Annual Update 2012

Two years have passed since the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) launched Opening Doors the nation’s first-ever comprehensive strategic plan to prevent and end homelessness. Recently, USICH released an amendment to Opening Doors focused on preventing and ending youth homelessness and improving educational outcomes for children and youth experiencing homelessness. 

Since the last Opening Doors Update in 2011, HUD published data from the 2011 and 2012 Point-in-Time counts, showing a modest 2.5 percent reduction in the number of people experiencing homelessness on a given night, but one that, given the current economic environment in which homelessness could be expected to increase, suggests that the work being done across the country is meeting with success. Most notable is the 18 percent reduction in homelessness among Veterans between 2010 and 2012. At the same time, data reported by the Department of Education (ED), which uses a broader definition of homelessness than does HUD, show that for the first time public schools identified more than one million children who experienced homelessness over the course of the 2010–2011 school year. This data highlights the urgency of increasing progress in order to achieve Opening Doors’ goal of ending family, youth, and child homelessness by 2020.

Looking across the country, it is clear that communities that are determined to prevent and end homelessness are achieving success. Chattanooga, Tennessee, for example, reports a stunning 89 percent reduction in chronic homelessness since 2007, and a 48 percent reduction in homelessness overall during that same period. In many communities across the country, there is new and concerted planning to prevent and end homelessness among youth. Ending homelessness in America requires commitment and determination at all levels of government and relies on effective public-private partnerships. As the third year of Opening Doors implementation begins, the lessons learned will shape actions moving forward:

  • Collaborations must include mainstream and community programs. There has been significant forward progress engaging Public Housing Agencies, Medicaid directors, and TANF programs, as well as other targeted programs such as child welfare and criminal justice, in local efforts. Partnerships across the country are showing how to break down silos to develop shared goals, how to share data, and how to achieve better outcomes.
  • Resources must be targeted effectively. Communities need to reserve homelessness prevention assistance to households that are most imminently at risk of becoming homeless. The most expensive and intensive interventions, like transitional housing and permanent supportive housing, should be reserved for people who require those interventions to end their homelessness. The good news is that short-term, less expensive interventions like rapid re-housing, critical time intervention, and transition-in-place programs are proving to be more efficient and cost-effective for many communities that once might have prescribed intensive and long-term interventions.
  • Providers and funders must be willing to make significant changes. The $1.5 billion investment in HUD’s Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program (HPRP) spurred communities to adopt new tools quickly. The HUD-VA Supportive Housing program (HUD-VASH) has compelled VA Medical Centers and Public Housing Agencies to re-examine their processes to better target and more rapidly house Veterans experiencing chronic homelessness. The Affordable Care Act presents new opportunities for improving the health of people experiencing homelessness through Medicaid expansion and new vehicles like health homes. HEARTH Act implementation gives communities new tools but also creates high expectations for how HUD’s homelessness resources are managed.
  • Results occur when new investments are strategically deployed. The three best examples of this are HPRP, HUD-VASH, and VA’s Supportive Services for Veteran Families program (SSVF). Communities that used HPRP in large part for rapid re-housing, and did so strategically, saw decreases in homelessness. Likewise, a concerted effort by HUD, VA, and local communities to improve implementation of HUD-VASH contributed to the 18 percent reduction in homelessness among Veterans between 2010 and 2012. When the VA implemented SSVF, they turned to HUD for lessons learned from HPRP so that, from the start, SSVF dollars could be used most effectively.

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The Appendix to the Annual Update includes information on federal programs that provide assistance to those experiencing or at risk of homelessness, along with information on USICH and member agencies' activities and accomplishments in the last year.

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To read previous year's Annual Updates and Appendices, you may do so from the green box on the right.