10/22/2015 - Engaging Landlords to End Veteran Homelessness: Seattle/King County Shares What They’ve Learned
By Dawn Barrett
Seattle is one of the fastest growing cities in the country, with a rental market vacancy rate of just two percent in several cities throughout King County. Like many cities, these market conditions make finding a sufficient supply of affordable rental units, and the landlords willing to rent them, a considerable challenge.
Dawn Barrett, with the King County Regional Veterans Initiative, walks us through how she and her team organized a landlord engagment event, including best practices all communities can use in their efforts to partner with landlords to end homelessness.
By Lindsay Knotts
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development released the NOFA for the FY 2015 Continuum of Care Program Competition on September 17, 2015. On September 29, 2015, USICH hosted a webinar for communities on strategies for success in responding to HUD’s NOFA.
The webinar covered the important changes in the FY 2015 Competition and how it support the goals of Opening Doors. Policy Advisor, Lindsay Knotts, recaps the webinar and highlights the top things to know about this year's CoC Competition.
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 Veterans 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.
By Pima County Supervisor Richard Elías and Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild
Pima County and the City of Tucson hosted three Cabinet Secretaries and the Executive Director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness last week at Pima County’s Sullivan Jackson Employment Center, showcasing our collaboration to end Veteran homelessness and help people experiencing homelessness reenter the workforce.
Local elected officials accompanied Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro, Labor Secretary Thomas Perez, Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald, and USICH Executive Director Matthew Doherty on a tour of Pima County’s Sullivan Jackson Employment Center – one of three stops they were making in western states during the All In City Swing. The purpose of the visit was to learn more about the Center’s impressive record of helping people experiencing homelessness, including military veterans, return to meaningful employment. The county-funded agency also receives Federal and City of Tucson funds for its ongoing operations.
The group met with several current and former Sullivan Jackson clients to hear how the Center has helped them with job training, housing assistance, and educational opportunities to get them back on track to success and stability. Such paths are often not smooth and the clients also discussed with the Secretaries and officials the problems they experienced navigating through various programs.
By Mayor Carolyn Goodman, Las Vegas
On June 2, I gathered with Councilman Ricki Barlow, the Executive Director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, local mayors, non-profit and faith leaders, and three Federal Cabinet Secretaries from the Departments of Veterans Affairs, Housing and Urban Development, and Labor for the Mayors Challenge Forum at the World Market Center. It was an unprecedented showing of the power of the “we” that Las Vegas does so well. True grit, determination, and hard-held collaboration make the successes in Las Vegas something that, we hope, will change the coined phrase, “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.” As Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald said in his speech, “we do not want what we have learned and what we have achieved in Las Vegas ‘to stay in Vegas.’ We want to share it with the nation.”
By USICH Executive Director Matthew Doherty, Labor Secretary Thomas Perez, VA Secretary Robert McDonald, and HUD Secretary Julián Castro
Five years ago, the Obama Administration set an ambitious goal: to end homelessness among Veterans by the end of 2015. Many scoffed; many continue to scoff. In the face of such skepticism, we remain optimistic and focused, and know this is an historic opportunity we must seize. Veteran homelessness is not a reality we have to accept.
On Monday, the four of us took this message on the road in a three-city swing to connect with communities committed to ending Veteran homelessness. In Houston, we joined Mayor Annise Parker at a rally celebrating the creation of a system in her community which ensures that all Veterans who need assistance will be quickly linked to the supportive services and permanent housing. The progress made in places like Houston, New Orleans, and Salt Lake City inspires us and provides models and strategies – like “Housing First” – for every community in the nation.
What we have been able to achieve in partnership with each other— joining forces with state and local governments, the business community and non-profits—is nothing short of amazing. In fact, between the 2010 rollout of Opening Doors – the first-ever federal strategic plan to prevent and end homelessness – and the January 2014 point-in-time homeless count, homelessness among Veterans nationwide has been slashed by one-third. This progress is a testament to what our nation can do when we set the bar high, invest resources and effort, and refuse to scale back our vision. It’s unacceptable that men and women who wore the uniform are returning without a safe, stable place to call home.
Now, it’s important to understand this doesn’t mean that no Veteran will ever face a housing crisis in the future. But it does mean that communities like Houston, New Orleans, and Salt Lake City are leading the way in building systems that will prevent and address homelessness whenever possible.
04/23/2015 - Federal Partners Move Forward on HMIS Alignment & Integration, Announce MOU on Roles & Responsibilities
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Office of Community Planning and Development, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, and U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs’ Veteran Health Administration have recently announced a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that sets forth shared understanding of each agency’s respective roles and responsibilities regarding the use of Homeless Management Information Systems (HMIS).
We know that using data to make smart decisions drives improvement in results. The more effectively we can collect, analyze, share, and coordinate around a common set of data, the more effectively we can inform action to end homelessness. For most communities, Homeless Management Information Systems (HMIS) are the primary data systems to capture information about families, youth, and individuals experiencing homelessness as well as information about the provision of housing and services to homeless individuals and families and persons at risk of homelessness.
HMIS helps us not only understand the impact our programs are having, it helps us better understand who our programs are engaging and how effective that engagement is. Action is underway now at the Federal level to integrate and align HMIS across Federal programs, which will help break down silos between services and programs and improve the effectiveness of our services and programs.
04/16/2015 - The Time to Seize Historic Opportunities is Now - A Message from Matthew Doherty, USICH Executive Director
By Matthew Doherty, Executive Director
It is truly an honor to have this opportunity to serve as Executive Director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) and to help carry forward the great work of this agency and of my predecessors. It is also a distinct privilege to work with the fantastic team of staff we have at USICH, both the team working here in DC and our Regional Coordinators working out in the field. Finally, I am humbled by the many sacrifices that my husband, Dean Thorp, is making so that I can step into this role.
USICH’s work is successful because of our strong partnerships with other Federal agencies and their incredibly committed leaders and staff, and because of the collaborative efforts of dedicated people working in states and local communities. Together, we are at a critical point in our efforts to prevent and end homelessness in the United States; we’ve made unprecedented progress and can point to substantial accomplishments under all of the objectives within Opening Doors, but clearly there remains much more work to be done. While we have seen significant reductions in the numbers of people experiencing homelessness documented through the annual Point-in-Time (PIT) count, the fact that the 2014 PIT count identified 578,424 people experiencing the crisis of homelessness, and other data such as from HUD’s Worst Case Housing Needs report, serve as a staunch reminder that housing affordability, housing instability, and homelessness continue to be national challenges—challenges that we must and can successfully address.
As described in Opening Doors, our focus is on ending homelessness for all populations, and we must seize this historic opportunity to expand housing for every child, youth, family, and individual struggling to achieve stability within our communities.
