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News Flash: Progress Happens

  |  December 17, 2011

The benefit of writing a column about solutions is that it provides an alternative lens through which to view the world. The daily news tends to be dominated by daunting challenges (unemployment, climate change, the polarization of Congress) and flashpoint events (the killing of Osama bin Laden, the tsunami in Japan, the Penn State scandal). These stories are vital to cover. However, people often come away from the news with a lot more information about problems than about how society is dealing with them.

Another system change in the making is the Housing Placement Boot Camp developed by the 100,000 Homes Campaign, in partnership with Home for Good L.A., GOOD Magazine, the Veterans Administration and the Corporation for Supportive Housing. The boot camp is an all-day event that brings together high-level representatives from a variety of social service and veterans agencies and housing authorities. Using a game board with magnetic tiles that represent each of the many steps required to get a person housed, participants work together to re-imagine a system that is now terribly uncoordinated and unnecessarily complex, and leads to long delays for people living on the streets, particularly veterans. (A studyconducted by the campaign reported that homeless veterans remain homeless almost two years longer than non-veterans.) In New York, the boot camp helped agencies cut 60 days off the housing process for veterans. In Los Angeles, it shaved off 68 days, cutting it almost in half. If a one-day process can spark big improvements in the way cities handle housing, what other government functions could be re-imagined over Chutes and Ladders-like game boards?