USICH BlogUSICH Blog | Media Center | United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH)
This week, in lieu of our usual Friday wrap-up we encourage you to take a look at our newsletter that was released this afternoon. This newsletter is packed with new information from USICH and from our partners in the federal government and nonprofit sector.
The big news from USICH is the release of the first ever National Research Agenda. 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. We encourage you to take a look at the Agenda, and think of ways you can improve your research and evaluation efforts.
Valley of the Sun United Way has come a long way in four years. Together, with partners in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors, we have set ambitious yet achievable goals and have made progress towards the one big goal: ending homelessness in the Maricopa County region. By taking a look at our milestones and key actions throughout the past four years, we identified strategies that have worked for us, and we believe can work for other United Ways or community-wide partnerships across the country.
Take a look.
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), Office of Mental Health released a new toolkit for community providers to access on its website. The online toolkit provides information on mental health issues from a Veteran-specific focus, a whole host of information about military cultural competency for mental health providers and case managers, and gives information on how providers can connect with VA. The Office of Mental Health will be developing and releasing more fact sheets and guides for specific types of mental health needs in the coming months, so we encourage community providers to check back frequently for updated resources.
Los Angeles County Makes a Smart Move for Ex-Offenders
As noted in the most recent USICH newsletter, the importance of connecting ex-offenders to safe, stable housing is a key element in successful reentry. In a few months, Los Angeles County Housing Authority, will allow ex-offenders on parole or probation who are also experiencing homelessness to be eligible for vouchers under the long-running homeless set-aside. This move will enable access to the nearly 22,000 vouchers for ex-offenders who are experiencing homelessness – a large group of individuals in Los Angeles County and individuals who face many barriers to housing stability.
Interested in reentry issues like this one? Take a look at our newsletter
Safe Havens have long been a refuge for people with severe and persistent mental illness and other disabilities who also experience episodes homelessness, often for long periods of time. Since 1992, Safe Havens have been part of the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Supportive Housing Program and will continue to be funded through the new Emergency Solutions Grant program. Designed to offer low-barrier services and supports to the most hard-to-reach people, Safe Havens can provide a sense of stability and security for people who would otherwise be exposed to the life-threatening environment on the streets. Here, people who were formerly disconnected from the community and supports are able to move inside and begin to focus on how they can transition from the streets to permanent, supportive housing. For fifteen years, Safe Place in Tampa, Florida has been offering safe haven to some of that community’s most vulnerable residents. The program is operated by Mental Health, Inc., an agency that works to advocate for and give hope to all people touched by behavioral health and developmental challenges. Recently they’ve begun a new phase in their work as a Safe Haven that partners with the local Veterans Affairs Medical Center (VAMC) to help connect Veterans to this valuable resource.
Lessons from Rapid Results Bootcamp Success
The work of the Rapid Results Bootcamps continues to create a buzz among communities involved in the bootcamps as well as national leaders in innovative solutions to complex problems. The Harvard Business Review posted a blog this week about the underlying principles of how the bootcamps work, their success, and what other corporate and social organizations can learn from this effort. The authors highlight the concepts of mobilizing an ecosystem, having a common goal, and harnessing the power of peer pressure and support as lessons to be drawn from this work.
Last week another bootcamp was held in Denver, this time with participation from six communities. Look for a blog post from one of the USICH National Programs team on this event soon!
Photo courtesy of 100,000 Homes
“I’m ashamed because the other kids say I smell bad.”
“Get those dirty bums out of our town.”
How many times have you heard sentiments similar to these, either from those experiencing homelessness, or from those encountering them on the streets? As advocates for the rights and dignity of homeless persons, we know these statements reflecting the stigmatization of homelessness are wrong, but few of us have thought more deeply about the causes and consequences of stigma.
At the end of September, over 400 people from the Southeast and throughout the country joined together in Clearwater, Florida for the 2012 Southeast Institute on Homelessness. The Institute, supported by the Florida departments of Children & Families and Education, the Florida Housing Finance Corporation, and Wells Fargo, is an example of the type of government, nonprofit and public sector partnerships that breed success in ending homelessness.
The focus of the institute was Building Successful Communities. Sessions, presentations, and dialogue groups asked participants to think about what is new, what is working, and what’s next in their community’s efforts to end homelessness. Keynote speakers, including USICH, invited participants into a dialogue about collaborative partnerships, creative planning, thinking “outside the box”, right-sizing and targeting resources, measuring success, and connecting with mainstream resources. No matter what stage of development communities were in when they got to the Southeast Institute on Homelessness, this event helped create a pathway for moving forward with people, groups, and partners looking to make changes in their programs for the better.
The Reentry Newsletter
Yesterday, USICH released its newsletter focused on reentry of individuals from jails and prisons. The newsletter covers the challenges of reentry housing and provides the resources to make a difference. Also, it highlights work being done on the federal and local level to successfully address reentry.
The issue of reentry is urgent. Annually, approximately 730,000 Federal and state prisoners return to communities and over 9 million pass through local jails. For people held in state and federal prisons, the path to stability can be long and challenging. Beyond the employment barriers and stigma related to a criminal conviction, many do not have a stable home or a family support system when released. These individuals are far more likely to become homeless in the days and weeks after release. Residing in shelters rather than a more stable environment has shown to increase the risk of re-incarceration. There is also a subset of individuals in the nation's prisons and jails that cycle between the criminal justice system and homelessness that incur high costs to themselves and public systems.
"Big systems change requires big systems to change."
That's what the Chief Medical Officer for Health Share of Oregon told me was the approach to change that the new Coordinated Care Organization, created out of the State of Oregon's health reform plan, needed to take. I had a chance to meet leaders in this effort when I travelled to Portland September 19. One change that was visible was who was at the table. Big hospital systems are pairing up with nonprofits that have been delivering care on the streets and at community clinics, hoping to learn from the work that organizations like Central City Concern have been doing for years. One of the premises of health homes and accountable care organizations, called Coordinated Care Organizations in Oregon, is that the only way to achieve the "triple aim" of health reform that is, better care, better health, and lower costs, is to change the whole approach to patient care. That can start with big systems like hospitals and their data about who has multiple hospital admissions or many trips to the emergency room. And it also has to start with actual patient care.