By Jay Melder, USICH Director of Communications and External Affairs
Houston, Phoenix, and a growing list of other communities are proving that ending homelessness is possible and within reach.
At our Council meeting in late April, Laura Zeilinger reported on the progress our nation is making to end homelessness. "We are really showing, through the course of our work, that homelessness is not an intractable problem,” she said. “It’s actually a problem we’re solving.”
From left: ED Secretary Arne Duncan, Amy Schwabenlender, Labor Secretary Thomas Perez, Mandy Chapman Semple, USICH Executive Director Laura Zeilinger, HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan
To demonstrate that success, USICH invited two community leaders to come to DC and discuss the impacts that Federal partnerships have had on local efforts to end homelessness. Mandy Chapman Semple from the City of Houston and Amy Schwabenlender from the Valley of the Sun United Way in Phoenix are working to end homelessness in their communities by taking strategic actions to maximize Federal, State, and local resources, increase evidence-based housing and services models like permanent supportive housing, and focus on outcomes. The results are clear: ending homelessness is possible and within our reach.
Mandy Chapman Semple, Special Assistant for Homeless Initiatives to Mayor Annise Parker of Houston, told the Council that Houston is expecting to end homelessness among Veterans in 2014, one year ahead of the national goal. “We believe by the end of 2014, Houston will have achieved a steady state system, meaning that no Veteran has to be homeless,” said Chapman Semple. “We’ve built a system that can house those individuals within a 30-day period with a strong retention in their permanent housing.”
The City of Houston has also made significant progress to end chronic homelessness, connecting 1,402 individuals with permanent supportive housing since 2012. In the same time, Houston has reduced unsheltered homelessness by 50 percent in the downtown area. Houston has made stable housing the foundation of the response to homelessness and has aligned their efforts with the goals and objectives of Opening Doors.
Amy Schwabenlender, Vice President of Community Impact at Valley of the Sun United Way in Phoenix/Maricopa County, Arizona shared similarly impressive results with the Council. Phoenix, where Mayor Greg Stanton recently announced an end to chronic homelessness among Veterans, is on track to end homelessness among all Veterans in 2015. “In Phoenix and Maricopa County, we are very excited by our progress,” said Schwabenlender. “We want to help achieve the goals of the Federal plan, Opening Doors.”
Schwabenlender examined ways in which increased Federal and community partnership could accelerate progress, highlighting the benefit of more guidance on best practices to connect individuals who have experienced homelessness with workforce opportunities.