Commitment to Setting Targets, Measuring Results, and Creative Collaboration Sets Chattanooga, Tennessee Apart

Since the release of Chattanooga, Tennessee’s Blueprint to End Homelessness in 2003, and the revamped Blueprint in 2007, the area has been able to make significant gains towards their homelessness goals—both in the number of people they have been able to help initially exit homelessness and the housing retention of those individuals. According to the June 2012 Chattanooga Regional Homeless Coalition’s  Blueprint Analysis, 2,987 people have moved out of homelessness into housing since 2003, 90% of whom have remained housed. The period since the publishing of the 2007 Blueprint has been one of dramatic results, especially for the population in the Chattanooga region experiencing chronic homelessness. From 2007-2011, chronic homelessness declined by 89%, and overall homelessness declined by 48% according to Point In Time data. 

Chattanooga’s leadership and commitment to the smart, strategic allocation of resources that can be used in flexible and innovative ways has allowed them to align their work with the Opening Doors Across America Initiative and has generated real results. Opening Doors Across America encourages communities to move with urgency and take action.  Two of the four elements of this call to action are setting targets and measuring results, and acting strategically with pivotal partners like public housing agencies across the region.  These are two areas where Chattanooga has shown strong leadership. USICH spoke with Mary Simons, Executive Director of the Chattanooga Regional Homeless Coalition, about their work in these areas and how it has helped make progress.

Setting Targets and Measuring Results

To gain a better understanding of the scope of homelessness, Chattanooga’s Regional Homeless Coalition took a close look at who was experiencing homelessness and the types of housing resources they had available.  Together as a Coalition, they set a target for the Blueprint that used the Point in Time (PIT) Count data and added more housing units to account for those who were not experiencing homelessness that night but may experience homelessness at another point in the year. “Once we had PIT data, we were able to see what was needed and who was already involved in programs like the HUD/VA/HHS Collaborative Initiative to End Chronic Homelessness program which began in 2004. When you measure something, everyone wants to get on board with helping to achieve that goal,” noted Ms. Simons. “We used information and strategies from our work with the 50 participants in the Collaborative Initiative to End Chronic Homelessness and previous work with of the Department of Mental Health, and married those strategies and targets with larger federal programs to come up with strategies for all populations.” The Coalition has also benefitted from a longstanding HMIS system, established in 1998. “Even when we only had funds for 50 units, we still noted tenant’s retention rate and also who was entering shelters that we were not able to help at that time. Because we have all of this data, we could see progress from our strategies and were able to estimate the number of housing opportunities we’ll need next year.” 

While there are many targets within the Blueprint, a major sphere of focus is commitment to developing permanent supportive housing and affordable housing. In the 2003 Blueprint, the goal was to create 1400 affordable housing units in 10 years to be used by individuals experiencing homelessness through the provision of rent subsidies, new housing development, and the preservation of affordable housing stock. Between 2003-2007, Chattanooga developed 1620 affordable housing options. The 2007 revision included providing an additional 200 affordable units per year. They also exceeded this goal.  

Acting Strategically – Working with the Public Housing Authority and Supportive Service Providers

Mary Simons spoke of their very successful relationship with Public Housing Authorities in both urban and rural areas as a driver of their success.  It was important to get everyone around the table to discuss all the resources they have and the number of vouchers per program – whether Supportive Housing Program vouchers, Shelter Plus Care vouchers or Housing Choice vouchers. This required federal, state, and local involvement from multiple departments to assess both what resources were available and what resources we needed.  Continued review of successes and ongoing needs of current tenants and people experiencing homelessness during the voucher renewal process helps to determine the level of supportive service provision, financial assistance, and collaboration needed to sustain progress in Chattanooga. Once all parties with resources come together and assess their needs and resources available, the group can work together to determine how best to meet tenant’s needs. 

Mary Simons shared an example of this flexibility: 

We were able to place 50 individuals into housing with services through Collaborative Initiative to End Chronic Homelessness funding in 2003 using Shelter Plus Care Vouchers, and last winter we worked with tenants to reevaluate their needs and see if they needed the same intensity of services. We found this year after working with the case managers that many of the individuals that needed Assertive Community Treatment teams in 2004 were in recovery and were stable at the end of 2011. The individuals we placed through this program (and across all programs) had a very low turnover rate, so the housing authority is very willing to lease to these tenants using any of their voucher programs. We worked with the housing authority to move the folks who were able to remain stable without intense services to the Housing Choice Voucher program. That freed up 44 Shelter Plus Care vouchers that could be used with a supportive services team that is nearby, available as frequently as the tenants may need. Working within the rules of the Housing Authority and the supportive service providers we were able maintain housing for 50 people and get 44 more people off the streets and into housing. 

This example is just one of the many in which all stakeholders in the Blueprint have come together to ensure that the level of intervention is appropriate to the needs of individuals, putting Chattanooga in a position that is best able to maximize resources and achieve their goals. . “Working with all of those who are committed to housing people throughout the region, we’re moving in a much better direction to find what a person really needs and then a voucher or resource to fit their needs.” While the work is not over, Chattanooga has been able to work within and across systems to make progress, engaging both public and private partners. 

Chattanooga has been able to make significant progress by implementing strategies at the core of the Opening Doors Across America Initiative: they aligned their plan with Opening Doors, collaborated with multiple partners, committed to developing targets and measuring their progress, and engaged in creative problem solving to keep momentum going. Using some of the same tools and collaborations, your community can move the needle on ending all types of homelessness as well. 

Learn more about Chattanooga by reading their Blueprint Analysis

Learn more about resources and innovations in Opening Doors Across America

Opening Doors Connecticut

Opening Doors Connecticut

Connecticut recently became the first state in the country to develop a state plan to end homelessness that is fully aligned with our national plan, Opening Doors. USICH discussed the development of Opening Doors Connecticut with Carol Walter, the Executive Director of the Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness, and staff from the Partnership for Strong Communities.

Benefits of Aligning a State Plan 

Since the effects of homelessness are individual, personal, and local, there can be a tendency for states to expect local communities to do their own planning without providing the comprehensive leadership of a state strategic plan. This misses a great opportunity that can benefit the state, the communities, and people experiencing homelessness in the state. Connecticut has found that a strong state plan aligned with Opening Doors provides a framework for a comprehensive statewide approach to homelessness that helps:

Since the effects of homelessness are individual, personal, and local, there can be a tendency for states to expect local communities to do their own planning without providing the comprehensive leadership of a state strategic plan. This misses a great opportunity that can benefit the state, the communities, and people experiencing homelessness in the state. Connecticut has found that a strong state plan aligned with Opening Doors provides a framework for a comprehensive statewide approach to homelessness that helps:

  • Improve access to interventions for people experiencing housing crises by streamlining collaboration at all levels of government and across jurisdictions. When everyone working on homelessness in the state shares the same goals and speaks with a unified voice, collaboration becomes easier and more effective.
  • Encourage uniform use of best practices. The process to develop the federal plan was thorough and relied on the input of leaders in homeless services from every corner of the country. “The strategies that are in the plan are the best we have as a nation. If these strategies are used uniformly in my state, then I know we are moving toward our goals more effectively. There is no need to reinvent the wheel,” said Carol Walter.
  • Coordinate outcome measures, ensuring all communities are truly measuring progress and that measurements are comparable. In order to use resources wisely, local communities need to be able to assess what programs are working. They cannot do this without using reliable measurements that are comparable with other communities.
  • Access federal resources and ease federal reporting requirements. Walter explained, “All federal homeless programs are coordinated through Opening Doors, it can make life easier as a state or a community when your program dollars are aligned in the same way. This will become especially true when new HEARTH regulations take effect. High performing communities will be eligible for additional resources and it is much easier to be high performing and to demonstrate that performance, if you are using the same measuring stick that the federal government uses.”
  • Save state dollars by reducing the burden on public systems and by increasing efficiency of state distributed resources. People experiencing homelessness - especially people experiencing chronic homelessness - are often high-cost users of public systems. State courts, prisons, and hospitals can reduce the strain on their systems if solutions to homelessness are in place. In addition, states are charged with distributing many resources related to homeless services. To make the most of these resources, states should be putting them into systems that are coordinated and using best practices.

Connecticut's Process of Alignment

In Connecticut, the process of developing the new state plan was spearheaded by a small group of non-profit and advocacy organizations including the Partnership for Stronger Communities, the Connecticut Housing Coalition, the Corporation for Supportive Housing, the Connecticut Aids Resource Coalition, the Connecticut Women’s Education and Legal Fund, and the Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness. The effort has been guided by the Reaching Home Campaign, supported by the Melville Charitable Trust. Partnership for Strong Communities has provided the staff support needed to move the project forward. This initial small group of organizations realized the importance of a state plan, but they also realized the importance of welcoming many voices to the table.  “Housing loss is intertwined with the issues of income, health, safety, and social and family supports, among others," said Howard Rifkin the Executive Director of Partnership for Stronger Communities. "To develop a state plan that coordinates across these fields and uses the best practices they have to offer, we needed to bring in a broader range of partners that included healthcare systems, workforce development, education, the business community, municipalities and the faith community.”

In order to obtain as much feedback as possible from those working in the field, they identified six topics that were especially relevant to the needs in Connecticut and hosted listening sessions on these topics: housing; health; criminal justice; family, youth, and children; crisis response; and community planning and sustainability. These sessions brought in feedback from many sectors including representatives from state-level agencies (see the table below). An outside observer was tasked with tying all of the feedback together and gaining consensus on a plan aligned with Opening Doors that meets the unique needs of Connecticut.

Ensuring a plan that was implementable was a critical piece of the thought process. “A plan without implementation does not get us closer to our goals, to do the work ahead we kept plan implementation in our sights from the beginning by delineating a structure to guide the implementation,” said Rifkin. Plan implementation is being overseen by a steering committee made up of a broad-based coalition of more than 50 community stakeholders. This steering committee oversees progress from four implementation working groups on retooling crisis response, healthcare and housing stability, economic security, and affordable and supportive housing which guide action on the strategies laid out in Opening Doors Connecticut.

Listening Session Topic
Participating Groups
Connecticut Housing Coalition, public housing agencies, housing developers, Connecticut Housing and Finance Authority, Department of Economic and Community Development, Partnership for Strong Communities, Governor’s office, Melville Charitable Trust, workforce investment boards, permanent supportive housing providers, legal rights services, Mental Health and Substance Abuse Agency, philanthropy
Health care
hospital staff, behavioral health providers, federally qualified community health centers, health department staff, Mental Health and Substance Abuse Agency, health advocates, AIDS advocates, Department of Public Health, Department of Social Services, state healthcare advocates, Connecticut Women’s Education and Legal Fund, State of Connecticut Child Advocates
Criminal Justice
Department of Corrections, Court Support Services Division, the VA-Connecticut Healthcare System, state budget office, Mental Health and Substance Abuse Agency, Department of Social Services, community service providers, re-entry coordinators, Connecticut Alliance to Benefit Law Enforcement, Central Connecticut State University, philanthropy, Corporation for Supportive Housing, Partnership for Stronger Communities, state legislators
Family, Youth, and Children
children’s advocacy and legal rights groups, Youth Continuum, Youth and Family Services, magnet schools, permanent supportive housing providers, Department of Children and Families, workforce investment boards, Department of Social Services, Mental Health and Substance Abuse Agency, domestic violence advocacy, Department of Education
Crisis Response
permanent supportive housing providers, shelters, social services agencies, Mental Health and Substance Abuse Agency, State Budget Office, National Alliance on Mental Illness, Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness, Department of Social Services, Partnership for Stronger Communities, United Way of Greater New Haven
Community Planning and Sustainability
Community colleges, Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness, USICH, Mental Health and Substance Abuse Agency, the VA-Connecticut Healthcare System, Department of Economic and Community Development, Department of Social Services, philanthropy, state legislators


Five things you can do now to work toward an aligned plan in your state:

1. Determine a lead for the development of a state plan.  Consider state coordinating bodies or organizations that could convene participants around the development of a state plan. Some examples include a state interagency council on homelessness, state coalition on homelessness, state housing agency, and philanthropic organizations.

2. Convene meetings with a broad spectrum of representatives who work day-to-day in homeless services. Get everyone in the same room to talk about what is needed, what the benefits would be, and determine a course of action, that includes concrete steps, accountability for actions, and a timeline.

3. Connect with people experiencing homelessness and who are working on the ground (working case managers, people who run shelters, and others) and discuss the following questions:

  • What do best practices look like on the ground?
  • How do different practices work together?
  • How would we bring them to scale?

4. Don’t reinvent the wheel. Share your own experiences and what you know about how different models work in the real world. Consider solutions that are working in other states, and applicable strategies outlined in Opening Doors. Use the framework of population goals, a clear timeline, and five themes to frame your plan.

5. Be prepared to open your mind.

In relation to this last point, Walter shared this advice for our readers:

Be prepared to open your mind. In order to end homelessness, some things will have to change. Whether that is giving up on a model you have used for a long time or working with partners that you haven’t gotten along with in the past, some uncomfortable changes are inevitable. If you are in a leadership position, make sure others in your organization understand the why behind these sometimes difficult changes. Putting yourself in a silo and immersing yourself in the work of saving people is understandable, but in order to end homelessness and stop just managing it we all need to take a step back and realize where these silos and blinders are holding us back. As an individual or an organization you can begin to do this work and begin to think more openly. As a state you can take leadership and push the whole field toward the use of best practices and a more efficient system.

Partnerships for Opening Doors Final Report

USICH, DOL, HUD, and the Butler Family Fund are pleased to release a new report with tips for how communities can increase access to good jobs for people experiencing or at-risk of homelessness. The report, Partnerships for Opening Doors, signals the Administration’s commitment to increasing employment and economic security for people experiencing or at-risk of homelessness.

The report:

  • highlights the employment, training, and career development needs of people experiencing homelessness
  • provides examples of ways communities across the country have better coordinated their employment and homelessness assistance programs
  • gives recommendations on how the Federal government can best support local work

The report reflects the combined knowledge of the 11 communities, national organizations, and Federal partners who participated in the Partnerships for Opening Doors Summit in October.  

Breaking the Cycle of Veteran Incarceration and Homelessness

There is a high prevalence of criminal justice system-involvement among Veterans experiencing homelessness, with some estimates indicating that as many as one-half of all Veterans experiencing homelessness are involved in the justice system. Strategies to end Veteran homelessness must therefore also encompass efforts to address and reduce justice system involvement. One starting point for this is to include criminal justice settings as part of the locations where Veterans experiencing and at-risk of homelessness are identified and engaged, spanning every step in the criminal justice process, from arrest to reintegration back to society. 
Some key approaches include:

- In-reach efforts into jails and prisons as communities identify and engage all Veterans who are experiencing or at-risk of homelessness,
- Partnerships with corrections departments to prevent the homelessness of Veterans who are re-entering the community from prison or jail, and
- Collaborations with law enforcement agencies and courts to divert Veterans from jail or advance alternatives to incarceration.

This webinar—hosted by USICH, the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, and VA’s Veterans Justice Programs—provided information to help communities integrate criminal justice system partnerships into their effort to prevent and end homelessness among Veterans. The webinar aired on Wednesday, July 8, 1:00 – 2:15 p.m. PM ET.

Jessica Blue-Howells, Health Care for Reentry Veterans, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

Sean Clark, Veterans Justice Outreach Program, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

Baylee Crone, National Coalition for Homeless Veterans

Peter Nicewicz, U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness

Key Strategies for Connecting People Experiencing Homelessness to SSI/SSDI

This document is intended to improve practices and collaboration among SSA field offices, VA Medical Center staff, organizations and agencies that provide services to people experiencing homelessness, and other community-based partners. The strategies focus on assisting individuals experiencing homelessness with the initial disability application and medical determination process.

Key strategies include:

  • Assisting People Experiencing Homelessness with the SSI/SSDI Application Process
  • Coordinating with SSA Field Offices, Community Organizations, and other Federal Agencies
  • Coordinating with Other Benefits and Entitlements
  • Working with Veterans and Other Special Populations
  • Assisting SSI/SSDI Beneficiaries Post-Entitlement

Breaking the Cycle of Veteran Incarceration and Homelessness: Emerging Community Practices

Like other single individuals experiencing homelessness, there is a high prevalence of criminal justice system-involvement among Veterans experiencing homelessness. About one-half of all Veterans experiencing homelessness who have participated in VA homeless assistance programs are involved in the justice system.[1] For Veterans and other people experiencing homelessness, homelessness and criminal justice system-involvement are a double jeopardy—where the experience of one contributes to and exacerbates the risk of the other. The experience of homelessness can increase one’s risk of justice system involvement, especially given community policies that criminalize behaviors associated with homelessness (so-called “quality of life” offenses). Incarceration in prison or jail increases the risk of homelessness and often leads to increased barriers to obtaining housing. Many Veterans may be caught on a repeated cycle of homelessness and incarceration. The strategies to end Veteran homelessness must therefore also encompass efforts to address and reduce justice system involvement. This means including criminal justice settings in the set of locations where Veterans experiencing and at-risk of homelessness are identified and engaged, spanning every step in the criminal justice process, from arrest to reintegration back to society. It means partnering with corrections departments to prevent the homelessness of Veterans who are re-entering the community from prison or jail. It also means partnering with law enforcement and courts to divert Veterans from jail or advance alternatives to incarceration.

