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Executive Director Barbara Poppe at 2012 National Alliance to End Homelessness Family Conference Plenary Introduction


Los Angeles, California


Two years ago, I stood here and shared with you a few thoughts on where we were headed with the first ever federal strategic plan to prevent and end homelessness.

With your help, we launched Opening Doors at the White House with Cabinet Secretaries, the head of the Domestic Policy Council, and Members of Congress. In big bright lights the federal government committed to preventing and ending family, youth, and children homelessness by 2020.

Opening Doors has stimulated unprecedented collaboration across federal agencies. We’ve seen the adoption of best practices by federal agencies and continued progress in communities across the nation.

I’m especially proud that ending homelessness remains a priority for the Administration -   five Cabinet Secretaries are engaged - including for the first time an Education Secretary thanks to Secretary Arne Duncan.

We have also had some bi-partisan Congressional support, which is certainly a result of the tremendous efforts of many of you in this audience.

The Recovery Act has helped save over 1.2 million people from homelessness through your work to implement HPRP. This is a tremendous feat.

In the midst of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, we saw a drop in Veterans experiencing homelessness by nearly 12 percent and we’ve seen an overall 2.1 percent decline among all populations.

And just this past week, the unemployment rate dropped to 8.3% and on Friday the President announced a new Veterans Job Corps initiative. The Administration’s new veteran employment initiatives, coupled with the work that President Obama has already accomplished in creating employment opportunities for veterans, will put tens of thousands of veterans back to work.

Earlier this week, we heard the exciting news that the President has again requested one billion dollars to fund the National Housing Trust Fund in Fiscal Year 13. 

Despite this progress, there is still so much more work ahead of us.

When it comes to family homelessness, the solutions are known. We need to focus on prevention and rapid re-housing. This includes optimizing access to affordable housing not spending scarce resources on long shelter and transitional housing stays.

HEARTH implementation is absolutely vital. One of the core elements that is critical for families is a coordinated community system that focuses on prevention and diversion, with shelter admission as a last resort. Across the nation, quicker exits from shelter and transitional programs into permanent housing need to become the norm.

Local communities must accommodate all types of families – two parent, LGBT parents, families with teenagers, multi-generational families. It is unacceptable for any child, youth, or parent to be left on our streets. 

Since 2009, we’ve learned a tremendous amount from HPRP. Strategic prevention works.  More importantly communities that focused their HPRP dollars on rapid rehousing clearly achieved a much more significant impact - getting families out of shelter as quickly as possible. Going forward, we need a laser-like focus on this. Expensive, intensive, interventions for families need to be reserved and available to those who need it most. 

I promise, you are not the only ones who are worried about HPRP coming to an end. Communities will need to become more creative by utilizing federal funding through HUD’s re-designed Emergency Solutions Grant and VA’s new Supportive Services for Veterans Families program.

When it comes to youth, we can all agree that we need a better understanding of the size and scope of the need. Of even greater importance is that we need a better understanding about what works and what doesn’t for the sub-populations among youth experiencing homelessness.

This isn’t an excuse for inaction -- too many homeless youth – in nearly every community - are not well served.

USICH’s Deputy Director Jennifer Ho and I are working together to create momentum on this issue. We so appreciate those of you in this room that have been resources to help us better understand needs, barriers, and solutions. Thanks for speaking up.

Just this past December, the Council meeting focused on youth homelessness for the first time. The Cabinet Secretaries told us loud and clear - they want action.

We are now facilitating an unprecedented dialogue among agencies to determine the most strategic actions we can take right now. Your insights and input are encouraged and welcomed.

Reflecting back on where we were two years ago, I am proud of the work we all have accomplished together.  But there is so much more that needs to be done. We need your continued creativity, energy, and focus now more than ever.

I have three requests.

One, we need your help to secure resources. Not just in Washington, but at the state and local levels as well. How can we work together to make the case that we need more affordable housing? More resources for youth?

Second, promote best practices and help with implementation of Opening Doors in the field. Commit to doing what works. That’s what Opening Doors is all about. We must better target resources to provide the right intervention at the right time to the youth or family at risk of or experiencing homelessness.

Third, sign on to our call to action – known as Opening Doors Across America.   This campaign will demonstrate that across the country there is commitment to achieving the vision of ending homelessness for families, youth, children, those experiencing chronic homeless and Veterans. Opening Doors lays out the road map and makes the case for the resources that are needed to achieve the vision.

To sign on, we ask you to demonstrate four commitments.

  1. Align your community or state plan with Opening Doors.
  2. Commit to incremental targets and measure your progress toward the goals of Opening Doors.
  3. Act strategically: collaborate, invest, and act on strategies that are proven to make an impact.
  4. Partner with us. Keep lines of communication open with public officials at all levels to share what you are doing and learning.

Can I see a show of hands from folks who like Connecticut, Kentucky, Philadelphia, Seattle, Fresno, and Lancaster County, Pennsylvania have signed on to or are working to sign on to Opening Doors Across America?

Thank you for your support and leadership.

At your urging, the Obama administration set out a bold vision two years ago – end Veterans and chronic homelessness by 2015 and end family, youth, and child homelessness by 2020. The window of opportunity is now. We all need to be aligned and pushing harder. Harder than we thought when we all signed up for this. We won’t be able to achieve these goals without you.

On behalf of President Obama and Council Chair, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, thank you for all of the hard work you do, day after day to make this country a better place for all of us.