Governance charter for new Suncoast Leadership Council to undergo a July 19 vote of representatives of providers of services for the homeless

Proposed new Memorandum of Understanding lays out responsibilities for council and Suncoast Partnership to End Homelessness

Homeless people gather in Five Points Park in downtown Sarasota in August 2016. Image courtesy City of Sarasota

The proposed new governance charter for the organizations in Sarasota and Manatee counties that work to develop and implement strategies to end homelessness calls for a group with 20 to 29 members representing “individuals with lived experience of homelessness,” service providers, the “business community,” contributors to services, the faith community, housing providers and local governments, as announced this week.

The new group, called the Suncoast Homeless Leadership Council, would work on securing public and private funds, as well as state and federal money, “to prevent and end homelessness.”

Its establishment is one of the recommendations that a consultant provided in April to the Sarasota City and County commissions as a means to resolving continuing issues with homelessness in the community.

On July 19, representatives of the organizations in the two counties that serve the homeless — which comprise the Continuum of Care — will vote on the proposed new charter, the Suncoast Partnership to End Homelessness has announced.

The Partnership has been the applicant for those agencies in seeking funding for programs.

In a July 3 email blast to Continuum of Care (CoC) members, Ed DeMarco, interim executive director of the Partnership, encouraged as many of them as possible to attend the July 19 session at New College’s Sudakoff Center, so they can participate in the vote. “This meeting will lead to a decision regarding [the proposed revision of the charter], which will create a CoC Leadership Council and strengthen the capacity of the CoC to impact the issue of homelessness,” he wrote. “In addition, consideration will be given to a new Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the CoC and Suncoast Partnership to End Homelessness,” he added.

Continuum of Care members prepare for the start of the May 10 meeting. File photo

During the May 10 CoC meeting, Partnership Chair Shawna Machado and DeMarco discussed the coming changes, though the proposed revisions had not been completed at that time.

The revised governance charter points out that the “CoC general membership is open to any individual or organization that is interested or has a personal or professional commitment to effectively ending homelessness in Sarasota and Manatee Counties.” The Leadership Council, the document adds, will serve “at the behest of the CoC general membership.”

As explained in the MOU, the CoC’s responsibilities would include developing policies and procedures conforming to U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) requirements. The Suncoast Partnership would continue as the “Collaborative Applicant,” acting on behalf of the CoC to ensure the CoC obtains the maximum amount of HUD funds possible and to make certain the CoC is in compliance with all applicable HUD regulations, the proposed MOU says.

During the May 10 CoC meeting, DeMarco also pointed out that one primary reason for creating the new leadership council would be to ensure less possibility of conflicts of interest between the nonprofit and the CoC. The Partnership will continue to have its own board.

The proposed MOU includes the following provision among responsibilities of the Leadership Council: “Ensure that any potential or perceived conflicts of interest are addressed in an effective, open, and timely manner.”

Designated duties

The proposed MOU makes clear what the work of the Partnership would be in its role as the collaborative applicant. Among the responsibilities would be staffing a committee that will establish CoC priorities that align with those of HUD; score projects “using an objective set of criteria based on CoC priorities, performance, and such other objective criteria deemed appropriate”; rank projects according to HUD’s Notice of Funds Availability instructions; develop application timelines consistent with HUD’s requirements; prepare applications for the Leadership Council’s approval; and submit the applications to HUD.

The Partnership also would conduct “performance monitoring, evaluation and reporting” of all CoC program recipients; and develop a quality improvement plan and provide technical assistance for underperforming projects, the MOU points out.

Ed DeMarco is the interim executive director of the Suncoast Partnership to End Homelessness. Rachel Hackney photo

Furthermore, the Suncoast Partnership would oversee the day-to-day administration and operation of the Homeless Management Information System (HMIS), which must be established by January 2018, DeMarco pointed out during the May CoC meeting. That coordinated entry system is another one of the recommendations in the report the consultant provided to the City and County commissions this spring.

As explained on the HUD website, the HMIS is a local information technology system used to collect client data, as well as data on the provision of housing and services to homeless individuals and families and people at risk of becoming homeless. For example, HUD explains, an HMIS can be used to identify patterns of service use and to measure the effectiveness of programs. Through its HMIS, the HUD website points out, “a community should be able to collect information from projects serving homeless families and individuals to use as part of [its] needs analyses and to establish funding priorities.”

As part of its responsibilities with the HMIS, the MOU notes, the Suncoast Partnership would train all users of the system and produce all standard and customized reports “as applicable and requested by member agencies.”

The MOU also calls for the Leadership Council to conduct an annual performance review of the Suncoast Partnership’s work with the HMIS.