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.
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.
Opening Doors works because we developed the plan together, because we are implementing it together, and because the Plan brings the right people to the table—providers, practitioners, policy-makers, advocates, and people with lived experiences of homelessness—from all over the country and from every level of government and the private and not-for-profit sectors.
All in all, the Plan was authored by more than 750 community stakeholders, national advocacy organizations, as well as with Congress and leaders and program staff from 19 Federal departments and agencies. The names of all contributors are printed on the back cover of the Plan.
As we embark on the fifth year of implementing Opening Doors, we realize that not only is Opening Doors still the right plan, but also that our progress is accelerating and gaining momentum.
We believe that every strategic plan should be a living document, strengthened by new information and lessons learned through implementation. Opening Doors is no different. In 2012, with widespread public input, we amended the plan to focus more strategies on ending youth homelessness and improve educational outcomes for children experiencing homelessness.
This year, we’re considering amending the plan again to include more of what we’ve learned from our progress. For instance, through the tremendous advances made by communities, we have gained critical new insights on the necessary components of effective homeless crisis response systems. In addition, Health care reform has meant new innovations and approaches in bringing Medicaid to bear on ending homelessness. Also, due to a lack of Congressional support for needed affordable housing investments, we will not reach our national goal to end chronic homelessness in 2015. However, if Congress supports the President’s 2015 budget, we can reach the goal in 2016. Managing toward goals is essential, which is why an amendment to Opening Doors would reflect that change.
We urge you to participate in this process. We request your input by August 8, 2014. Please visit www.usich.uservoice.com to share and vote for ideas that can further strengthen Opening Doors. We’ve also created this participation guide to assist you in commenting. Thank you in advance for sharing your thoughts. We look forward to reading them.