04/02/2015 - Building Blocks to Success: Community-Wide Partnerships and Commitments Drive Success in Central Florida
By Amy Sawyer
In Central Florida, the most important building blocks to success are its people. People from all walks of life including landlords, judges, outreach workers, and faith leaders have partnered with the VA Medical Center to make a difference in the lives of Veterans experiencing homelessness and the data is showing that these strong partnerships are paying off, as the number of Veterans experiencing homelessness is decreasing in Central Florida. This past month, Federal partners from HUD, USICH, and VA joined Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs and Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer to celebrate the great strides the community has taken and, even more importantly, rally the community to finish the job of ending Veteran homelessness.
Standing side by side, the Mayors addressed the crowd of a few hundred stakeholders from the community and reiterated their commitment to ensure that no Veteran should experience homelessness. They challenged the community to align resources and use what is being learned through the successes of the Mayors Challenge to inform the larger system response to all types of homelessness. The VA Medical Center Director, Timothy W. Liezert, and his staff were on hand to share the lessons learned and demonstrate the real partnerships that have emerged across the different programs and systems in the community.
Over the next several months, as the community drives toward the goal of ending Veteran homelessness by the end of 2015, there are key strategies and approaches they’ll be leveraging to find success.
By Martha J. Kegel
Three months ago, after a campaign led by Mayor Mitch Landrieu, New Orleans became the first major city to effectively end Veteran homelessness. During an intense six-month campaign, community partners connected every Veteran living on the street or in emergency shelter who would accept housing with an apartment of his or her own, with supportive services scaled to the Veteran’s needs. Now we actively work every day to maintain a “functional zero” in Veteran homelessness by housing any newly homeless Veteran within an average of 30 days.
I firmly believe that every community can and should end Veteran homelessness.
Yes, New Orleans had some advantages. For one thing, the local VA and its partners had already achieved a significant reduction in Veteran homelessness before we started the final drive in June 2014. At that point, we had already driven down the number of Veterans suffering in homelessness from 660 in the January 2011 Point-in-Time (PIT) count to 193 in the March 2014 count. For another, we have a very strong visionary leader in Mayor Mitch Landrieu, who set the bold goal of ending Veteran homelessness a full year before the federal deadline, convened the key players, and recruited active duty military and Veteran groups to help with outreach.
But in other important ways we were at a distinct disadvantage: As of the 2014 PIT count, New Orleans still had one of the highest per capita rates of Veteran homelessness in the nation as compared to our general population of only 379,000 residents. We were also at a disadvantage in resources: Compared to many other cities, we have precious few ways to pay for housing and services other than federal funds. And when pushing ourselves to get to zero, we were confronting the challenge of housing those whom we had always failed to connect to housing before – those Veterans who tended to have the most complex challenges and who for the most part were not eligible for HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) program.
03/23/2015 - Mayor Rothschild Shares His Experience of Participating in the 2015 PIT Count with Labor Secretary Thomas Perez
By Jonathan Rothschild, Mayor of Tucson
I was happy to welcome U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez to Tucson earlier this year for our annual Point In Time Count, also known as the Street Count. The Street Count helps communities determine service needs by interviewing their homeless population. That information is then forwarded to our federal partners, who use it to allocate resources. At the Street Count, volunteers and staff from government and social service agencies canvass – in Tucson’s case, the surrounding desert – as well as underpasses, culverts, shelters, soup kitchens, and other areas where folks experiencing homelessness are known to gather.
Not every mayor meets a member of the President’s cabinet wearing blue jeans and hiking boots, but then, homeless camps in the desert are a far cry from Capitol Hill. Secretary Perez arrived at our meeting place ready to work. After talking with some of the other canvassers, we headed out to a camp about 20 minutes away, on the southeast side of Tucson.
By Robert Pulster
I was proud to stand with Connecticut Lieutenant Governor Nancy Wyman to support the March 9 launch of Connecticut’s 100-day effort across four communities to accelerate efforts to end homelessness. This exciting 100-day effort was brought together by the Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness and Journey Home of Hartford. The Connecticut-based Rapid Results Institute, which developed the “100-Day” rapid results approach and has led similar efforts across the nation to successful outcomes, will facilitate. It is clear that Connecticut is successfully building its organizing efforts across the state that will feed momentum toward ending Veteran homelessness by 2015 and chronic homelessness by 2016.
Connecticut has mobilized advocates, activists, and service providers, together with support from state and federal officials, to forge new ways to coordinate and use existing resources more effectively to end homelessness in their communities. The HUD Field Office, led by Suzanne Piacentini, has been a key partner along with Dr. Laurie Harkness of the VA’s Errera Community Care Center. The Connecticut effort is a stand-out model, the first statewide implementation of the Rapid Results approach, with nearly the entire state participating. Participating communities include Greater Hartford, Fairfield County, and eastern Connecticut. Last year, a similar effort in New Haven led to the housing of 160 people who had long been experiencing homelessness in that community. In less than six months, this effort decreased that city’s chronically homeless population by more than 75 percent.
By: The 25 Cities Downtown San Diego Design Team
Before he unlocked the door to his studio apartment in September 2014, Ben Jaramillo had been homeless in the downtown area of San Diego for four years. “I was working as a carpenter, and ended up in my van when work fell flat, and then just kind of stayed there out of convenience and convenience turned into necessity and necessity turned into stuck, because of finances,” he said.
Jaramillo described the challenges he experienced while living in his van. “If [my van] breaks down I can’t use it for transportation, and if it gets towed, I’m really jammed up. Then I have to find someplace else to live, which means turning to my friends or a shelter or, push comes to shove, on the street.”
In June, Jaramillo participated in a Vulnerability Index and Service Prioritization Decision Assistance Tool (VI-SPDAT) survey during a 25 Cities Street Outreach week. VI-SPDAT is one tool the San Diego community is using as part of its Coordinated Assessment and Housing Placement (CAHP) System. The following week he was assigned a Housing Navigator, who helped him understand the resources available to him and collect necessary documents for permanent housing. Soon after, he was matched to a Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) rapid rehousing program through Veterans Community Services, a division of Community Catalysts of California and a partner in the San Diego 25 Cities Effort. The Veterans Community Services SSVF program assisted Ben in finding and staying in permanent housing and provided him with financial assistance to help him pay his rent.
By Matthew Doherty and Beth Sandor
In our shared mission to end homelessness, we know that data drives results. It drives the strategies and implementation of Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness, a framework for action for partners at every level of government and the private and nonprofit sectors. It drives tools and practices of the Zero: 2016 effort to help 71 communities do whatever it takes to end Veteran homelessness this year and chronic homelessness by the end of 2016. And it drives the day-to-day efforts of people across the country working tirelessly to assist each and every person experiencing homelessness in their communities to achieve their goals of permanent housing. Data is at the very core of creating a housing system built for zero and achieving an end to homelessness.
