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Cabinet Secretaries Engage with DC Families and Leading Practitioners on Best Practices

September 14, 2011

Cabinet Secretaries Engage with DC Families and Leading Practitioners on Best Practices

On Tuesday September 13th, Department of Labor Secretary Hilda Solis chaired the third meeting of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) in 2011. The meeting was held at Community of Hope's Girard Street Family Shelter in Washington, D.C. The meeting was the first Council meeting under the Obama administration to be held on the site of a homelessness service provider and focused on strategies to end homelessness for families by 2020. Secretary Solis was joined by Veterans Affairs Secretary Shinseki, Health and Human Services Secretary Sebelius, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Donovan, USICH Executive Director Barbara Poppe, and Washington, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray.


At the meeting, Secretary Solis noted, "Today, for the first time, I wanted to bring our Council meeting out into the community to talk to the families we are working so hard to serve." 


During the meeting members of the Council heard from two single parents who have experienced homelessness with their children. Ruth is 22 and has an 18 month old daughter. She has been living doubled up or in shelters since she was 18. Through the program she has been able to gain access to child care, assistance with job training, and support applying to college. She is now employed full-time and enrolled in community college where she is studying childhood education. Ruth will soon enter her own permanent home with the help of the Homeless Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program (HPRP). David is a 51-year old single father of two girls both under the age of five. He overcame mistakes that he made as a young man that caused him to spend some time in jail and has now devoted his life to raising his two daughters and making sure they have every opportunity to succeed. In spite of this, he has struggled to find people who will hire him or rent to him because of his criminal record. He spent almost two years living either doubled up with his sister or in a shelter before he came to the Community of Hope. Community of Hope helped him access HPRP resources to find a stable home. He has now lived in his own two-bedroom apartment with his two girls for 18 months and finds work where he can.  


Two leading service providers in the District of Columbia shared their insights into what policies and programs work to help families in need while using resources wisely. The Community of Hope Executive Director Kelly Sweeney McShane and the Executive Director of THC- Housing Families, Transforming Lives Polly Donaldson, a DC-based service provider for families experiencing homelessness discussed the importance of comprehensive programs that include emphasis on education, employment, and health; the success of rapid-rehousing as a model to help families quickly and efficiently; and the importance of developing more affordable housing.


The meeting concluded with HUD Secretary Donovan announcing the exciting accomplishment that homelessness for 1 million Americans was prevented or ended thanks to HPRP. He and Secretary Solis then toured the facilities and met additional families that benefited from the programs at the Community of Hope.


For more information about the Administration's efforts to end family homelessness, See our new fact sheet

See photos from the event