Altus Dynamics Blog

Managing Social Housing & Supported Living in the 21st Century

Posted by Stefanie Gause on Jul 20, 2016 9:26:48 AM

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While social housing programs have traditionally been focused on providing financial assistance and/or have been municipally owned and operated developments, things are changing with the times. Today’s social housing initiatives are managed by a wide variety of agencies - both for-profit, non-profit, and social enterprise. Funds are distributed to agencies and programs that can demonstrate their impact on the people and communities they support, rather than on the number of clients served, population demographics, or other measures.

Lights_social_housing.jpgOne of the really exciting things about this change is the opportunity for greater collaboration across agencies that traditionally wouldn’t have had much to do with each other, such as developmental services and social housing. This radical re-envisioning of social housing has given way to innovative programs, such as mixed-residency affordable housing developments owned and operated by community living organizations. With affordable housing in short supply, this program opens up new subsidized units while giving individuals with disabilities the opportunity to live in a more inclusive, community-based setting. For the agency, it’s also a great way of generating an additional revenue stream.

On the other hand, with this radical change in the kinds of organizations and programs being funded, it’s not difficult to imagine that some agencies are struggling to adapt while other agencies may be struggling to keep their funding altogether.

Some of the core challenges include:

  • Funding is based on outcomes – not inputs and outputs
  • The need for a more client-focused approach necessitates coordinated services across agencies
  • Agencies need to operate on more business-like principles while maintaining their social purpose

Interestingly, many of these challenges are not unique to social housing – they are felt across the human services sector. The government of Ontario, which recently embarked on a major overhaul of its affordable housing strategy, writes:

“The supportive housing system faces many of the same challenges as social housing. Supportive housing programs have been developed separately over 50 years, and there is no common vision or principles to guide system improvements. Clients face a fragmented access system, requiring them to tell their story multiple times. Some programs are not consistent with best practices, and many programs lack defined outcomes and outcome-focused data and performance measures.”

men-paperwork-piles_of_paper-paper-job-pencil-rnin44_low.jpgWith pressures from for-profit service providers, as well as new kinds of nonprofits and social enterprises, agencies in this sector need to modernize or they will be left behind. Many of the core issues revolve around the way client and program information is collected, stored and reported on. For example, paper case management files are difficult and time consuming to analyze for trends, report on (particularly in relation to outcomes and program performance), or share with other agencies as part of a coordinated services approach.

We believe that technology, along with business process improvements, is the key to successfully transitioning social housing and supported living to 21st century. Tools like Microsoft Dynamics CRM can help with making the shift from the old paradigm to the new one by providing a flexible program management database with strong reporting and analytics tools like Power BI. A secure, web-based application (like CRM) can help facilitate collaboration across multiple agencies and, ultimately, enable coordinated services. We also feel that mobile access is a fundamentally important feature for the modern social housing agency, providing front-line staff with reports and client information when they are at work in the community.


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This Post Was Written By Stefanie Gause
Stefanie has always had a passion for the non-profit and public sectors with several years of experience in the education, assisted living, and social services industries.
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