Megan Kurteff-Schatz – Focus Strategies

“The most important ingredient of success is having a system where all the efforts are aligned.”

On May 18th, 2017, Tony caught up with Megan Kurteff-Schatz of Focus Strategies, principle of the consulting group leading the creation of the regional plan on homelessness.

Phase 1 Report of our Community Plan was released in September 2017. Phase 2 (the report with all the data analysis and a complete list of action steps) will be published in July 2018. See also Greg Anglea’s interview about the plan.

With every interview, we ask about how the general public can be involved.  I found this part of Megan’s response very insightful:

People get involved when they see something that disturbs, upsets, or excites them.  And then the pace of change is often frustrating.  These are really hard systems changes that involve so many people and so many agencies, and it takes time.  So encouraging ongoing participation from the general public is important to assure that the plan gets fully implemented.  The plan itself will have specific dates and projections for when each step of the plan should be accomplished.  The general public can take that information and show up at the public meetings and events and ask how things are going in terms of meeting those objectives.  And show that they care and want this to be accomplished.  That kind of ongoing advocacy and support will help this stay elevated enough to keep it moving forward.  

Here are some bullet point notes from the video:

  • Megan’s background
  • Regional Task Force on the Homeless commitment from top elected leadership
  • RFP was released in late 2016 and start of work was in January 2017
  • How many housed do we need?  Population dynamics, flow of people entering and exiting, shelter, PSH, rapid re-housing. Need for new housing.
  • Process for creating the plan.  Phase 1, June 30th completion of strategic framework
  • Phase 2: Detailed Implementation Plan, types of interventions, areas where programs can approve, current initiative, July 2017-June 2018.
  • Many things will be suggested early on that we can do already so that we can get started now. Things like more Rapid Re-Housing programs, diversion programs, a housing resource center…
  • Did you have in mind already what the plan should be?  Yes and no.  This plan will be based on best practices, but is specific to San Diego based on homeless population characteristics, current existing programs, stock of beds and units, desires of leadership…
  • Interviewing 40+ leaders, service providers, key stake holders
  • What can the public do?  Go to or email to get on their mailing list.  Show up at meetings and learn.  Also, show up at meetings in your community or city to support low income housing developments when they are proposed.
  • Systems Change: programs were created over time, but not in a coordinated way.  System change means coordinating these efforts so that people are assessed and referred to most efficient intervention.
  • Coordinated Entry:  This is a very difficult change to make.  The system needs to take in the right number of people to have exits and prioritize people correctly. Providers need to be willing to accept people (lower barriers to program entry). Data quality is important.
  • Provider training
  • Outreach: know who’s out there, prioritize based on housing opportunities you have available.
  • Least expensive solution to ending a person’s homelessness so that you can dedicate the next bit of money to the next person.
  • Shelter Diversion: Is there a way they can stay at the housing they are being asked to leave, or reestablishment of family or friends? Diversion is an incredibly important tool in the toolbox.
  • What can the general public do: plan includes implementation, need to stay involved over the long term, read the plan and make comments at public meetings to help it stay elevated, support affordable housing developments.
  • Even when rents are lower, homelessness didn’t disappear.  Have to improve our system.
  • Meaningful training, align funders so that you don’t have conflicting requirements, goal is to get everyone to work together, not to defund providers.
  • Pursue every possible option for housing, including shared housing.
  • Most important is having a system where all efforts are aligned.  This takes patience.
  • Mayors are under pressure for immediate action, but we should tell them: “I don’t want a band-aid, I want real, long term solutions”.