This brief offers key strategies and emerging community practices to break the cycle of Veteran incarceration and homelessness using the Sequential Intercept Model, a conceptual framework of all the potential points at which a Veteran (or any individual) can be assisted as he/she moves through the criminal justice system. As seen in the image to the right, the Sequential Intercept Model can be viewed as a series of filters, where communities should aim to prevent individuals experiencing or at-risk of homelessness from penetrating deeper into the criminal justice system.[2]

To help communities implement effective strategies to prevent and end homelessness among justice-involved Veterans, view our resource, offering strategies and emerging community examples at each of the intercept points within the criminal justice system. View the document by clicking the link in the box above.

Additional Resources:

Breaking the Cycle of Veteran Incarceration and Homelessness Webinar Recording


[1] U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. VA’s Veterans Justice Outreach Program: Services for Veterans Involved in the Justice System. 2014.

[2] Munetz, M.R. & Griffin, P.A. Use of the Sequential Intercept Model as an Approach to Decriminalization of People with Serious Mental Illness. Psychiatric Services 57(4): 544-549, 2006.

USICH Releases 2015 Amendment to Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness

June 22, 2015                                                                                                                                     

For Immediate Release     

Contact: Liz Osborn | 202/205.4523

Washington – The U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH), along with its 19 member agencies, announced today the release of an amendment to Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness.

Originally released on this day in 2010, Opening Doors is the nation’s first comprehensive Federal strategic plan to prevent and end homelessness. The Plan provides a roadmap for coordinated, joint action among the 19 USICH member agencies in conjunction with local and state partners.

Since the launch of Opening Doors five years ago, the trajectory of homelessness in America has changed dramatically. According to the 2014 Point-in-Time count, overall homelessness has declined nationwide by 10 percent since 2010. Homelessness among families with children has decreased 15 percent. The number of individuals experiencing chronic homelessness has fallen by 21 percent, and homelessness among Veterans has fallen by 33 percent. We also have more knowledge than ever about the unique circumstances facing youth experiencing homelessness.

This progress demonstrates that Opening Doors is the right plan with the right strategies for ending homelessness. The amendment reaffirms the core elements of the original Plan and adds new strategies that reflect lessons learned since 2010, ensuring that Opening Doors serves as a living blueprint with the latest knowledge and best practices to prevent and end homelessness.

“We’re releasing this Amendment at a critical moment for the country, as the time to act is now to achieve all the goals of Opening Doors,” stated USICH Executive Director Matthew Doherty. “We know that homelessness is a problem we can solve. By working together we will ensure that homelessness does not appear in the pages of American history as a permanent fixture, but as a problem the American people overcame.”

“Finding housing for people experiencing homelessness and giving them the tools they need to get back on their feet requires collaboration and an all-hands-on-deck approach,” said Thomas E. Perez, U.S. Secretary of Labor and Chair of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness. “Using Opening Doors as a blueprint, we have worked together to reduce homelessness among all populations. The updated Plan will allow us to continue to make progress toward our ambitious goal of ending homelessness across our country.”

Key new elements added to Opening Doors through this amendment include an operational definition for an end to homelessness, clarifications regarding the role of Medicaid in financing services for permanent supportive housing, an updated discussion of the use of metrics and accountability, improved guidance for retooling crisis response systems, and an incorporation of changes made in a 2012 amendment.

This Amendment also adjusts the goal of ending chronic homelessness from 2015 to 2017. The change reflects the need for additional resources to achieve the goal nationally, although there are states and communities who can achieve the goal ahead of 2017 if they continue to act with urgency and use existing resources in support of the most effective practices.

As amended, Opening Doors sets, and remains focused on, four key goals:

  • Prevent and end homelessness among Veterans in 2015
  • Finish the job of ending chronic homelessness in 2017
  • Prevent and end homelessness among families, youth, and children in 2020
  • Set a path to ending all type of homelessness.

The full version of Opening Doors, as amended in 2015, can be found by visiting

Housing to End Homelessness

Increasing access to affordable housing is the centerpiece of the national strategy to end homelessness in America as outlined in Opening Doors. However, the nation’s severe shortage of affordable housing, especially for the lowest-income Americans, continues to limit this access. By catalyzing significantly more affordable housing development across the country, the National Housing Trust Fund could change all of that. 

View the fact sheet to see what states can do to make the Housing Trust Fund work for people experiencing homelessness.

Assisting Veterans Experiencing Homelessness through VA or non-VA Programs

The national goal to end Veteran homelessness by 2015 encompasses all Veterans: individual Veterans and Veterans in families with children; Veterans who are experiencing chronic homelessness and those who have experienced homelessness only a short time; Veterans with every type of discharge, including Reserve and members of the Guard following discharge from periods of active duty; and those Veterans who are not eligible for VA benefits and services.

Depending on the Veteran’s eligibility, needs, and interest, permanent housing and accompanying supportive services may be funded by VA’s homeless assistance programs, the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) homeless assistance programs, other Federal, state, community, or private programs.

The Quick Guide provides homelessness assistance organizations, shelter providers, and other community partners with a simple framework to help guide decisions regarding which set of programs may be the best fit, based on a quick assessment of their military service record.

The Supportive Housing Opportunities Planner (SHOP) Tool: Setting a Path to End Chronic Homelessness Locally

The Obama Administration is committed to ending chronic homelessness nationally in 2017. Achieving this goal nationally is only possible if we achieve it locally. To do so, communities across the country must have enough available permanent supportive housing units to serve people currently experiencing chronic homelessness and to prevent people with disabling conditions from becoming chronically homeless in the future. 

To help communities set a path to end chronic homelessness locally, USICH recently released the Supportive Housing Opportunities Planner (SHOP) Tool. The SHOP Tool helps communities identify the specific set of strategies, such as increasing the prioritization of existing turnover units and creating new supportive housing, needed to achieve the goal in 2017 or earlier. Specifically, the tool allows communities to set different targets for prioritization and creation of new permanent supportive housing units for people experiencing chronic homelessness, and assess the impact of those targets on the projected number of people experiencing chronic homelessness each year until 2017. 

To support the use of the tool, USICH hosted a webinar on Tuesday, May 26, 2015. The USICH team was joined by community presenters who discussed their plans for implementing the SHOP Tool to determine the right strategies for increasing permanent supportive housing availability locally.

Richard Cho, USICH
Lindsay Knotts, USICH
Marcy Thompson, HUD
Eric Gammons, Catholic Services of Acadiana in Louisiana
Manny Sarria, Miami-Dade County Homeless Trust

The Early Childhood Self-Assessment Tool for Shelters: Success in Practice

The Early Childhood Self-Assessment Tool for Family Shelters, developed by the Administration for Children and Families at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), is intended to help shelter staff ensure their facilities are safe and appropriate for the development of young children. Family shelters provide essential services to the entire family - including infants, toddlers, and preschoolers during a difficult time in their lives. As you work to connect families to permanent housing, you can ensure that your shelter environment assists the physical, socio-emotional, nutritional, and intellectual development of children ages 0-5 to support these children through their experience of homelessness. Creating a safe, developmentally appropriate environment will assure that the infants, toddlers, and preschoolers in your shelter have the best possible start to a bright future as they exit homelessness into permanent housing.

To support the use of the tool, USICH hosted a webinar -- The Early Childhood Assessment Tool for Shelters: Success in Practice -- on Thursday, May 21, 2015. In addition to leaders from HHS and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, community presenters from housing and early childhood highlighted their experiences with joint implementation of the assessment tool and the benefits it has yielded for their shelters in support of the overall goal of ending homelessness among families.

Jasmine Hayes, Policy Director, USICH
Norman Suchar, Director, Special Needs Assistance Programs, HUD
Ebony Rankin, Special Needs Assistance Specialist, HUD
Marsha Basloe, Senior Advisor for Early Childhood Development, ACF, HHS
Shannon Rudisill, Associate Deputy Assistant Secretary for Early Childhood, ACF, HHS
Grace Whitney, CT Head Start Collaboration Office Director
Susan Compton Agamy, Executive Director, Spooner House
Jamie Peterson, Director of Child & Family Development, TEAM Early Education

Ending Chronic Homelessness in 2017

The President’s FY 2016 Budget request includes an increase of $265 million in HUD’s Homeless Assistance Grants. If funded by Congress, this would help to create the supportive housing necessary to achieve an end to chronic homelessness in 2017. Doing so will not only save and improve quality of lives, it will also save money. Ending chronic homelessness could reduce avoidable public costs such as avoidable emergency department visits, jail, and shelter costs.

View the fact sheet to see how the increase in funding will help end chronic homelessness in 2017.

CoC Resources: Helping Communities Prepare for the 2015 CoC Competition

On Tuesday, April 28, HUD released the FY 2015 CoC Program Registration Notice. The registration notice provides communities with the information needed to register and prepare for the upcoming competition and includes information on the registration process, HUD’s policy priorities, and considerations for CoC Program implementation. Through the competition, CoCs will be evaluated based on their ability to demonstrate that they are advancing both HUD’s Strategic Plan goals as well as the goals and objectives of Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness. Registration for the CoC competition closed on Monday, May 18.

How to Use the CoC Resources

In the registration notice, HUD outlines six policy and program priorities: 1) strategic resource allocation, 2) ending chronic homelessness, 3) ending family homelessness, 4) ending youth homelessness, 5) ending Veteran homelessness, and 6) using a Housing First approach. USICH’s CoC Resources provides messages, documents, and tools to assist communities in planning and implementation as it relates to each priority area. 

1) Strategic Resource Allocation 

Below are resources that will help CoCs make strategic decisions about how best to use all available resources to end homelessness within their community: 

2) Ending Chronic Homelessness

These resources will help CoCs determine the right set of strategies for ending chronic homelessness in 2017: 

3) Ending Family Homelessness

Below are resources that will assist CoCs with developing systems for ending homelessness among families and their children in 2020:

  • Family Connection: Building Systems to End Family Homelessness is a resource designed to help communities and stakeholders build and implement an effective housing crisis response system for families. The document outlines the Federal vision of an end to homelessness among families and identifies key areas of action needed to reach that vision.
  • The Core Components of Rapid Re-Housing helps communities design and implement rapid re-housing programs that are equipped to provide housing identification services, rent and move-in assistance, and case management and services. 

4) Ending Youth Homelessness

These resources will help CoCs develop systems that take into account the unique strengths and needs of youth experiencing homelessness in order to end youth homelessness in 2020:

  • Framework to End Youth Homelessness calls on agencies and systems at all levels to work together to get to better youth outcomes in stable housing, permanent connections, education and employment, and well-being. To reach these outcomes, the framework outlines a two-pronged approach: improving data quality and collection on youth experiencing homelessness and building capacity for service delivery.
  • Preliminary Intervention Model webinar provides an overview of the Framework to End Youth Homelessness’ Preliminary Intervention Model, which is designed to help communities identify the systems and capacity necessary to meet the needs of all youth experiencing homelessness. 

5) Ending Veteran Homelessness

Ending Veteran homelessness is within reach for many communities. Below are resources that will help communities achieve an end to Veteran homelessness in 2015:

  • 10 Strategies to End Veteran Homelessness is a tool developed to help communities increase leadership, collaboration, and coordination among programs serving Veterans experiencing homelessness, and promoting rapid access to permanent housing for all Veterans.
  • Guide to Identifying and Referring Veterans Experiencing Homelessness is a guide that provides useful information for homeless service organizations, shelter providers, and other community partners on how to connect Veterans experiencing or at-risk of homelessness to appropriate housing and services. 

6) Using a Housing First Approach

Below are tools that will help communities implement a Housing First approach in each program and system-wide:

Keynote address by HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell to the National Health Care for the Homeless Council Conference

Secretary Burwell serves as Vice Chair of USICH and delivered these remarks on May 7, 2015 to the National Health Care for the Homeless Council Conference in Washington, DC.

Remarks are presented below, as prepared for delivery. 


Thank you, John [Lozier].

I know many of you have worked with Richard Frank, our Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation here at the Department, and we’re glad to have him. When Richard told me more about the work of this Council, he said, and I quote, “To put it simply, they are doing God’s work.”

And it’s hard to disagree.

I’ve always believed the Biblical proverb that our compassion and generosity for the least of us—the sick, the hungry, the stranger and the imprisoned—is felt by God himself.

This idea of service is at the heart of our American values as well. As President Johnson said: “There is [a] tradition that we share today. It calls upon us never to be indifferent toward despair. It commands us never to turn away from helplessness. It directs us never to ignore or to spurn those who suffer untended in a land that is bursting with abundance.”

During my time at the Gates Foundation, I had the opportunity to get involved in this work.

While many people know the state of Washington for its innovation, fewer might know that across the state, 20,000 people are homeless on any given night. In partnership with Bill Gates Sr., we led the Foundation’s Pacific NW Giving Initiative – which to this day focuses on creating opportunities for families across the state, with homelessness as one of its focus areas. Together, we visited with homeless men, we met women and their children on the brink of losing their homes, and we learned firsthand the impact we can have working together across the public and private sectors.

The important work that you do every day serves hundreds of thousands of men, women and children all over this nation, including over 20,000 veterans.

You give people a second—and sometimes third and fourth—chance at life. You give people a path forward. You give them dignity.

The Affordable Care Act and Homelessness

You’ve also been important partners in our Affordable Care Act efforts. I want to thank all of you for your support, from advocating for reform to supporting implementation and enrollment efforts.

Thanks to your work, the Affordable Care Act has given us important resources to serve those experiencing homelessness.

It supported and extended the community health center program with $11 billion for expanded operational capacity, renovation of existing facilities, and construction of new centers. These resources are crucial for this community, and we're pleased that the SGR fix that just passed included another $7.2 billion over the next two years to further support this critical program.

The Affordable Care Act has also increased access to needed behavioral health services. Among those experiencing chronic homelessness, 75 percent or more are estimated to have serious mental illnesses, substance use disorders, or both. Before the law was passed, people struggling with these problems often couldn’t get treatment. Now those treatments are essential benefits and are required for Medicaid and plans bought on the Marketplace. With this support, more people have been able to find and maintain stable housing and stay out of the justice system.

Medicaid Expansion

Another way we’re working to strengthen communities is through the Medicaid expansion, which has a big impact on this population. Not only has expansion helped connect homeless patients to life-saving treatments and care, we learned from a report by this Council and the Kaiser Foundation that it’s helping improve their lives in other ways as well. When individuals can manage their health, they have a better ability to work and maintain stable housing.

We know there are impacts for the community at large.

Medicaid expansion can lower health care costs and boost state economies, freeing up resources to help them better serve the people of their states. A Deloitte study on Kentucky’s expansion, for example, found that hospitals saved $1.15 billion in uncompensated care charges. Overall, expanding Medicaid will have a positive cumulative impact of more than $30 billion on the Bluegrass State economy through Fiscal Year 2021.

That’s why it remains one of our top priorities.

So far, 28 states and D.C. have decided to expand. We’ve worked closely with governors of both parties to get that far, and will continue to do so. We believe it can make a big difference for this community and we are committed to finding a solution that works for every state.

Permanent Supportive Housing

Of course access to care is only one piece of the puzzle. It’s difficult for individuals or providers to consistently address basic health needs if that person doesn’t know where they will sleep on any given night.

With permanent supportive housing, people struggling with housing insecurity have one less threat to their health and well-being. And the evidence shows that permanent supportive housing not only serves individuals in need but can also lower costs – reducing avoidable hospitalizations and institutional care, for example.

At HHS, we’re working to make sure our services incorporate this need. We’re focused on how Medicaid can best support this population by helping manage chronic conditions and other challenges. That’s because we know that when people get quality health care through Medicaid, permanent supportive housing has a better chance of success – and the community benefits as a result.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, or SAMHSA, supports behavioral health services that lead to more stability. Connecting people to the mental illness or substance use treatments they need is another key factor in making permanent supportive housing solutions work.  

At the same time, we are working across the federal government, and in close coordination with the Department of Housing and Urban Development, to support the essential health components of a system that addresses the full array of needs.

We are always looking for ways to improve and better serve this community – and we want to learn from you. We know that many of the Health Care for the Homeless grantees are innovators and are building holistic programs aimed at supporting housing stability and better health.