Today, Zero: 2016 communities are confirming and committing to one of the most integral pieces of data in their efforts to end homelessness - their Veteran and chronic homelessness Take Down Targets. These Take Down Targets represent the total number of Veterans experiencing homelessness who will need to be connected to permanent housing in order to end Veteran homelessness by the end of this year, and the total number of individuals experiencing chronic homelessness who need to be connected to permanent housing in order to end chronic homelessness in these communities by the end of 2016.
By Jill Fox, Virginia Coalition to End Homelessness & Matt Leslie, Department of Veterans Services
Most great stories have a beginning, middle, and end. When it comes to the story of Virginia’s efforts to end Veteran homelessness, we started with the end in mind – a vision of a Virginia where Veteran homelessness, when it does occur, is rare, brief, and non-recurring.
The Beginning – Defining the Challenge, Getting Organized!
In the summer of 2013, the Virginia Department of Veteran Services and Virginia Coalition to End Homelessness partnered with the VA VISN Network Coordinator, Jeff Doyle, and local leaders in communities to hold a statewide Veteran homeless summit. This event marked the beginning of increased collaborations among federal, state and community partners. We believed that ending Veteran homelessness in Virginia was not an impossible task.
The goal of our effort was supported by the Governor’s Coordinating Council on Homelessness, which includes representatives across state agencies that play a role in addressing homelessness as well as local providers, nonprofits, and other community leaders. Our focus was to unify mainstream and Veteran specific housing and services while continuing to shift to housing first statewide. The success of this endeavor relied on leveraging existing partnerships with the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Department of Housing And Urban Development (HUD) that the Virginia Department of Veteran Services (DVS) had nurtured. Along with federal agencies, DVS built on partnerships with VA Medical Centers (VAMCs), SSVF providers, and the VASH programs. Also paramount were the relationships that the Virginia Coalition to End Homelessness (VCEH) has with local Continuums of Care (CoCs), including nonprofit housing and homeless providers, local jurisdictions, and other mainstream providers involved with local homelessness planning.
By Mary Owens
On January 23, the White House hosted over 240 mayors during the U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM) Winter Meeting. During the event, mayors took part in a breakout session with Administration officials including Veteran Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald, Assistant to the President & Deputy Chief of Staff for Implementation Kristie Canegallo, Special Assistant to the President Luke Tate, and USICH Interim Executive Director Matthew Doherty, to discuss ensuring access to quality, affordable health care for all Americans and ending Veteran homelessness. The breakout session also provided an opportunity for New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu to discuss best practices on how mayors can accomplish the goal of ending Veteran homelessness. Through the Mayor’s Challenge to End Veterans Homelessness, local leaders across the country are ending Veteran homelessness in their communities. Mayor Landrieu was one of the first Mayors to sign on to the Mayors Challenge and on January 7, 2015, New Orleans became the first major U.S. city to achieve the goal.
By Peter Nicewicz
We often say at USICH that to end homelessness nationally, we must end homelessness locally. To help communities optimize their current resources to accelerate progress towards ending Veteran homelessness, we have identified ten essential strategies for communities to increase leadership, collaboration and coordination among programs serving Veterans experiencing homelessness, and promote rapid access to permanent housing for all Veterans. Each strategy is accompanied by resources to help community leaders and stakeholders understand how to implement these strategies more effectively.
Meanwhile, we have been working on the Federal level to assist communities as they work to reduce the number of Veterans experiencing homelessness and build the systems to prevent its recurrence. Below is a highlight of some of the Federal efforts aimed at helping communities develop and optimize their systems of connecting Veterans experiencing homelessness to permanent housing and the appropriate services and resources Veterans need to have a safe and stable place to call home.
By 25 Cities
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), in partnership with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH), launched the 25 Cities Effort in March 2014. The 25 Cities Effort is a key Federal strategy through which 25 communities, including Washington, DC, are receiving technical assistance and are mobilizing local planning efforts and partnerships to create effective systems for aligning housing and services interventions through coordinated systems to end homelessness. Led by VA, in partnership with HUD and USICH, the aim of this effort is to assist 25 communities in accelerating and aligning their existing efforts toward the creation of coordinated assessment and entry systems, laying the foundation for ending all homelessness in these communities.
Many Veterans echo the sentiment that their military experience helped them develop important skills that they now apply in their civilian lives.
Today, a year after getting permanent housing and getting out of homelessness, Michael Horton – a Marine Corps Veteran and the Director of Business Development for the National Association of Concerned Veterans (NACV) – is passionate about helping other Veterans who encounter challenges in transitioning to civilian life. “If it wasn’t for my service I can’t imagine where I would be, and now that I am where I’m at and understanding the challenge not only for me but for other Veterans, [helping Veterans] is my passion and purpose,” he said. “That’s why I’m working with NACV now.”
Erica Myrtle-Holmes, Horton’s case manager at the Washington, DC VA Community Resource and Referral Center (CRRC), recalled that Horton demonstrated this passion long before he transitioned out of homelessness. “He was very helpful with new Veterans who were coming in [to the CRRC] that were newly homeless,” she said. “He really took them under his wing.”
A message from USICH Interim Executive Director Matthew Doherty
This week, President Obama put forward a 2016 Budget that again demonstrates his Administration’s deep commitment to ending homelessness. As Interim Executive Director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, I am pleased to share that this Budget calls for the investments needed to end chronic homelessness in 2017, make significant progress toward ending homelessness among families, children and youth in 2020, and sustain efforts to end Veteran homelessness in 2015. In his Budget, the President calls for nearly $5.5 billion in targeted homelessness assistance. In addition to targeted homelessness assistance, the Budget also includes key investments to mainstream programs needed to end homelessness, such as 67,000 new Housing Choice Vouchers to support low-income households, including families experiencing homelessness; survivors of domestic and dating violence; families with children in foster care; youth aging out of foster care; and Veterans experiencing homelessness, regardless of their discharge status.
By Diane Kean
Over the past two weeks, communities across the country have organized thousands of volunteers to conduct the 2015 Point-In-Time (PIT) Count, an opportunity to measure our progress as well as identify people in need—including Veterans—and connect them with a path to permanent housing. As always, Federal partners were on hand to help, including Labor Secretary Thomas Perez, HUD Secretary Julián Castro, OMB Director Shawn Donovan, VA Secretary Robert McDonald and White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough. The Administration has come out in full force to demonstrate our deep partnership with communities and our unwavering commitment to ending homelessness.
