Ten Tips for Involving Consumers as Colleagues in Homelessness Services

How can your agency successfully integrate consumers as colleagues? Ten tips are described here.

Integrating consumers in homeless services has been shown to improve quality of care (Prescott & Harris, 2007). Here are 10 Tips that set the stage for creating a respectful and inclusive culture – a key ingredient for success in consumer involvement.

1. Establish consumer training teams to provide agency-wide trainings on recovery and related topics

2. Create discussion and planning groups that include consumers and staff

3. Develop leadership teams that include consumer and non-consumer providers to guide agency activities, program design, and strategic planning

4. Develop groups that include consumer and non-consumer providers to review agency policies, practices, and procedures

5. Celebrate milestones, efforts, and successes

6. Document and report on the victories and challenges of involving consumers

7. Hire and train consumers as outreach workers, case managers, volunteer coordinators, directors of consumer involvement and other positions for which they are qualified

8. Ensure that consumers have at least 2 seats on the organization’s board of directors

9. Create meaningful volunteer opportunities for consumers

10. Develop a consumer advisory board to provide input and guidance on how the agency operates

In all of this work, leaders should educate to change and to motivate others. A clear vision is required to integrate consumers into the delivery of homeless services.  Once that vision takes root, the results are transformative.

These tips are adapted from Prescott, L. & Harris, L. (2007). Moving Forward, Together: Integrating Consumers as Colleagues in Homeless Service Design, Delivery and Evaluation. Pending publication.

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