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The New Mexico Coalition to End Homelessness recently held its first statewide conference in Albuquerque on ending homelessness in their state. I had the honor of delivering a keynote to stakeholders from across the state at the conference and was joined by leaders such as Linda Couch from the National Low Income Housing Coalition (on the right in this photo). The energy, enthusiasm, and true passion for the cause of ending homelessness among service providers, advocates, and government officials was inspirational.
The challenge for this group now is figuring out how to harness that energy and deploy it in a careful and coordinated way to move from planning to action. This challenge is not unique to New Mexico nor is the major elements of their strategy to end homelessness very different from other states. However, the specific activities to support the strategy will need to be tailored to the population of individuals and families experiencing homelessness specifically in New Mexico. Using Opening Doors as a guide, New Mexico can create a framework for state- level efforts that can be replicated and adapted by the diverse communities throughout the state.
Transitional housing for people who are experiencing a housing crisis has taken many shapes in communities over the last 20+ years. In its traditional form, transitional housing is time limited housing (from
two weeks to two years) that includes various levels of assistance to help the individual or family transition into permanent housing. It is often delivered in single household units or in smaller congregate settings with intensive services that are generally mandatory for the tenant/client to stay in the housing. It is an expensive intervention but can represent a significant part of the crisis response portfolio, including those units targeted at Veterans, victims of domestic violence, and youth.
However, as communities look to resolve rather than manage homelessness, they are retooling their resources to include models that have housing stability as its focus. A model the VA and USICH are encouraging is a Transition in Place Model.
Imagine the possibilities if every local United Way across the country was engaged in solutions to end homelessness. What would progress look like if the business leaders and volunteers that support United Ways were pushing for real systems change and investing to create community impact to prevent homelessness?
I imagine there would be more high profile champions working with elected officials, providers and advocates to develop and implement local strategic plans to end homelessness that are aligned with Opening Doors. These champions would elevate the community engagement to increase resources directed toward solving homelessness.
I imagine that there'd be fewer projects stopped by NIMBY as business leaders would be joining forces with permanent supportive housing developers. They would help make the case to elected officials that supportive housing is a cost-effective solution to street homelessness and encourage land use approvals despite neighborhood objections.
I imagine that shelters would be better coordinated and able to be organized around a central access point: a result of United Way investment and volunteer support to create the most efficient approach by applying business technology and practices. The result would be shorter lengths of stay and more exits to housing.
05/08/2012 - Ending Veteran Homelessness in Ohio: VISN 10 Summit on Homelessness and Employment Opportunities for Veterans
We’ve made notable progress towards the goal of ending Veteran homelessness by 2015. Last year, we saw a 12 percent decrease nationally in homelessness among Veterans. This progress has helped put us on the path toward ending homelessness among Veterans by 2015. Despite this progress, over 67,000 Veterans experienced homelessness on a single night in January 2011.
Now more than ever, we need a greater sense of urgency. However, communities are increasingly being asked to do more with less. To meet this challenge we must coordinate our efforts and act strategically in order to accelerate our progress and make our limited resources go farther.
Reviewing progress and maximizing efforts to end Veteran homelessness was the purpose of VA’s VISN 10 Veterans Homeless Summit that I participated in on May 1 in Columbus, Ohio. The Veterans Integrated Service Network 10 serves veterans in Ohio, Northern Kentucky, and Southeastern Indiana. I presented at the Summit on Opening Doors and specific strategies for increasing economic security for Veterans.
Today, USICH highlights the issue of trauma-informed care, particularly from the angle of trauma-sensitive programming. While it is absolutely critical to understand the impact of traumatic events past and present on an individual's ability to rebuild, it is equally important to think about how an organization structures and operates its programs to take trauma sensitivity into consideration. How are staff expectations set and how does professional development occur? What are the program rules, why do they exist, and how are they enforced? How do programs build trust with families when it might be perfectly natural for a family not to trust the program right away?
I’ve participated in the annual Point-in-Time counts in a number of different cities over the past decade. The Point-in-Time count is one way we collectively can understand the scope and breadth of homelessness across the country and to measure our progress toward ending it. To kick off our new blog at USICH.gov, I thought I would reflect on a truly unique count that I did this January in New Orleans.
Rural homelessness is a topic that gets very little widespread coverage in the media, which may signal to the general public that homelessness is an urban problem. This is not the case. Rural and frontier homelessness is a pressing problem though it is one that looks different from urban homelessness. SAMHSA recently brought together expert practitioners and researchers to share their thoughts and best practices in serving individuals and families experiencing homelessness in rural areas. This is what I heard.
Last month, over 600 practitioners, policymakers, advocates, and consumers gathered together in New Orleans at an event called the ‘Housing First Partners Conference.’ The 2 ½ day event was the first national conference focused exclusively on the Housing First approach of providing people experiencing chronic homelessness with affordable rental housing linked to services immediately and without treatment preconditions. Let not the significance of this event be missed. It marks the moment of Housing First’s acceptance and establishment as the central approach for helping vulnerable men and women experiencing chronic homelessness permanently exit homelessness and regain health, hope, and dignity. As this movement goes mainstream, I leave the Housing First movement with three pieces of advice to retain the spirit of ingenuity that led to its birth.
Refreshing local Plans to end homelessness can be re-invigorating because our communities, and we as service providers and practitioners, have changed over time. We have more collective experience under our belts—we know more about what works and what we’d like to try. This eagerness to make a deeper impact is the fuel that powers the Plans. I share what communities can do to ensure that their Plans are well-crafted and can create an impact.