USICH Blog

Department of Housing and Urban Development Archive

11/13/2014 - 2015: Making a Difference for Youth Experiencing Homelessness – A National Perspective

by Colette (Coco) Auerswald, Jess Lin, Jessica Reed and Shahera Hyatt

The 2015 PIT count is an opportunity not only to better count youth, but also to obtain an improved and more nuanced picture nationally and locally of youth homelessness. As we work with our communities in California to prepare for the best count of homeless youth to date, we offer these suggestions to communities getting ready for the count nationwide.

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11/10/2014 - As a Grateful Nation, We Must End Homelessness among Veterans

By Laura Green Zeilinger

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.

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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.

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09/30/2014 - Ending Youth Homelessness: A Call to Action Forty Years in the Making

by William H. Bentley and Laura Green Zeilinger

Forty years ago, the U.S. government took the bold step of making the landmark Runaway and Homeless Youth Act, or RHYA, the law of the land. RHYA is the only Federal law that highlights the need for and funds critical services for youth experiencing homelessness. In July 2014, Congress introduced the Runaway and Homeless Youth and Trafficking Prevention Act (S.2646), new legislation that, if enacted, would reauthorize and strengthen RHYA. With continued funding for street outreach, basic center and transitional living programs, RYHA provides critical services and support to runaway and homeless youth and plays an important role in the effort end youth homelessness by 2020, a goal set in Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End 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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08/11/2014 - Inspired by People: New Report Offers Alternatives to Criminalization

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.

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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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06/30/2014 - Ensuring that Homelessness Never Follows Foster Care

by Eric Grumdahl, USICH Policy Director

Ending youth homelessness means putting a system in place to do so in every community. Here, having a common purpose is a key ingredient. Luckily, at the interface of the child welfare system and the homeless response system, we should agree on a common purpose. The child welfare system wants to see successful transitions to adulthood, which includes all of the outcomes of the framework to end youth homelessness, including stable housing. The homeless response system is certainly eager to close what has been called a pipeline from child welfare to shelter, and to see youth in stable housing instead of outside a shelter door. We should not have to debate our shared purpose.

Where it seems to me that our efforts get stuck is... 

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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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06/11/2014 - 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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05/02/2014 - 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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12/17/2013 - I Believe in Human Rights: My Personal Commitment to Ending Homelessness


Shaun DonovanSecretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan discusses the formative time he spent volunteering in a homeless shelter, and how that spurred his dedication to ending homelessness. 

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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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07/01/2013 - Mayor Nutter Addresses Homelessness in Speech to the US Conference of Mayors

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. 

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12/05/2012 - All About HEARTH: A Webinar from USICH December 10 and more resources

The HEARTH Act enacted by Congress in 2009 is, in many ways, a game changer. It gave the federal government the charge to create the first federal strategic plan to prevent and end homelessness, setting forth the vision that no one in this country should be without a safe and stable place to call home. Perhaps most importantly, HEARTH moves governments and local stakeholders from a focus on individual program outcomes to a focus on how all programs work as a system to achieve results for an entire community. This strong statement made by the federal government foregrounds the work of implementing the HEARTH Act in communities across the country.  

The HEARTH Act and the ways it seeks to improve a community’s response to homelessness has come into an even sharper focus in the recent weeks, as the Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) for FY 2012 Continuum of Care (CoC) program was released and communities are working on their CoC program applications. In an effort to assist these communities,our most recent newsletter released in November focused on the HEARTH Act; specifically, what the HEARTH Act means for communities, important things to know about the Continuum of Care (CoC) Program NOFA and federal resources to help communities navigate new elements of the HEARTH Act.

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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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08/01/2012 - HUD, USICH Hears from You: Understanding the Needs of the LGBT Homeless Population

On July 16, 2012, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness hosted a listening session entitled “Understanding the Needs of the LGBT Homeless Population” at the National Alliance to End Homelessness’ 2012 National Conference on Ending Homelessness. This listening session allowed Federal partners to learn from advocates, community partners, and homeless service providers about the challenges, opportunities, and best practices related to the implementation of HUD’s new Equal Access to Housing in HUD Programs Regardless of Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity final rule.

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07/27/2012 - What We’re Talking About: The Week at USICH - July 23-27, 2012

What We're Talking About is a new 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.  

This week the International AIDS Conference  was in Washington, DC for the first time in 22 years, shining a spotlight on HIV/AIDS both in America and around the world. For us at USICH, this conference also pointed to the topic of housing instability and homelessness among those with HIV/AIDS in America. There are more than 1 million people in the United States currently living with HIV/AIDS, and for those with low incomes or experiencing homelessness, managing the disease is complicated and expensive...

 

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

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

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06/21/2012 - 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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