Stories

Bitterroot Task Force on Homelessness and Housing

Tell us about your collective impact work. What is the opportunity or challenge that your initiative is addressing? Who has come together as part of the initiative? 

In rural Ravalli County, MT the poverty rate is about 18.8% which means as many as 11,795 people are living with housing insecurity. They are earning 80% of the median household income or per capita income and spending 50% of their income on housing. The Bitterroot Valley has been described as "poverty with a view."

Organizations like Ravalli Head Start and S.A.F.E. are reporting that 25% of their clients are homeless. The Office of Public Instruction has about 2,500 children are on free or reduced meals. Their is a three year waiting list for Section 8 housing.

In October of 2016 the Bitter Root Resource Conservation and Development Area began providing Backbone Organization support to the 30 organizations attempting to prevent homelessness and alleviate housing insecurity in the Bitterroot Valley.

Our initiative has representation from the Ravalli County Commissioners, mental health providers, low income housing owners, nonprofit organizations, employment agencies, human resource agencies, faith based organizations, health care providers and the chamber of commerce.

What system changes would you point to in the community that have occurred because of the work of your collective impact initiative? (e.g., new systems in place, policy change, behavior change, new ways of working together) 

We are creating awareness and public will about the homelessness and housing insecurity situation. We are gathering data and anecdotal information about the people effected. When we understand what is currently being done, what is working, what is not working, what can be done different and what is missing we will recommend solutions.

Has your initiative achieved population-level results? If so, what results have you seen? 

We are still developing the data needed to decide what actions are needed.

How are the community members’ lives different now because of your initiative? 

There is a feeling that change is possible. The community is developing trust amongst its members. Communication and cooperation are improving. We have a common agenda. We are developing measures of progress. None of which would be possible without the support of a backbone organization.

What are you proud of related to your collective impact effort? 

Much of our work is being done by volunteers. The compassion and empathy of our community is inspiring.

Members of the Forum community often learn from hearing about experiences from others. What challenges has your initiative experienced? Are you still grappling with this challenge or have you overcome it? What advice would you give to someone who was experiencing a similar challenge? 

In the beginning we tried to do too much with the entire task force. Our steering committee has developed into a thoughtful and visionary group that is guiding the efforts of the initiative.

Providing information in multiple formats so that it is available to each member at their comfort level has been important to continuous communication.

Is there something that you’ve learned by doing collective impact that surprised you? Something that you hadn’t expected when you started working on your initiative? (e.g., “Wow, this really did take 18 months to come together on an agenda!”) 

Patience and persistence will pay off when trust and respect are achieved.

For someone who is at the beginning of their collective impact journey, what advice would you share with them? (And why?) 

Use the resources provided by the Collective Impact Forum.

1 Comment

heymamahey1990 heymamahey1990

technical assistance provider / consultant

That would be fun to try. - Steven C Wyer

Submitted by heymamahey1990 heymamahey1990 on Tue, 2017-07-04 08:15