STEP: A Better Framework for Ending Homelessness

Andrew Hening
8 min readJun 14, 2022

For the last 12 years I have been working to end homelessness in the San Francisco Bay Area. During that time, which has included providing front-line outreach in some of our nation’s largest encampments, managing a growing nonprofit, and serving in an executive leadership role in local government, I have engaged with countless building blocks for creating an effective homeless system of care. With STEP, my hope is to show how these parts can fit together.

  • S — Systems
  • T — Triage
  • E — Engagement
  • P — Placement

S — Systems

At its core, The Modern Homelessness Crisis is really a symptom of other problems — a lack of housing production, economic inequality, systemic racism, mental illness, and addiction.

Therefore, the most effective strategy for solving The Modern Homelessness Crisis is to reform these underlying systems, thus reducing the likelihood and severity of the types of crises that push people into homelessness.

I have created a dedicated post specifically addressing these upstream issues.

T — Triage

Like homelessness overall, the most effective strategy for resolving a person’s housing crisis is to prevent that person from becoming homeless in the first place.

Here we find the value of comparing homeless service systems to healthcare systems.

When a person is having a medical crisis, they generally do one of two things: go to the emergency room or call 911.

For homelessness, this is where we see the role of Coordinated Entry and the philosophy of “no wrong door.”

If a person is in crisis and is about to become homeless, no matter where they contact the homeless service system, there should be the same, consistent triaging process to evaluate that person’s needs and get them the help they need as quickly as possible.

From many years as a direct service provider, as well as through my current consulting work where I regularly host feedback sessions with people who are currently or have recently experienced homelessness, there are clear themes about what effective…

Andrew Hening

UC Berkeley MBA and Harvard-recognized culture change leader sharing tools, strategies, and frameworks for untangling complex and messy challenges.