June 2014 Archive

30/06/2014 - Ensuring that Homelessness Never Follows Foster Care

by Eric Grumdahl, USICH Policy Director

Ending youth homelessness means putting a system in place to do so in every community. Here, having a common purpose is a key ingredient. Luckily, at the interface of the child welfare system and the homeless response system, we should agree on a common purpose. The child welfare system wants to see successful transitions to adulthood, which includes all of the outcomes of the framework to end youth homelessness, including stable housing. The homeless response system is certainly eager to close what has been called a pipeline from child welfare to shelter, and to see youth in stable housing instead of outside a shelter door. We should not have to debate our shared purpose.

Where it seems to me that our efforts get stuck is... 

27/06/2014 - Baltimore Takes Steps Forward to End Youth Homelessness

“In Baltimore,” Adrienne Breidenstine explains, “We have a core group of youth service providers, funders, and government agencies that are committed to The Journey Home, Baltimore’s plan to end homelessness, and the vision that homelessness in Baltimore is rare and brief for children and youth experiencing homelessness. Now is the time for us to harness our community’s energy and commitment to the cause and translate it into action.”

25/06/2014 - Communities Come Together to Discuss Coordinated Entry

By Amy Sawyer, USICH Regional Coordinator 


Through the 25 Cities initiative spearheaded by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, communities have been invited to convene local leaders eager to build on their successes, identify new strategies, act decisively to strengthen their coordinated response systems and, in the process, end Veteran homelessness.  To get started, teams of dedicated individuals are meeting for two-day-long intensive work sessions that drive a sophisticated planning process, resulting in specific action steps that will be carried out in months – not years.

Last month, I joined about 30 practitioners, policymakers and community stakeholders to discuss coordinated entry in Tampa, where work is underway to implement new strategies to effectively assess people experiencing homelessness and quickly connect them to services and supports tailored to their specific needs.

23/06/2014 - Your Input Is Essential to the Ongoing Success of Opening Doors

by Laura Green Zeilinger, USICH Executive Director

Yesterday marked the fourth Anniversary of the launch of Opening Doors, the first-ever Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness.  In four years, we have changed the trajectory of homelessness in America.  In just the first three years of implementation, Opening Doors led to significant reductions in homelessness, including an eight percent reduction in homelessness among families, a 16 percent reduction in chronic homelessness, and a 24 percent reduction in homelessness among Veterans. And we are hopeful that we will be able announce even greater reductions when the 2014 Point-In-Time Count data are available later this year.opening doors 2014 amendment considered uservoice

The progress we are making across the nation has proven that Opening Doors is the right plan with the right set of strategies.  Opening Doors also provides a foundation and scaffolding upon which we can continue to innovate and refine the solutions that will end homelessness in this country.

This year, we’re considering amending the plan again to include more of what we’ve learned from our progress.

18/06/2014 - Four Clarifications about Housing First

by Richard Cho, USICH Senior Policy Director

I must make a confession. When I first came to Washington to work for USICH, I was a bit skeptical about how sold the Federal government was on Housing First. I knew that Housing First was mentioned in Opening Doors, but did the Federal government truly embrace it? After all, it was not so long ago that terms like "harm reduction" were considered four-letter words by the Federal government. richard cho senior policy director housing first homelessness

So imagine my happy surprise when I discovered that I was flat-out wrong. In the first, of what I learned would be many, interagency meetings on chronic homelessness, Housing First adoption was discussed as a primary strategy for accelerating progress. And one of the very first tasks I was given was to help provide a clear, operational definition of Housing First. The result of that work is USICH's Housing First Checklist, a tool that communities can use to adopt Housing First across their programs and overall community response. Not only does this Administration fully believe in Housing First, but it is working to make Housing First the underlying approach behind every community's response to homelessness.

