here are my takeaways on each:

    1. Data Sharing Increasingly Becoming the Norm
    Several sessions focused on the legal challenges of sharing data. Data sharing as a concept has historically been something that most feared, however this is changing. It seems now that data sharing is increasingly becoming the norm and that communities that are not sharing data, especially within the HMIS system, are becoming somewhat old fashioned. I heard a presenter in one session state, “For the longest time HIPAA has been the shield that people have hid behind to resist data sharing, and actually HIPAA is the framework for how data sharing is possible.”

    2. Sharing Data Across Multiple Systems
    A handful of sessions highlighted the need to share data across systems. The folks from Corporation for Supportive Housing highlighted their Frequent Users System Engagement (FUSE) work on sharing data on homeless individuals and the criminal justice system. The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority described how they are sharing data with LA’s VA Medical Center to better identify and coordinate housing and services for homeless Veterans in LA County. As we know from the large body of research done on those experiencing homelessness, most do not solely interact with the homeless assistance system but rather regularly come into contact with a multitude of sectors. Communities need to embrace this and ensure those partners are sitting at the tables when working to end homelessness.

    3. Importance of Using Data to Make Decisions
    Hopefully this topic is not new. Communities need to make informed decisions when addressing social problems and using data is the best way to aid in this effort. I sat in on a session with presenters from the Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness describing their process to define and reach “Functional zero” on Veteran homelessness (Connecticut was the first state to declare an end Veteran homelessness). They are creatively extracting and restructuring HMIS data to both measure their performance as well as build their “by name” list to ensure that Veterans are immediately connected to services and housed as quickly as possible. Also, in the morning plenary Phil Ansell from the County of Los Angeles spoke on how data should help them better understand the problem and needs and then help track progress at a micro and macro level. He explained that on a micro level they need data to measure the individual strategies of LA’s newly released City and County homeless plans and at the macro level to understand the impact the strategies are having on the broader system. He noted, “If LA is not decreasing the number of homeless persons then the initiatives are failing regardless of how well the individual strategies are performing.”

    For more information about homeless programs, data, or policy, contact Kris Kuntz, Senior Associate at

    krisKris Kuntz is an expert in systems change, particularly as applied to homeless assistance. He is passionate about using data to drive policy change and improve the lives of vulnerable populations.

  9. A Moment in Time for Juvenile Justice Reform

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    By Nelli Garton
    In the last few weeks I have been thinking a lot about the opportunities for real system change and reform. Juvenile justice reform seems to be at a critical tipping point across the nation for many reasons. 1) What we have been doing in juvenile justice simply does not work, 2) is expensive and 3) is being meted out inequitably. Couple that with the fact that we have the lowest arrest rates we have seen in decades, a fiscal crisis, a shift in public opinion, and champions demonstrating new and better approaches across the nation. It is the perfect storm of opportunity for real and lasting change.

    At the Council on Foundations meeting this month there was a standing room only session looking at the School to Prison Pipeline and highlighting incredible reform efforts. These included Allison Brown’s work with the Communities for Just Schools Fund, Liz Ryan’s Youth First Initiative being implemented in 15 states to reduce the use of youth prisons by 50%, and the #FreeAmerica campaign by singer John Legend to change the national conversation and transform the criminal justice system.

    I was particularly struck by the effectiveness of the work across the nation to end the practice of trying, sentencing, and detaining youth in the adult system. According to statistics cited in the session included that currently 200,000 youth are tried as adults and 100,000 are detained in adult systems. Youth in adult systems are 36 times more likely to commit suicide. This campaign has already led to 30 states enacting new legislation and 5 states raising the age for juveniles. Here in California, Governor Brown has introduced a ballot initiative to shift power from prosecutors to judges being able to waive kids into the adult system. In addition, since the beginning of 2016, a total of 40 bills have been introduced into the California Legislature (27 in the Assembly and 13 in the Senate) related to juvenile justice, youth crime and violence prevention, youth mental health, probation, and foster care. Efforts like these, as well as the work being done to end solitary confinement for juveniles, increase diversion, and community-based alternatives to detention are making a real difference.

    BlueprintAt another conference this month for the Youth Transition Funders Group, Dr. Gary Slutkin challenged us to think differently about system reform and how change happens. In his work with CURE Violence, he has changed the conversation around violence by using a public health framework. The greatest predictor of violence is previous exposure to violence, not bad people. It is a contagious disease and the pathways for that contagion can be found in the brain processes. Through witnessing violence, being victimized, and social exposure, our brains actually change. I won’t go into the science but the result is that we need to think differently about how we interrupt this process. We used to approach leprosy, mental health issues, and AIDS as personal failings. That framework didn’t work so we changed our approach – we need to do the same for violence.

    Change happens when a new solution is presented and an alternate pathway is proven to be more effective. Reframing the conversation allows us to overcome barriers to change and entrenched interests. Language, culture, policy, and practice all need to be addressed for change to be sustained. Given the powerful work that has been done and the moment in time that we are experiencing, I for one am hopeful that we will do better by our kids.

    For more information about juvenile justice reform or program planning and assessment, contact Nelli Garton, Senior Principal at

    Nelli-4x5Nelli Garton, Ph.D. is an accomplished strategist with broad experience in social impact bonds, pay for performance, system metrics and reducing recidivism. She is chairing SDii (San Diego Impact Investors), which will serve as an innovative leveraged funding resource for evidence-based models within the San Diego region.