HPS in Action: Elements of a Well-functioning CAB/RAB

For the last decade, the Government of Canada has taken an active interest in addressing homelessness.  Federal homelessness programming has two key principles:  1) communities are best placed to identify and address local issues; and, 2) homelessness is a complex issue that requires the collaboration of multiple partners in order to develop viable solutions. Communities have responded by working with a range of partners to develop innovative strategies for dealing with homelessness and related issues.

During 2011, consultations were held with a number of HPS Designated Communities to gain a better understanding about how the HPS translates into successful action.  Many communities have well-established processes to help them effectively address homelessness at the local level.  This first in a series of documents highlights the expectations of a well-functioning Community Advisory Board (CAB)/Regional Advisory Board (RAB); communities can go beyond this and do more.  This series will support communities to achieve excellence in addressing homelessness.

Role of the Advisory Board

  • Review data and information to help inform priority setting and decision-making
  • Establish priorities for the community (through a Community Plan in Designated Communities)
  • Solicit & review proposals, make recommendations
  • Identify matching and other funding sources
  • Share information with the community about homelessness issues and progress achieved
  • Consult with the broader community on an ongoing basis
  • Partner for success
  • Coordinate community efforts related to homelessness
  • Integrate efforts with provincial or territorial ministries

The Community Advisory Board (CAB) (Designated Communities or Aboriginal Homelessness Funding Stream) or Regional Advisory Board (RAB) is the local organizing committee responsible for setting direction for addressing homelessness in the community or region.  Although there are several different types of Advisory Boards, every CAB/RAB has certain elements in common.  It encourages partnership building.  It goes beyond simply funding organizations - it is involved in aligning efforts to end and prevent homelessness throughout the community.  It identifies priorities through a planning process, determines which projects should be implemented to address those priorities and reports back to the larger community on the efforts made and results achieved in preventing and reducing homelessness.  During meetings, all members should have the opportunity to bring forth their views; decisions are based on the collective understanding of the best way to move forward.

After a decade in operation, CABs/RABs are increasingly being asked to demonstrate that they are:

  • Responsive – decisions regarding community priorities and related activities respond to real and relevant needs, typically identified through shelter data, project results, etc.
  • Representative & Inclusive – decisions are seen as community-driven and representing the collective interest of a majority of community stakeholders on how best to address issues
  • Connected – decisions and activities are integrated within the broader scope of homelessness actions in the community through relationship building
  • Results-based – projects implemented demonstrate results which, in the case of Designated Communities, are related to the outcome indicators identified in the Community Plan
  • Accountable – decisions are made in a transparent and unbiased fashion, and CABs/RABs are accountable to the community(ies) they serve

Responsive

  • Gather all available information related to homelessness issues in the community (shelter data, project results, studies, etc.)
  • Make decisions based on evidence
  • Review decisions regularly to re-evaluate them based on new evidence

A well-functioning Advisory Board bases its decisions on evidence.  It gathers data on an ongoing basis from a variety of sources and meets regularly to re-evaluate past decisions based on the most recent evidence.

Responsive CABs/RABs make sound and defendable decisions.  Additionally, they are able to respond quickly to changing situations.  Finally, they use their resources effectively, shifting resources as needed to respond to emerging issues.  As a result, responsive CABs/RABs will tend to accomplish more with their resources.  The larger community will see decisions as rational and appropriate.  This, combined with their accomplishments will ensure that the CAB/RAB is considered a credible representative for homelessness in the community.

Representative & Inclusive

  • Know who is doing what in the community
  • Understand the issues
  • Include all partners and stakeholders (governments, private sector, NGOs, etc.)
  • Ensure all stakeholders are engaged
  • Balance the differing points of view
  • Consider all relevant factors in making decisions

A well-functioning CAB/RAB ensures that it has the right people at the table, working together to address homelessness at the community level.

CABs and RABs must get to know and engage the key players in their community, from both the public and private sector, including leaders in the community and those directly involved in homelessness.  This ensures that the CAB/RAB can develop a detailed picture of how homelessness manifests itself in the community and has a significant effect on how well the CAB/RAB functions.

The challenge is to involve all stakeholders while keeping the size of the CAB/RAB manageable.  A well-functioning CAB/RAB ensures that the composition of the Advisory Board represents the relevant stakeholders.

An inclusive and representative CAB/RAB ensures effective decision-making that maximizes the capacity of the local community and makes sense. It may even become a local source for information on homelessness.

Connected: Aligning Homelessness Efforts

  • Awareness of the other activities which will have an impact on the homeless and at-risk populations
  • Seek opportunities to work with  others doing complementary activities
  • Be mindful of provincial and municipal efforts to address social issues
  • Be creative

A well-functioning CAB/RAB engages broadly with the community and integrates action on homelessness into other community-level responses.

The CAB/RAB is not HPS-specific but takes a broader perspective on homelessness within the community.  Part of the CAB/RAB role is to engage and integrate other sectors that relate to homelessness, such as health, particularly at a provincial level. Some provinces recognize the CAB as a vehicle to advance the provincial homelessness strategy. By playing a strategic coordination role, the CAB/RAB is better able to maximize all homelessness efforts within a community.

An important partner in the community is the Community Entity (CE), which administers HPS funding. Well-functioning CAB/RABs and CEs work together, maintain good communication and respect each other’s roles.

Results-based

  • Focus on the outcomes of actions, not actions alone
  • Link results to priorities (Designated Communities)
  • Consider results achieved when making decisions

Strong CABs and RABs focus on the results they have achieved, not just on the number of clients served.  Focussing on results allows for real, measurable progress.  As a result, communities will be able to shift resources away from emergency responses to longer-term solutions.

This focus is particularly important in Designated Communities.  Designated Communities are required, through their Community Plan, to identify the results they expect to achieve by implementing each of their priorities.  CABs in Designated Communities should focus on the results achieved by their projects to ensure that they align with the results anticipated in the Community Plan.

CABs/RABs that focus on results will be able to report back to the larger community on how they are improving the situation of homeless and at-risk individuals.  This may make it easier to mobilize the larger community to support local efforts to address homelessness issues.

Accountable: Transparency & Unbiased Processes

  • Provide clarity on how decisions are made and make this information available to all interested parties
  • Avoid conflicts of interest
  • Provide information about the local homelessness situation, what is being done to improve the situation and how local efforts are making a real difference in people’s lives

A well-functioning CAB/RAB makes information available about how it functions, the decisions it makes and the results it achieves.

When setting priorities, the CAB/RAB promotes unbiased decision-making by ensuring decisions reflect the input of multiple partners and, in the case of projects, should develop a formal process for assessing projects.  To avoid bias, any parties who might receive a direct benefit from a decision should be excluded from the decision-making process.

CABs/RABs have a responsibility to report back to the larger community to outline the impact their efforts have had on the local homelessness situation.  Many communities report annually on the current homeless situation, the efforts they have made to improve the situation and the progress they have made.

Implementing measures to promote transparency and unbiased processes helps the well-functioning CAB/RAB to engage the community in their activities and validates their role of representing the community.  It also justifies the use of public funds in support of CAB/RAB decisions.

Professionalism

The elements described above all fall within the broader theme of professionalism.  By seeking participation on a CAB/RAB, members are making a general commitment to:

  • work together in an effective and professional manner
  • use a level of reasonable care to fulfill their duties effectively
  • avoid conflicts of interest
  • consider the views of others equally
  • maintain confidentiality
  • adhere to a high standard of diligence and care in carrying out duties.

Discussing these expectations with members at the beginning of their tenure is helpful and ensures all expectations are understood.

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