USICH Blog

Chronic Archive

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.

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07/01/2014 - Successful Partnerships through Aligned Missions and Empathetic Relationships

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.

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06/25/2014 - Communities Come Together to Discuss Coordinated Entry

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.

Last month, I joined about 30 practitioners, policymakers and community stakeholders to discuss coordinated entry in Tampa, where work is underway to implement new strategies to effectively assess people experiencing homelessness and quickly connect them to services and supports tailored to their specific needs.

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06/23/2014 - Your Input Is Essential to the Ongoing Success of Opening Doors

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.opening doors 2014 amendment considered uservoice

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.

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06/18/2014 - Four Clarifications about Housing First

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. richard cho senior policy director housing first homelessness

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.

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06/17/2014 - How to Talk About Housing First

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.

matthew doherty in a community conversation on homelessness 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.

 

 

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06/11/2014 - 101,628 People Are Now in Safe and Stable Homes!

Laura Zeilinger speaks at 100K Homes Campaign Announcement on Capitol HillBy 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:

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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.

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05/02/2014 - Houston and Phoenix are Proving that Ending Homelessness is Possible and Within Reach

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.

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05/01/2014 - Federal Partners Release Final 2014 HMIS Data Standards

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 Manualwith 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.

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05/01/2014 - The True Cost of Doing Nothing

By Richard Cho, USICH Policy Director

President Obama has requested an increase of $301 million in HUD’s Homeless Assistance Grants. At a time of budgetary and fiscal challenges, $301  million sounds like a lot of money. In my view, it’s a small price to pay to achieve an end to chronic homelessness and save the lives of roughly 100,000 people. It’s especially small when compared to the cost of doing nothing, not only in terms of human lives, but also in real taxpayer dollars. 

The cost of doing nothing is simply too high.

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04/21/2014 - Opening Doors Works: USICH Releases Annual Update to Congress

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. 

 

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04/15/2014 - Creating Meaningful Alternatives to Criminalization in Our Communities

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.

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04/15/2014 - Criminalizing Homelessness is Costly, Ineffective, and Infringes on Human Rights

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. 

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04/14/2014 - 3 Reasons to Address Homelessness as a Human Rights Issue

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?

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04/09/2014 - The Power of Constituent Voice: The Rhode Island Homeless Bill of Rights

Jim Ryczek (pictured right), Executive Director of the Rhode Island Coalition for the Homeless, recounts the journey he and his friend and fellow advocate John Joyce (pictured left) embarked upon in order to create a bill of rights on behalf of people experiencing homelessness in Rhode Island. 

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04/08/2014 - Starting Is the Starting Point for Coordinated Assessment

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.

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11/26/2013 - Wichita Police Department: Making a Difference for People Experiencing Homelessness

Discover how the Wichita Police Department has made an impact in ending homelessness. 

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11/21/2013 - Houston Partners Dedicated to Ending Chronic Homelessness

Find out what Houston is doing to help end homelessness.

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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. 

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09/26/2013 - Why Permanent Supportive Housing and Managed Care Need Each Other

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.

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09/24/2013 - How Medicaid Expansion Will Benefit People Experiencing Homelessness

Many states are still opting out or remain undecided about whether to participate in Medicaid expansion. One factor these states might consider in evaluating or re-evaluating their decision to participate is the impact of Medicaid expansion on homelessness in their state. But the benefits don’t stop there. State budgets, hospitals, health care providers, and Americans in general also stand to gain from Medicaid expansion. 

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09/04/2013 - How Coordinated Entry is Working on Skid Row

More than 20 organizations joined together to create the Skid Row Coordinated Entry System, in alignment with the Home For Good campaign in Los Angeles. The goal was to make systematic changes that would foster collaboration. For the first time, a system permanent supportive housing services for chronically homeless individuals were being examined, re-imagined, and improved. 

 

 

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08/27/2013 - Rapid Re-Housing is Working in DC

Rapid re-housing is working. And it’s working in Washington, DC, which, in terms of housing unaffordability and poverty rates, is among the most challenging places in the country to live. 

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08/14/2013 - Peer Mentors and Navigators are What We Need

Randle Loeb, a Denver-based advocate for people experiencing homelessness writes about the importance of navigators and peer mentors.

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08/08/2013 - Atlanta Hosts Mobile Fair to Help Veterans Find Housing

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.

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08/07/2013 - The Power of Collaboration

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.

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07/15/2013 - HUD SNAPS Issues New NoFA Communications

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Office of Special Needs Assistance Programs (SNAPs) launched an effort to clarify their priorities and outline the changes HUD would like Continuums of Care to propose in the forthcoming FY 2013 Notice of Funding Availability competition.

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06/20/2013 - Ending Chronic Homelessness: A Message to Continuum of Care & Ten-Year Plan Leaders from Barbara Poppe

Not long ago, I sat in the same place that you are sitting, managing the Continuum of Care and leading our community's ten-year plan to end homelessness. You have challenging jobs to do and I know you are balancing many competing issues and priorities. I've been fortunate to visit communities that are making great progress, and to support and work with communities that still struggle. Now I would like to share some reflections on the lessons I've learned from you, my colleagues, in our mission to end homelessness. Thank you for listening and especially for acting.

Today I want to address chronic homelessness, which is the first goal in Opening Doors. We have fewer than 1,000 days to bring the number of people experiencing chronic homelessness to zero; every day and every minute counts. For people living with disabilities and disabling conditions, every day or minute spent on the streets is another day or minute spent struggling to survive. So this message is a call to action. I am reaching out to ask, are we doing everything we can do to end chronic homelessness by 2015?  Here are the top-ten questions you and the leaders of your ten-year plan should consider (not likely to be picked up by David Letterman but hopefully useful nonetheless).

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06/07/2013 - In Order To Bend the Curve, We Must First Abandon the Line

 “First come, first serve” is a concept we learn from the earliest age and is reinforced throughout our whole lives—from the moment we stand in the school lunch line to receiving our driver’s license at the DMV. Placing people in a line (or ‘queue’ to use another technical term), has been programmed into our everyday thinking such that “first come, first serve” is the default approach we use to distribute goods or services or provide help. In some contexts it seems fair, but is it the right way to end homelessness?
 
In my new role at the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH), I work on coordinating the Federal interagency effort to achieve the goal of ending chronic homelessness by 2015. This goal lured me to this job in the first place, and since coming here, my conviction that we can indeed end chronic homelessness has only increased. At the same time, I remain troubled at the current scale of the problem and at the slowness of our collective progress in reducing this number. According to the most recent Point-in-Time count from 2012, the number of people experiencing chronic homelessness on any given night is still nearly 100,000. While this number is below 100,000 for the first time in history, it’s far from zero, and we have less than three years to go. 
 

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04/30/2012 - Housing First: a movement goes mainstream

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.

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