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08/26/2015 - Good News from Philadelphia: Coordinated Services Produce Results

Army Veteran Thomas Green struggled with multiple episodes of homelessness spanning the past 20 years. Thanks to the coordination of multiple VA programs, Mr. Green now has stable housing in the Veteran Multi-Service Center's (VMC) Shelter Plus Care Program.

Learn more about Thomas Green's story and how the VMC, through coordination with other VA programs, is helping connect Veterans to housing in Philadelphia.

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08/21/2015 - Country Girl Tackles Homelessness and the DC Metro as USICH Intern

By Mel Sullivan

Let me start with a little background. My name is Mel Sullivan and I am a fourth year LINK-2-LEAD doctoral scholar at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, in the Specialized Educational Services department. My focus is on how institutes of higher education (IHEs) and school districts prepare or train teachers to work with students experiencing homelessness or in foster care. In my future career as a teacher educator, I hope to improve teacher development in this area, in addition to emphasizing collaboration between professionals in education, social work, counseling, and administration. While I happened upon this research topic somewhat by chance, it has become personal to me, as I discovered I have close friends who experienced homelessness during their youth.

When I set out to find a summer internship at a national organization focused on homelessness, I did not anticipate finding one in policy. But, I saw a tweet from the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) that said they were looking for interns, so I figured I would give it a shot. After a few months, several conference calls, and an epic apartment hunt, I was ready to move to D.C. for my six-week internship! Let me just say here that I am not a city girl; I prefer being in the middle of nowhere. So in addition to a new job, metropolitan life was going to be a completely new experience.        

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08/14/2015 - Project 25: Saving Money While Saving Lives

By Kris Kuntz

Last week my friend Jeanine passed away. She was found unconscious in her apartment. Jeanine suffered from several health complications including a seizure disorder, bouts of depression, and a long history of drinking. The doctors concluded that her body essentially shut down and that nothing could have been done, although it is hard to believe given her athletic 6’2” frame, outgoing personality, and the fact that she walked five miles every day. She was only 52.

I met Jeanine three years ago in the San Diego County women’s jail after her name was brought up among police officers and paramedics as our city’s most frequent user of the ER and jail. I was there to talk with her about a program called Project 25. Started in 2011, Project 25 was conceived of by the United Way of San Diego County with support from CSH. The United Way provided the majority of the funding with the County of San Diego, the City of San Diego and the San Diego Housing Commission playing important roles in both financial support and programming. The idea was simple: target the most costly and frequent users of public resources who were living on the streets of San Diego and, using a Housing First model, provide them with permanent housing and intensive wraparound services. Father Joe's Villages managed the services, oversaw the housing, and collected the data to demonstrate the program’s effectiveness and savings to the community.

The program started with 25 people, grew to 35, and then added Jeanine as the 36th person in the program after officials in the city asked Project 25 to work with her. Like others in the program, Jeanine was initially resistant to the concept. I would like to say that she agreed to participate on our first meeting in jail and things were perfect from there on out, but that’s not the case. We followed her in and out of jail and the ER numerous times before she finally trusted us enough to let us into her life. Once she did, Jeanine was quickly placed into her own apartment and from there the real stabilization began.

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08/07/2015 - Portland, Maine, and Portland, Oregon, Making Strides to End Youth Homelessness

By Jasmine Hayes, Jon Bradley, and Mary Li

Since the adoption of the Federal Framework to End Youth Homelessness in 2012, the Council’s Interagency Working Group on Ending Youth Homelessness has made progress around the two broad areas for action: 1) increasing data on youth homelessness and 2) building community capacity to respond to youth homelessness. Council agencies have supported the improvement in counting youth as part of Point-in-Time counts, initiated community planning efforts, supported pilot projects, and launched the integration of Runaway and Homeless Youth Management Information System (RHYMIS) and Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) data.

USICH and our Council agencies are fully committed to achieving our goal of ending youth homelessness in 2020, but we know there is a lot more work to be done. At the July 2015 Council meeting, we officially launched the second phase of work under the Framework, focusing on strategies to increase community-level capacity by developing and testing innovations in services and programs. In the coming weeks, USICH will be releasing more details on the vision for that work, with Council agencies committed to taking action to provide communities with the tools they need to advance progress.

Efforts in communities across the country to develop and test innovative approaches are inspiring and informing this next phase. During the July 2015 Council meeting, we had an opportunity to hear from Jon Bradley from Preble Street in Portland, Maine, and Mary Li from Multnomah County Department of County Human Services in Oregon regarding their local efforts to implement a more coordinated and comprehensive response to youth homelessness. Jon and Mary shared their successes, their lessons learned, and the challenges that they continue to tackle.

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07/22/2015 - Removing Roadblocks to Employment: A New Opportunity through WIOA

By Martha Toll

My passion to address and end homelessness began at the CCNV Federal Shelter in Washington DC in the late 1980’s. The ongoing lack of housing for so many Americans continues to drive my work. Then as now, a place to call home and a job are the most frequently expressed hopes and needs of people experiencing homelessness.

Today we are at a critical juncture. We have a Federal Administration fully engaged in creating and supporting the public-private partnerships necessary to end homelessness in this country. Opening Doors presents the framework for communities to end homelessness. A key part of this effort is ensuring that homeless assistance providers know how to support people experiencing homelessness to obtain employment and training.

