USICH Blog

Affordable and Supportive Housing Archive

10/03/2014 - Your Reallocation Questions Answered, USICH Releases Reallocation Tool

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.  

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09/24/2014 - Partnering with Landlords to End Homelessness

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.

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09/18/2014 - Meeting the Unique Needs of Families

By Laura Green Zeilinger, USICH Executive Director

 

Whether as a result of a health or economic crisis or fleeing domestic violence, the experience of homelessness is extremely traumatizing for families generally, and can be especially traumatizing for children. We know that there is not a one-size-fits-all solution for every family experiencing a housing crisis. Connecting families to housing interventions and services that are appropriate to their specific needs is an essential part of the actions we identified as critical to meeting the goal of ending homelessness.

 

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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.

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08/29/2014 - Creating a Medicaid Supportive Housing Services Benefit

 

By Debbie Thiele and Katy Miller

This week CSH, in partnership with the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance, published Creating a Medicaid Supportive Housing Services Benefit. In the white paper CSH lays out an easy-to-follow framework for states that want to create a Medicaid benefit to pay for the services in supportive housing. The framework consists of five action steps: 1) Determine benefit eligibility criteria; 2) Define the package of services to be delivered; 3) Align the state Medicaid plan; 4) Establish a financing and reinvestment strategy; and 5) Operationalize the benefit.

 

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08/25/2014 - Hear from Two Community Partners about How They Are Ending Family Homelessness through Our Sept. 10 Webinar

Ending homelessness among families and children is a priority for the nation and for every community. Millions of extremely low-income households do not have access to affordable housing, putting them at-risk of housing instability and the types of crises that can result in homelessness. The challenge is clear: Our most recent data show that 222,197 people in families—an estimated 70,960 households—were experiencing homelessness on a single night in January 2013.  In the first three years of implementation of  Opening Doors, we have reduced homelessness among families by eight percent.

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08/18/2014 - DESC to Create More Supportive Housing to Serve Seattle’s Most Vulnerable

Seattle-based nonprofit housing provider DESC will create new units of permanent supportive housing in the Interbay neighborhood downtown.  The units will serve 97 people who are experiencing homelessness and live with health issues.  

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07/21/2014 - Schools Are a Critical Part of Solutions to End Youth Homelessness

by Danielle Ferrier and Beatriz McConnie Zapater

There are nearly 6,000 unaccompanied youth in Massachusetts. Experiencing homelessness often prevents motivated, hard-working youth from graduating high school and achieving success. A Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders article shows that without intervention, only about 27 percent of them will graduate high school. Opening Doors, the federal strategic plan to prevent and end homelessness, sets a goal of ending youth homelessness by 2020 by ensuring communities can connect youth with stable housing, permanent connections, education, and employment all while improving youths’ social and emotional well-being.

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07/10/2014 - New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu Announces Ambitious Plan to End Veteran 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. 

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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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06/27/2014 - Baltimore Takes Steps Forward to End Youth Homelessness

“In Baltimore,” Adrienne Breidenstine explains, “We have a core group of youth service providers, funders, and government agencies that are committed to The Journey Home, Baltimore’s plan to end homelessness, and the vision that homelessness in Baltimore is rare and brief for children and youth experiencing homelessness. Now is the time for us to harness our community’s energy and commitment to the cause and translate it into action.”

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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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06/11/2014 - 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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06/02/2014 - Houston Drives Down Homelessness 37% through Community Collaboration and Housing First Approach

Houston has reduced homelessness by 37 percent since 2011, city and community leaders just announced, attributing the extraordinary achievement to an unprecedented level of collaboration and synergy among public and private organizations to realize the objectives of the Federal strategic plan to end homelessness.

“We are on the right path! Our Housing First strategy of creating permanent accommodations with robust supportive services is working,” Houston Mayor Annise Parker said of the strategy undergirding the approach to ending homelessness in the city. “Moreover, the coordinated team-effort of over 60 different organizations aligning their resources and efforts is working!”

With university, city health and human services and county support, Houston’s Coalition for the Homeless conducted a federally mandated point-in-time (PIT) estimate of the number of people without a safe and stable home on Jan. 30, 2014, and found that there were 3,187 fewer people experiencing homelessness than in previous counts. In 2011, the PIT count determined 8,538 people were experiencing homelessness on a single night in January. In 2012, 7,356. In 2013, 6,359 and in the most recent count, 5,351. 

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05/23/2014 - Your Questions Answered - Webinar on Ending Family Homelessness - Part One

Yesterday, more than 600 providers and stakeholders from across the country joined us for a great discussion about what ending homelessness among families means and what achieving it will require. We were joined by Laura Zeilinger, USICH Executive Director; Ann Oliva, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Special Needs and Director of the Office of Special Needs Assistance Programs at the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD CPD/SNAPS); Ali Sutton, Policy Advisor at the Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families (HHS ACF); and Debra Rog, Associate Director at Westat.

