As I prepared for our annual year-in-review presentation this week, I wanted to make sure that our numbers showed impact. I wanted to prove that Crossroads has made good use of the funds entrusted to us by our donors and funders. I wanted everyone to see that we can end homelessness in Rhode Island. The bigger the numbers, the better.
Then I attended our Manager’s meeting, where each Program Manager shares the highlights of what is happening in their respective program. One manager reported that her team housed 12 individuals through our Rapid Re-Housing program. Another shared that her team housed six families. Another manager talked about his team moving a young man from living in a tent on the streets into his own apartment.
This gave me a different perspective as I reviewed the year-in-review presentation with all the big numbers. Impact is important and spending donors' and funders’ investments to have impact cannot be taken lightly. But I really started thinking about the people behind the data. I wondered how one defines impact, and is it the same for everyone?
How does a single mother with two children who had nowhere to go, who found shelter through Crossroads, and then an apartment of their own, define impact? That one apartment - a safe and stable place for her and her children to make a home of their own is certainly impactful, isn't it?
How does a man who has been living in the streets most of his adult life and drinking so much alcohol that he's had to rely on regular emergency room visits to survive – how does he define impact? An apartment along with a case manager who visits him regularly to help him stabilize his life - so much that he ultimately decides to enter rehab - is that impact? Is housing this one man who no longer “lives” in an emergency room, impactful?
Impact is in the eye of the beholder. I am proud of the outcomes and results Crossroads has achieved. In 2015, we moved or helped maintain 693 families and individuals in housing. We saw the average length of stay for single adults in shelter continue to decrease. We diverted more families from entering the emergency shelter system. Those results should be celebrated. But, I want to be sure we also take the time to celebrate “the one.” I want to be sure we never lose sight of the one person or the one family behind each number.
Of course, we will continue to track overall outcomes. Impact is important, and spending investments to achieve results is an important responsibility that we have to our funders and donors, as well as those we have the privilege of serving. It ensures we know that our programs are effective in achieving our mission of securing stable homes for those who are at-risk or who are experiencing homelessness.
We also need to take the time to really know that each number we report represents a person. A person whose life has been impacted in a very positive way.