Gaining access to an array of social services needed to regain self-sufficiency can be challenging, depending on where the individual or family in need of service initiates their search. Presenting a request for goods or services at a small faith-based organization, food bank, or job training center may result in a very different set of outcomes than if a request is first presented at a local government agency, local United Way, or mental health facility. The primary factor that will lead to differential outcomes is the variation in referral relationships between agencies. That is, one agency—a local government social services agency, for instance—might have a comprehensive list of service providers and may even provide case management to assist the individual or family in need secure the required services from the appropriate agencies. On the other hand, a small faith-based organization may be able to provide for immediate food or clothing needs but may not have other community relationships necessary to provide for shelter, job training, mental health, child education, or substance abuse issues.
Download an interactive exercise (Networking Exercise for Homeless Services) that demonstrates the challenge of navigating a complex network and allows participants to visually see and to physically experience the web that needs to be improved to ensure access to vital services is not left to chance. Email me with questions about the use of the exercise, and have fun!