This post is the sixth in a series highlighting House of Friendship’s work on ShelterCare. Over 70% who seek emergency shelter in Waterloo region are navigating addiction, mental, and/or physical health challenges. Through the ShelterCare Solutions Lab, we will work together on designing solutions to better meet these needs through responsive and relationship-based healthcare and housing supports in emergency shelter. The previous post on Treating the Symptom can be found here.

Following the final session of the Solutions Lab Beyond Shelter: A Relationship-Based Approach to Emergency Housing and Health Care, we connected directly with a few project team members to learn more about their experiences. The following is a summary of those conversations.

Project members enjoyed the thorough facilitation of the Solutions Lab and found it to be well-focused with a smooth flow. Team members not working in emergency shelters directly found the sessions to be particularly insightful and valuable, as they were able to hear first hand about the perspectives from support workers who are witness to the challenges and triumphs faced by shelter participants every day.  Project members commented on the depth of the collaboration amongst people on the team who had varying perspectives and how this was very fruitful in helping to shape and further their understanding of the ShelterCare model. 

More specifically, team members valued the opportunity to work in diverse teams that included focused conversations with individuals from different agencies, in different roles, and with different levels of experience. This led to many healthy discussions and solidified the spirit of sharing, caring, and collaboration. The team emphasized the importance of the human-centred process, including design tools, methodologies, and the mindset that provided the foundation for these critical and constructive conversations to occur.

For some project team members, they felt that the qualitative data emerging from surveys, interviews, and other engagement tools could have been complimented more intentionally with existing quantitative data currently collected within the housing stability system, along with the incorporation of existing frameworks for ending chronic homelessness in Waterloo Region. Also, because the project team included diverse voices, some project members were unclear about how to participate, particularly during the first few meetings. However, over time through the engaging, inclusive facilitation of the Solutions Lab, combined with the flexibility fostered through the use of the online whiteboard platform Miro, the team was able to use multiple styles of communication, which lead to more comfortable participation and great discussions.

Team members appreciated the continuous improvement mindset that was prioritized throughout the process. There were many “aha” moments that prompted members to think about things differently. These authentic learning moments were very powerful in the overall Solutions Lab process.

Going forward, the team felt confident that the relationships built and inclusion of the strong, diverse voices throughout the Solutions Lab process will help to propel forward momentum. The unique process offered through the Solutions Lab process was described as a “local game-changer” to support improving the well-being of individuals experiencing homelessness in the Region of Waterloo, particularly as it relates to the transition of healthcare for people moving from shelter into housing. Lab members also shared ways that this process will inform their own work and their approach to system change. They expressed gratitude for being a part of this thought-provoking and genuinely collaborative work.

Get Involved

Do you have suggestions for our problem tree?
Can you see something that is missing or needs to be updated?
Check out the ShelterCare website for more information and how to connect with Sarah Brown and the Solutions Lab team.

As a Solutions Lab Provider, Overlap Associates partners with organizations to work through complex housing issues and scale potential solutions. A Solutions Lab is a collaborate initiative to solve complex housing problems using innovative methods and tools. For the organizations participating, a Lab is an opportunity to develop innovative solutions to a complex housing problem, as well as build capabilities for design, collaboration and problem-solving. Learn more about our Housing Solutions Labs here.