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07/13/2015 - Family Options Study Challenges Us to Do More to End Family Homelessness


We were all given an important opportunity last week to deepen our conversations and strengthen our efforts to end family homelessness when our partners at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development released findings from the Family Options Study. The study compares the outcomes of families experiencing homelessness assigned to three different interventions with the outcomes for families who were assigned to “usual care,” defined as any housing or services that a family accesses in the absence of immediate referral to the other interventions. 

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07/08/2015 - A Closer Look: Opening Doors, As Amended in 2015 - Spotlight on Use of Data

To accompany the release of Opening Doors, as amended in 2015, we’re taking a closer look at each of the four key updates to the document.

Spotlight on Uses of Data in Decision-Making and Performance Management

Before Opening Doors, communities were targeting their resources inconsistently, and many weren’t sure how to do it at all. The Plan has provided a concrete framework that has helped communities match the right resources to the right populations. It has also spurred communities to adopt better ways of measuring their work. We’ve seen over a hundred communities begin to track their housing placements against monthly goals to ensure they are on track to meet the Opening Doors deadlines, a behavior we know correlates with improved local housing performance.” - Beth Sandor, Director of Zero: 2016 for Community Solutions

Data helps us to end homelessness. It allows us to understand the needs of people experiencing homelessness in our communities, put resources in the right place, and measure the results of our efforts.

That's why data takes on even more importance in the newly amended Opening Doors. We have added new strategies related to the use of data in two ways:

  • Improving data collection and integration at the Federal level to increase our understanding of the full scope of and trend on homelessness
  • Supporting the use of data at the community-level to improve the delivery of housing and services to people experiencing homelessness

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07/02/2015 - USICH Announces Two Changes to Team

The United States Interagency Council on Homelessness is pleased to announce two changes to our team that further strengthen our work to prevent and end homelessness.

  • Beverley Ebersold has been promoted to Director of National Initiatives
  • Jennifer Rich has joined the team as Director of Communications

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06/25/2015 - A Closer Look: Opening Doors, As Amended in 2015 - Spotlight on Changing of the Goal of Ending Chronic Homelessness

To accompany the release of Opening Doors, as amended in 2015, we will be taking a closer look at each of the four key updates to the document this week. We’ll be sharing comments from partners, community members, and the USICH staff on how the updates are impacting their daily work, helping to prevent and end homelessness across America, as well as highlight the key changes around the updated topic.

Spotlight on Changing of the Goal of Ending Chronic Homelessness

“The national goal and deadline for ending chronic homelessness set by Opening Doors enabled states like Utah to generate the momentum and energy needed to achieve our goal. And if Utah can do it, anyone can do it. Moving the target date for ending chronic homelessness in 2017 still gives states, counties, and cities the hard deadline they need to cultivate champions and re-purpose existing resources, while securing additional resources needed to achieve the goal. 

– Lloyd Pendleton, Former Director, Homeless Task Force, State of Utah

Among people experiencing homelessness, there is a subset of individuals who experience homelessness for long periods of time, and/or in repeated episodes over many years—people experiencing chronic homelessness. These men and women commonly have a combination of challenges including mental health problems, substance use disorders, and complex health conditions that worsen over time and often lead to an early death. Studies have found that people experiencing chronic homelessness cost the public between $30,000 and $50,000 per person per year through their repeated use of emergency rooms, hospitals, jails, psychiatric centers, detox and other crisis services, the  use of which make little improvements to their health and well-being. Given the cost it bears in human lives and public dollars, ending chronic homelessness is a moral and fiscal imperative.  

The solution to end chronic homelessness is permanent supportive housing, which combines affordable housing with tailored, supportive services. This combination of housing and support helps people achieve housing stability, connections to care, and improved health and social outcomes.

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06/24/2015 - A Closer Look: Opening Doors, as Amended in 2015 - Spotlight on Medicaid

To accompany the release of Opening Doors, as amended in 2015, we will be taking a closer look at each of the four key updates to the document this week. We’ll be sharing comments from partners, community members, and the USICH staff on how the updates are impacting their daily work, helping to prevent and end homelessness across America, as well as highlight the key changes around the updated topic.

Spotlight on Medicaid

"When launched in 2010, Opening Doors was more than a blueprint for effective Federal, state and local partnerships to end homelessness, it motivated all of us - inside and outside of government - to work harder, together, to address the needs of our most vulnerable people. Five years later, it is just as impactful; a platform on which proven solutions such as supportive housing can expand, and an affirmation that services through Medicaid, coordinated assessment and access, and cooperation among systems must grow too if we are to succeed and tackle homelessness once and for all."  –Deb DeSantis, President/CEO, Corporation for Supportive Housing

The Affordable Care Act creates new opportunities to leverage Medicaid to end homelessness, specifically by financing services that can help people obtain and maintain housing as well as achieve health and well-being. All states now have the opportunity to expand Medicaid eligibility to nearly all individuals under the age of 65 with incomes up to 133 percent of the Federal poverty level. As of May 2015, 30 states including the District of Columbia have acted to expand Medicaid programs, and provide health coverage to millions of adults without dependent children for the first time.  More than 16 million Americans have gained health coverage, bringing the number of people without insurance down to historic lows. Included in the newly insured are approximately six million of the lowest income Americans, who have gained access to public health insurance through Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). And while the data is limited on the specific number of people experiencing homelessness who have gained coverage, we have numerous reports that enrollment in Medicaid and other types of health insurance among people experiencing homelessness has grown significantly.

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