We have compiled just some of the photos, blogs, news articles and captions from PIT Count volunteers at the Departments of Housing and Urban Development, Health and Human Services, Veterans Affairs, and Labor, and USICH and we would like to see more! Share your PIT Count experiences with us using Twitter with the hashtag #PITCount.
A Message from Matthew Doherty
As I come to the end of my first week as Interim Executive Director of USICH, I am acutely aware that there are only 11 months to reach our goal to end Veteran homelessness in 2015. But I also see communities all across the country accelerating their efforts to get the job done. We’ve already seen what’s possible when a community sets goals, focuses on permanent housing outcomes, and works together to solve problems. Just a few weeks ago, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu announced the city had effectively ended Veteran homelessness, becoming the first major U.S. city to achieve the goal and doing it a full year ahead of schedule. Other communities are also on track to meet the goal, and just yesterday I joined local leaders in Los Angeles as they renewed their pledge to end Veteran homelessness by the end of 2015—a pledge made more confident by their achievement of having ended homelessness for 3,375 Veterans in 2014. There’s no question that our shared goal remains in reach; our progress is proof of that. Our progress is proof that ending Veteran homelessness – and all homelessness - is possible. Right now, communities across the country are performing their annual Point-in-Time Counts, an opportunity to measure our progress as well as identify people in need—including Veterans—and connect them with a path to permanent housing.
By Richard Cho
On January 7, 2015, New Orleans announced that it had achieved an end to homelessness among Veterans. In doing so, New Orleans has become the first major city in the U.S. to achieve this goal, and well ahead of the Administration’s goal of ending Veteran homelessness across the nation by the end of 2015.
It is nothing short of remarkable that New Orleans was able to identify and engage every single Veteran experiencing homelessness in their community and provide them with ready access to permanent housing. Through this process and with Federal and local resources, New Orleans brought the number of Veterans experiencing homelessness down from the hundreds to a single digit number and that is certainly worthy of all of the praise and attention New Orleans is receiving.
But what is equally if not more important than bringing their numbers down is what New Orleans has done to create a system that will ensure that homelessness among Veterans remains a rare, brief, and non-recurring experience. In other words, it is not only hugely significant that New Orleans has ended homelessness for the Veterans who are experiencing homelessness today, but that they have the resources, capacity, and system in place to assist all Veterans experiencing or at-risk of homelessness in the future.
By Laura Green Zeilinger, USICH Executive Director
I was so honored to be in New Orleans yesterday, to celebrate what for me, is the biggest accomplishment to date in our fight to end homelessness among Veterans in this country.
Now, and for every day to come, Veterans in New Orleans have access to a safe, stable, home of their own. Thanks to the leadership of Mayor Landrieu, Martha Kegel, and the amazing team of partners who have been working tirelessly for years, New Orleans has delivered on its share of the promise that every Veteran who has served our country has a home in our country. They have shown that ending homelessness is not purely some aspirational idealistic vision—it is tactical, concrete, and—with the steadfast determination they brought to it—achievable.
This is an enormous victory for the people of New Orleans, for the Veterans of New Orleans. It’s also an enormous victory for folks across the country who are also working tirelessly to end homelessness. This achievement urges all of us forward. This success fuels our efforts, and all across the country there is work left to do.
By Robert Pulster
Today, there is a celebration happening in New Orleans, but it doesn’t involve Mardi Gras.
Mayor Mitch Landrieu, joined by USICH Executive Director Laura Zeilinger, announced that the City of New Orleans has effectively ended Veteran homelessness, answering the call of First Lady Michelle Obama who last June called on local leaders to join the Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness before the end of 2015.
By Liz Osborn
For communities across the country, 2014 has been another year of continued progress in the effort to end homelessness. From the 2014 Point in Time (PIT) count data showing a 10 percent decline in overall homelessness since 2010, to 351 mayors, governors, and local officials joining the Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness, we have gained incredible momentum over the past year. Here are just a few of the events that helped to drive progress in 2014.
By Marley Duchovnay
I was eight or nine when the idea of working with people experiencing homelessness first crossed my mind. It had been a long day and some relatives and I were walking to dinner. The city was crowded and as we passed under a building’s scaffolding, through the fast-walking legs of adults, I saw a man crouched by the edge of the sidewalk. What struck me was that everyone ignored him. It seemed to me that I was the only one who could see him. Once we reached the restaurant I broke into tears. When I got home I explained what happened to my mom. “Maybe you can work with the homeless when you’re older” she said.
By Peter Nicewicz
The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) has announced a new program called Operation AmeriCorps, aimed at using national service as the transformative catalyst to address a community’s most pressing local problem. Through Operation AmeriCorps, tribal and local leaders will identify a high priority local challenge which AmeriCorps members can holistically address in a relatively short period of time (no more than two years). The competition is open exclusively to tribal and local governments, including counties, cities, towns, and school districts; and state service commissions. The proposed solution may be a new initiative, or it may use national service to scale up an existing successful effort. In either case AmeriCorps must be the additive ingredient to achieve holistic change at the local level.
By Richard Cho
As the year draws to a close, I am struck by how far we have come in our effort to end homelessness. 2014 has indeed been a historic year. We have an Administration and White House that is fully committed to ending homelessness among populations, starting with Veterans in 2015, and where this commitment is not just a set of words, but a set of actions and a clear plan with clear measures. Mayors, governors, and county executives are themselves stepping up with commitments, followed by actions. Communities across the country are working hard to achieve their own local goals, bringing partners to the table, setting 100-day targets, creatively leveraging all resources possible, and helping hundreds of people every day to unlock doors to their own homes and to new lives.
By Matthew Doherty, Kelly King Horne and Libby Boyce
All across the country, communities are developing coordinated entry systems to streamline and facilitate access to appropriate housing and services for families and individuals experiencing homelessness. In the Greater Richmond area of Virginia and in Los Angeles County, California—like in other places—efforts to bring these systems online are in full swing.
Let’s hear from Richmond and Los Angeles County, who presented at the December 2014 full Council meeting regarding their local efforts to implement coordinated assessment, their successes, their lessons learned, and the challenges that they continue to tackle.
By Maria Foscarinis and Laura Green Zeilinger
Around the country, more communities are working in partnership with the Federal government to develop housing crisis response systems that effectively prevent and end homelessness. No longer can there be any question that ending homelessness is possible, if we dedicate resources and energy to this goal. This shift brings with it the opportunity for us to meet the basic human rights of everyone in our community—when we put people first and focus on the human need for housing and proven, cost-effective solutions, we can make a difference.
