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By Amy Sawyer, USICH Regional Coordinator
Through the 25 Cities initiative spearheaded by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, communities have been invited to convene local leaders eager to build on their successes, identify new strategies, act decisively to strengthen their coordinated response systems and, in the process, end Veteran homelessness. To get started, teams of dedicated individuals are meeting for two-day-long intensive work sessions that drive a sophisticated planning process, resulting in specific action steps that will be carried out in months – not years.
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.
by Richard Cho, USICH Senior Policy Director
I must make a confession. When I first came to Washington to work for USICH, I was a bit skeptical about how sold the Federal government was on Housing First. I knew that Housing First was mentioned in Opening Doors, but did the Federal government truly embrace it? After all, it was not so long ago that terms like "harm reduction" were considered four-letter words by the Federal government.
So imagine my happy surprise when I discovered that I was flat-out wrong. In the first, of what I learned would be many, interagency meetings on chronic homelessness, Housing First adoption was discussed as a primary strategy for accelerating progress. And one of the very first tasks I was given was to help provide a clear, operational definition of Housing First. The result of that work is USICH's Housing First Checklist, a tool that communities can use to adopt Housing First across their programs and overall community response. Not only does this Administration fully believe in Housing First, but it is working to make Housing First the underlying approach behind every community's response to homelessness.
By Matthew Doherty, USICH Director of National Initiatives
I recently partnered with the San Diego Regional Continuum of Care Council (RCCC) to host a first-of-its kind discussion locally, billed as Housing First: A Community Conversation for San Diego. I was joined by 25 RCCC members and other stakeholders ready to engage in the dialogue – especially meaningful to me given I live and work in San Diego.
Recognizing that not everyone had the same understanding or support for Housing First approaches, our discussion was structured as a dialogue in which people could express any concerns, questions or disagreements. We wanted to make sure that we could get issues out on the table in a safe environment so that future conversations and trainings could be structured to address the issues raised and help more people, programs, and agencies move toward Housing First approaches in practice. To achieve that purpose, we established rules for the conversation, asked ourselves a few key questions, and identified several topics to discuss when we met again.
By Jay Melder, USICH Director of Communications and External Affairs
Today, Community Solutions’s 100,000 Homes Campaign announced it has achieved its goal to connect 100,000 people experiencing chronic homelessness to safe, stable housing—101,628 people, to be exact.
At an event on Capitol Hill, former Army Private First Class Alvin Hill, a Veteran from Washington, DC, shared his story of returning home to civilian-life, losing his job and his apartment, and falling into years of homelessness. Mr. Hill remarked that it was “a tragedy that anyone who would put his life on the line for America could return home to sleep on the streets.” In April, Alvin Hill became the 100,000th person to achieve permanent housing through the 100,000 Homes Campaign.
We congratulate Mr. Hill and we congratulate Community Solutions and all of the local and federal partners who have teamed-up to get the job done. This is an incredible milestone.
Here are three things everyone should know about what reaching milestones like this one really means:
by Eric Grumdahl, USICH Policy Director
Evidence plays a central role in shaping Federal policy. Through the implementation of Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness, evidence has transformed Federal homelessness programs. This is particularly the case for Veteran Affairs programs. Our progress—a 24 percent reduction in Veteran homelessness in three years—is directly tied to the commitment to apply evidenced-based practices to end homelessness, particularly Housing First, permanent supportive housing, and rapid re-housing.
Flanked by Veterans, mayors and state leaders committed to ending homelessness among Veterans, First Lady Michelle Obama announced the launch of the Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness at the White House, yesterday. The Challenge seeks to secure commitments from local leaders to end homelessness among Veterans by 2015, using evidence-based approaches as outlined in Opening Doors and through collaboration with community partners.
"We have made great progress over the past few years because of leaders like all of you who refuse to accept veteran homelessness as a fact of life," said Mrs. Obama. "And now we have to finish the job once and for all, because when a Veteran comes home kissing the ground, it is unacceptable that he should ever have to sleep on it."
06/02/2014 - Houston Drives Down Homelessness 37% through Community Collaboration and Housing First Approach
Houston has reduced homelessness by 37 percent since 2011, city and community leaders just announced, attributing the extraordinary achievement to an unprecedented level of collaboration and synergy among public and private organizations to realize the objectives of the Federal strategic plan to end homelessness.
“We are on the right path! Our Housing First strategy of creating permanent accommodations with robust supportive services is working,” Houston Mayor Annise Parker said of the strategy undergirding the approach to ending homelessness in the city. “Moreover, the coordinated team-effort of over 60 different organizations aligning their resources and efforts is working!”
With university, city health and human services and county support, Houston’s Coalition for the Homeless conducted a federally mandated point-in-time (PIT) estimate of the number of people without a safe and stable home on Jan. 30, 2014, and found that there were 3,187 fewer people experiencing homelessness than in previous counts. In 2011, the PIT count determined 8,538 people were experiencing homelessness on a single night in January. In 2012, 7,356. In 2013, 6,359 and in the most recent count, 5,351.
Yesterday, more than 600 providers and stakeholders from across the country joined us for a great discussion about what ending homelessness among families means and what achieving it will require. We were joined by Laura Zeilinger, USICH Executive Director; Ann Oliva, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Special Needs and Director of the Office of Special Needs Assistance Programs at the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD CPD/SNAPS); Ali Sutton, Policy Advisor at the Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families (HHS ACF); and Debra Rog, Associate Director at Westat.
At the end of our discussion, we received a lot of really great questions, many of which we didn’t have time to answer. In this post, we provide responses to two of these questions and will be responding to more of these questions over the next few weeks.
By Lindsay Knotts, USICH Management and Program Analyst
Every day, providers in rural communities and shelters in our largest cities work skillfully and passionately to respond to the needs of families experiencing or at risk of experiencing homelessness. Whether it's for a young mom with two small children and one on the way who just lost housing or for a family on the verge of homelessness because dad just lost his job, front line workers and community planners across the country are always working to improve the care for families seeking homeless services. As a provider before joining USICH, I can attest.