For example, Central City Concern in Portland, Oregon, runs a permanent supportive housing program, provides medical care, and offers employment services. And the Denver Stout Street Clinic and Colorado Coalition for the Homeless provide integrated primary and behavioral health care, dental services, substance treatment services, and permanent supportive housing. Thanks to the Medicaid expansion, these clinics were able to get more people the services they need. This kind of work doesn’t just improve the health of our struggling neighbors; it helps them get back on their feet and ultimately strengthens our entire community.  

U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness

Homelessness is a complex issue, but one that we know how to solve. Together, with our colleagues across the federal government, and with the leadership of President Obama, we’re committed to finding meaningful solutions.

By coordinating the different kinds of support that people and communities need—like integrating health care with housing—we’ll be able to take a step closer to ending homelessness. We’re specifically focused on veterans, families and children, and putting an end… finally… to chronic homelessness.

Our goal is ambitious, but so are we.

And we’ve already made some great headway, especially with regards to veterans. This past January, New Orleans became the first major American city to end veterans’ homelessness entirely. Several other major cities, including Salt Lake City and Phoenix, have ended chronic homelessness among veterans. The overall number of veterans experiencing homelessness has declined by 33 percent—nearly 25,000 veterans—since 2010, and we are on a path to reach our goal by the end of this year.    

I am grateful to Secretary Perez for all that he has accomplished in his role as Chair of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homeless, and I am pleased to say that in 2016, I will be taking over as the Chair.

This issue is important to me, and I am excited to build on the progress that we’ve made together.

My commitment to you all is to keep this conversation alive. You are the experts and we want to hear from you on how we can keep our progress going.


We truly live in a land of abundance. It is a blessing and a responsibility. A responsibility to care for those among us who are struggling, who have fallen through the cracks of our workforce and our social systems.

This isn’t charity and it isn’t kindness. It is the work we do to live up to our own values, to be the kinds of people we hope we are. It is our honor to serve.

Thank you. 

A Quick Guide to Improving Medicaid Coverage for Supportive Housing Services

May 2015

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE) has published two reports on using Medicaid in supportive housing: Primer on Using Medicaid for People Experiencing Chronic Homelessness and Tenants in Permanent Supportive Housing, and Medicaid and Permanent Supportive Housing for Chronically Homeless Individuals: Emerging Practices from the Field. This Quick Guide is designed to provide a brief overview of information in these reports and other resources to help states, community health centers, behavioral health clinics, and supportive housing providers use Medicaid more strategically to serve people who are highly vulnerable and who need supportive housing.

This guide was created in collaboration with Corporation for Supportive Housing and USICH.

Medicaid and Permanent Supportive Housing: A Quick Guide for Health Centers


To promote the state-level opportunities to further develop permanent supportive housing (PSH) models, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, through the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, recently published two documents that provide an in-depth analysis of the strategies for using Medicaid to provide the services needed for a vulnerable population: A Primer on Using Medicaid for People Experiencing Chronic Homelessness and Tenants in Permanent Supportive Housing; and Medicaid and Permanent Supportive Housing for Chronically Homeless Individuals: Emerging Practices from the Field. Together, this pair of reports covers a wide range of information related to chronic homelessness, the services need to support this population in PSH, the Medicaid authorities, and options available to states to support these services, and payment mechanisms and delivery structures that further enhance PSH for providers and patients alike.

This guide for health centers is intended to briefly outline the elements contained in the primer so that health centers serving individuals experiencing homelessness may better understand the current opportunities for promoting this model of care.

Financing Supportive Housing Services: Maximizing Medicaid Options and Promoting Practices in the Field

This webinar was recorded on April 29, 2015.

Medicaid is a flexible program and states have numerous options for expanding benefit packages beyond the minimum required by law. New priorities to place the most vulnerable homeless clients in permanent supportive housing (PSH) bring a renewed focus to using Medicaid services, which can be tailored to meet specific needs, to cover PSH services. Intended to complement a new primer and emerging field practices on Medicaid and PSH from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, experts on this panel workshop will explain the options available, illustrate how to use Medicaid to cover integrated primary care, behavioral health and supportive housing services, and highlight lessons learned from states and communities that are using such options to cover services for PSH clients. This web-session will highlight the state-level options available and cutting-edge techniques being used to make the most of Medicaid opportunities!

Carol Wilkins, Consultant, Abt Associates
Brenda Goldstein, Psychosocial Services Director, LifeLong Medical Care, Berkeley, CA
Karen Batia, Principal, Health Management Associates; Chief Excellence and Innovations Officer, Aunt Martha's, Chicago, IL
Christy Respress, Executive Director, Pathways to Housing DC, Washington, DC
Peggy Bailey, Director of Health Systems Integration, CSH

Barbara DiPietro, Senior Director of Policy, National Health Care for the Homeless Council

Veterans Experiencing Homelessness a ‘stain on our nation’

By Michelle Obama and Jill Biden

Right now, in communities across our nation, there are men and women who wore our country's uniform who don't have a place to call home. Some fought in wars as far back as Vietnam or Korea, and some served more recently in Iraq and Afghanistan. These brave Americans risked their lives for us and our freedom - yet, tonight, they won't even have a roof over their heads.

To be clear, the vast majority of our veterans return home in good health and good spirits. They go on to build strong families and have successful careers. But we can all agree that even a single homeless veteran is one too many, and when we have tens of thousands of veterans who don't even have somewhere to go when it rains - that's a stain on our nation.

Everyone who has served America deserves a home in America. And while we know that we'll never be able to prevent every single housing crisis for our veterans, we also know that if we set up the right systems in our communities and devote enough resources, we can get our veterans and their families back into housing quickly - and permanently.

Read the complete Op-Ed here.

April 2015 Council Meeting: Ending Veteran Homelessness, Addressing Families’ Service needs through Mainstream Programs

On April 14, U.S. Department of Labor and USICH Chair Secretary Thomas Perez convened the members of the Council for a special quarterly meeting at the White House. White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, along with other senior Administration officials, joined the meeting to discuss the Council’s efforts to achieve an end to homelessness in America. Mr. McDonough reflected on his participation in the San Francisco Point-in-Time (PIT) Count, “There are a lot of things I’ll remember from serving in this Administration, but participating in the count is one I’ll always attach a great amount of importance to; we should not tolerate homelessness in this country.” His participation on the PIT Count earlier this year, and his participation at the meeting demonstrates the Administration’s full commitment to ending homelessness among Veterans and for all Americans. “This is a hard, but not impossible, problem we can solve, proof point in the work you’re doing,” Mr. McDonough later said to the Council.

Following this conversation with Mr. McDonough, Secretary Perez announced the selection of Matthew Doherty as the permanent Executive Director of USICH, noting USICH’s critical role “giving us the platform to break down silos, put our resources together to provide vulnerable people with the help they need to exit homelessness and hold ourselves accountable to keeping this issue on the front burner.” 

In his first act as Executive Director, Matthew presented to the Council current progress on the implementation of Opening Doors. “Council agencies have made steady progress with implementation,” Matthew observed, “But as we approach the timelines for achieving our goals, we must accelerate efforts and achieve greater progress on all of the plan’s objectives.” Matthew called on agencies to redouble efforts to end youth homelessness in particular, and noted that accelerating efforts to end youth homelessness will be at the top of the Council’s priorities over the next several months.

Matthew then presented on the proposed actions identified by Council agencies to support communities in their implementation of coordinated entry systems that can streamline access to housing and services, as well as ensure that people are provided with models and assistance tailored to their needs and strengths.

Noting the role that coordinated entry systems can also play in facilitating connections between mainstream resources and homeless assistance programs, Matthew then turned to Richard Cho, USICH’s Senior Policy Director, to present to the Council on ways that Federal agencies can leverage mainstream resources to end homelessness, for all populations, but particularly for families with children.

Mainstream Resources

One of the most important ways to meet the goals of Opening Doors is to fully leverage mainstream resources to contribute to the efforts to end homelessness.

“While we are working to secure the requested investments in the President’s FY 2016 Budget for targeted homelessness programs, we know we can make even bigger impacts on our goals by ensuring that all of the Federal mainstream programs that can serve people experiencing homelessness are serving people experiencing homelessness,” Richard stated.

Richard shared the progress made by the Council thus far in leveraging mainstream programs and resources like Housing Choice Vouchers, Medicaid, workforce systems, and Supplemental Security Income and Disability Benefits for people experiencing homelessness. “We’ve seen a 64% increase in the last two years on the number of households experiencing homelessness who receive Housing Choice Vouchers. And last fall, HHS released guidance clarifying how states can use Medicaid to cover services for people in permanent supportive housing.” He also mentioned the summit convened by the Department of Labor that highlighted best examples of collaborations between workforce systems and homeless services and housing providers, and the forthcoming guidance from the Social Security Administration, HHS, VA, and USICH on key strategies for connecting people experiencing homelessness to SSI/SSDI benefits.

Richard discussed opportunities to leverage mainstream systems to address the multi-faceted service needs of families experiencing homelessness. “We have identified at least 18 Federal mainstream programs that families experiencing homelessness are eligible for. The challenge before us is how to not only leverage these programs to better meet the needs of families experiencing homelessness, but also how we can package these resources and services together and with housing,” he concluded.

Mark Greenberg, Acting Assistant Secretary, Administration for Children & Families, Department of Health and Human Services, then shared current efforts by HHS to encourage TANF and early childhood programs to prioritize assistance to children and families experiencing homelessness. He remarked, "Last year, for example, HHS released the Early Childhood Self-Assessment Tool for Family Shelters to help staff create shelter environments that are safe for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers. We also released a resource paper to highlight efforts by Head Start and Early Head Start programs to work with public housing associations, emergency shelter providers, local education agencies, and other community service providers."

He echoed Richard’s call for better coordination between services for families. "Connecting families with benefits and services can be an important part of a strategy to help them enter stable employment, raise earnings or income, and receive needed services," Mr. Greenberg stated.

At his first meeting as Executive Director, Matthew Doherty commented on the work being done, “I firmly believe that we’ll one day be able to read the history of how the United States ended homelessness, and I firmly believe that we have a unique and unprecedented opportunity to achieve that right now. I look forward to continuing to work with you all as we make, and write, that history together.”

Matthew Doherty Named Executive Director of U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness

Washington – U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez announced today that Matthew Doherty has been named Executive Director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH).

“With over 22 years of experience working to prevent and end homelessness with local communities across the country and across a wide variety of sectors, Matthew brings a unique background to the position that will serve USICH, the Council, and all people experiencing homelessness well,” said Secretary Perez, who serves as the Chair of the Council. “His ability to ensure the efforts happening at the Federal level are supporting progress in the field will enable us to continue to make strong gains as we strive to provide everyone with a safe, stable place to call home.”               

Mr. Doherty was unanimously appointed to the role permanently during the April 14th Council meeting and had been serving as the interim Executive Director since Laura Green Zeilinger stepped down from the role in January of this year. Mr. Doherty joined USICH in 2012, previously serving as the agency’s Director of National Initiatives.

“I’ve had the opportunity to see firsthand the passion, knowledge and dedication Matthew brings to his work at USICH,” said U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro. “I’m confident that under Matthew’s stewardship, USICH will continue its track record of strong leadership and bring our nation closer to the goal of ending homelessness.”

As the Executive Director of USICH, Mr. Doherty is responsible for the implementation of Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness, an effort that includes the coordination of Federal homelessness policies and strategies among 19 Federal departments and agencies, as well as partnerships with state and local communities, non-profits, and the private sector. Under his leadership, USICH provides technical assistance and support to communities across the country, building systems of care that ensure individuals, families, youth, and Veterans are able to obtain or regain permanent housing as quickly as possible and access services to remain stably housed.

“It is truly an honor to have this opportunity to carry forward the work of my predecessors and to work with the fantastic team of staff we have at USICH, both the team working here in DC and our Regional Coordinators working out in the field,” said Mr. Doherty. “USICH’s work is successful because of our strong partnerships with other Federal agencies and their incredibly committed leaders and staff, and because of the collaborative efforts of dedicated people working in states and local communities.”

Mr. Doherty brings to his role more than 22 years of experience in both the private and public sectors, focused on the creation of housing, services programs, and economic opportunities for disadvantaged communities and households. Prior to joining USICH, Matthew worked as a consultant and also held positions at the Corporation for Supportive Housing, the San Diego Housing Commission, and the King County Housing Authority in Washington State. Matthew has a Bachelor of Arts degree from Oberlin College and a Master of Public Administration degree from the University of Washington. He and his husband Dean will be relocating to Washington D.C. from San Diego, California.


U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Announces New Grants to Help End Veteran Homelessness

Initiative Targets 45,000 Homeless and At-Risk Vets and Families in High Need Communities

Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert A. McDonald today announced the award of nearly $93 million in Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) 3-year grants that will help approximately 45,000 homeless and at-risk Veterans and their families. The grants will be distributed to 24 non-profit agencies in 15 communities, with $30 million in awards being distributed to the Los Angeles area.

“The Department of Veterans Affairs is committed to using evidence-based approaches such as SSVF to prevent homelessness and produce successful outcomes for Veterans and their families,” said Secretary McDonald. “This is a program that works, because it allows VA staff and local homeless service providers to work together to effectively address the unique challenges that make it difficult for some Veterans and their families to remain stably housed.”

Under the SSVF program, VA is awarding grants to private, non-profit organizations and consumer cooperatives that provide services to very low-income Veteran families living in – or transitioning to – permanent housing. The grants announced today will provide additional resources to the fourth year operations of the SSVF program.

“With the addition of these crucial resources, communities across the country continue an historic drive to prevent and end homelessness among Veterans,” said Matthew Doherty, Acting Executive Director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness. “The SSVF program gives Veterans and their families the rapid assistance they need to remain in permanent housing or get back into permanent housing as quickly as possible.”

Through the homeless Veterans initiative, VA committed more than $1 billion in FY 2014 to strengthen programs that prevent and end homelessness among Veterans. VA provides a range of services to homeless Veterans, including health care, housing, job training and education.

More information about VA’s homeless programs is available at Details about the SSVF program are online at

See the release on VA's website.

Supportive Housing Opportunities Planner (SHOP) Tool

The Obama Administration is committed to achieving the goal of ending chronic homelessness nationally in 2017. Achieving this goal nationally is only possible if we achieve it locally. To achieve the goal locally, communities must have enough available permanent supportive housing units to serve people currently experiencing chronic homelessness and to prevent people with disabling conditions from becoming chronically homeless in the future.

A critical first step to ending chronic homelessness is to determine what specific combination of strategies are needed to increase the availability of permanent supportive housing locally, which depends on the local supply and availability of supportive housing. Some communities with a large supply of permanent supportive housing can make significant progress towards the goal just by improving the targeting of existing units. Most communities will also need to create new supportive housing through both targeted grants and mainstream resources.

To help communities to set a path to end chronic homelessness locally, USICH is releasing the Supportive Housing Opportunities Planner (SHOP) Tool. The SHOP Tool helps communities identify the specific set of strategies, such as increasing the prioritization of existing turnover units and creating new supportive housing, needed to achieve the goal in 2017 or earlier. Specifically, the tool allows communities to set different targets for prioritization and creation of new permanent supportive housing units for people experiencing chronic homelessness, and assess the impact of those targets on the projected number of people experiencing chronic homelessness each year until 2017.  

Download the SHOP Tool Instructions

Download the SHOP Tool

View the SHOP Tool Webinar recording

Update 4/10/2015: A correction has been made to the SHOP tool. The previously posted version had incorrect default values for statewide total permanent supportive housing (PSH) units dedicated to chronic homelessness. This only affected the PSH inventory (in field C of the input section) when looking at numbers for entire states, not individual Continuums of Care or Balances of State. A correction has been made to the posted version online.

Approaching Homelessness from a Human Rights Perspective

Remarks delivered by Liz Osborn, USICH Management and Program Analyst, at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s consultation on human rights.

Approaching homelessness from a perspective that promotes, protects, and respects human rights has been a focus of USICH since at least the release of Opening Doors, the Federal Plan to End Homelessness in 2010. Reflecting this perspective, the Plan includes a strategy to reduce the criminalization of homelessness by defining constructive approaches to address street homelessness and considering incentives to urge cities to adopt these practices.

With that strategy in mind, and working in partnership with the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty (NLCHP), USICH convened a conversation with DOJ and HUD that resulted in the release of Searching Out Solutions, a document that lays out constructive alternatives to criminalization.

In July 2013, we partnered again with the National Law Center to solicit feedback from the 19 agencies that make up our Council on what we are currently doing to support alternatives to criminalization and identify additional opportunities. We reported what we learned to the State Department, where it informed their response to the UN on the ICCPR (International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights), which took place last March in Geneva. NLCHP served as a trusted partner in the process, helping to orient us to the work of the State Department and the role we could play.