By Matthew Doherty
Many readers have likely heard about the great progress being made toward ending homelessness in Salt Lake and Utah. Earlier this fall, I had the privilege of joining more than 475 people for the 11th Annual Utah Homeless Summit organized by Utah Department of Workforce Services’ Housing and Community Development Division. The Summit also coincided with the release of Utah’s 2014 Comprehensive Report on Homelessness prepared by the State Community Services Office. The report describes the remarkable progress Utah has made under its ten-year plan to end both chronic and Veteran homelessness by the end of 2015, documenting that “Chronic homelessness has declined 72 percent since 2005 and chronic homelessness among Veterans has reached an effective zero.” Such progress should help convince skeptics that making progress on homelessness can be a reality in communities all across the country. Summit participants spent the day both celebrating Utah’s progress and engaging in dialogue to ensure that progress is sustained.
11/20/2014 - National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week Prompts Us to Look Ahead and Take Action
by Laura Green Zeilinger
This week is Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week, a time when many Americans are engaged to help our neighbors who live without food security and without a safe and stable place to call home. For those of us who work to end hunger and homelessness year-round, this week provides a fresh opportunity to gain new ground, to meet and recruit new partners, to share meals with neighbors, and to extend a helping hand. It’s an opportunity to look forward and take action, a time to focus intently on the steps we need to take together to end hunger and homelessness once and for all.
On a single in January 2014, 49,993 Veterans were experiencing homelessness. This Veterans Day, in particular, is a good time to take stock of how our nation cares for the people who served. Ours is a shared obligation, to serve those who served us. We will answer our call of duty, and we hope our record of service to Veterans, in some measure, conveys our deep gratitude for the service and sacrifice of every person who wore the uniform of our great nation.
10/31/2014 - Good News from New Orleans: Federal and Community Collaboration Helped Transform This Veteran’s Life
By DaVaughn Phillips
Mr. H. seems like a completely different person from the man I met just a few months ago. He is thriving in his own home, with a stable income to maintain his living expenses and support his family. More importantly, he has regained the strength, motivation, and courage he needed to become self-sufficient and to serve as a positive role model for his children. After three years of working in New Orleans to help people achieve permanent housing, it never ceases to amaze me how rewarding it feels to play a role in such a transformation.
10/30/2014 - Partnerships for Opening Doors – Ending Homelessness through Meaningful and Sustainable Employment
“One of the best ways to eliminate homelessness is to get people jobs,” said Labor Secretary and Chair of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) Thomas Perez at the Partnerships for Opening Doors summit, which took place at the Labor Department's headquarters in Washington, DC, on October 16, 2014.
Co-hosted by the Departments of Labor (DOL) and Housing and Urban Development (HUD), USICH and the Butler Family Fund, the day-long national summit focused on integrating employment and housing strategies to prevent and end homelessness. Leaders from 11 communities representing Workforce Investment Boards, Continuums of Care, state Workforce Development Councils, advocacy and community-based and national nonprofit organizations engaged in intensive discussions to identify key actions for Federal partners to take to improve access to meaningful and sustainable employment, skills training, and supportive training for people experiencing or at-risk of homelessness.
By Eric Tars
Earlier this year, Jerome Murdough, a homeless Veteran, died tragically of dehydration and heat exhaustion in an overheated prison cell after being arrested for “trespassing” because he sought warmth and shelter in an enclosed stairwell of a Harlem public housing building during a week of sub-freezing temperatures. Every day, people who experience homelessness are subjected to local laws and ordinances that challenge their human rights and create real and lasting barriers. Jerome Murdough should have never been in that jail cell in the first place. If Jerome Murdough was served by a system that approached housing as a human right—and homelessness as something to solve rather than something to criminalize—he might still be alive today.
By Jay Melder
Reallocations will help communities make the system changes needed to end homelessness, and in this year’s Continuum of Care NOFA, there is once again a strong emphasis on reallocations. As in FY 2013, HUD is allowing reallocations of funds to new permanent supportive housing for people experiencing chronic homelessness and rapid re-housing for families with children. HUD and USICH encourage CoCs to take full advantage of reallocations, shifting funds away from underperforming or less cost-effective programs and toward evidence-informed models.
by Mark Putnam
People experiencing homelessness need homes. This is the simple solution to ending homelessness, right? The complexity comes in finding, and funding, the homes. Read on to find out how stakeholders in King County, Washington, are succeeding at both.
09/17/2014 - Building Systems to End to Homelessness: HUD’s FY 2014 Continuum of Care Program Competition
The Notice of Funding Availability for the Fiscal Year 2014 Funds in the FY 2013 - FY 2014 Continuum of Care (CoC) Program Competition asks CoCs to continue investing in what works and to target interventions appropriately to needs. It calls on CoCs to make the final push to reach our goal of ending chronic homelessness, make greater progress on family homelessness, and build the partnerships needed to reach and engage Veterans and youth experiencing homelessness in services. Although the policy priorities and many aspects of this NOFA remain the same as in FY 2013, there are also some changes and new elements.
On Friday, September 19, USICH is hosting a webinar to help CoCs understand the FY 2014 NOFA and suggestions on how to make it successful. Meanwhile, here are some key highlights that CoCs should know.
The 25 Cities Effort is designed to help communities intensify and integrate their local efforts to end Veteran and chronic homelessness. Fresno launched its local 25 Cities Effort in May 2014, setting a goal to house 60 high-priority individuals. Local stakeholders, however, were in for a surprise when one activity at an introductory meeting challenged everything they thought they knew about working together to connect individuals in need with housing. Here's what they learned.
At an individual level, the turmoil that comes from not having a safe place that is home is a crisis. It is a crisis that without adequate resolution gets worse. Although there are programs that provide housing and services for people, we will never have an adequate response that is at the pace and scale needed as long as it depends on people in crisis being required to navigate multiple programs in an attempt to get their needs met. Responding in a person-centered way to homelessness requires that programs are operating as a system. Making this shift is not simple, but it is being done in more and more communities throughout the country, and a systems approach is essential to achieving an end to homelessness.
Without housing options, people often are forced to rely on culverts, public parks, streets, and abandoned buildings as places to sleep and carry out daily activities that most reserve for the privacy of their own home. As communities recognize and struggle with the fact that people without homes often live in public spaces, multiple strategies arise. Unfortunately, many of these strategies include policies that criminalize homelessness. In a new report, In the Public Eye, author Lucy Adams, of Australia’s Justice Connect and guest blogger at USICH elevates the conversation.
