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August 12, 2010; Source: Fox31 News | Among Albany’s 600 nonprofits, there are homeless shelter operators and rescue missions, but some services that “connect the dots” are missing. At least one nonprofit in Albany, N.Y. is taking an implicit systems approach to addressing the increasing incidence of homelessness in the Empire State’s state capitol. The new organization—A Place 4 Hope—will be opening up in the next couple of months to connect the dots or fill some of the gaps, such as offering homeless people access to laundry facilities, mail services, internet, employment workshops by the Department of Labor, and a place to shower.

The organizers don’t call it a systems approach, but it really is. What they’re doing is looking at the system of services for the homeless and identifying some of the missing pieces that aren’t being offered but are important for homeless individuals to make their way into mainstream jobs and homes. For a systems approach to social problems to work, the players in the system—in Albany’s case the nonprofit homeless service providers, the churches, and government agencie—have to collaborate and connect their dots to those being offered by A Place 4 Hope. Given Albany’s small size—the city’s population is 93,000, Albany County’s total population is less than 300,000—the nonprofits there have a chance of making their system work.—Rick Cohen