Global Innovation for Impact Lab

Homelessness, a System Perspective. The Journey of Community Solutions

Homelessness has become one of the toughest and most troubling societal challenges of our time. Mayors, governors, and presidents have tried and have failed to solve the problem of homelessness. As a result, too many politicians, prominent funders, and NGOs have resigned to addressing only the most obvious symptoms of homelessness. We legitimize this attitude by narratives that put the blame on the victims themselves rather than reflecting more deeply about the architecture of our society that generates and perpetuates mass homelessness.

We started our research on homelessness by tracing the history of Community Solutions in the last three decades. The organization, under the enduring leadership of Rosanne Haggerty and the teams who have walked the journey with her, reminds us what a mature society can do and therefore ought to be doing on a problem like homelessness: engaging with homeless people at an eye-to-eye level and embracing them as whole individuals; disrupting our cognitive blinders and opening up whole new frontiers of scale and effectiveness of interventions; always questioning assumptions and nurturing an attitude of constructive skepticism, an attitude that we consider a hallmark of exceptional social enterprises. Community Solutions for thirty years multiplied its reach and impact by influencing policy at city, state, and federal levels; by building inspiration, capacity, and competence of communities; and the organization pushes us to adopt a system perspective rather than a simple solution perspective on this complex societal problem.

This research on homelessness is also a nice illustration of how GIIL goes about doing research. Read more about our approach here:

The following are recent publications on homelessness by GIIL.