At the end of our discussion, we received a lot of really great questions, many of which we didn’t have time to answer.  In this post, we provide responses to two of these questions and will be responding to more of these questions over the next few weeks.

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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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05/01/2014 - 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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02/05/2014 - A Paradigm Shift: How Fairfax County Made Significant Gains in Ending Family Homelessness

Dean Klein, director of the Office to Prevent and End Homelessness in Virginia, relates how a shift from managing to ending homelessness led to innovative practices, strong collaborations, and truly incredible results. 

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12/05/2013 - Partnerships and Innovation: The Role of Housing Authorities in Ending Homelessness

Public Housing Authorities have forged strong partnerships, innovative policies, and invested in best practices to make a significant impact in ending homelessness, explains the Executive Director of the Council of Large Public Housing Authorities Sunia Zaterman. 

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08/19/2013 - In Indian Country, Serving Those Who Have Served

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. 

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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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07/16/2013 - Ending Family Homelessness: A Message to Continuum of Care & Ten-Year Plan Leaders from Barbara Poppe

Recently, I wrote about the urgency to increase our efforts to end chronic homelessness, suggesting key questions Continuums of Care and Ten Year Plan leaders should ask. Today I want to pose similar questions related to how we address family homelessness. People in families make up nearly 40 percent of the homeless population  nationwide. To reach our goal of ending family and child homelessness by the year 2020, we must realign our programs and systems now. As a mother, this quote from Marian Wright Edelman tugs at me: “The future which we hold in trust for our own children will be shaped by our fairness to other people's children.” Shaping better community responses to family homelessness is about shaping our collective future. Thank you for stepping up to the challenge..

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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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03/18/2013 - Reflections on the Omaha Point in Time Count

Three individuals, each from a different community partnerwho took part in Omaha, Nebraska’s Point-in-Time count, shared their experiences in this blog.

Introduction on the Omaha Point in Time Count by Erin Porterfield, Director of MACCH

The Metropolitan Area Continuum of Care for the Homeless (MACCH) held the Point-in-Time count on January 30, 2013 between 8:00 PM and midnight.  For the unsheltered count, more than 40 volunteers were separated into teams with a trained outreach worker as team leader. These outreach workers conduct outreach weekly and administer the Vulnerability Index for the count as they would during a typical outreach. As part of the annual count, we invite community leaders to join us to boost understanding of our process and more importantly, to meet the people we find experiencing homelessness. 

Our community selects the evening time period hoping the people we find will accept a ride to shelter instead of braving the biting temperature of 15 degrees that night. The region covered by the count includes Douglas and Sarpy Counties in Nebraska and Pottawattomie County in Iowa. The region comprises a metro area population of 634,233 with more than 1 percent (at least 7,333 people) of whom experience homelessness annually. During this year’s count we found 19 people living outside ( a decrease of two people from 2011), two of whom asked to be transported to shelter.

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11/27/2012 - Homelessness and Human Rights

On November 6, 2012, USICH joined other Federal partners (including representatives from the Department of Justice, Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and State) and local advocates for a meeting convened by the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty and Magdelena Sepúlveda, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights.  Ms. Sepulveda has been representing the UN as Special Rapporteur since 2008 and travels the world bringing attention to the rights of people living with poverty.  The meeting focused on two recent UN reports, adopted by consensus (including the United States):  the first, adopting the new UN Guiding Principles on Human Rights and Extreme Poverty, the second, a report by the Rapporteur on the access to justice for persons living in extreme poverty. Ms. Sepúlveda comes originally from Chile and has studied in the Netherlands and in the U.K. and has worked at the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and the United Nations-mandated University of Peace.  The Special Rapporteur pointed out that the lack of housing can be seen as a violation of human rights. In addition to housing, the UN resolution reiterates that all people have a right to justice, including representation in civil matters where basic human rights, such as the right to housing, are at stake.  USICH was praised for its position on human rights as documented in the report, Searching out Solutions, Constructive Alternatives to the Criminalization of Homelessness, which recognizes that criminalization of homelessness may not only violate constitutional rights, but also the U.S.’s human rights treaty obligations. 

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10/19/2012 - What We’re Talking About: The Week at USICH - October 15-19

Los Angeles County Makes a Smart Move for Ex-Offenders 

As noted in the most recent USICH newsletter, the importance of connecting ex-offenders to safe, stable housing is a key element in successful reentry. In a few months, Los Angeles County Housing Authority, will allow ex-offenders on parole or probation who are also experiencing homelessness to be eligible for vouchers under the long-running homeless set-aside. This move will enable access to the nearly 22,000 vouchers for ex-offenders who are experiencing homelessness – a large group of individuals in Los Angeles County and individuals who face many barriers to housing stability. 