Finally, starting in December 2013, and running through January 2014, to share this information with a broader audience, we released a newsletter and blog series to explore human rights as they are related to housing. We continue to foster the dialogue through webinars, peer-to-peer calls, and in our daily communications with partners at the federal, state, and local levels.

There are many benefits to focusing on housing from a perspective that promotes human rights:

  1. Helps motivate our work on permanent supportive housing as the primary solution to homelessness, rather than on services to people while they remain homeless.
  2. Highlights that the need for respect and individual attention are essential. The strategies we employ depend on understanding the unique needs of individuals and families and listening to the voices of people experiencing homelessness. Approaching the challenges in this manner helps keep those voices at the forefront of our work.
  3. Drives a sense of urgency by keeping us aware of the human cost of homelessness and challenges us to act with urgency.
  4. Creates more depth to our argument by moving beyond the financial incentive to ending homelessness and allows us to tap into our passions, relationships, and experiences working with people.
  5. Broadens our reach. Ending homelessness cuts across all sectors of society, so we need multiple approaches to reach as many people as possible. Promoting human rights opens us up to new audiences and new tactics, and therefor new partners and solutions.

It is not without challenges, but I would strongly advocate that challenges are not a reason to not move forward in this manner. First and foremost is the challenge that there is not always concurrence among partners about what a perspective that promotes human rights means. For example, dialogue in the international community around human rights can have specific, legal implications that are important to be aware of.

I would conclude by saying this has been a very positive experience for USICH. I have heard that Opening Doors has been received very well at State’s international engagements. For example, at the civil society consultation, one questioner led off with a comment that they appreciate our work in the area of criminalization. Also, our blog and newsletter series are some of the most popular and well-read posts on our website.

Thank you for your time, I am happy to speak further on the topic with anyone who is interested.

Identifying & Referring Veterans Experiencing Homelessness

The Obama Administration is committed to achieving an end to homelessness among Veterans, and connecting Veterans experiencing or at-risk of homelessness to housing and services to help them obtain permanent housing. Achieving this goal requires an all-of-community response in which VA Medical Centers, homeless services organizations/Continuums of Care, health care providers, law enforcement, and other community-based organizations work together to identify Veterans experiencing or at-risk of homelessness and refer them to assistance that can help them obtain permanent housing.  

This guide provides useful information for homeless services organizations, shelter providers, and other community partners on how to connect Veterans experiencing or at-risk of homelessness to appropriate housing and services. Specifically, this document serves to provide guidance on how to:

  • Identify Veteran status among people experiencing homelessness.
  • Assess whether a Veteran is experiencing or at-risk of homelessness.
  • Identify what type of assistance is needed by a Veteran experiencing homelessness.
  • Refer Veterans for homelessness assistance.

Identifying Veteran Status

The Administration is committed to ending homelessness for all Veterans, regardless of their discharge status.  This includes all persons who served on active duty in the armed forces, regardless of the type of discharge they received.  Communities can identify whether someone is a Veteran by asking two basic questions:

  • Has the individual ever served in the military?
  • Has the individual ever accessed or used VA services (not limited to homeless programs)?

However, Veterans with certain discharge status types may qualify for special VA programs and services.  Once a person is identified as a Veteran, communities can work with VA staff to ascertain the person’s discharge status and eligibility for VA programs and services.  See ‘How to Refer Veterans to Homeless Assistance’ below for information on how to connect to VA staff.

Assessing Housing Status/Homelessness

The definition of homelessness includes anyone that has a residence not ordinarily used as a regular sleeping accommodation or their residence is a shelter designated to provide a temporary living arrangement. The following questions can be used in an initial screening to assess whether a Veteran is in need of homelessness assistance:

  • In the past two months, has the individual been living in stable housing that they own, rent, or stay in as part of a household?
  • Is the individual worried or concerned that in two months they may NOT have stable housing that they can own, rent, or stay in as part of a household?
  • Where has the individual lived for MOST of the past two months?
  • Would the individual like to be referred to talk more about their housing situation?

Types of Assistance Available to Veterans

A wide array of services and programs are available to help Veterans resolve their homelessness and achieve housing stability, improved health, and achieve economic success. These programs provide different types of assistance tailored to the varying needs of Veterans. While VA staff and community-based services organizations are best suited to help determine what types of help is most appropriate, it is helpful to have a basic knowledge of what types of help are available. The following programs represent just a subset of the programs available to Veterans experiencing or at-risk of homelessness:

The Housing and Urban Development-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) HUD-VASH is a collaborative program between HUD and VA where eligible homeless Veterans receive a Housing Choice rental voucher from HUD, paired with VA providing case management and supportive services to sustain housing stability and recovery from physical and mental health problems, substance use disorders, and functional concerns contributing to or resulting from homelessness.  HUD-VASH subscribes to the principles of the Housing First model of care.  Program goals include housing stability while promoting maximum Veteran recovery and independence in the community for the Veteran and the Veteran’s family.  

Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) The SSVF program provides time-limited financial assistance and case management services to help homeless Veterans and their families rapidly return to housing or helps them stay in their homes if they are at imminent risk of becoming homeless.  The program is funded by and overseen by VA and operated by community-based, nonprofit organizations.

Grant and Per Diem Program (GDP) VA’s GPD provides short-term or transitional housing to Veterans experiencing homelessness.  During their stay, Veterans are provided with services related to substance use disorders, life skills, and/or employment in preparation for independent living.

Health Care for Homeless Veterans (HCHV) Program VA provides a myriad of housing and other services to assist Veterans experiencing homelessness to access treatment and rehabilitative services, including community based residential treatment. HCHV services include outreach, assessment and treatment, referrals, and case management to homeless Veterans at more than 135 sites.

Continuum of Care (CoC) Program A wide array of homelessness assistance is funded by HUD’s Continuum of Care Program. HUD grants funds to local collaborations of nonprofit providers and State and local governments to provide permanent supportive housing, rapid re-housing, transitional housing, and other services to individuals and families experiencing homelessness, including Veterans.  These programs are able to serve Veterans who do not qualify for VA’s programs and services.  

How to Refer Veterans to Homeless Assistance

If a Veteran in your community is experiencing or at-risk of homelessness there are a variety of ways to refer them to help. The three best starting points are the following:

Role of Long-Term, Congregate Transitional Housing in Ending Homelessness

The National Alliance to End Homelessness and U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness worked with federal partners at VA, HHS, HUD and the DOJ's Office of Violence Against Women to develop a consensus document on the role of long-term congregate transitional housing.

The Role of Long-Term, Congregate Transitional Housing in Ending Homelessness

Achieving the Federal goal of ending homelessness includes the use of evidence-based models and approaches like permanent supportive housing, using Housing First, and rapid re-housing, to help people quickly reconnect to permanent housing.  Some models of time-limited or transitional housing may also facilitate connecting people to permanent housing effectively and efficiently.[1]  Even models of transitional housing that are designed as long-term, congregate programs may also contribute to this goal, but only for certain high need populations or in limited situations.  This brief will only examine the role of the long-term, congregate transitional housing program model.  Subsequent briefs will examine the role of other models of transitional housing, including the use of longer-term transitional housing programs that are not based in congregate living facilities.

Target Long-Term Congregate Housing Programs to People with Severe or Specific Needs

Many communities still operate congregate transitional housing programs – defined as facility-based programs that offer housing and services for up to two years to individuals and families experiencing homelessness.  While many people who have traditionally been assisted in long-term congregate transitional housing may be served more efficiently in other program models, this model may be appropriate for some people, including: 

  • Certain individuals and heads of households struggling with a substance use disorder;
  • Individuals in early recovery from a substance use disorder who may desire more intensive support to achieve their recovery goals;[2]
  • Survivors of domestic violence or other forms of severe trauma who may require and prefer  the security and onsite services provided in a congregate setting to other available housing options; and
  • Unaccompanied and pregnant or parenting youth (age 16-24) who are unable to live independently (e.g. unemancipated minors) or who prefer a congregate setting with access to a broad array of wraparound services to other available housing options.

The majority of people experiencing homelessness do not require lengthy stays in transitional housing in order to successfully acquire and sustain permanent housing.  People whose primary barrier to housing stability is economic in nature do not require transitional housing, nor do people with serious mental illnesses who may be better served in other program models, such as permanent supportive housing.  Long-term stays in congregate transitional housing programs should therefore be reserved for those individuals with severe or specific needs who choose transitional housing over other services that would help them more quickly reconnect to permanent housing. Programs serving these populations should have as few barriers as possible to program entry (e.g. sobriety requirements) and to continuation in the program.

Use Congregate Transitional Housing Stock to Meet Emergency Housing Needs

Some households face severe barriers to identifying and securing permanent housing, which may lead to prolonged episodes of homelessness.  While these households may not need the specialized services of a long-term transitional housing program they may need shelter or other kinds of emergency housing for a potentially longer stay.  The facilities used in congregate transitional housing programs can provide that resource while those households receive housing location services to help them exit homelessness as quickly as possible.

Depending on the community, these populations may include: 

  • Individuals who are listed on a sex offender registry;
  • People re-entering the community after a stay in jail or prison; and
  • Large families. 


In summary, long-term, congregate transitional housing can be an effective resource to end homelessness when it is targeted to people who face more severe challenges to finding housing and when it is offered with as few barriers to program entry as possible.  Communities should also carefully assess the use of long-term congregate transitional housing in light of the needs of people experiencing homelessness within their community and available resources to assist them.


[1]This may include transitional housing programs that primarily function as short-term, crisis or “interim” housing, and those that utilize a scattered-site housing approach, such as using transitional housing funds to provide temporary rent subsidies and transition-in–place housing models.

[2] Many individuals with substance use disorders can achieve sobriety through outpatient support and do not require residential support. 

10 Strategies to End Veteran Homelessness

The goal to end Veteran homelessness is in reach and will require accelerated efforts from all partners to get the job done. To support communities as they progress towards the goal, USICH has identified 10 strategies that increase leadership, collaboration, and coordination among programs serving Veterans experiencing homelessness, and promote rapid access to permanent housing for all Veterans. Each strategy is accompanied by additional resources to help community leaders and stakeholders understand how to implement these strategies more effectively.

1) Start at the Top: Recruit Your Mayor to Join the Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness

Mayors and local leaders are essential to securing and aligning the resources and partners necessary to end Veteran homelessness in every community. If your Mayor, County Commissioner, or Governor has not yet joined the Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness, they should do so. Joining the Mayors Challenge is a great way to solidify partnerships and to promote coordination and ensure accountability across all partners. The Mayors Challenge also includes criteria for success in ending Veteran homelessness that can help define the vision and the goal for your community.


2) Identify All Veterans Experiencing Homelessness by Name

By identifying Veterans by name, a community is able to ensure that they are effectively and efficiently serving all Veterans needing housing and homelessness assistance.  A best practice has been to create a shared list of Veterans experiencing homelessness, created through data-sharing, assessment processes, and communication between the local VA Medical Center, the Continuum of Care, and other stakeholders. A VA Medical Center is able to share client-level information with CoC partners by asking the Veteran to sign a release of information (ROI) form that meets VA requirements. The community can then prioritize the list to match Veterans with the appropriate housing and services as quickly as possible.


3) Implement a Housing First System Orientation and Response

By using a Housing First approach, a community can ensure that Veterans experiencing homelessness can move into permanent housing, with the right level of services, as quickly as possible. Individual programs and projects can help accelerate entry to permanent housing by removing as many barriers as possible for accepting applicants regardless of their sobriety or use of substances, poor credit or financial history, or past involvement with criminal justice system.

In addition, to truly embrace Housing First, a community should create strong and direct referral linkages and relationships between the crisis response system and rapid re-housing and permanent supportive housing, implement a coordinated entry system for matching people experiencing homelessness to the most appropriate housing and services, and use a data-driven approach to prioritizing people with the most significant needs for housing assistance.


4) Set and Meet Ambitious Short-Term Housing Placement Goals

By setting concrete and ambitious short-term housing placement goals, your community can achieve bold outcomes around targeting Veterans experiencing homelessness and expediting entry to permanent housing. Many communities have established ambitious monthly, quarterly, or 100-day housing placement goals to break down the larger goal of ending Veteran homelessness into focused blocks of time and effort, while pushing their systems to perform with maximum efficiency and better outcomes. These goals can be met by creating and sharing a community-wide list of Veterans, using a tested and validated assessment tool and process to prioritize and target interventions, using navigators and/or guides to address individual Veterans’ needs and monitoring progress rooted in access to housing on a weekly or monthly basis.


5) Conduct Coordinated Outreach and Engagement Efforts

Communities experience the greatest successes in providing permanent housing to Veterans not by merely waiting for Veterans to show up for help, but by proactively seeking out Veterans in need of assistance, sharing information across outreach teams and sites, using a Housing First approach to focus on permanent housing connections, and collaborating with other systems, including law enforcement, prisons and jails, hospitals, libraries, and job centers.  Partnerships and collaborations between VA Medical Centers and Health Care for the Homeless (HCH) grantees and Projects for Assistance in Transition from Homelessness (PATH) grantees may have a powerful impact on improving care coordination and optimizing resources.

In addition, communities should develop a strategy for conducting ongoing counts of people experiencing homelessness – perhaps on a monthly basis – to identify new Veterans who are either in shelters or in places not meant for human habitation.


6) Implement Coordinated Entry Systems

In order to use the resources that are ending and preventing Veteran homelessness effectively, individual programs and resources need to work together as part of a coordinated entry system that matches individuals and households experiencing homelessness to appropriate housing and services, based on a common and shared assessment process performed consistently across partners. Your community should consider using housing navigators that are assigned to specific Veterans and can negotiate and expedite the entry process into housing by providing assistance with paperwork, identifications, appointments, and other critical steps to create a streamlined process for getting into housing.


7) Deploy HUD-VASH/SSVF Effectively

Achieving the goal requires the efficient deployment and full utilization of targeted programs like HUD-VASH and SSVF. Continuums of Care can partner with VA Medical Centers, HUD-VASH and SSVF providers to ensure participation in the community’s coordinated entry system, disseminate best practices, and remove barriers throughout the system so that when challenges related to the deployment of resources and performance of these programs do arise, strategies can be adjusted to increase the number of Veterans accessing permanent housing.

8) Improve Transitional Housing Performance and Consider Converting or Reallocating Resources into Permanent Supportive Housing      

Communities can reach the goal of ending and preventing Veteran homelessness faster by seeking to help Veterans currently residing in transitional housing move into permanent housing as quickly as possible. Transitional housing programs can help speed up exits to permanent housing by using permanent housing and housing stability outcomes as the key measures of success, eliminating or reducing entrance eligibility criteria, and reducing lengths of stay.

Every community should also use the VA gaps analysis tool to determine the inventory of resources needed locally to end Veteran homelessness, including the amount and types of transitional housing. If your community finds that it has a larger stock of transitional housing units than are needed to house Veterans, it may wish to convert those programs into other programs such as permanent supportive housing or modify the program model to serve another function such as bridge housing. Options vary by funding source and regulations.


9) Increasing Connections to Employment

As President Obama said in the 2015 State of the Union address, “If you want somebody who’s going to get the job done, hire a Veteran.” Communities should work with employers to commit to hiring Veterans, including Veterans who have experienced homelessness.

Communities should also collaborate with Workforce Investment Boards and provide seamless points of referrals and contacts between the Continuum of Care, VA Medical Center, and workforce systems. CoC and VA case managers are integral resources in building referral relationships with supportive service providers, public system and can help navigate employment services and ensure that a Veterans’ employment needs are met holistically. Some communities have utilized the Employment Navigator model, where a case management team helps families experiencing homelessness through homeless assistance and housing, workforce systems, and income supports.


10) Coordinate with Legal Services Organizations to Solve Legal Needs

One of the major reasons Veterans experience homelessness is due to unmet legal needs. Civil legal services attorneys are essential partners in removing barriers to housing and employment by solving civil legal problems such as preventing avoidable evictions, navigating outstanding warrants, expunging criminal records, and securing targeted and mainstream benefits. Legal Services attorneys should also engage in systemic advocacy (to the degree allowable by law) to promote Housing First practices among public housing authorities and housing assistance programs. Your community should ensure that homeless assistance programs coordinate with legal services organization to address individual and systemic legal needs.


HUD Reports Continued High Levels of “Worst Case Housing Needs”

7.7 million households paid more than half their income for rent or lived in substandard housing 

WASHINGTON –The number of very poor families struggling to pay their monthly rent and who may also be living in substandard housing declined between 2011 and 2013, but persist at high levels according to a new summary report released today by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).  HUD reports that in 2013, 7.7 million very low-income unassisted families paid more than half their monthly income for rent, lived in severely substandard housing, or both.

HUD’s Worst Case Housing Needs: 2015 Report to Congress is part of a long-term series of reports measuring the scale of critical housing problems facing very low-income un-assisted renters.  Based on data from HUD’s most recent American Housing Survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of these “Worst Case Housing Needs” declined from the previous record high in 2011 (7.7 million households) yet remain nearly 50 percent higher than in 2003.  HUD will issue a final report on these worst case needs this spring.