Next week, the National Alliance to End Homelessness will host its annual conference in Washington, DC, convening policymakers and practitioners who are working across the country to prevent and end homelessness. The three day event will offer more than 100 workshops and sessions and will feature plenary remarks from First Lady Michelle Obama, in-coming HUD Secretary Julián Castro, Senator Cory Booker, and USICH Executive Director Laura Zeilinger. USICH and federal partners are looking forward to participating in conversations with stakeholders in preconference and workshop sessions throughout the week. We hope that this guide to our participation will help our partners connect with the USICH team at the conference. We’re looking forward to seeing you.
by Eric Grumdahl, USICH Policy Director
For many people confronting homelessness, employment can mean the difference between housing and homelessness. The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), signed into law by President Barack Obama on Tuesday, fosters local innovation and focus on providing employment supports for people experiencing homelessness, by clarifying that the central purpose of the workforce system is to support people with significant barriers to employment. In doing so, WIOA and the President’s job-skills agenda will accelerate progress on ending homelessness.
by Jamie Keene, USICH Communications Intern
Once the city with the highest rate of homelessness in the country, today New Orleans has reduced homelessness to levels that are lower than before the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina. By overcoming incredible challenges, New Orleans has shown that ending chronic and Veteran homelessness is possible in every American city.
07/09/2014 - Supportive Services for Veteran Families: A Powerful Tool to Keep Veterans and Their Families Home
by Peter Nicewicz, USICH Management and Policy Analyst
Based on previous analysis, we already knew that the VA's Supportive Services for Veteran Families program is not only effective, but it is cost-effective as well. It now costs only about $2,400 to serve each Veteran household through the program, a 12 percent decrease since its first year of operations.
So what makes SSVF such an effective program in ending and preventing homelessness for Veteran households? There are several key ingredients.
Like most partnerships, one of the most critical ingredients is empathy. We have to be able to understand one another's incentives and find the common ground that aligns our work together. We shouldn’t just invite our partners to our meetings. (Who has time to attend someone else’s meetings?) We need to make “my” meetings “our” meetings. To do so, we have to work to understand what is important to our partners and create a space for honest dialogue and mutual understanding about where our efforts should support one another. We have to show that this is not only a good use of their time, but that we are focused on helping our partners succeed at their mission. And that, of course, is how together we succeed at our mission.
By Amy Sawyer, USICH Regional Coordinator
Through the 25 Cities initiative spearheaded by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, communities have been invited to convene local leaders eager to build on their successes, identify new strategies, act decisively to strengthen their coordinated response systems and, in the process, end Veteran homelessness. To get started, teams of dedicated individuals are meeting for two-day-long intensive work sessions that drive a sophisticated planning process, resulting in specific action steps that will be carried out in months – not years.
by Laura Green Zeilinger, USICH Executive Director
Yesterday marked the fourth Anniversary of the launch of Opening Doors, the first-ever Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness. In four years, we have changed the trajectory of homelessness in America. In just the first three years of implementation, Opening Doors led to significant reductions in homelessness, including an eight percent reduction in homelessness among families, a 16 percent reduction in chronic homelessness, and a 24 percent reduction in homelessness among Veterans. And we are hopeful that we will be able announce even greater reductions when the 2014 Point-In-Time Count data are available later this year.
The progress we are making across the nation has proven that Opening Doors is the right plan with the right set of strategies. Opening Doors also provides a foundation and scaffolding upon which we can continue to innovate and refine the solutions that will end homelessness in this country.
This year, we’re considering amending the plan again to include more of what we’ve learned from our progress.
by Richard Cho, USICH Senior Policy Director
I must make a confession. When I first came to Washington to work for USICH, I was a bit skeptical about how sold the Federal government was on Housing First. I knew that Housing First was mentioned in Opening Doors, but did the Federal government truly embrace it? After all, it was not so long ago that terms like "harm reduction" were considered four-letter words by the Federal government.
So imagine my happy surprise when I discovered that I was flat-out wrong. In the first, of what I learned would be many, interagency meetings on chronic homelessness, Housing First adoption was discussed as a primary strategy for accelerating progress. And one of the very first tasks I was given was to help provide a clear, operational definition of Housing First. The result of that work is USICH's Housing First Checklist, a tool that communities can use to adopt Housing First across their programs and overall community response. Not only does this Administration fully believe in Housing First, but it is working to make Housing First the underlying approach behind every community's response to homelessness.
By Matthew Doherty, USICH Director of National Initiatives
I recently partnered with the San Diego Regional Continuum of Care Council (RCCC) to host a first-of-its kind discussion locally, billed as Housing First: A Community Conversation for San Diego. I was joined by 25 RCCC members and other stakeholders ready to engage in the dialogue – especially meaningful to me given I live and work in San Diego.
Recognizing that not everyone had the same understanding or support for Housing First approaches, our discussion was structured as a dialogue in which people could express any concerns, questions or disagreements. We wanted to make sure that we could get issues out on the table in a safe environment so that future conversations and trainings could be structured to address the issues raised and help more people, programs, and agencies move toward Housing First approaches in practice. To achieve that purpose, we established rules for the conversation, asked ourselves a few key questions, and identified several topics to discuss when we met again.
By Jay Melder, USICH Director of Communications and External Affairs
Today, Community Solutions’s 100,000 Homes Campaign announced it has achieved its goal to connect 100,000 people experiencing chronic homelessness to safe, stable housing—101,628 people, to be exact.
At an event on Capitol Hill, former Army Private First Class Alvin Hill, a Veteran from Washington, DC, shared his story of returning home to civilian-life, losing his job and his apartment, and falling into years of homelessness. Mr. Hill remarked that it was “a tragedy that anyone who would put his life on the line for America could return home to sleep on the streets.” In April, Alvin Hill became the 100,000th person to achieve permanent housing through the 100,000 Homes Campaign.
We congratulate Mr. Hill and we congratulate Community Solutions and all of the local and federal partners who have teamed-up to get the job done. This is an incredible milestone.
Here are three things everyone should know about what reaching milestones like this one really means:
05/07/2014 - In One Year, New Orleans Reduced Veteran Homelessness by 43%, Chronic Homelessness by 30%
By Robert Pulster, USICH Regional Coordinator
Over the course of just one year, New Orleans has reduced homelessness among Veterans by 43 percent and chronic homelessness by 30 percent. In one year, New Orleans reduced unsheltered homelessness by 21 percent, 85 percent since 2011.
Since 2007, New Orleans has reduced overall homelessness by 83 percent, showing steady annual decreases since 2009. The number or people experiencing homelessness in New Orleans is now three percent below the number of people counted before Hurricane Katrina in 2005. This is a stunning achievement.
By Jay Melder, USICH Director of Communications and External Affairs
USICH invited two community leaders to come to DC and discuss the impacts that Federal partnerships have had on local efforts to end homelessness. Mandy Chapman Semple from the City of Houston and Amy Schwabenlender from the Valley of the Sun United Way in Phoenix are working to end homelessness in their communities by taking strategic actions to maximize Federal, State, and local resources, increase evidence-based housing and services models like permanent supportive housing, and focus on outcomes. The results are clear: ending homelessness is possible and within our reach.
