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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.
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.
11/14/2012 - American Indian, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian Homelessness spotlighted at Expert Panel
Stop for a minute and imagine what it would be like to be homeless while living on a remote Alaskan village, with temperatures hovering around 30 degrees below zero. Or imagine perhaps living on the beautiful Hawaiian Islands, but having to move your tent every few weeks because you have nowhere else to live. And finally, imagine living on the reservation, in your homeland, without a place to call home.
Homelessness is an extreme manifestation of poverty. If poverty is an indicator of homelessness or the risk of becoming homeless, American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian (AI/AN/NH) communities are at extreme risk of homelessness. The U.S. Census Bureau found in 2010 that 28.4 percent of American Indians and Alaska Natives live in poverty. This same census data show that 18.8 percent of single-race Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islanders live in poverty. By comparison, the U.S. population as a whole has a 15.3 percent poverty rate.
Rural homelessness is a topic that gets very little widespread coverage in the media, which may signal to the general public that homelessness is an urban problem. This is not the case. Rural and frontier homelessness is a pressing problem though it is one that looks different from urban homelessness. SAMHSA recently brought together expert practitioners and researchers to share their thoughts and best practices in serving individuals and families experiencing homelessness in rural areas. This is what I heard.