A wise colleague recently sent us an article titled “Collaboration is the New Competition,” by Ben Hect, president and CEO of Living Cities. In the article, Hecht writes how even the best individual efforts can’t address complex problems without the help from others in today’s interconnected world.
He states people are “putting aside self-interests and collaborating to build a new civic infrastructure to advance their shared objectives.” Hecht calls this trend collective impact. Collective impact perfectly illustrates the efforts taking place in Downtown Melbourne to address street-level chronic homelessness.
In December of 2015, Melbourne Main Street hired a consultant to help understand how we as a community could better address street homelessness Downtown. The conversations were not easy, and the problem is not simple. Residents wanted a solution that addressed the needs of individuals in a dignified manner, and we also wanted a way to reduce the presence of homelessness in our Downtown and respond to the community. The key to improving the situation for everyone involved was collaboration, but you could not imagine the support that the town received and the partnerships built in the process.
Last year I met Keith Donald, founder of Steadytown, and the individual who was leading the effort in partnership With the Daily Bread, Peace GAP Ministries, and the Brevard County Housing Authority leading the way, the city began to:
- Identify chronically homeless individuals in Melbourne.
- Get the identified homeless into permanent housing.
- Equip them with the supportive services needed to get entitled benefits.
- Get the mental and physical care they need to live a more purposeful life.
- Get the people back into the community, and the job market.
The “Street to Home Movement” has now housed 40 chronically homeless individuals since December, none of which have returned to homelessness. Two key partners in these efforts have been the city of Melbourne and the Melbourne Police Department. The interest and pledge of support this Program received from Council, in addition to the police department’s willingness to use new means of addressing social disorders, has allowed the City of Melbourne to build a comprehensive ecosystem of support. Collaboration is the only way we can effectively make a change in the lives of some of the city’s most disadvantaged citizens while also paving the way for economic development in Downtown.
For collaboration to be truly successful and meaningful, you have to allow for people to experiment and make mistakes. You have to foster a safe environment where people can confront difficult topics with different views, and you have to wholeheartedly focus on the work at-hand. To see social service organizations, city staff, and the MPD sitting at one table discussing best practices and lessons learned should fill our Residents with a sense of pride. We are successful because we all have each other to rely on. We are going to celebrate many success stories over the years in Melbourne and at Amex Pharmacy…and the best part is, we get to do it together.