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07/25/2012 - So why no party? Personal reflections on the 25th anniversary of the McKinney Act

I'm a person who loves a good celebration - whether it's a birthday party or a housewarming for new neighbors or marking a milestone in an organization's history. This week, we could have celebrated the 25th anniversary of the establishment of the US Interagency Council on Homelessness and enactment of the landmark Stewart B. McKinney Act. Instead, I'm more saddened than celebratory. 

Twenty five years ago, I was working in Cincinnati as part of the movement to end homelessness. I was active in the leadership of the Greater Cincinnati Coalition for the Homeless and Bethany House of Hospitality (now Bethany House Services). At the time, we believed that the passage of the McKinney Act signaled that the country had found the political will to end homelessness....

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07/20/2012 - What We Heard About Resort Communities and Homelessness at the NAEH Conference

USICH hosted a listening session on homelessness in resort communities at the National Alliance to End Homelessness conference earlier this week. USICH Regional Coordinators Amy Sawyer and Matthew Doherty share their take away thoughts on this session.

With post card views, enviable temperatures, diverse recreation and entertainment options, resort and destination communities attract thousands of tourists and often feature housing for which people will pay a pretty penny – but such communities often also feature low-wage and seasonal employment opportunities and have significant populations of people experiencing homelessness.  Late on the second afternoon of the National Conference on Ending Homelessness , service providers, police officers, government agency representatives, and health care providers joined together  to talk about the less-than-sunny side of living in a resort community. During the session questions on what housing crisis looks like in resort communities, how people experience it, and how such communities respond to homelessness were explored.

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07/18/2012 - Youth Homelessness Champions of Change

On July 12, the White House, along with the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, honored 13 leaders who have made a significant difference in the way their communities address homelessness among children and youth at Champions of Change in the Fight Against Youth Homelessness event

The Champions of Change event provided an opportunity for community leaders, agency representatives and various White House officials to share and discuss effective ways to make change to improve the lives of our most vulnerable children and youth.

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07/13/2012 - Listening to the NAEHCY/LeTendre Scholars: The Needs of Youth Experiencing Homelessness

On June 18, one day before participating in a Congressional briefing on youth homelessness, the 2010 recipients of the NAEHCY/LeTendre Scholarship, all currently and formerly homeless youth, came to the USICH office in Washington, D.C. to share their experiences and offer their first-hand accounts of the obstacles faced with exiting youth homelessness.

Established in 1998, the NAEHCY/LeTendre Scholarship funds are available to students who are homeless or who have been homeless during their school attendance and who have demonstrated higher than average achievement.  To date, 222 youth representing 38 states have been selected as NAEHCY/LeTendre Scholars.  USICH had the great opportunity to visit with thirteen of them.

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07/03/2012 - Top Ten Reasons Homeless Advocates Care about the New Section 811 Project Rental Assistance (PRA) Program

On May 15, 2012, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development published the highly anticipated Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) for HUD’s Fiscal Year 2012 Section 811 Supportive Housing for Persons with Disabilities Project Rental Assistance Demonstration (PRA Demo) Program. The PRA Demo NOFA announces the availability – for the first time – of $85 million in funding to identify, stimulate, and support innovative state-level partnerships and strategies that will transform and increase affordable permanent supportive housing (PSH) for extremely low income people with disabilities including those experiencing homelessness.

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06/26/2012 - In the Fishbowl: Community Strategic Planning Charrette in Indiana

Envision your community having all of the right partners and leaders around the table to implement an actionable plan with goals and strategies to end homelessness.  It takes commitment, dedication, passion, and political will to create opportunities for partnerships and solutions to ending homelessness. These qualities are abundant in Lafayette, and Tippecanoe County, Indiana.  

Last week in Tippecanoe County, Indiana, I had the privilege to participate in a charrette planning process “Solutions Beyond Shelter” facilitated by the Corporation for Supportive Housing (CSH). The charrette is a unique and efficient process for communities to articulate goals and strategies to end homelessness relevant to their community needs.  The process provides opportunities to explore new systemic and programmatic solutions to end homelessness between national and local leaders, with the community providing reaction and input on particular issue areas.  CSH has facilitated numerous charrettes with communities across the country to develop new plans and breathe life into existing plans to end homelessness through a thoughtful and strategic process known as the “fishbowl.”  

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06/22/2012 - Endorsing Solutions to the Criminalization of Homelessness – Mayors Taking the Lead

Last week, I was in Orlando for the US Conference of Mayors 80th Annual Meeting. One purpose of the visit was promoting the new USICH report, Searching Out Solutions: Alternatives to the Criminalization of Homelessness. The Conference endorsed a resolution (p. 49) that called on communities to:”adopt the recommendations in the report (to) meet the needs of the larger community as a whole while also enhancing progress on efforts to end homelessness.”

Memphis, TN Mayor A.C. Wharton and Newton, MA Mayor Setti Warren were the primary sponsors; co-sponsoring were Boston, MA Mayor Thomas Menino, North Miami, FL Mayor Andre Pierre, and Asheville, NC Mayor Terry Bellamy. 

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06/21/2012 - Why PHAs?

At the end of May, USICH, HUD, and the Corporation for Supportive Housing hosted representatives from 45 communities in Washington, DC for a day-long convening on the important topic of Public Housing Agency (PHA) engagement in local efforts to prevent and end homelessness.  Over 110 PHA and Continuum of Care (CoC) representatives joined with Federal staff and other partners to learn more about innovative work already underway in communities, as well as to discuss common policy, regulatory, and political challenges that sometimes inhibit PHAs’ ability to better serve individuals and families experiencing homelessness.  Earlier this year, we hosted a similar convening on the West Coast.

As clearly articulated in Opening Doors, ending homelessness in this country will require communities to leverage mainstream resources—like public housing and housing choice vouchers—in unprecedented ways. Consider the following facts...

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06/18/2012 - Ending Youth Homelessness

On this second anniversary of the release of Opening Doors, it is important to look back and ahead. When we were developing the Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness, we knew that for the first time we were setting a goal to end youth homelessness and set our sights on 2020. The Cabinet Secretaries who lead the Council knew that this was a vulnerable population that we needed to help, and in the Plan we outlined what generally would be needed: 

  • Individual goal-based service planning
  • On-going support services connected to mainstream resources
  • Independent living skills training
  • Connections to supportive and trustworthy adults and support networks
  • Employment and education
  • Housing

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06/14/2012 - June Council Meeting Focuses on New Framework to End Youth Homelessness

The June 12, 2012 USICH Council meeting was a historic one – not only did it mark the second anniversary of Opening Doors, it also marked the unveiling of a framework for ending youth homelessness by 2020 and was the first time that a Council meeting was broadcast live.

Presented to the Council by the Commissioner of the Administration on Children, Youth and Families at HHS, Bryan Samuels, this framework is the first time that the Council has endorsed a strategic set of priorities established to help us to reach the goal by 2020.Three thought leaders on the issue were in attendance as expert panelists: CEO of Lighthouse Youth Services Bob Mecum, President and CEO of the National Alliance to End Homelessness Nan Roman, and State Coordinator for the McKinney-Vento Education of Homeless Children and Youth program at the Colorado Department of Education Dana Scott. All agreed that urgency on these strategic actions is vital to success. 

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