“This report demonstrates the profound difficulties felt by millions of households struggling to pay their rent,” said Castro.  “As our economy continues to improve, we need to ensure our budget provides opportunity for vulnerable families living on the margins and restores the harmful cuts to our rental assistance programs due to sequestration.”

Worst Case Housing Needs are defined as renters with very low incomes (below half the median in their area) who do not receive government housing assistance and who either paid more than half their monthly incomes for rent, lived in severely substandard conditions, or both.  HUD’s report finds that housing needs cut across all regions of the country and included all racial and ethnic groups, regardless of whether they lived in cities, suburbs or rural areas.  In addition, HUD concluded that large numbers of worst case needs were also found across various household types including families with children, senior citizens, and persons with disabilities.

HUD’s report found:

  • Worst case housing needs were 7.7 million in 2013, down from a historic high of 8.5 million in 2011. This represents a 9 percent decline since 2011 yet remains 9 percent greater than in 2009 and 49 percent greater than in 2003.
  • Worst case needs affect very low-income renters across racial and ethnic groups. The prevalence of worst case needs among such renters during 2013 was 44 percent for non-Hispanic Whites and Hispanics, 35 percent for non-Hispanic Blacks, and 42 percent for others. The rate decreased between 2011 and 2013 for non-Hispanic Whites, non-Hispanic Blacks, and Hispanics but not for others.
  • Worst case needs also affect all types of households. In 2013, 2.8 million families with children, 1.5 million elderly households without children, 2.7 million other “nonfamily” households (unrelated people sharing housing), and 0.7 million “other family” households experienced worst case needs.
  • The vast majority (97 percent) of Worst Case Housing Needs are caused by severe rent burden—paying more than half of income for rent. Inadequate housing caused only three percent of worst case needs.

Click here to read the full release, which includes graphs and links to the full report.

The President’s 2016 Budget: Fact Sheet on Homelessness Assistance

President Obama’s 2016 Budget demonstrates his deep commitment to ending homelessness. The Budget makes investments needed to end chronic homelessness in 2017, make significant progress toward ending homelessness among families, children and youth in 2020, and sustain efforts to end Veteran homelessness in 2015. In his Budget, the President calls for nearly $5.5 billion in targeted homelessness assistance. In addition to targeted homelessness assistance, the Budget also includes key investments in mainstream programs needed to end homelessness, such as 67,000 new Housing Choice Vouchers to support low-income households, including families experiencing homelessness; survivors of domestic and dating violence; families with children in foster care; youth aging out of foster care; and Veterans experiencing homelessness, regardless of their discharge status.

With the launch of Opening Doors in 2010, the President set ambitious goals to end homelessness across the Nation, and since then we have made significant progress. Overall homelessness is down 10 percent since 2010, including a 25 percent reduction in unsheltered homelessness. Family homelessness is down 15 percent.  Chronic homelessness is down 21 percent, and Veteran homelessness is down 33 percent nationwide. Our progress is the result of the hard work of community partners, unprecedented collaboration at all levels of government and across sectors, and a commitment by this Administration to invest in what works to end homelessness—evidence-based solutions like Housing First, permanent supportive housing, affordable housing, and rapid re-housing. 

The President’s 2016 Budget makes investments to end chronic homelessness in 2017 and to make significant progress in ending homelessness across all other populations

The President's 2016 Budget is designed to bring middle class economics into the 21st Century. This Budget shows what we can do if we invest in America's future and commit to an economy that rewards hard work, generates rising incomes, and allows everyone to share in the prosperity of a growing America. It lays out a strategy to strengthen our middle class and help America's hard-working families get ahead in a time of relentless economic and technological change. And it makes the critical investments needed to accelerate and sustain economic growth in the long run, including in research, education, training, and infrastructure.

The President’s 2016 Budget clearly demonstrates the high priority this Administration has for ending homelessness. In 2010, the President set ambitious goals to end homelessness across the Nation, and since then significant progress has been made. Major cities have hit important milestones toward the goals including New Orleans, Louisiana, which has ended veteran homelessness, and Salt Lake City, Utah and Phoenix, Arizona, which have ended chronic homelessness among veterans. Over 300 mayors, governors, and county executives have committed to ending veteran homelessness in their communities through the Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness. The overall number of veterans experiencing homelessness has declined by 33 percent—nearly 25,000 veterans—since 2010, and with continued focus from Federal, State, and local partners, we are on a path to end veteran homelessness by the end of 2015. The Budget continues to make investments to end chronic homelessness in 2017 and to make significant progress in ending homelessness across all other populations. In addition to targeted increases in HUD’s Homeless Assistance Grants, the Budget provides 67,000 new Housing Choice Vouchers to support low-income households, including families experiencing homelessness; survivors of domestic and dating violence; families with children in foster care; youth aging out of foster care; and homeless veterans, regardless of their discharge status.

As we welcome home a new generation of returning heroes, the Budget makes sure they have the chance to live the American Dream they helped defend. It invests in the five pillars outlined to support our Nation’s veterans: providing the resources and funding they deserve; ensuring high-quality and timely health care; getting veterans their earned benefits quickly and efficiently; ending veteran homelessness; and helping veterans and their families get good jobs, education, and access to affordable housing.

The Department of Homeland Security again proposes to transfer the Emergency Food and Shelter Program to HUD, reducing fragmentation and synchronizing efforts to reduce homelessness.



HUD-VASH Program to Expand into Native American Communities for the First Time

WASHINGTON – Today the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced that the HUD and U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) program that helps homeless veterans find permanent supportive housing will, for the first time, expand directly into Native American communities.  This support for veterans is provided through the HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) Program which combines rental assistance from HUD with case management and clinical services provided by VA.

The HUD-VASH program will now be opened to tribes so they may directly serve Native American veterans living on or near tribal lands. To expand the HUD-VASH program, $4 million will be invested specifically to support Native American veterans experiencing homelessness by providing them with secure housing and connecting them with clinical services and case management. This groundbreaking new effort will expand opportunity for approximately 650 veterans who are currently homeless or at risk of homelessness.

“Ensuring that our men and women who served in uniform receive the care and support they’ve earned is a national responsibility,” said HUD SecretaryJulián Castro.  “But for too long, fulfilling that responsibility to many Native American veterans has been borne by Indian Country alone. We’re changing that this year.”


Mayor Garcetti Announces LA is Half Way to Ending Veterans Homelessness Goal

City wins funding for over 1,300 supportive homes for chronically homeless people and veterans

Mayor Eric Garcetti today announced that 3,375 homeless veterans were housed in LA in 2014, meaning the City is more than halfway toward Mayor Garcetti’s goal of ending veterans’ homelessness in Los Angeles by the end of 2015.

“Veterans returning home often need—and deserve—more than hug and pat on the back, which is why I set a goal last year to end veterans homelessness here in LA, and as a Navy Reservist, this goal is very personal for me,” said Mayor Garcetti. “I'm very proud to announce that we are halfway to our goal.”

Last year, the Mayor pledged to end veterans’ homelessness by the end of 2015.  To do so, the Mayor has joined forces with the Home for Good initiative, a public and private partnership with over 100 members, led by the United Way of Greater Los Angeles and the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce.  In 2014, the City housed 3,375 homeless veterans.  The Mayor and Home for Good estimate that the City still has 3,154 homeless veterans.

Mayor Garcetti also announced new federal grant funding to further progress towards his goal. This week, the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles (HACLA) was awarded almost $13 million in new federal funds to provide housing for chronically veterans and chronically homeless people. The award from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) was a record allocation for Los Angeles and will provide funding for supportive housing for 747 chronically homeless individuals and families, including veterans in the City of Los Angeles.  In addition to the HUD award, last week HACLA set aside 600 additional vouchers to house homeless veterans.

“In the past week, the City has secured funding for 1,347 new permanent supportive homes for homeless veterans and chronically homeless individuals and families,” said Mayor Eric Garcetti.  “This is another important step in keeping us on pace for ensuring that every veteran in the City has a home by Christmas.”

Click here to read the full release.

Defining Homelessness and Chronic Homelessness


While eligibility for specific programs may vary, the definition of homelessness is from the “Final Rule on the Definition of Homeless” published by HUD in the Federal Register on December 5, 2011. While the HUD regulations maintain four categories for defining people who are homeless and eligible for certain homeless assistance programs, communities are encouraged to focus on identifying people who meet the definition contained in Category 1 of the homeless definition; those persons that are literally homeless and lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence, meaning:

1. An individual or family with a primary nighttime residence that is a public or private place not designed for or ordinarily used as a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings, including a car, park, abandoned building, bus or train station, airport, or camping ground;

2. An individual or family living in a supervised publicly or privately operated shelter designated to provide temporary living arrangements (including congregate shelters, transitional housing, and hotels and motels paid for by charitable organizations or by federal, state, or local government programs for low-income individuals); or

3. An individual who is exiting an institution where he or she resided for 90 days or less and who resided in an emergency shelter or place not meant for human habitation immediately before entering that institution.

Chronic Homelessness

It is critically important that communities ensure that their outreach and engagement efforts are reaching people who are experiencing chronic homelessness. The definition of “chronically homeless” is contained within the Continuum of Care Program Interim Rule at 24 CFR 578.3, which states that a chronically homeless person is:

1. An individual who:

  • Is homeless and lives in a place not meant for human habitation, a safe haven, or in an emergency shelter;
  • Has been homeless and living or residing in a place not meant for human habitation, a safe haven, or in an emergency shelter continuously for at least one year or on at least four separate occasions in the last three years;
  • Can be diagnosed with one or more of the following conditions: substance use disorder, serious mental illness, developmental disability (as defined in section 102 of the Developmental Disabilities Assistance Bill of Rights Act of 2000 (42 U.S.C. 15002)), post-traumatic stress disorder, cognitive impairments resulting from brain injury, or chronic physical illness or disability;

2. An individual who has been residing in an institutional care facility, including a jail, substance abuse or mental health treatment facility, hospital, or other similar facility, for fewer than 90 days and met all of the criteria in paragraph (1) of this definition [as described in Section I.D.2.(a) of this Notice], before entering that facility; or

3. A family with an adult head of household (or if there is no adult in the family, a minor head of household) who meets all of the criteria in paragraph (1) of this definition [as described in Section I.D.2.(a) of this Notice, including a family whose composition has fluctuated while the head of household has been homeless.

Additional information for understanding these definitions can be found in HUD’s Resources Available for the New Homeless Definition.

Criteria for Achieving the Goal of Ending Veteran Homelessness

The criteria for ending Veteran homelessness was developed to help guide communities as they take action to achieve the goal. We have also adopted a vision of what it means to end all homelessness. We hope these standards help to define the vision of ending Veteran homelessness within communities and will help align local efforts in support of that vision, with a focus on long-term, lasting solutions.

1) The community took steps needed to identify all Veterans experiencing homelessness, including Veterans who were unsheltered, as well as Veterans in shelter, in Grant Per Diem programs and other VA residential programs, in other transitional housing programs, and in other temporary institutional settings. This identification of Veterans included both Veterans that meet the definition of chronic homelessness and Veterans that are experiencing homelessness but do not meet the definition of chronic homelessness. The definition of Veteran used includes all persons who served in the armed forces, regardless of how long they served or the type of discharge they received.

2) There are no longer any Veterans experiencing unsheltered homelessness in the community. Some Veterans may not yet be in permanent housing, but all are now in some form of shelter (emergency shelter, treatment programs, transitional programs, other temporary institutional settings, etc...) 

3) The community has the resources and a plan and timeline for providing permanent housing opportunities to all Veterans who are currently sheltered but are still experiencing homelessness. The community has identified the programs and resources that will be used to provide those housing opportunities and can provide those housing opportunities quickly and without barriers to entry, using Housing First principles and practices.

4) The community has resources, plans, and systems in place for identifying (1) Veterans that may have been missed in initial efforts to identify Veterans, (2) at-risk Veterans and (3) Veterans newly experiencing homelessness in the future.

  • The community has adequate outreach and engagement strategies in place to be confident that they can identify such Veterans.
  • The community has an adequate level of resources and the capacity to provide appropriate services to prevent homelessness for at-risk Veterans in the future.
  • The community can provide options for shelter and has identified the programs and resources that will be used to provide quick access to permanent housing opportunities for these Veterans not addressed in the initial work. 

5) The community has an adequate level of resources and appropriate plans and services in place to ensure the housing stability of formerly-homeless Veterans currently in permanent housing or who enter permanent housing in the future.

What It Means to End Homelessness

An end to homelessness does not mean that no one will ever experience a housing crisis again. Changing economic realities, the unpredictability of life and unsafe or unwelcoming family environments may create situations where individuals, families, or youth could experience or be at-risk of homelessness.

An end to homelessness means that every community will have a systematic response in place that ensures homelessness is prevented whenever possible or is otherwise a rare, brief, and non-recurring experience.

Specifically, every community will have the capacity to:

  • Quickly identify and engage people at-risk of and experiencing homelessness.
  • Intervene to prevent the loss of housing and divert people from entering the homelessness services system.
  • Provide immediate access to shelter and crisis services, without barriers to entry, while permanent stable housing and appropriate supports are being secured.
  • When homelessness does occur, quickly connect people to housing assistance and services—tailored to their unique needs and strengths—to help them achieve and maintain stable housing.

Criteria for Achieving the Goal of Ending Veteran Homelessness

Defining Homelessness and Chronic Homelessness

Matthew Doherty

Matthew Doherty is the Executive Director of the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness. Matthew is responsible for the implementation of Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness, an effort that includes the coordination of Federal homelessness policies and strategies among 19 Federal departments and agencies, as well as partnerships with State and local communities, non-profits, and the private sector. Under his leadership, USICH provides technical assistance and support to communities across the country, building systems of care that ensure individuals, families, youth, and Veterans are able to obtain or regain permanent housing as quickly as possible and access services to remain stably housed.

Matthew brings to his role more than 22 years of experience in both the private and public sectors, focused on the creation of housing, services programs, and economic opportunities for disadvantaged communities and households. Previously, he served as the Director of National Initiatives at USICH, leading partnerships with other federal agencies for the implementation of national initiatives and guiding the work of USICH’s Regional Coordinators.

Prior to joining USICH in May 2012, Matthew worked as a consultant and also held positions at the Corporation for Supportive Housing, the San Diego Housing Commission, and the King County Housing Authority in Washington State. In his roles at USICH, and through his work in previous positions, Matthew has worked with many different communities across the country and brings a unique perspective regarding how Federal actions can most effectively support and drive progress at the local level. Matthew has a Bachelor of Arts degree from Oberlin College and a Master of Public Administration degree from the University of Washington. 

President Obama Praises Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness

President Obama delivered remarks to the U.S. Conference of Mayors on Friday, January 23, giving a special mention to the Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelesness and the support of cities across the country as they work to end homelessness. The President specifically mentioned Mayor Mitch Landrieu and the success of New Orleans in ending Veteran Homelessness one year ahead of goal, and the cities of Phoenix, led by Mayor Greg Stanton, and Salt Lake City, led by Mayor Ralph Becker, which are quickly closing in on the goal of ending all Veteran homelessness by the end of 2015.

The White House released a fact sheet on the annual U.S. Conference of Mayors Winter Meeting, covering the items discussed throughout the conference by administration officials, including the work to end Veteran homelessness. See excerpt below:

Through the Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness, local leaders across the country are ending Veteran homelessness in their communities. Since First Lady Michelle Obama launched the Mayors Challenge on June 4, 2014, 313 mayors and 101 county and city officials have signed on to the challenge. On August 26, 2014, President Obama announced a 33 percent decrease in Veteran homelessness since 2010. This progress includes a 43 percent decrease in the number of veterans sleeping on the streets.

New Orleans, LA Mayor Mitch Landrieu (D) one of the first Mayors to answer the First Lady’s call and sign on to the Mayors Challenge, fast-tracked local efforts to connect every homeless veteran with permanent housing. On January 7, 2015 New Orleans became the first major U.S. city to end homelessness among Veterans. Houston, TX Mayor Annise Parker (D), Phoenix, AZ Mayor Greg Stanton (D) and Salt Lake City, UT Mayor Ralph Becker (D) are poised to reach their goal by the end 2015.

Click here to view the full Fact Sheet.

HUD Awards $1.8 Billion for Local Homeless Programs

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development released the following statement:

Funding supports goal to prevent and end homelessness

U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Julián Castro today awarded $1.8 billion in grants to help nearly 8,400 local homeless housing and service programs across the U.S., Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands (see attached chart).   The Continuum of Care grants announced today support the Administration’s efforts to end homelessness by providing critically needed housing and support services to individuals and families experiencing homelessness across the country.

