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Transatlantic Exchange: Is Simplicity The Solution For Complex Needs Services?

Our System Broker Alex is currently in LA as part of Homeless Link's Transatlantic Exchange, and will be working with Brilliant Corners for the next two weeks to learn about Critical Time Intervention (CTI) and how this way of working can benefit multiple complex needs programmes back in the UK. Having arrived safely at LAX, Alex fills us in on the local scene:

Following an 11 hour flight and jumping back in time 8 hours, I found myself at LAX and hoping that Jamie Foxx might be waiting at the taxi rank for some Collateral style commuting. Sadly, Jamie must have eventually taken that vacation he’d been dreaming about and I ended up in a green taxi heading Downtown.

My apartment for the next two weeks is somewhat lacking in Hollywood glamour and definitely in the sketchy end of town. Last night I reflected on how important it is to feel safe in your home and how I absolutely take that for granted every day back at home; a luxury our clients do not always have. It may be a bit rough around the edges, and the noisiest place I have ever stayed (did I mention the train line runs directly in front of my window?), but everything felt much better in the morning light and I woke up ready to explore on my first full day in LA.

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After wandering around for a few hours, I became very aware of the extent of homelessness in the Downtown area of LA. Although the USA has seen a 35% reduction in chronic homelessness since 2007 there are still some 46, 874 homeless people in the LA county (14, 139 are chronically homeless). The homelessness figures in the UK are much lower, with last year’s rough sleeper count at 4,134; however this is over a 50% increase on the figure of 2010 and shows we, unlike the USA, are going in the wrong direction.

Homelessness is complex and in the UK we have built complex support systems, but what if there is a much simpler way? One of the first things Lisa Johnson (Breaking Barriers’ programme manager) told me when I met her on my first afternoon is that Critical Time Intervention (CTI) is very simple, that’s what she likes about it. I’ll learn more about the model as my time in LA goes on, but Lisa left me with one very key point:

CTI is about moving to the next phase of support based on time not readiness.

I’ve mis-heard this, surely? We can’t force people to move to the next phase if they’re not ready, that can’t work! Can it?

Lisa explained that there was some resistance to this concept when they began the Rapid Rehousing programme for adults on felony probation, but after nearly two years everyone agrees that it works and the programme is being significantly expanded.

It works because Breaking Barriers’ Case Managers know they have a time limited intervention and they work toward that 24 month framework, transferring care and support at each stage. The most important point for me was that the Case Managers see their role primarily as getting people better connected, using the resources available and making sure all parts of the support system are working for the individual.

My first look at CTI makes me think this, like Fulfilling Lives, is taking a whole systems approach, but where our Service Navigators are often left feeling they are the only professionals left to support someone, Breaking Barriers have a clear model to keep transition moving. There is certainly lots of #homelesslearning to come – stay tuned!