03/19/2013 - The National Conference to End Family and Youth Homelessness and the Work of USICH’s Regional Coordinators

During the last full week of February national leaders, practitioners, advocates, educators, and people who have experienced homelessness converged in Seattle, Washington to participate in the National Conference on Family and Youth homelessness sponsored by our partner, the National Alliance to End Homelessness.

The goals of the week were to learn about a new vision for ending youth homelessness, share new initiatives from the federal government to end youth and family homelessness, and understand how to build on the work from the best work in leading communities.  During morning coffee, throughout sessions, over lunch, in the course of community visits, and over evening gatherings participants connected. We asked questions, shared successes, and pondered challenges we’ve come across.  Collectively, the emerging conversations linked research with promising practices to create a shared vision for applying effective system-wide strategies in an environment that demands efficient and targeted use of resources.

Building on the energy and desire to face the issue head on, USICH executive director Barbara Poppe presented the Framework to End Youth Homelessness. Through a collective effort of many members of our council, including HHS and the Department of Education, a framework was developed that calls on the Federal government and partners in communities, agencies and systems at all levels to work together on a strategic approach to getting to better youth outcomes in stable housing, permanent connections, education, employment, and wellbeing.  The Framework involves two complementary and concurrent strategies: getting to better data on youth homelessness, and building capacity for service-delivery system to end youth homelessness. 

The regional coordinators were busy too, joining sessions as presenters, hosts, and participants to consider what a blueprint for ending family homelessness looks like, using data to target and improve systems and programs, aligning resources, working with public housing authorities to expand housing, applying strategies like progressive engagement, and understanding and building the body of research on what works for youth experiencing homelessness.  We had a great time, learning from each interaction we had and connecting with community representatives from across the community. 

All the moments we had with people - sharing that joke over a morning muffin, understanding how Housing First is applied during a field trip to DESC ,and chatting during a cool night’s walk at the Gates Foundation to catch up on everything that has been happening in a lobby buzzing with similar conversations –  add up to create  a picture of a vibrant, creative, and focused collective of people that that are living examples of what it takes to end homelessness. In my estimation, the combination of sharing information, a shared sense of commitment and willingness to confront challenges with an open and thoughtful mind, and the time to meet in person and build working relationships that we’ll carry far beyond the conference is an invaluable part of our work as regional coordinators.  We can’t wait to work with you to build on this conversation and apply lessons learned in communities throughout the country.

As participants go back to their communities and share the practices and approaches with partners across their systems, we invite communities to stay engaged and let regional coordinators know what is working and where challenges lie.  The USICH needs your input and support as we coordinate the federal response to youth and family homelessness!

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