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Evidence-Based Approaches to Caring for Society’s Unsheltered, Vulnerable Populations

SOCAP Global March 21, 2023

A Money + Meaning Podcast with Randy Shumway of Cicero Group and Geoff Davis of Sorenson Impact Center

“Those people-oriented services are very time-intensive, people-intensive, very, very costly — and yet the alternative both economically and socially is so dramatically more expensive.” — Randy Shumway

This episode of Money + Meaning features a fireside chat from the 2023 Sorenson Impact Summit with Randy Shumway, Founder of Cicero Group, and Geoff Davis, CEO of Sorenson Impact. Shumway discusses how his more than 20 years of volunteering with unsheltered and vulnerable populations influences Cicero Group’s consulting work for social impact with governments and foundations. And he shares why evidence-based approaches are necessary to effectively address the increasing challenge of people experiencing homelessness throughout the United States.

“For the most part today, you can categorize those who are unsheltered in three general categories: situationally homeless, episodically homeless, and chronically homeless,” Shumway said during the fireside chat. “The real problem is trauma. And every night that we allow unsanctioned camping, we are exasperating the root problem.” 

Through his years of experience in work and volunteering with unsheltered people, Shumway has seen the importance of wraparound supports that provide connections and community to heal this trauma. “They already feel marginalized,” he said. “We need at every step to be providing a human connectedness. That connectedness tends to counterbalance adversity.”

Those connections mean going beyond the typical current offerings of resource centers and affordable housing to address social issues such as addiction, mental and behavioral health, and access to education to employment opportunities. “We often hear municipalities say, ‘We can’t keep up,’ and the reason is that while shelter is important, it alone is so inadequate,” he said. “We need wraparound services. We need a coordinated entry system and process that takes the time to really diagnose some of the root challenges in order to get people the services that they so critically need.”

The services at Cicero Group incorporate Shumway’s experiences as well as data-driven approaches for social impact. “We work with municipalities and states, foundations applying evidence-based practices to solve the increasing dilemma of homelessness throughout our country,” Shumway said. “One of the things we strongly advocate is independent third-party data collection in order to understand what’s working and what’s not working. We have a dearth of evidence-based practices as it pertains to caring for those experiencing homelessness.”

That data is used for a process typically called “M and E,” for monitoring and evaluation, but should also incorporate two additional steps: learning and recalibration. “Smart, dynamic public policy should allow for people to be able to say, ‘Here’s what’s working, here’s what we thought was going to work, and we advocated for it, and it didn’t work. … because we didn’t know,’” he said. 

In this conversation, Shumway and Davis explore how data can help communities better address the dilemma of homelessness and shape wraparound supports. Enjoy the conversation!

Listen to the Full Conversation on Evidence-Based Approaches to Caring for Society’s Unsheltered, Vulnerable Populations

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Money + Meaning is the official podcast of SOCAP. The series aims to expand the conversation around impact investing and strategies to finance and support social change while stimulating innovative and valuable new partnerships across sectors.

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