The Los Angeles Times notes the importance of this change

Interested in reentry issues like this one? Take a look at our newsletter

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10/03/2012 - Keep an Eye on Portland, Oregon: The New Coordinated Care Organization

"Big systems change requires big systems to change."

That's what the Chief Medical Officer for Health Share of Oregon told me was the approach to change that the new Coordinated Care Organization, created out of the State of Oregon's health reform plan, needed to take. I had a chance to meet leaders in this effort when I travelled to Portland September 19. One change that was visible was who was at the table. Big hospital systems are pairing up with nonprofits that have been delivering care on the streets and at community clinics, hoping to learn from the work that organizations like Central City Concern have been doing for years. One of the premises of health homes and accountable care organizations, called Coordinated Care Organizations in Oregon, is that the only way to achieve the "triple aim" of health reform that is, better care, better health, and lower costs, is to change the whole approach to patient care. That can start with big systems like hospitals and their data about who has multiple hospital admissions or many trips to the emergency room. And it also has to start with actual patient care.

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09/25/2012 - NLIHC Releases New Report on Renters in Foreclosure

Today, NLIHC (National Low Income Housing Coalition) released the report Renters in Foreclosure: A Fresh Look at an Ongoing Problem. The report builds on its 2009 report Renters in Foreclosure: Defining the Problem, Identifying Solutions,which found that renters comprised 40 percent of the families facing foreclosures of their homes. This number remains the same in 2012, representing a three-fold increase in the number of American renters who are affected by foreclosure. Specifically, the report also takes a historical look at the ways the early stages of the foreclosure crisis disproportionately affected high-poverty areas. African-American neighborhoods still experience a disproportionate number of foreclosures, especially in the multi-family sector. 

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09/17/2012 - Helping PHAs End Homelessness through Supportive Housing

Public Housing Agencies (PHAs) administer powerful resources for very vulnerable populations, making them critical partners for ending homelessness. That’s why CSH is proud to present a great new resource for PHAs and other stakeholders interested in pursuing supportive housing in their communities. Online now at csh.org/phatoolkit, this new resource provides tools, examples and advice for PHAs venturing into or expanding work in supportive housing.

 

 

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09/14/2012 - What We’re Talking About: The Week at USICH - September 10-14

The biggest event of this week was our quarterly Council meeting, which was held on Wednesday at the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The focus of this meeting was on the ways states and communities can best use mainstream resources, like school programs, public housing resources, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), woven with targeted homelessness resources to make progress.  USICH Chair and Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was joined by HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan, Director of the Corporation for National and Community Service Wendy Spencer, Luke Tate from the Domestic Policy Council, and key representatives from 18 member agencies.

Learn more about what we heard at the meeting

 

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09/04/2012 - New Research on Who Applies for and Receives Mainstream Rental Assistance

The Housing Choice Voucher and Public Housing programs are the largest sources of rental assistance for low-income households in the U.S.  Unfortunately, these programs are not funded adequately to serve all, or even most, eligible applicants. As a result, families often spend years waiting to be offered assistance. New research provides a more detailed picture of who applies for and receives rental assistance, and their housing conditions while waiting to receive assistance.

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08/13/2012 - A Unique Permanent Supportive Housing Plan and Using Medicaid to Make it Happen: My time in Louisiana

I spent August 8, 9, and 10 in Louisiana with Don Moulds, the Acting Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation at the Department of Health and Human Services. Don is also Secretary Sebelius’ point person for USICH. We went to talk with people operating and overseeing the Louisiana Permanent Supportive Housing project. For those who aren’t familiar with this incredible project, you can find more information from the Corporation for Supportive Housing, which highlighted this state-wide project as part of their Focus on Health Care Series in February 2012. If you don’t have time to listen to the webinar now, here’s the short version:  after the hurricanes in 2005 and 2006, the state, advocates, and community providers worked together to figure out how to help people with one-time federal recovery investments. What has emerged is a unique model to use these new resources for housing and supportive services to provide permanent supportive housing across the region. Federal investments included Community Development Block Grant funds, Shelter Plus Care and Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers. 

  

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08/06/2012 - The Siemer Institute on Family Stability: Maintaining Housing Stability to Ensure Academic Success

One of the most detrimental trends affecting a student’s ability to succeed in the classroom happens outside of school walls. When parents or guardians are struggling to make ends meet financially or shifting housing locations due to work, the children involved are often forced to move from one school to another and then another and so on. This constant mobility is disruptive, making it difficult for a child to feel connected to a school, to make connections with new friends, to be accepted socially, but most importantly, to stay on target academically. The Siemer Institute for Family Stability (SIFS) headquartered at the United Way of Central Ohio is responding to the challenge.

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06/21/2012 - Why PHAs?

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

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

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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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