Community Advisory Boards and Regional Advisory Boards are the local organizing committees that play a pivotal role in coordinating efforts to prevent and reduce homelessness in a community or region. Under Reaching Home, all communities in which funding is received through the Designated Communities and Indigenous Homelessness stream must have a Community Advisory Board in place to set the direction for addressing homelessness in a community. Regional Advisory Boards are responsible for establishing priorities outside of Designated Communities, under the Rural and Remote Homelessness stream of the program.
This document should be read in conjunction with the Reaching Home program directive #5 on Community Advisory Boards. The directive outlines roles and responsibility for Community and Regional Advisory Boards under Reaching Home as well as expectations for representativeness and composition.
A well-functioning Community Advisory Board/Regional Advisory Board should be
- responsive: decisions regarding community priorities and related activities respond to real and relevant needs, typically identified through shelter data, project results, etc.
- representative and 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
- outcomes oriented: projects implemented demonstrate results, and in the case of Designated Communities, are related to the community-wide outcomes listed in the Community Progress Report
- accountable: decisions are made in a transparent and unbiased fashion, and the Community Advisory Board/Regional Advisory Board is accountable to the community or region it serves
- 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 Community Advisory Board/Regional Advisory Board bases its decisions on evidence. It gathers data on an ongoing basis from a variety of sources, and members meet regularly to re-evaluate past decisions based on the most recent evidence.
It also maximizes the effectiveness of community resources by rapidly adapting the allocation of its resources to respond to changing needs of the community. Responsive Community Advisory Boards and Regional Advisory Boards make sound and defendable decisions.
Representative and inclusive
- Know who is doing what in the community
- Understand the issues
- Include all partners and stakeholders (Indigenous partners, governments, private sector, non-government organizations, etc.
- Ensure all stakeholders are engaged
- Balance the differing points of view
- Consider all relevant factors in making decisions
The composition of Community Advisory and Regional Advisory Boards should be reflective of local or regional homeless population groups, including those with lived experience of homelessness. Reaching Home’s program directives provide additional guidance on this issue.
A well-functioning Community Advisory Board/Regional Advisory Board ensures that it has the right people at the table to advance towards the shared goal of preventing and reducing homelessness in the community or region.
It must get to know and engage with key players involved in the efforts to reduce and prevent homelessness in their community or region, from both the public and private sector. This enables the Community Advisory Board/Regional Advisory Board to make a concerted community effort that maximizes the capacity of all community stakeholders.
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 undertaking complementary activities
- Be mindful of provincial/territorial and municipal efforts to address social issues
- Be creative
A well-functioning Community Advisory Board/Regional Advisory Board engages broadly with the community and integrates action on homelessness into other community-level responses.
The Community Advisory Board/Regional Advisory Board is not limited to Reaching Home. Instead, it takes a broader perspective on homelessness within the community by engaging and integrating other sectors that relate to homelessness, such as health, particularly at a provincial and territorial level. Some provinces recognize the Community Advisory Board/Regional Advisory Board as a vehicle to advance the provincial homelessness strategy. By playing a strategic coordination role, the Community Advisory Board/Regional Advisory Board is better able to maximize all homelessness efforts within a community.
An important partner in the community is the Community Entity, which administers the funding provided by Reaching Home. A well-functioning Community Advisory Board/Regional Advisory Board works collaboratively with the Community Entity to maintain good communication, and establish mutual respect for each other’s roles.
- Focus on the outcomes of actions, not actions alone
- Link results to priorities, and in the case of Designated Communities, identified community-wide outcomes
- Consider results achieved when making decisions
A Community Advisory Board/Regional Advisory Board should consider how the projects they recommend for funding would help reduce and prevent homelessness in their community. In the case of Designated Communities, project recommendations for funding should align with the Community Plan and support the community-wide outcomes required by Reaching Home and identified at the community level.
Accountable: transparency and 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
Community Advisory Boards in communities implementing coordinated access systems also have a responsibility to approve the annual Community Progress Report. This public report will measure progress the community has made at reducing and preventing homelessness against a set of mandatory community-wide outcomes and outcomes identified at the community level.
When setting priorities, the Community Advisory Board/Regional Advisory Board 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.
Implementing measures to promote transparency and unbiased processes helps the well-functioning Community Advisory Board/Regional Advisory Board 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 the Community Advisory Board/Regional Advisory Board decisions.
The elements described above all fall within the broader theme of professionalism. By seeking participation on a Community Advisory Board/Regional Advisory Board, 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 the Community Advisory Board/Regional Advisory Board members at the beginning of their tenure is helpful and ensures that all expectations are understood.
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