What is prioritization in homeless services? It is the practice of deciding housing and emergency shelter bed access based on the acuity (level of need) that someone experiencing homelessness presents: Do they have acute health issues? How serious are they? Do they have disabilities or chronic disease? Are they likely to die if they are sleeping rough? How old are they? For example, young adults and seniors have much higher vulnerability than most middle-aged adults. This is what we've decided upon as a homeless services system. We are telling ourselves that everyone has had a seat at the table in making those decisions. But did we ask those who've lived or are living without homes? Even when we sincerely want to be client-centered in the services we provide, policies, habits and our own cultural beliefs can get in our way--we often we imagine "I know best."
What I wonder is if we can get to a place where we can call out those policies, habits and beliefs that aren't serving people in the way we intend--not from a place of judgement and criticism, but from a place of trust and empathy--grounded in a core belief that we are all well-intentioned and that thoughts expressed are meant to help not harm. The title of this post includes a link to a most useful discussion of prioritization and the need for the entire community to "do what we say we will do."