In addition to renewing funding to thousands of effective existing projects, HUD is funding 25 new projects that will provide permanent supportive housing to individuals and families experiencing chronic homelessness in areas with especially high need.  These new projects were awarded as part of a special competition designed to help the Department make progress toward its goal of ending chronic homelessness.  View a complete list of all the state and local homeless projects awarded funding.

“It’s a national shame that anyone would call the streets their home,” said Castro.  “Working with our local partners, we’re redoubling our efforts to support permanent housing solutions for our veterans and those experiencing long-term chronic homelessness.  We’re also focused on providing targeted assistance to families and young people who are falling between the cracks. As a nation, we can and must end homelessness.”

“Communities across the country are driving progress by implementing the strategies that work to end homelessness—Housing First, permanent supportive housing, and rapid rehousing,” said Matthew Doherty, Interim Executive Director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness. “The grants announced today are critical investments into these strategies, providing assistance to families and individuals so that they can remain in permanent housing or get back into permanent housing as quickly as possible and never experience the crisis of homelessness again.”

Click here for the full release.

Introduction to Youth Count! Initiative, October 11, 2012

This webinar, hosted by USICH, introduced stakeholders from the nine invited communities to the purpose of Youth Count! and its main features.

New Orleans First Major City in Nation to End Veteran Homelessness, One Year Earlier Than Federal Goal

Announcement in Response to First Lady Michelle Obama’s Nationwide Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness by End of 2015

NEW ORLEANS, LA – Today, Mayor Mitch Landrieu announced that New Orleans is the first major city in the nation to end homelessness among Veterans as part of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness. Members of the New Orleans Interagency Council on Homelessness as well as Veterans, service members, military leaders, national homelessness advocates and partners from the federal government joined Landrieu at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans to announce and celebrate the city’s historic milestone.

“Six months ago on Independence Day, we came together to pay homage to our service members and Veterans who courageously serve our great nation and announced our goal to effectively end Veteran homelessness in New Orleans by the end of 2014,” said Mayor Mitch Landrieu. “I am honored and very pleased to report that we have housed 227 Veterans, exceeding our goal of 193, thanks to the hard work of our committed partners. New Orleans is now the first major city in the nation to answer the President and First Lady’s call to end veteran homelessness – and we did so one year earlier than the federal goal. We owe our Veterans our eternal gratitude for their service and sacrifice to this nation, and making sure they have a place to call home is a small but powerful way we can show our appreciation.”

The ambitious effort began in response to First Lady Michelle Obama’s Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness, which challenged communities to end Veteran homelessness by the end of 2015. To date, 312 mayors, six governors, and 71 other county or city officials from across the United States have accepted the challenge.

According to the HUD 2014 Homeless Point in Time Survey conducted by UNITY of Greater New Orleans, 193 individuals were counted to be homeless Veterans in Orleans and Jefferson parishes. As a part of the Mayors Challenge, Mayor Landrieu put together a coalition of nonprofits, homeless service providers, U.S. service members and Veterans, and federal, state, and local agencies – a coalition that has now permanently housed 227 homeless Veterans in New Orleans.                                            

“Veteran homelessness is an important and challenging issue, and we are very proud of our accomplishment today in New Orleans, but the work of ending Veteran homelessness is never really done,” said Landrieu. “That’s why we have also created a new and sustainable rapid response model that combines all available local, state, and federal resources with the work of our local active duty and former military personnel – utilizing Veterans to help Veterans. I hope our model here in New Orleans can be replicated nationwide so that we can end Veteran homelessness in America once and for all.”

“I want to congratulate Mayor Landrieu and the entire City of New Orleans for turning its commitment to end Veteran homelessness into a reality,” said HUD Secretary Julián Castro. “As one of the first cities to achieve this noble goal, New Orleans is helping lead a national campaign to make certain that these brave Americans have a place to call home. At HUD, we stand ready to assist in bringing this kind of progress to cities across the country, fulfilling our commitment to all those who served our country so courageously.”

Jared Brossett, New Orleans City Councilmember for District D:
"Quite simply, the men and women who have defended our freedom deserve to return to the American Dream. Far too often we as a nation have failed them in that regard. ‎So the fact that New Orleans is on the leading edge of ending veteran homelessness is something of which we should all be proud."

Susan Guidry, New Orleans City Councilmember for District A:
“This initiative, which has addressed the immediate needs of our city’s homeless veterans while creating a structure for the future, is a testament to the strength of the partnerships that have been forged among government, nonprofit, and private entities as we work together to rebuild a stronger, more sustainable New Orleans.  Since taking office in 2010, I have been proud to work with Mayor Landrieu, my colleagues, and stakeholders citywide, particularly UNITY of Greater New Orleans, to reduce, prevent, and end chronic homelessness in New Orleans. This is an incredible step toward a goal that may have once seemed impossible but is now within our reach.” 

Laura Green Zeilinger, Executive Director of the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness:
“Today, and for every day to come, Veterans in New Orleans have access to a safe, stable, home of their own. The City of New Orleans, thanks to the leadership of Mayor Landrieu, has delivered on their share of the promise that every Veteran who has served our country has a home in our country. This remarkable achievement is significant to the entire nation—to every state and community that has the will to end Veteran homelessness before the end of 2015.  New Orleans, by answering the call that it must be done, proved to all of us that eliminating Veteran homelessness can and will be done. Achieving this goal gives us also the opportunity to build on this success to end homelessness for all Americans.”

Nan Roman, President of the National Alliance to End Homelessness:
“What New Orleans has accomplished for homeless Veterans shows that this is a problem that can be solved. Under Mayor Landrieu’s leadership, key partners came together and worked to identify every Veteran and get him or her into, or on the path to, housing. In the future, homelessness among New Orleans Veterans should be rare and brief. Every city and town in America should take a look at New Orleans and say, ‘if they can do it, so can we.’”                                                                                   

Baylee Crone, Executive Director of the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans:
“The National Coalition for Homeless Veterans is honored to stand with the Mayor and the City of New Orleans to recognize this important milestone in our effort to end Veteran homelessness in America. Communities across the country can look to New Orleans as an example of the progress to be made when local partners step in with a safety net and a hand up to self-sufficiency and independence for Veterans in crisis. The momentum is on the side of rapid change, and we are closer than ever to achieving our mission of effectively ending Veteran homelessness. The challenges remain daunting, but they are surmountable with close coordination of complementary programs on the local level. The team here in New Orleans has shown us that we must push forward and be unrelenting in our drive to end Veteran homelessness by 2015.”

Click here for the full release.

Laura Zeilinger Appointed to Local DC Post, To Step Down as USICH Executive Director

Washington — Today, the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) issued a statement on the upcoming departure of USICH Executive Director Laura Green Zeilinger. Ms. Zeilinger is stepping down from her role as USICH Executive Director on January 23, 2015 to serve as the Director of the District of Columbia Department of Human Services under incoming D.C. mayor, Muriel Bowser.

“For nearly four years, Laura Zeilinger has served as an incredible leader for the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness. Her unwavering focus on achieving the Obama Administration’s goal of ending homelessness has lead to real progress, such as ending homelessness for our nation’s Veterans in the next year,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez, chair of USICH. “I want to express my deep gratitude for the years of public service Laura Zeilinger brought to USICH, and I look forward to following the great work she will do on behalf of the people of Washington D.C.”

Ms. Zeilinger has served at USICH for nearly four years, most recently as Executive Director where she coordinated the federal response to homelessness across 19 federal departments and agencies and in partnership with states and local governments, businesses, and non-profit organizations. She joined USICH in 2011 as Director of National Programs where she was responsible for building local partnerships in communities across the country to implement Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness, and later served as USICH’s Deputy Director, overseeing  federal policy, communications, and national initiatives.

“Laura’s focus on evidence-based practices and using data to drive results has brought local innovation to scale across the country and throughout the federal government," said Cecilia Muñoz, Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council. “The partnerships USICH has forged are driving historic reductions in homelessness.”

Matthew Doherty will serve as interim executive director for USICH effective January 23, 2015. Mr. Doherty is currently the Director of National Initiatives at USICH, where he serves as the principal representative and bridge between the work of the full Council and states and communities.

DC Mayor-elect Muriel Bowser announced on December 29, 2014 the appointment of Ms. Zeilinger to the post of Director of the District of Columbia Department of Human Services.


USICH coordinates the federal response to homelessness and creates partnerships at every level of government and with the private sector to reduce and end homelessness in the nation while maximizing the effectiveness of the federal government in contributing to the end of homelessness. USICH is comprised of the heads and representatives of 19 federal departments and agencies as well as the White House. The Council is chaired currently by U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez. The current vice chair is U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell.

Julián Castro Statement on HUD FY2015 Budget

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development released the following statement on HUD's FY2015 budget:

"U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro today issued the following statement in response to President Obama signing the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2015. HUD's $45 billion budget allows the Department to support the individuals and organizations that we currently serve, but also limits HUD's ability to help some new families reach the middle class or pursue their dream of homeownership. As the President has said, the legislation is a compromise and no one got everything they wanted. But, it is a step towards proving that a divided government can work without governing by crisis or threatening an economic recovery that's growing stronger - which the President believes is a hopeful sign for next year.

The Agency will continue to focus on helping to secure quality housing for Americans, ending homelessness, making our communities more resilient from natural disasters, protecting people from housing discrimination and providing and preserving rental housing assistance for millions of extremely poor Americans, among other priorities.

"HUD is the Department of Opportunity. We support millions of Americans with the housing they need to succeed and we invest in making communities economically strong and inclusive. Our mission isn't a Republican or a Democratic issue-it's an American issue," said HUD Secretary Julián Castro. "As needs for our services have gone up in states, cities and counties across the country, HUD's resources have gone down. As we have time and time again, we’ll continue to find creative ways to have the greatest impact with the resources we have available so that we can continue expanding opportunity for all."

HUD's budget will allow for the continuation of key administration priorities including;

  • Choice Neighborhoods Initiative - Redevelops severely distressed public and HUD-assisted housing and brings comprehensive neighborhood revitalization to blighted areas. HUD will receive $80 million in FY15 Choice Neighborhoods funds to transform distressed public and assisted housing into sustainable, mixed-income housing with connections to key assets and services supporting positive outcomes for families living in the development and in the surrounding neighborhood.
  • Tribal Lands to Access HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) - For the first time, the successful HUD-VASH program is expanded to include those veterans living in Indian country. This allows HUD to support an additional 10,000 housing vouchers with critical supportive services from VA. HUD-VASH combines housing vouchers with critical supportive services from VA and is a critical component of the Administration's effort to eliminate veteran homelessness by the end of 2015.

"It is unacceptable that after their service and sacrifice, too many of our veterans find themselves living without a roof over their heads," said Secretary Castro. "The expansion of HUD-VASH to include Indian country is a significant step forward in reducing homelessness among veterans. These vouchers will help communities build on the progress of reducing homelessness among veterans by a third in just four years, providing targeted assistance to those in need to ensure that every veteran has a home."

Two important priority initiatives not included in this year's budget were:

  • Funding to end chronic homelessness in 2016 - HUD requested a $301 million increase in homeless assistance grants for FY 2015 to develop permanent supportive housing for individuals and families experiencing chronic homelessness. The Department did not receive the full request, directly impacting the thousands of communities across America fighting to end chronic homelessness by the end of 2016.
  • Homeowners Armed with Knowledge (HAWK) - This pilot program for new homebuyers was created in 2014 to further incorporate housing counseling into the home buying process for borrowers using FHA insured financing. The implementation of HAWK is now delayed for at least a year."

Click here for the full release.

NYS DOH Releases Six New Supportive Housing Pilot Projects

Last week, the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) Medicaid Redesign Team (“MRT”) announced the release of over $26 million for six new pilot projects to test innovative supportive housing models of care.  This new initiative is included within the State’s overall investment of more than $388 million over the past three years in supportive housing programs targeted at New York’s high-cost Medicaid members.  These pilots are the result of the collaborative work of the MRT Affordable Housing Workgroup, of which CSH is an integral member. CSH is pleased to see the release of the awards and congratulates all awardees.

Learn More about the the six new pilot projects

HUD and VA Team Up to Help Additional 2,000 Homeless Veterans Find Permanent Homes

$13.5 million in HUD-VASH vouchers to build on national effort to end veteran homelessness

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) today announced the second round of housing assistance to help 1,984 homeless veterans find permanent supportive housing.  The rental assistance announced today is provided through the HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) Program which combines rental assistance from HUD with case management and clinical services provided by VA.  Last October, the two agencies awarded $62 million in HUD-VASH vouchers to assist more than 9,000 homeless veterans.See the local impact of the housing assistance announced today.

With HUD approaching its 50th anniversary next year, Secretary Julián Castro is focused on advancing policies that create opportunities for all Americans, including the broader Administration goal of ending homelessness among veterans. 

“It is unacceptable that after their service and sacrifice, too many of our veterans find themselves living on our streets and in our shelters,” said SecretaryCastro.  “We’ve made significant progress reducing homelessness among veterans by a third in just four years, and these vouchers will continue to help communities build on these gains, providing targeted assistance to those in need to ensure that every veteran has a home.” 

Welcoming the progress made with HUD and local partners under the leadership of President Obama, VA Secretary Robert McDonald added, “As long as there remains a single veteran living on our streets, there is more work to be done. HUD-VASH vouchers are a vital tool in our efforts to reduce veteran homelessness.”

“Through the HUD-VASH program, communities are making historic progress toward ending homelessness by connecting veterans who have the most intensive service needs to the foundation of a home with supportive services,” said Laura Green Zeilinger, Executive Director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness.  “The grant awards announced today add crucial resources to this effort, helping to deliver on the promise that every veteran who has served America has a home in America.”

HUD-VASH is an important part of the Obama Administration’s efforts to provide critical housing and services to veterans experiencing homelessness that also includes HUD’s Continuum of Care program as well as VA’s Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF).

Since 2008 more than 68,000 vouchers have been awarded and over 80,000 homeless veterans have been served through the HUD-VASH program.  Rental assistance and support services provided through HUD-VASH are a critical resource for local communities in ending homelessness among our nation’s Veterans.

Additionally, Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness serves as a roadmap for how the federal government will work with state and local communities to confront the root causes of homelessness, especially among former servicemen and women. As evidence of that commitment, President Obama has asked for an additional $75 million for HUD-VASH vouchers to serve veterans experiencing homelessness in his fiscal year 2015 budget request to Congress.

In the HUD-VASH program, VA Medical Centers (VAMCs) assess veterans experiencing homelessness before referring them to local housing agencies for these vouchers. Decisions are based on a variety of factors, most importantly the duration of homelessness and the need for longer term, more intensive support in obtaining and maintaining permanent housing.  The HUD-VASH program includes both the rental assistance the voucher provides and the comprehensive case management that VAMC staff offers.

Veterans participating in the HUD-VASH program rent privately owned housing and generally contribute no more than 30 percent of their income toward rent.  VA offers eligible homeless veterans clinical and supportive services through its medical centers across the U.S., Guam and Puerto Rico.

Read the Full Press Release

HUD Strengthens Partnerships to End Veteran Homelessness in Mid-Atlantic Region

PHILADELPHIA – U.S. Housing and Urban Development Mid-Atlantic Regional Administrator Jane C.W. Vincent announced today a partnership with local officials to end veterans’ homelessness in the Mid-Atlantic region by the end of 2015.

At a roundtable discussion in HUD’s Philadelphia Regional Office on December 2, local officials, non-profit organizations and federal agencies gathered to discuss strategies for eliminating homelessness among veterans in the region. HUD’s 2014 homelessness data reveals 3,517 veterans are without a place to call home in Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia.

“Working in close partnership with states, counties and cities, we have seen a 33 percent decline in veterans experiencing homelessness nationwide, but there’s more to do,” said Vincent. “This week’s roundtable gave local officials an opportunity to hear firsthand how cities across the country are successfully addressing the issues. They were equipped with resources and practices that can help them make real progress in ending veterans’ homelessness in their communities.”   

The Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness is a collaborative effort being led by HUD, U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and National League of Cities. Announced by First Lady Michelle Obama on June 6, 2014, the Challenge is a call to action to get local officials involved in eradicating veterans’ homelessness in their cities by the end of 2015. 

“Mayors have the power to lead their communities to end homelessness among veterans before the end of 2015, and we are proud to support their incredible commitment and leadership,” said Laura Green Zeilinger, executive director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness. “The Mayors Challenge roundtable offered a great opportunity for federal, state, and local community leaders to come together and solidify the partnerships that are key to achieving our shared goal.”

“The path toward ending veteran homelessness goes through cities,” said Clarence Anthony, Executive Director of the National League of Cities. “NLC is proud to join with our federal partners to help local leaders better understand and utilize the resources available. Regional forums such as these offer city officials a unique opportunity to share and learn about best practices while improving the relationships with key stakeholders, which are necessary to ensure all veterans have a place to call home.”

