Roseanne Haggerty Shares Her “Aha” Moment Around Ending Homelessness
Writes Haggerty, “The piece tells the story of one of the most difficult, but ultimately most fruitful, moments in my career— the moment I realized that my team and I weren’t ending homelessness and that we needed to change our approach.”
Continues Haggerty, “Across the country, people are asking me what ending homelessness will really take. This piece is the foundation of my answer to that question. We need to approach homelessness differently at the systems level by using real-time data and a focus on outcomes to drive down the numbers month over month.”
The piece offers Haggerty’s assessment of what some of the strongest communities in the country are doing differently to end homelessness. These are strategies from which all communities can learn and the three things that they are doing include:
- They pay for outcomes they want by be “willing to renegotiate their housing and social services contracts.”
- They don’t just gather data in the aggregate and focus on “those with the most complex and long-standing challenges, but with a comprehensive way to account for each person, communities are unable to target their resources effectively.”
- They turn their by-name lists into multi-agency commence centers “doing this by tracking five key data points.”
Haggerty has focused her entire career around ending homelessness. She writes, “In 1990, at the age of 29, I put together a small team to rescue a crumbling, bankrupt 1920s hotel in New York’s Times Square. The building was essentially a burned-out and infested flophouse, but our determined bunch restored it to its original splendor, eventually creating 652 studio apartments for low-income New Yorkers, especially those exiting homelessness.”
Fast forwarding past her success in working with her team to develop almost 3,000 supportive housing units in the Times Square neighborhood. “Yet, one morning in the early 2000s, I reached a painful realization on my way to work. As I looked around at the faces of those still experiencing homelessness in our Times Square neighborhood, it occurred to me that I recognized nearly all of these people. Many of them had been living outside on these same street corners years earlier when we first opened our doors, yet here they still were homeless in the shadow of our flagship, award-winning, supportive-housing building,” continued Haggerty. “We had made a classic mistake: We had insisted that our buildings were a solution to homelessness, but we had no real understanding of the broader ecosystem in which they functioned.”
Rosanne Haggerty is an American housing and community development leader, and founder of Common Ground Community and later of Community Solutions. Haggerty redeveloped the Times Square Hotel, a building on the National Register of Historic Places, reducing homelessness by 87 percent in the 20-block neighborhood around it.
Community Solutions works toward a future without homelessness, in which poverty never follows families beyond a single generation. It does this by helping communities become better problem solvers, so they can fix the expensive, badly designed systems that low income people must rely on every day.