01/03/2013 - Kicking off 2013 at USICH: Looking Back at 2012

As we close out 2012, it is important to look at the accomplishments of the past year and point to ways we must focus our work in the year (and years) ahead. The release of the 2012 Point in Time (PIT) data just a few weeks ago provides the nation with an opportunity to reflect and improve on the work ahead.

As a nation, despite the economic downturn and our continuing recovery, we made progress toward preventing and ending homelessness overall. The 2012 PIT count provides the most recent available data on progress toward the goals of Opening Doors: to end chronic homelessness and homelessness among Veterans by 2015; to end homelessness for families, youth, and children by 2020; and to set a path toward ending all forms of homelessness. According to the 2012 PIT count, through interagency collaboration, strategic investment, and the adoption of proven tools, we have made particular progress in reducing the number of Veterans experiencing homelessness—witnessing a 17 percent reduction since 2009. 

The investments made in the HUD-VASH program have been the largest contributing factor in our progress to date, and the increased collaboration among HUD and VA at both the federal and local level makes this work possible. At the end of 2012, there are over 40,000 Veterans who are permanently housed through this program. Some of the most impressive reductions in Veteran homelessness are happening in communities where HUD-VASH is targeted to the highest-need Veterans and where the program uses a Housing First philosophy. Communities are continuing to find ways to better streamline their processes and systems to house Veterans quicker and easier in the HUD-VASH program. One of the most significant national movements in this work has been the partnership of USICH, 100,000 Homes Campaign, and the Rapid Results Institute through the Rapid Results Bootcamps that kicked off in May of 2012.

Check out a blog from USICH Regional Coordinator Amy Sawyer on this work and coverage of this innovation from the Harvard Business Review.

Last month USICH also released a report to Congress on homeless Veterans, specifically assessing the HUD-VASH program and the programs that serve Veterans living in rural areas and Native American reservations. Read it here.

In addition, the 2012 PIT count showed we have made progress toward our goal of ending chronic homelessness by 2015, by reducing chronic homelessness by nine percent since 2010. This outcome is largely attributed to targeting the most intensive and costly interventions strictly to those who need them the most. Using innovative outreach methods and tools like the Vulnerability Index to target permanent supportive housing to those in greatest need has enabled cities to see who in their community is at the highest risk and assign an intervention accordingly. The 100,000 Homes Campaign continues to engage more communities in this work every month. This year we also reported on the work of Chattanooga, Tennessee, where chronic homelessness has been decreased by 89 percent in just four years by using data to determine how best to deploy their resources and through strong partnerships with both public and nonprofit housing providers.

This year USICH also released two new important documents to guide our work in the years ahead: the USICH National Research Agenda and the 2012 Amendment to Opening Doors. The USICH National Research Agenda outlines priority areas where we believe federal, local, and private investments should be made in additional research. A robust research base enables the furthering of best practices for all those working to end homelessness, and is a key element in changing the way our nation takes action. Setting forth a National Research Agenda, USICH hopes to catalyze researchers, policy professionals, and national, state and local leaders to improve how we respond to the crisis of homelessness.

The 2012 Amendment to Opening Doors was published in September and was developed to specifically address what strategies and supports should be implemented to improve the educational outcomes for children and youth, and the steps that need to be taken to assist unaccompanied youth experiencing homelessness. The Amendment provides further clarity on what needs to be done specifically for youth and children if we are to reach the goal of ending homelessness among families, children, and youth by 2020. The Amendment includes a new framework explaining how to approach the problem of youth homelessness in a more coordinated and effective way across different disciplines that work with this population. The framework calls on agencies and systems at all levels to work together to get to better youth outcomes in stable housing, permanent connections, education and employment, and well-being.

Find information on the framework for ending youth homelessness here.

Ending homelessness in America requires new investments, but it also requires smart investments. Because of the Recovery Act funding through HPRP, we did not see an increase in family homelessness during these years of recession.  However, real progress in reducing family homelessness has not occurred. With the close out of HPRP, we will need to be even more vigilant in our efforts to end family homelessness. We have found the most successful homelessness interventions for families and children are those that integrate mainstream resources (like TANF) with targeted homelessness systems. Therefore, we are driving policies that focus on rapid re-housing complemented by mainstream resources, and education and child welfare systems. 

We are encouraged by the progress being made in communities all around the country. To meet the goals of Opening Doors, we must accelerate the level of resources invested and the strategic targeting of our investments—targeted homeless as well as mainstream resources and programs. USICH and our federal partners are weaving together resources and reforms to ease the journey. Together, we can continue to make great strides toward our goal of preventing and ending homelessness in America.

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