Nationally, to date, 321 officials have pledged to end homelessness among veterans in their communities, using the power of federal, state, local, and non-profit resources. A memorandum of understanding calls for HUD and the NLC to jointly develop and execute regional forums to raise the awareness and understanding of the benefits of joining the Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness. In the Mid-Atlantic region, 36 officials have made a commitment to support the effort (see list).

“I was pleased to attend a roundtable discussion on the issue in Philadelphia on Tuesday,” said Mayor Ed Pawlowski of Allentown, Pennsylvania. “As a nation, we owe them our best efforts to end veteran homelessness. We will be working with local providers to see what we can do as a community to improve our response to this issue.”

Mayor Robin Christiansen of Dover, Delaware, added, “Earlier this week, I was fortunate to be part of a discussion on battling homelessness for our veterans. These men and women who put their lives on the line for us, who leave their families for us, often come home and need a hand up. It is our responsibility as a nation and as a community to aid them in their efforts. I am proud to be working hand in hand with many in Delaware—and most specifically in Dover—to try to bring additional housing so many of these veterans will have a warm, safe place to call home again.” 



The Senate confirmed Nani Coloretti to serve as HUD Deputy Secretary

WASHINGTON - The United States Senate today confirmed President Obama's nomination of Nani Coloretti to serve as Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). As the second most senior official at HUD, Coloretti will manage the Department's day-to-day operations, including a $45 billion annual budget and approximately 8,500 employees.

"Nani is a proven executive who has excelled at making government more efficient at the municipal and federal levels," said HUD Secretary Julián Castro. "Her breadth of experience and track record at the Treasury Department make her the ideal choice for a mission-oriented agency like HUD."

"I'm immensely grateful for the trust that President Obama and Secretary Castro are placing in me to help lead HUD at this critical time," said Coloretti. "This Department is undergoing significant change as it works to support our nation's housing recovery and improve the way it serves communities all across this country. I'm looking forward to working with the Department's outstanding employees and continue a data-driven approach to help make HUD's operations run as efficiently as possible."

Prior to joining HUD, Coloretti served as an Assistant Secretary at the U.S. Department of the Treasury where she advised the Secretary on the development and execution of the Department's budget, strategic plans, and the internal management of the agency and its numerous bureaus. In July 2012, President Obama appointed Coloretti as a Member of the Government Accountability and Transparency Board. Following the passage of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act in 2010, Coloretti helped establish the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), serving as its Acting Chief Operating Officer.

She served as a policy advisor and budget director in San Francisco where she led the development and implementation of the city's $6.2 billion annual budget. Coloretti also spent six years in San Francisco as the policy and budget director at an agency that worked to improve the lives of children, youth and families by investing in cross-cutting, evidence-based initiatives. In years prior, she served as a consultant at the Law and Economics Consulting Group, a health finance and budget analyst in the Clinton Administration's Office of Management and Budget, and a budget analyst for the State of Hawaii.

Nani Coloretti is a recipient of the UC Berkeley Goldman School Award for Policy Innovation, the National Public Service Award, and the Fed 100 award. She holds a B.A. in Economics and Communications from the University of Pennsylvania and a Master's in Public Policy from University of California at Berkeley.



National Alliance Issues Brief on Using ESG Program to Fund Rapid Re-Housing

The Alliance has published the first in a series of briefs that are meant to provide community leaders and rapid re-housing providers information on how to take advantage of federal programs to fund rapid re-housing. Each brief will cover essential information on the funding source, the ways in which providers can use it to support rapid re-housing, and examples of communities that have successfully done so. This first research brief, featuring the Emergency Solutions Grant Program (ESG), focuses on how the ESG program can be used to rapidly re-house single adults, families, and youth. 

Read the Brief

HUD and National League of Cities announced a new Memorandum of Understanding to help fight against veteran homelessness in cities across the country.

NLC Executive Director signs a historic MOU with HUD Secretary Julián Castro

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and National League of Cities (NLC) today announced a new Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to help fight against veteran homelessness in cities across the country. To date, more than 255 cities, counties and states are pledging to end veteran homelessness in their communities by 2015 using the power of federal, state, local, and non-profit resources.

Speaking at the annual convention of the National League of Cities in Austin, Texas, Secretary Castro announced the new partnership and signed the official MOU with NLC Executive Director, Clarence Anthony.

"Today's partnership sends a loud message that ending homelessness is not a dream," said HUD Secretary Julián Castro. "It's a goal within reach for veterans, for youth, for families and for individuals. It's up to us to make it a reality. Working together we can get it done and give every family a home of dignity."

"We are excited to partner with the Department of Housing and Urban Development on this critical issue facing our veterans," said Clarence Anthony, Executive Director of the National League of Cities. He continued, "Since the beginning of the Mayors Challenge, NLC has worked closely with HUD to engage city leaders. This partnership will expand our efforts to bring a deeper understanding of the resources available to local leaders and assist in creating action plans that will go a long way towards eliminating veteran homelessness."

The MOU calls for HUD and NLC to jointly develop and execute regional forums to raise the awareness and understanding of the benefits of joining the Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness. Today's announcement is also the latest step in the Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness announced by First Lady Michelle Obama in June 2014.

The MOU will make available HUD's resources to:

Prioritize the most vulnerable veterans, especially those experiencing chronic homelessness, for permanent supportive housing opportunities;

Coordinate outreach efforts to identify and engage every veteran experiencing homelessness and focus outreach efforts on achieving housing outcomes;

Target rapid rehousing interventions, including those made possible through the Department of Veterans Affairs' Supportive Services for Veteran Families program, toward veterans who need shorter-term rental subsidies and services in order to be reintegrated back into our communities;

Leverage housing and services resources that can help veterans who are ineligible for some of the VA's programs get into stable housing;

Increase early detection and access to preventive services so at-risk veterans remain stably housed; and

Closely monitor progress toward the goal, including the success of programs achieving permanent housing outcomes.


National Alliance to End Homelessness Wants Input from Rapid Re-Housing Providers

The National Alliance to End Homelessness published a toolkit, "Rapid Re-Housing Tools," that provides sample materials to assist rapid re-housing providers and rapid re-housing program staff. The organization is asking experienced rapid re-housing providers to submit materials for inclusion in the toolkit. Currently, it includes landlord marketing materials, a housing specialist job description, and materials to help housing provider clients consider their potential housing options and understand leases.

To submit materials for inclusion in the toolkit, please email the Alliance's Center for Capacity Building at

The National Center on Family Homelessness report that 2.5 million children experience homelessness annually in the U.S.

America's Youngest Outcasts, America's Youngest Outcasts documents the number of children expereincing homelessness in every state, their well-being, their risk for child homelessness, and state level planning and policy efforts. 

Major causes on child homelessness in the U.S. include: (1) the nation's high poverty rate; (2) a lack of affordable housing across the nation; (3) the continuing impacts of the Great Recession; (4) racial disparities; (5) the challenges of single parenting; and (6) the ways in which traumatic experiences, especially domestic violence, precede and prolong homelessness for families.

Effective solutions must combine safe, affordable housing with essential services. Family members should be comprehensively assessed to understand what services they need. Parents may require education, job training, transportation, and childcare, and may also need mental health and parenting supports. All services should incorporate a family-oriented, trauma-informed approach.

To read the full report and find out where your state ranks, please visit  

Collective Impact Works

Remarks delivered by Laura Green Zeilinger, USICH Executive Director, at Ballard Spahr’s National Housing Symposium in Washington, DC.


Thank you Sharon Geno for the kind introduction and for asking me here today. I’m honored to have the privilege to join this important discussion.

As Executive Director of the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness, I bring greetings from Council Chair, Secretary Tom Perez.

Together, we are responsible for coordinating the federal response to homelessness by creating an interagency platform to maximize the effectiveness of our 19 federal agency partners, sharing best practices, and driving collaborative solutions.

I am here today to deliver a message on behalf of our Administration that we can solve homelessness by working together.

I’ve made a career of trying to tackle complex social problems, first in an international context, then in local government and now at the Federal level, figuring out ways government can work effectively and efficiently for people, the greatest test of which is people with the highest levels of vulnerability.

Through this work I have come to know that homelessness is not an intractable problem; it persists because we choose to let it persist.  But we can choose a different outcome. I’ve seen it... I’ve seen what happens when we choose to work towards a different outcome…a better outcome.

A little more than 4 years ago, when I was working in city government, we held an event to mark the day the 1,000th person (a female Veteran) moved into her apartment in the District’s Housing First initiative.

I ran into Bill, an outstanding outreach worker. Bill said to me,

“I want you to know that I do not have the same job as I used to. It used to be, no one had any reason to really engage with me; they didn’t believe that I had anything real to offer them.  That has changed,” he said. “People have seen others, who have lived outside a very long time, move into housing. They understand now that it is possible for them too.  Now they want to talk with me. It is clear there is a different sense of hope and motivation to begin to access services.”

You see, when you start working towards creating better outcomes for people—people who may have lost hope—they now have a reason to hope, and they do things no one thought possible. They have faith in a better future for themselves.

A few years ago, in an article in Stanford Social Innovation Review, John Kania and Mark Kramer coined the term “collective impact” to describe the success that is possible when key actors from different sectors set a common goal to solve a complex problem, and work in a structured process to pursue mutually reinforcing actions towards that goal, and routinely measure progress against that goal using data, and adjust their efforts. 

They distinguish collective impact from ‘isolated impact’ which is “an approach oriented toward finding and funding a solution embodied within a single organization, combined with the hope that the most effective organizations will grow or replicate to extend their impact more widely.”  They write that there is little evidence that isolated initiatives are the way to solve many of the social problems in today’s complex and interdependent world.

Our work here would fit this description of collective impact: a broad set of stakeholders from the public, private, non-profit, sectors united around and worked towards a common goal of ending homelessness.  The good news is that across the country, communities are beginning to better organize themselves to create collective impact on homelessness.

USICH’s approach to the federal government: coordinating the expertise and efforts of 19 Federal agencies to develop and adopt Opening Doors, the first ever Federal strategic plan to end homelessness. 

It was through the collective impact of our Federal partners that we were able to set the goal of ending homelessness in America, specifically to:

  • Prevent and end homelessness among Veterans in 2015,
  • Finish the job of ending chronic homelessness in 2016,
  • Prevent and end homelessness for families, youth, and children by 2020, and
  • Set a path for ending all types of homelessness.


Through a collective impact approach, we are changing the trajectory on homelessness in our nation.

In four years, we have reduced overall homelessness by nearly 10 percent, including a 25% reduction in unsheltered homelessness—meaning fewer and fewer or our neighbors, our families, our Veterans are facing nights on the streets, in cars, in abandoned buildings or other places not meant for human habitation.

  • Homelessness among Veterans down by 33%
  • Chronic Homelessness down 21%
  • Family homelessness down 15%, including 53% drop in unsheltered homelessness among families

Ending homelessness requires a long-term vision, a commitment to policy change, the redirection of resources, new investments in evidence informed practices, and sustained collaborative leadership at the federal, state, and local levels.  Examples of outstanding federal collaboration include the work of HUD and VA to improve the Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing program (HUD-VASH) and to implement Supportive Services for Veteran Families.

VASH pairs a HUD housing voucher with VA health care and services to create supportive housing targeted to vulnerable and chronically homeless Veterans.  VASH has strong bipartisan support and has been the largest new supportive housing investment over the last five years. Since 2008, HUD has awarded 68000 vouchers which have enabled 80000 Veterans to obtain permanent housing.

Supportive Services for Veterans Families was created during the first term of our administration and takes the lessons learned from the Recovery Act’s HPRP to scale for Veterans.  Grant announcements later for rapid re-housing and prevention assistance will total $300million in awards to non-profit organizations and consumer cooperatives.

Our work on solving homelessness among Veterans demonstrates that interagency collaboration, strategic new investment, and the adoption of proven tools points the way for success in other areas.

Another example of how federal agencies have collaborated is our work to accelerate our progress on ending chronic homelessness.  In 2012, however, the Council realized that we were not on track to achieve this goal. We determined that our slow progress was due to four factors:

1) Despite the increase in units, many supportive housing units were not actually targeted to people experiencing chronic homelessness (only 45 percent of the nation's 166,000 supportive housing units were designated for people experiencing chronic homelessness);

2) The expansion of permanent supportive housing was concentrated in the North and East, whereas there were also high needs in the South and West;

3) Our estimates of the need did not adequately account for people experiencing chronic homelessness who cycled in and out of institutional settings; and

4) Congress had failed to act on the repeated requests made by the Administration for resources to increase permanent supportive housing.

In April 2013, the Council developed and adopted a bold interagency strategy to accelerate our progress on ending chronic homelessness. 

We also conducted a careful analysis of the impact of these actions on our goal.  We found that even by fully utilizing every existing resource, we still had a gap of about 37,000 units to achieve the goal. With support from the White House and OMB, this led to the inclusion of a $301 million increase in the President’s FY 2015 Budget to create 37,000 new units of permanent supportive housing.  This request is still being considered by Congress as part of the FY 2015 Omnibus.

Our strategy also focuses on leveraging the opportunities in the Affordable Care Act to finance services that can end homelessness, particularly for people experiencing chronic homelessness.   


One of the biggest pieces of legislation supporting our effort to end homelessness was national health reform through the Affordable Care Act.  The ACA is a game changing policy that will improve the lives of low-income families and individuals.

First, it makes possible affordable health coverage to all low-income families and individuals through both the expansion of Medicaid eligibility and health insurance exchanges.  Families burdened by both high rents and high health care costs can get some reprieve.

It also means that low-income families and individuals may be entitled to a comprehensive package of health care services that encompasses not only doctor’s visits and hospital-based care, but also behavioral health care and (depending on the state) case management services.  This is possible because of provisions in the Affordable Care Act that seek to transform what health care means and how it is delivered. It focuses on health and stability, not just on encounters and procedures, and that includes the kind of care and services that low-income families and individuals, including those experiencing homelessness, need. 

The ACA has unleashed a whole set of innovations in health care delivery, and there is an active search for innovative solutions to improving health outcomes while lowering costs.  Those of us in the room know that for many people with complex health conditions, housing is fundamental to improved health and to helping people avoid more expensive forms of care.  We have seen the evidence on permanent supportive housing’s ability to reduce hospitalizations and emergency room visits.  The door has been opened for us to build on this evidence, and firmly establish that affordable housing is a health care intervention and another means of bending the health care cost curve.

Just a few weeks ago HHS released Primer on Using Medicaid for People Experiencing Chronic Homelessness and Tenants of Permanent Supportive Housing.

We Still Have More Work to Do, National Housing Crisis Poses Significant Challenges

While we have been successful, we know there is much work to be done. That we achieved even these modest reductions is good news, but not cause for much celebration as our work is far from over:

  • More than 578,000 people still experience homelessness on any single night.
  • More than 67,000 families with children are homeless, which includes more than 216,000 people.
  • The U.S. Department of Education also estimates that over the course of a school year more than one million children will lack a stable place to call home.

Infancy is the period of life when a person is at highest risk of living in a homeless shelter in the United States.  Let me say that again because it is so shocking.  The age at which a person is most likely to be found in a homeless shelter in the United States is infancy. 

Rates fall a bit when children are 1-5, although preschool children are still more likely than adults to find themselves in shelter – this fact coupled with what we know about the social determinants of health, hammers home why increasing access to affordable housing and ending homelessness is a critical “strategy for our future”      

Given these numbers, we know we don’t have an easy road ahead.  Our challenges are compounded by a worsening national housing crisis, especially at the lower end of the housing market as the data from NLIHC’s Out of Reach Report and HUD’s Worst Case Housing Needs report shows:

  • For every 100 Extremely Low Income renters, there are only 31 available and affordable units.
  • National research shows that families experiencing homelessness have incomes at or below 40-50 percent of the Federal Poverty Level, which translates to between 14 and 17 percent of AMI
  • For people with disabilities living on SSI, which averages $721 per month in 2014, they can only afford a rent of only $216 per month.  There is not a single county in the U.S. where even a modest efficiency apartment is affordable for this amount.  

It is clear that we cannot end homelessness without addressing the shortage of affordable housing, especially for extremely low-income households and people with disabilities.

On the other hand, it is clear that when we do have investments in affordable housing, we can see the impact it has on homelessness.

Nowhere is that more clear than our work around Veterans experiencing homelessness, where the increased investments have resulted in historic reductions in the number of Veterans experiencing homelessness.  Demonstrating that when we invest, homelessness is a problem that is not too complex to solve.

There is a parallel here to the story I started with about my friend Bill, just as people who had given up hope in themselves started to think differently about what they could do, so too, are leaders, policy makers, and stakeholders throughout our country as we end homelessness among Veterans.

