Community Shelter Board
Columbus’ Community Shelter Board is a unique public-private partnership committed to implementing a systematic, data-driven model for ending homelessness.
Ending Homelessness, Not Managing It: The Community Shelter Board Model
Columbus, Ohio is home to a very unique, coordinated system for addressing homelessness. Called the Community Shelter Board (CSB), it is a public-private partnership through which funding is channeled to service providers who all follow a similar, outcome-based model for assisting the homeless. Michelle Heritage, CSB’s Executive Director, explains: “All the shelters are measured against the same benchmark: what percentage of the homeless are getting into permanent shelter?” The goal, she adds, is “ending homelessness, not just managing it.”
Launched in 1986, CSB provides training, funding and assessment to Columbus homeless shelters that have adopted the “Rebuilding Lives” plan for ending homelessness. The plan emphasizes what is known nationally as the “Housing First” approach, through which homeless individuals and families are as rapidly re-housed as possible, and then supported through additional services such as job coaching and placement. “The Rebuilding Lives model is a comprehensive and interrelated set of strategies to decrease the number of people who experience homelessness,” Heritage says. “The focus is on improving the effectiveness and efficiency of the system, including assuring no duplication of services.”
“CSB’s model allows us to look at the homelessness issue systemically,” she continues. “We can share information and innovative practices with our partners, nurture collaboration, and provide money to try new approaches that research suggests may be promising.”
Federal, state, and county funding that is earmarked for services to the homeless comes to CSB for distribution, as do the funds raised by the United Way for these services. CSB then makes grants to its 16 partner agencies, which are a mix of faith-based and secular nonprofits involved in housing and supportive services. In 2012, the CSB allocated over $14 million to partners who then served more than 9,000 families and individuals experiencing homelessness. CSB works with these partners to help them achieve specific outcomes: decreasing the lengths of stays in emergency shelters; helping people experiencing homelessness to find permanent housing solutions and jobs; and helping them avoid becoming homeless again. Of the 55 specific programs operated by its partner agencies in 2013, 76 percent were rated “high” in achieving these outcomes and 20 percent were rated “medium.”