17/06/2014 - How to Talk About Housing First

By Matthew Doherty, USICH Director of National Initiatives

I recently partnered with the San Diego Regional Continuum of Care Council (RCCC) to host a first-of-its kind discussion locally, billed as Housing First: A Community Conversation for San Diego. I was joined by 25 RCCC members and other stakeholders ready to engage in the dialogue – especially meaningful to me given I live and work in San Diego.

matthew doherty in a community conversation on homelessness in san diego


Recognizing that not everyone had the same understanding or support for Housing First approaches, our discussion was structured as a dialogue in which people could express any concerns, questions or disagreements. We wanted to make sure that we could get issues out on the table in a safe environment so that future conversations and trainings could be structured to address the issues raised and help more people, programs, and agencies move toward Housing First approaches in practice. To achieve that purpose, we established rules for the conversation, asked ourselves a few key questions, and identified several topics to discuss when we met again.



11/06/2014 - 101,628 People Are Now in Safe and Stable Homes!

Laura Zeilinger speaks at 100K Homes Campaign Announcement on Capitol HillBy Jay Melder, USICH Director of Communications and External Affairs

Today, Community Solutions’s 100,000 Homes Campaign announced it has achieved its goal to connect 100,000 people experiencing chronic homelessness to safe, stable housing—101,628 people, to be exact.

At an event on Capitol Hill, former Army Private First Class Alvin Hill, a Veteran from Washington, DC, shared his story of returning home to civilian-life, losing his job and his apartment, and falling into years of homelessness. Mr. Hill remarked that it was “a tragedy that anyone who would put his life on the line for America could return home to sleep on the streets.” In April, Alvin Hill became the 100,000th person to achieve permanent housing through the 100,000 Homes Campaign.

We congratulate Mr. Hill and we congratulate Community Solutions and all of the local and federal partners who have teamed-up to get the job done. This is an incredible milestone.

Here are three things everyone should know about what reaching milestones like this one really means:

05/06/2014 - Housing First: How Evidence Drives Solutions to Homelessness

by Eric Grumdahl, USICH Policy Director

Evidence plays a central role in shaping Federal policy. Through the implementation of Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness, evidence has transformed Federal homelessness programs. This is particularly the case for Veteran Affairs programs. Our progress—a 24 percent reduction in Veteran homelessness in three years—is directly tied to the commitment to apply evidenced-based practices to end homelessness, particularly Housing First, permanent supportive housing, and rapid re-housing.

04/06/2014 - First Lady Announces Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness in 2015

FLOTUS mayors challenge June 4 washington dc

Flanked by Veterans, mayors and state leaders committed to ending homelessness among Veterans, First Lady Michelle Obama announced the launch of the Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness at the White House, yesterday. The Challenge seeks to secure commitments from local leaders to end homelessness among Veterans by 2015, using evidence-based approaches as outlined in Opening Doors and through collaboration with community partners.

"We have made great progress over the past few years because of leaders like all of you who refuse to accept veteran homelessness as a fact of life," said Mrs. Obama. "And now we have to finish the job once and for all, because when a Veteran comes home kissing the ground, it is unacceptable that he should ever have to sleep on it." 

02/06/2014 - Houston Drives Down Homelessness 37% through Community Collaboration and Housing First Approach

Houston has reduced homelessness by 37 percent since 2011, city and community leaders just announced, attributing the extraordinary achievement to an unprecedented level of collaboration and synergy among public and private organizations to realize the objectives of the Federal strategic plan to end homelessness.

“We are on the right path! Our Housing First strategy of creating permanent accommodations with robust supportive services is working,” Houston Mayor Annise Parker said of the strategy undergirding the approach to ending homelessness in the city. “Moreover, the coordinated team-effort of over 60 different organizations aligning their resources and efforts is working!”

With university, city health and human services and county support, Houston’s Coalition for the Homeless conducted a federally mandated point-in-time (PIT) estimate of the number of people without a safe and stable home on Jan. 30, 2014, and found that there were 3,187 fewer people experiencing homelessness than in previous counts. In 2011, the PIT count determined 8,538 people were experiencing homelessness on a single night in January. In 2012, 7,356. In 2013, 6,359 and in the most recent count, 5,351.