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):

1) Do you rank permanent supportive housing grantees in the funding competition based on how well they serve people experiencing chronic homelessness (both in terms of targeting/prioritization and reducing barriers to admission)?

2) Have you established a centralized or coordinated entry system for permanent supportive housing with a streamlined process for application and approval, and a community-wide policy where the highest need, longest-term eligible applicants are given priority?

3) If you have established a prioritization system for permanent supportive housing, are certain programs ranked higher based on participation in this coordinated system over those that do not?

4) Do you have a plan to convert or reallocate grants from single adult transitional housing and services to expand the availability of permanent supportive housing?

5) Have you and the leaders of your ten-year plan reviewed the application and entry process for permanent support housing from the perspective of the person experiencing chronic homelessness to determine if it is client-centered, streamlined, and minimizes time spent homeless?  Are interim housing situations available while people await permanent housing placement?

6) Have you organized outreach and client-engagement services that identify people experiencing chronic homelessness? Have you included people who are vulnerable or are frequent users of high-cost public services?  Are hospitals, emergency rooms, jails, substance abuse programs, and health centers been identifying people experiencing chronic homelessness and connecting them to your system?

7) Have you identified need for permanent supportive housing based on the number of people still experiencing chronic homelessness? Have you determined how to meet this need by placing people experiencing chronic homelessness in units that become vacant from natural turnover? Are you creating more units?

8) Are you bringing all of your community's homeless providers that receive targeted homeless assistance funds to the table, such as those organizations receiving  Health Care for the Homeless grants, Projects for Assistance in Transition from Homelessness grants, Cooperative Agreements for the Benefits of Homeless Individuals, and Continuum of Care resources?

9) Have all possible mainstream resources been explored and fully leveraged for both housing and services? Has the public housing agency been engaged to provide vouchers for permanent supportive housing?

10) Have you explored how Medicaid can finance services in permanent supportive housing? Have you discussed how to better integrate health care with housing under health reform?

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