By Eric Grumdahl, USICH Policy Director
Today, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) released the 2014 HMIS Data Dictionary and HMIS Data Manual, with an effective date of October 1, 2014. This joint release demonstrates the significant collaboration between the three agencies to support data collection on homelessness across their programs and systems.
By Laura Green Zeilinger, USICH Executive Director
The Obama Administration, in partnership with communities across the country, is changing the trajectory of homelessness through the implementation of Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness. USICH is proud to release our Annual Update to Congress on the progress of Opening Doors.
In March, I had the privilege of going on a ride-along in the HOT van with Sergeant Schnell and his partner, Officer John Liening. I’ve known Sergeant Schnell and Officer Liening for about 10 years or more. The HOT and SIP teams are profiled in USICH’s publication Searching Out Solutions, and they have provided training to police departments in many other parts of the country. But this was my first chance to witness, in person, their daily efforts to create meaningful alternatives to criminalization for the vulnerable men and women who are living unsheltered on the streets of my hometown, San Diego.
USICH Regional Coordinator Amy Sawyer explains why policies that criminalize homelessness are not only morally wrong but also ineffective solutions to ending homelessness in communities.
By Liz Osborn, USICH Management and Program Analyst
In this blog, Liz Osborn answers the question: What benefits and challenges do organizations face when addressing the issue of homelessness from a human rights perspective?
Setting up a coordinated assessment system is complex and doesn’t happen magically. But don’t let that stop you. Putting coordinated assessment in place doesn’t start with the challenges. It starts when communities decide that the challenges are worth facing.
Deputy Director Laura Zeilinger discusses the vital role mayors across the country play in ending homelessness, reminding us that to reach our national goals we must first act locally.
Beginning from Secretary Shinseki's promise to give all Veterans "a hope, a home, and a future, Mayor of Salt Lake City, Ralph Becker, chronicles the amazing journey of committing and then successfully ending chronic Veteran Homelessness in his city.
Mayor Greg Stanton of Phoenix shares that through implementing coordinated partnerships and a "housing first" strategy, his city was able to successfully end chronic Veteran homelessness.
10/21/2013 - Leveraging the Affordable Care Act to Solve Homelessness: A Message to CoCs and Ten-Year Plan Leaders
How can we make the best use of the Affordable Care Act to solve homelessness? USICH Executive Director Barbara Poppe poses five questions for communities to consider.
The expansion of Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will mean that millions of currently uninsured adults will be eligible for coverage, including many formerly homeless individuals residing in supportive housing.
The first Veteran’s Supportive Housing project to be located on Native American tribal homelands had its grand opening last month on the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa reservation.
Randle Loeb, a Denver-based advocate for people experiencing homelessness writes about the importance of navigators and peer mentors.
Atlanta’s work shows how an engaged team can leverage the 100-day challenge from a Rapid Results Boot Camp to bring in meaningful partners. It can energize an entire community while building momentum so the work goes past the 100-days and becomes a cultural shift for everyone working in the system.
Two years ago, the United Way of Greater Los Angeles and the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce joined forces to create the Home for Good campaign to end chronic and Veteran homelessness in Los Angeles County. Earlier this month, Home For Good held a stakeholder Convening in recognition of the mid-point of its 5-year action plan, with many federal partners participating, including VA Assistant Secretary Dr. Tommy Sowers, HUD Acting Assistant Secretary Mark Johnston, and USICH Executive Director Barbara Poppe.
We applaud Mayor Michael A. Nutter for delivering a powerful message about ending homelessness in his final speech as President of the United States Council of Mayors.
01/23/2013 - Aligning Assets Towards the Goal: A Blog from VA’s Tom O’Toole on the Homeless Patient Aligned Care Teams (HPACT)
The adage, “It takes a village” has been applied to lot of different efforts over the years to the point of over-use. However, when it comes to ending homelessness among Veterans by 2015, there is probably no better descriptor for what is needed and what is being done. Last year, as part of this effort, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) launched an ambitious pilot project to develop Homeless Patient Aligned Care Teams (H-PACT) to provide comprehensive, wrap-around primary care coupled with homeless programming to help Veterans make the transition out of homelessness and to help keep them housed. This joint effort between the Office of Homeless Programs and Office of Primary Care Services funded 32 sites around the country located in a variety of settings, including Community Resource and Referral Centers (easy access community- based centers), VA outpatient clinics (community-based outpatient clinics) and within VA Medical Centers. These are sites where we see homeless Veterans struggling to subsist, where they often find themselves cycling through the system dealing with the consequences of their homelessness in emergency departments and hospital wards, and where we have the resources in place to make a difference.
Recently, I accompanied the VA Greater Los Angeles’ (VA GLA) new Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) team, to observe their work in Hollywood, California. I wanted to see the team in action, tackling issues on the ground level. Ending Veteran homelessness in Los Angeles cuts across three of my top priorities as Executive Director of USICH: ending Veteran homelessness, ending chronic homelessness, and reducing all homelessness in Los Angeles.
Pictured L-R: Veteran client, Janell Perez, Barbara Poppe
The ACT team is part of the VA’s Housing First demonstration project. The team provides case management support to Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslovsky’s Project 60. Project 60 (a replication of Project 50) is an innovative partnership between VA GLA, community based non-profit organizations, and the Supervisor’s deputy, Flora Gil-Krisiloff. Project 60 uses HUD-VASH vouchers from the Housing Authority of the City Los Angeles (HACLA) in order to get chronically homeless and vulnerable Veterans into permanent supportive housing with access to comprehensive, wrap-around services. Supervisor Yaroslovsky provided county funding to support the efforts of the non-profit partners, including Ocean Park Community Center (Santa Monica), Step Up on Second (Hollywood), St. Joseph Center (Venice), and San Fernando Valley Community Mental Health Center (Van Nuys).The Hilton Foundation, working through the Corporation for Supportive Housing brought together financial assistance to help with move-in costs. Project 60 also collaborates with Hollywood’s Vulnerability Registry as part of the 100,000 Homes Campaign (an initiative of Community Solutions). HACLA has been a strong partner in this effort as well working to streamline the application and inspection processes and working closely with VA GLA to prioritize Veterans who are chronically homeless.
The first two days of this week federal offices in Washington, DC were closed due to Hurricane Sandy. USICH sends our condolences to those who lost loved ones. Our thoughts are with those who are struggling to recover from this disaster and for those working tirelessly in recovery efforts. To donate for the recovery effort via The American Red Cross, you can do so directly from their homepage: http://www.redcross.org/
Mark Horvath of InvisiblePeople.tv wrote this piece in the Huffington Post today about the power of social media that was used to help homeless services as they struggled to keep individuals safe in shelters during Hurricane Sandy - a powerful timeline of how people from across the country assisted in those in shelter or supportive housing during this disaster.
