USICH Blog

02/20/2014 - Working in Partnership to End Homelessness among Families: The Importance of Clarity of Purpose and Action

By Laura Zeilinger, USICH Incoming Executive Director

USICH recently released Family Connection: Building Systems to End Family Homelessness, a resource aimed at expanding an effective partnership with communities across the country to prevent and homelessness for families.

In communities throughout the country, people are performing everyday heroics in effort to meet the needs of families. Yet too often, these providers are faced with the painful inability to adequately respond to families seeking homeless services. The interventions they can offer are frequently determined by where there are open beds in a program, if there are open beds at all. Even when community stakeholders agree on the importance of assessment and linking a family to an intervention best suited to their circumstances, shifting to such an approach might seem impossible —especially while responding to the constant flow of urgent needs.

Family Connection is designed to support communities and stakeholders to build and implement effective housing-crisis response systems for families. Due to economic realities and the sheer unpredictability of life, there will likely continue to be situations in which families experience a crisis and lose their homes. Ending family homelessness does not mean that children and their parents will never experience homelessness again. It does mean that there will be a response system in place that provides shelter to all who need it, while supporting rapid movement into permanent housing. An end to family homelessness means that no family will be without shelter and homelessness will be a rare and brief occurrence.

Family Connection outlines the Federal vision of an end to homelessness among families, and it identifies key areas of action needed to reach that vision.

  • Developing local coordinated entry systems to address the immediate crisis of homelessness;
  • Tailoring interventions to respond to the specific strengths and needs of adult and child family members;
  • Linking families to mainstream resources; and
  • Furthering application of evidence-based practices like Housing First and Trauma Informed Care in programs and funding decisions. 

Family Connection has resources, tools, and detailed information embedded throughout to support implementation of the policies articulated in the document. While many resources are available now, USICH with Federal agencies and policy experts are developing additional tools that will continue to be added and linked to the Family Connection page.

As President Obama remarked last month to an audience of more the 250 mayors from around the country, “We want to cooperate and coordinate with you as effectively as we can to make sure that whatever works is getting out there and hitting the streets and actually having an impact on people’s lives.” When it comes to impacting the lives of families working to secure permanent housing, what works is becoming clearer and clearer.

Since the launch of Opening Doors in 2010, our nation has reduced homelessness among families by eight percent.  We have much more work to do, and USICH and our Federal partners are with you in this endeavor. We are eager to learn from your experiences and share best practices.

Together, by sharing and doing what works, we can build the local systems necessary to quickly and safely provide families access to permanent housing. We can ensure that no family lives unsheltered, or experiences homelessness as more than a brief occurrence with a clear pathway to safety and stability. We can help families participate in the benefits, supports, and community-based services they need to achieve and maintain stable housing. We can continue to identify and implement the prevention methods proven to help families avoid homelessness. As partners in this effort, together we can bring an end to homelessness among families and achieve the vision of Opening Doors.

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