Term Project

This course's term project is a case study of a current real-world situation in which the "service-housing issue" is of significance. The purpose of the paper is to apply the vocabulary and perspective developed in the course to a practice situation: to explore how that practice reflects (or conversely the ways it is at odds with) the view of the housing-human service worlds evolved in the course.

Hopefully some students are already working in intern settings that will provide the context and data for such a study. Students may also use relevant cases to which they already have or can get access.

If neither of these situations applies to a student, the instructors will produce organizations and will help connect that student with the actors in these settings.

The point is to explore objectively and analytically the ways in which "service" and "housing" are defined, framed, and carried out by:

  • Laying out the two pieces and how they relate to each other.
  • Drawing conclusions about how to best explain and makes sense of the relationship.

That relationship may be:

  • Conflictual
  • Benign and mutually reenforcing
  • Disconnected: Each side unaware of or disengaged from the other

Before reaching one of these three conclusions, students should first understand the nature of the relationship between housing and services and be able to explain why it is the way it is.Once students have laid out "the facts" of their cases and interpreted the relationship between the housing and the services sides, they must grapple with the significance of using the framing discussion/issue approach as a way of understanding what is going on.

Some alternative explanations to framing for why the relationship between housing and service does or does not work to consider:

  1. Variations on the "framing" concept: Consider the following variations on "the "real issue."

     The real issue is:
    • Organizational conflict within a system -- say between the local housing authority and the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development.

    • Ideological differences within one (or both) of the systems.

    • Conflict (or cooperation) with actors/agencies not part of the obvious Housing/Service set of relationships i.e. a third system is what really explains what is going on: a great connection with City Hall or a powerful Board; Neighbors who are "opposed" to the housing service model in their community in which the relevant issue is that the neighbors are "framing" the housing/service model differently than either the housers or the service people.

  2. Structural: The way you organize things determines where the conflict comes from - the conflicts are within the system or the organization and they are not about the ideology of housing vs. service but rather organizational relationships, lack of clarity, conflicting loyalties etc.

  3. Power, Control: The real issues are political (i.e. power, control, authority, access, who "wins") not the content of what is being done.

  4. Money: The real conflicts are about money. The issue is the competition for scarce resources. The issue isn't so much different world view as it is institutional imperative to stay alive and to meet needs of clients and constituency: zero sum resources.

  5. Different interpretation of the same facts: It is difficult to make a case that conflict is about "ideology" or "framing." Rather it seems to be about judgments of "what is" i.e. interpreting facts.

  6. Program Design: The program doesn't work or gets the wrong people in the wrong boxes or fails to deliver necessary services etc.

  7. Personal Conflict: Folks just don't get on with each other. Old feuds get in the way etc.

To get at these issues, i.e. to figure out which ones apply and are most useful in explaining the situation, you should:

  1. Pick a case.

  2. Figure out the key players with whom to talk.

  3. Get access to as much printed information about the place, people and program as possible before you go out to meet with them.

  4. Develop a set of questions for the individual(s) you want to interview to enable you to describe what is actually going on in the place. For example: What is its mission? Whom does it serve? How does it serve them? What is its history? I.e. Did it start in the housing business and bring on services later? Did it start with a "service role" and move into housing? Or did it see itself doing both from the beginning?

  5. Analyze the relationship between "the housing" and "the service" pieces: What services are provided? Who provides them? Why did the organization decide on these services?

  6. What do your interviewees think about the relationship in terms of specifics? Are there issues between the role of housing people and the provision of services? If there are or are not, why? (and so on)

Some issues we have covered that are worth bearing in mind as you develop your case and questions:

  1. Person vs. Community

  2. Person vs. Place

  3. Shifting personal needs vs. long term stability of program/community

  4. Place works only if behavior is ordinary and consistent vs. inconsistent behavior is the nature of the business

  5. Housers want same behavior. Human service behavior gets better (transitional housing) gets worse (elderly) jumps around (mental health)

  6. Carrots and sticks: "goods" and "bads"

  7. Creaming

  8. Who goes to the front of the line for admission and why?

  9. Skills needed to be either a good houser or good service provider or good at both.

  10. Role of the client. Is it clear who the client is?

  11. Take the services to the client or the client to the service.

  12. Meaning of "continuum of care"