New Study about students experiencing homelessness
The University of Minnesota released a new study about the challenges and resiliency of students experiencing homelessness in the journal Child Development. This study examined academic achievement data for over 26,000 students in the Minneapolis Public Schools from third through eighth grades, comparing students identified as homeless or highly mobile with other students in the federal free meal program, reduced price meals, or neither. Achievement gaps appeared stable or widened between homeless or highly mobile students and lower risk groups. Math and reading achievement were lower, and growth in math was slower in years of homeless or highly mobile identification, suggesting acute consequences of housing instability. However, there is surprising resiliency: around 45% of homeless or highly mobile students scored within or above the average range in both math and reading despite their living situation. Results underscore the need for research on risk and resilience processes among homeless or highly mobile students to address achievement disparities.
A StandDown is a one to three day outreach event targeting homeless and at-risk veterans in a particular community, bringing together a plethora of services designed to meet their needs. Such needs include respite, legal services, meals, clothing, hygiene, medical, dental and mental health services, benefits and employment assistance. This year alone, over 90 individual StandDown events have taken place across the country with communities reaching out to thousands of homeless Veterans. In fact, these events have been going on since 1988, when the Vietnam Veterans of San Diego (now called Veterans Village of San Diego) held the first one of its kind. In 2002, the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans (NCHV) was asked to take on a nationwide leadership role toward expanding the model by providing guidance and technical assistance, which helped to build momentum for these events even further. The NCHV StandDown Page is updated regularly with all the StandDowns occurring across the country.
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.
What We're Talking About is a weekly column from USICH Communications on the topics and issues in the news and on our minds. Topics range from international and national conferences, news from around the country, innovative work to highlight, and more. We look forward to catching you up news you may have missed and connect you to articles and resources.
USICH released a general newsletter this week which compiled news from federal agencies, national partners, and cities revamping their approach to homelessness. If you missed it, you can check it out here.
A Reminder of the Needs of Veterans Two Years After End of Combat Operations in Iraq
Today marks the two year anniversary of combat missions in Iraq, a milestone to be sure, but one that must remind the country of the needs of Veterans of that conflict as well as Veterans of previous wars. In Yuma, Arizona, the allocation of the city’s first HUD-VASH vouchers will enable Veterans in that community to have stable housing and access to coordinated supportive services for their recovery. The HUD-VASH program continues to expand to both more communities and to more Veterans because of its ability to stabilize vulnerable Veterans in the long-term.
Earlier this week President Obama signed the comprehensive bipartisan bill entitled “Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012.” This legislation addresses issues for Veterans in areas of health (including extending rural health access), loan guarantees and benefits, protects the memorial services for Veterans, and compensates Marine families who were affected by contaminated well water at Camp LeJuene. Notably, this legislation fully renews existing funding for pivotal programs for Veterans experiencing homelessness, such as HUD-VASH, more.
Working collaboratively to remove barriers and find workable solutions to Veterans homelessness with real results was the theme of the May 14-15 Boot Camp in Orlando, hosted by the 100,000 Homes Campaign and Rapid Results Team. I was able to take part in this Boot Camp in Orlando with my fellow Regional Coordinators, who also took part in Boot Camps in Houston and San Diego. The 100,000 Homes Campaign works with communities throughout the country in order to rapidly accelerate the rate of housing placement for the most long-term and vulnerable individuals experiencing homelessness in our nation—a complex and challenging mission. The Boot Camp gathered teams of community experts together to take a hard look at how to apply strategies that will make a direct impact on the speed and efficiency at which Veterans experiencing homelessness can access housing.
Through Opening Doors, federal agencies are establishing interagency partnerships, paving the way for communities to make a dramatic impact on homelessness. One example of the federal partnerships making a difference is the HUD-VASH program. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) work together to offer a program that pairs HUD Housing Choice vouchers and VA supportive services to bring affordable, supportive housing to Veterans experiencing chronic homelessness. As local communities respond to this opportunity, they have been able to aid Veterans in need of housing, but have been challenged by issues such as housing availability, outreach and awareness, collaboration with other homeless programs, and how to best leverage resources and ensure sustainability.
It has been nearly two years since Opening Doors was launched with the goal to prevent and end Veteran homelessness by 2015. Together, we have made great strides. From 2010 to 2011, there was a 12 percent decrease in homelessness nationally among Veterans, and in some places, that reduction was as high as 20 percent. Now more than ever, we need a stronger sense of urgency with over 67,000 of the nation’s men and women who served in our armed forces experiencing homelessness in addition to our Veterans returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan. We need to continue to break down silos not just in the federal government but in state and local governments as well. The most recent USICH newsletter is focused on providing communities the knowledge of how to unlock available resources in their communities beyond the HUD-VASH program. For this issue, we spoke with the Department of Veterans Affairs about their portfolio of programs to serve Veterans at-risk of or experiencing homelessness, we profiled three Veterans explaining how resources can be coordinated to meet needs in a Veteran-centric way, and we interviewed two leaders in Massachusetts about successful local programs.
As coordinator of the 100,000 Homes Campaign, Community Solutions is proud to be partnering with USICH, VA and HUD to lead the national housing pillar of the ambitious new Got Your 6 Campaign. Last week, in a show of support for veterans and military families, representatives from nearly every major Hollywood production studio, broadcast and cable network, talent agency, and guild in the entertainment industry announced the launch of the Got Your 6™, a new effort to support veterans and foster opportunities for them to contribute their unique skills and abilities in communities across the country. Got Your Six aims to support and empower veterans around six pillars of reintegration, each led by a different group of top-tier non-profits and government agencies.
On May 9th, I had the pleasure of attending the ribbon-cutting ceremony at the new Washington, DC Veterans Affairs Medical Center’s new Community Resource and Referral Center (CRRC) in Northeast DC. The CRRC offers a wide range of health care and social services to Veterans experiencing homelessness and those at-risk of homelessness. Services include a Primary Care Clinic, a complete kitchen, laundry and shower facilities, food pantry, a play room for children, and education and employment resources. The CRRC will be open 24/7 providing resources to Veterans from the District of Columbia, Southern Maryland, and Northern Virginia, though not all services will be available 24/7.
Dr. Clarence Cross, a chaplain at DC’s VAMC, captured the hope and intent for the CRRC best in the invocation when he said that it “will be greater than the sum of all its’ parts:” it is a place where Veterans and their families can access services whether they are in need of one service or many, and help them find or maintain safe and stable housing.
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.
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.