Ending homelessness is not just a good thing to do from a human stand-point; it also makes good fiscal sense.  Many people experiencing chronic homelessness spend their lives cycling through emergency shelters, jails, and hospitals and incur high costs to public systems – sometimes upwards of $50,000 a year. The daily cost of supportive housing for this vulnerable population is a better investment of scarce public resources than the cost of repeated hospital, ER, and detox center admissions. Permanent supportive housing in not only a better public investment, but it results in better health and quality of life for people when they have a home. As HUD Secretary Julian Castro likes to say: ending homelessness works for the common good and the bottom line.

We need to talk about how affordable housing improves health while lowering health care costs, how affordable housing increases public safety and reduces crime and recidivism, how affordable housing creates jobs and improves neighborhoods and property values, how it stabilizes and strengthens families and improves children’s educational outcomes and well-being in life. 

Underlying the ACA was an idea called the “Triple Aim:” that the goal of health reform is:

  • To improve health outcomes
  • To improve the experience of health care, and
  • To lower costs. 


Perhaps we need to clarify our own Triple Aim for affordable housing:

  • To improve lives and families,
  • To build neighborhoods, and
  • To create jobs.


Preventing and ending homelessness is an ambitious but achievable goal.  It requires equally ambitious collaboration, innovation, investment, data driven and outcome-focused planning, and, above all, an aggressive commitment to getting to the finish line.  Communities across the country are providing examples of this commitment every day.  USICH and our federal partners are weaving together our resources and reforms to ease the journey.  Together, we will continue to make great strides toward our goal of preventing and ending homelessness in America.

Thank you.

Breaking Ground on the John and Jill Ker Conway Residence in DC

Remarks delivered by Laura Green Zeilinger, USICH Executive Director, at the ground breaking of the John and Jill Ker Conway Residence in DC, a 124-unit mixed income apartment building with 60 units of permanent supportive housing for veterans exiting homelessness.


I have been looking forward to this day for a long time—as I know all of us have.

Breaking ground today on DC’s first permanent supportive housing residence for Veterans is a testament to the tenacity and resiliency of this town—which I am proud to call my home—and to the many partners who made today possible.

I know…I have been in and around this project since the very beginning, and after several starts and stops, true partnerships emerged to take a hold of it and they haven’t looked back: the District of Columbia, the DC Housing Authority, Community Solutions, A wider Circle, HUD, McCormack Baron Salazar, a braid of public, private, and philanthropic support, and countless others.

It’s because of your efforts that 60 Veterans (all formally, chronically homeless) will show up right here with keys in their hands—ready to make 1005 North Capitol Street home. Right here in view of the Capitol Dome, under which works the very democracy their service fought to defend.  

And while in this democracy of ours there seems to be many things we can’t agree on, ensuring that Veterans have a safe and stable place that is home, thankfully, is not one of them.

This project is a testament to the power of public-private partnerships and faith-based leadership. Most importantly, it’s a testament to the commitment this country has made to every Veteran:  you will have a safe and stable place that IS home. 

The Obama Administration has drawn a line in the sand: no Veteran who has served this country will go without a home in this country. For far too long, being a Veteran meant you were at a higher risk of experiencing homelessness; it’s time to turn that shameful statistic around.  It’s time to end homelessness among Veterans, and we have set a goal to so by the end of 2015.

Since the launch Opening Doors in 2010, the first-ever federal strategic plan to prevent and end homelessness, we have made real progress— reducing homelessness among Veterans by 33 percent, including a 43 percent drop in number of Veterans living in unsheltered situations. In the same time, we’ve also reduced overall homelessness by 10 percent, family homelessness by 15 percent, and chronic homelessness by 21 percent.

Of course, this progress wasn’t done by government working alone.  Not in the least.  This progress has been made by communities all across the country— like DC, where the city has reduced homelessness among veterans by 22 percent.

It’s been made by partners like Community Solutions, who ,with communities, connected more than 105 thousand people experiencing homelessness to permeant housing through their 100,000 Homes Campaign. Over 31 thousand were Veterans.

This progress has been made by commitment of leaders all across this country, including Mayor Gray, who joined the  267 (and counting….) mayors, governors, and county executives in the Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness.

This progress has been made because we have invested in and implemented evidence-based best practices—like Housing First, permanent supportive housing, and rapid rehousing.  Real solutions that are the foundation of progress and of projects like the John and Jill Ker Conway Residence.

But we have more work to do. And while I’ve been looking forward to this day a long time, I’m looking forward to the day 60 Veterans make this place home so much more; I’m looking forward to the day in the near future  when every community has the leadership, capacity and resources they need to ensure no Veteran has to sleep a single on the streets, and that every Veteran has rapid access to a safe, stable home.  Doing this will show that homelessness is solvable, and is a critical step in the movement to end homelessness for youth, families and all others.  We have never had a Presidential Administration more committed to achieving this.

Which is why I’m honored to introduce Julián Castro, Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development.  Someone who understands how to problem solve at the local level, who knows the needs of communities. Who is committed whole-heartedly this issue; who is determined to ensure communities are places of hope and opportunity for every American, no matter their station in life.  Please welcome, Secretary Julián Castro!

HUD Secretary, USICH Executive Director, and DC Mayor Join Advocates to Break Ground on New Housing for Homeless Veterans

HUD Secretary Julián Castro, USICH Executive Director Laura Green Zeilinger, and DC Mayor Vincent Gray joined advocates and housing
professionals Monday to break ground on the John and Jill Ker Conway Residence, a 124-unit mixed income apartment building. The distinctive building comprises 60 units of permanent supportive housing for veterans exiting homelessness and 64 affordable and low-income units.
It represents an unusual effort to bring top quality architecture and design to housing for low income and homeless populations.
Located on North Capitol St NE between L and K Streets, the project will diversify and contribute to the ongoing revitalization of the booming NoMa area. It is a collaboration between Community Solutions, a national non-profit organization, and McCormack Baron Salazar, Inc., a
leading property development firm.

Last week, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development released the 2014 Homeless Point-in-Time Count, showing that 406 veterans experienced homelessness in Washington, DC on a given night in January of 2014. That number has fallen 22 percent since 2010 due to the committed work of local advocates and government officials. “We have an obligation to ensure that every veteran has a place to call home,” said U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro. “In just a few years, we have made incredible progress reducing homelessness among veterans. Today’s opening is the latest step on the path to ending veteran homelessness in Washington, D.C. and across the nation. HUD will continue collaborating with our federal and local partners to ensure that all of the men and women who have served our country have a stable home and an opportunity to succeed.”


Read Full Press Release here

Proof Point: The 2014 Point-in-Time Count Shows that Homelessness Is a Solvable Problem

Laura Green Zeilinger, Executive Director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, provides an overview of the results of the 2014 Point-in-Time Count of people experiencing homelessness in the United States. With unparalleled community collaboration using Federal strategy since 2010, we've witnessed an overall 10 percent decline in the total homeless population, and of those a 25 percent decline in those who are living unsheltered. Family homelessness is down 15 percent; 53 percent fewer families are living unsheltered. Chronic homelessness is down 21 percent; 14 percent unsheltered. There's been a slight downturn in youth homelessness, but particularly noteworthy are the declines seen among Veterans. Veteran homelessness is down 33 percent, unsheltered down 43 percent. Learn more about the results here.

2014 PIT Report Shows Homelessness in America Continues to Decline

U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Julián Castro today announced HUD’s latest estimate of homelessness in the United States, noting a continued general decline and specifically among Veterans and persons living on the street. HUD’s 2014 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress reports that 578,424 persons were experiencing homelessness on a single night in 2014. This represents an overall 10 percent reduction and 25 percent drop in the unsheltered population since 2010, the year the Obama Administration launched Opening Doors, the nation’s first comprehensive strategy to prevent and end homelessness.

HUD’s annual ‘point-in-time’ estimates seek to measure the scope of homelessness on a single night in January. Based on data reported by state and local planning agencies, last January’s one-night estimate reveals a 33 percent drop in homelessness among veterans, including a 43 percent reduction in unsheltered homelessness among veterans, since 2010 and a 10.5 percent decline since last year. State and local communities also reported a 15 percent decline in the number of families with children experiencing homelessness since 2010, as well as a 53 percent reduction among these families who were found be to unsheltered.

Read HUD's press release.

Read The 2014 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress

Read Laura Green Zeilinger's message on 2014 PIT results.



We Need to be Smarter about how We Understand and Meet the Needs of Youth

Remarks delivered by Laura Green Zeilinger, USICH Executive Director, at the End Youth Homelessness Call to Action Event hosted by the Family and Youth Services Bureau

National Press Club, Washington DC

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

I am so honored to be here today. It’s vitally important that we keep shining the spotlight on youth homelessness; keep the issue front and center.

Ending youth homelessness is a social justice issue.

In each of our cities and towns, every night, there are young people who face the unimaginable risk of exploitation, of abuse, of countless traumas that threaten not only their immediate health and well-being but that can inflict long-term damage.

Everyone, from the federal government, to change agents and like Cyndi Lauper and the True Colors Fund, to every youth provider and school in America—we all have the shared responsibility and the opportunity to be the caring adult who brings young people back to safety, back to stable housing, helping them establish permanent connections, and improve their outcomes in education, employment, and well-being.

Because of the very nature of youth homelessness, what we know about it is limited and improving data on youth is vital. Which is why the release of this new study from HHS is so important to this effort—it adds to our understanding.

We also know that what gets measured gets done, which is why getting to confident estimate of the size of the problem is critical. The federal government, with partners across sectors, is at work now to get the quality of the data to where it needs to be through focused efforts to improve the point-in-time count for youth.

But let me be clear, while better data is critical to solving this problem, there are things we know we can do today, to improve the lives and outcomes of youth experiencing or at-risk of homelessness.

To do so, we need to make some changes. We need to be smarter about how we understand and meet the needs of youth. We need to work together to connect youth with the resources and assistance they need in a meaningful and systematic way.  We can take action today, to identify and use the touch points that we have to more effectively understand and meet the needs of young people—this report gives us that much more to work with.

No single program is the magic pill. No one agency could alone end youth homelessness, but many play a part. When a young person is in crisis, it is not fragmented by government program, it is whole and overwhelming.  Yet when solutions are viewed through the lens of programs, the scope of their interaction is often narrowly defined by whether they’re part of a school, or law enforcement, or juvenile justice, protective services.

So we often find ourselves in a place, where, on some level, many are responsible in-part, but nobody is responsible for the whole, and without a system in place it’s impossible for people to even understand their part.  This has to change, and we are focused on changing this. Programs have to break out of silos and be able to put youth at the center of their work -- that is how we solve complex problems.

At the United States Interagency on Homelessness, we have necessary and extraordinary mission of coordinating among 19 federal agencies, state and local governments and the private and non-profit sectors to prevent and end homelessness.

In 2010, The Obama Administration launched Opening Doors, the first comprehensive federal strategic plan to prevent and end homelessness. In Opening Doors, we set forth bold, measurable goals: end Veteran homelessness in 2015; end chronic homelessness in 2015; end Family homelessness in 2020; and prevent and end youth homelessness in 2020.

Since 2010, we have changed the trajectory of homelessness in this country, and have established a trend line toward ending homelessness across each of our goals.

We know now that homelessness is not an intractable problem; homelessness is a problem we can solve—and a problem we are solving.

In fact, since 2010, we’ve reduced homelessness among Veterans by a third nationwide. We’ve made significant progress ending Veteran homelessness because we knew from years of study and research what interventions worked, and with bipartisan support in Congress, we asked for and received the resources to meet the needs.

With Veteran homelessness as a proof-point, we are making the case for our youth as well.

We have a federal framework to end youth homelessness, where we set a path to progress by improving data and building systems that connect youth the services they need.

This progress was made not by government alone, but in partnership with stakeholders from partners all across the country. We are stronger; we are effective when we work together toward the shared vision that every young person deserves a safe and stable place to call home.

Which is why I am so honored to introduce the next speaker.

She is someone I truly admire.  Her passion and dedication to who she calls ‘her kids” is an inspiration and force that is moving our work with greater urgency and focus.

Too many, she is a Grammy, Emmy and Tony award winning artist, and to thousands of young people and to people who are a part of this effort, she is an unwavering advocate for equality. In 2008, she co-founded the True Colors Fund, which works to end gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youth who experience homelessness.

Just a few weeks ago, I heard her speak about choosing a path for the Colors Fund, where she described the two choices for the direction of the organization: one, raise awareness of the issues and share best practices; or two, roll up your sleeves and do the hard work of ending youth homelessness.  She and her amazing team chose the latter.

One thing I appreciate about Cyndi is her emphasis on the importance of learning from young people about what matters, and how to make a difference. I am grateful that we'll get to hear from Jesse, Anthony and Syncere today. To borrow a phrase: "Nothing about us without us"

I’m honored to introduce the one and only, Cyndi Lauper.

SAMHSA Publishes New Brief on Connecting Veterans to Social Security Benefits

connecting veterans to social security disability benefits ending veteran homelessnessThe Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has published a new brief exploring Social Security benefits in the effort to prevent and end Veteran homelessness. Connecting Veterans with mainstream resources, including Social Security Administration (SSA) disability benefits, is a critical step to increasing income stability for Veterans and their families, as well as providing health insurance for those who do not qualify for Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health care. Veterans may be eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) in conjunction with, or as an alternative to, VA disability compensation. Veterans may also use the Medicaid and Medicare health benefits that come with SSI/SSDI to supplement VA health services.

Read the brief.

Read more about leveraging mainstream resources to prevent and end all forms of homelessness.

We’ve entered a new era of homelessness policy: the era of local problem-solving systems

Remarks delivered by Richard Cho, USICH Senior Policy Director, at the Arizona Coalition to End Homelessness Annual Conference in Phoenix, Arizona.

I’m so thrilled to be here with you today here in the beautiful state of Arizona and to be among colleagues and friends who are working to end homelessness.  Thank you to Joan, Mike, and all of the folks at the AZ Coalition to End Homelessness for inviting me to speak with you.

I have a very simple purpose in being here today.  And that is to deliver the message that we can and we will end the tragedy of homelessness in America.  How many of you are already true believers in that statement?  Can I have a show of hands?  Those of you who didn’t raise your hands, let’s talk.

For those of you who did raise your hands, you can count me among you.  And you can count in my boss, Laura Zeilinger, and the small but mighty staff of 20 or so people we have at USICH.  You can also count in Department of Labor Secretary Tom Perez, the current Chair of our 19 agency Council, HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell, HUD Secretary Julian Castro, VA Secretary Bob McDonald, and the other Cabinet-level officials who make up our Council.  They are true believers as well.

And you can count in the White House as well.  Some of you may have heard earlier this year First Lady Mrs. Michelle Obama talk about how she believes that we can and must end homelessness, not only for Veterans, but for all adults and children in America. 

And you have a President who is a true believer as well.  The President frequently tells his own team at the White House that that our effort to end homelessness through Opening Doors: the Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness exemplifies exactly how the Federal government should work in solving big problems:

  • By breaking down silos between Federal departments and resources
  • By using metrics to track and improve our progress and to hold ourselves accountable for the goals and commitments we set, and
  • By working to support those who are doing the real work of ending homelessness—all of you working in your own communities to help people get off the streets and into stable permanent homes and realize their full potential and dreams. 

We have no delusions that the Federal government can solve this problem on our own.  Our job is to support you.  Opening Doors is not just the Federal government’s plan; it is all of our plan.

Earlier this year, we announced that since we began implementing Opening Doors in 2010, the nation has seen a 33 percent reduction in homelessness among Veterans.  We’ve cut it down by a third.  Unsheltered homelessness among Veterans is down by 43 percent.  And of course, since not everyone believes the Federal government, I’m happy to report that Nate Silver’s Five-Thirty-Eight blog had checked the math and they say it’s true. 

Make no mistake.  That reduction is not a Federal government victory.  That is a victory that belongs to every one of you and all communities who have been working to end homelessness. And the victory is not just in terms of the numbers of Veterans sleeping on the streets or in shelters, but about a victory over hearts and minds.

Let me tell you, what you have done here in Phoenix to end chronic homelessness among Veterans has changed everything. It has changed minds around the country that ending homelessness is not a pie-in-the sky dream, but something we can achieve. 

Even if you don’t work directly with Veterans, this victory belongs to you.  All of the solutions we’ve been using to drive a reduction in homelessness among Veterans in the last four years are the same solutions that we’ve been putting into place to end homelessness for all populations—Housing First, permanent supportive housing, rapid re-housing—solutions and technologies that were invented, refined, and implemented over the past decade or more by all of you.  So I want you all to take a moment and picture that downward trend line on homelessness among Veterans in your minds and I want you to reflect on the part you played in that. 

The progress we’ve made on Veterans is our proof-point that ending homelessness is possible for all populations. 

It shows what happens when we collaborate—certainly at the Federal level but also with the State and local levels and with the private and non-profit sectors—to solve problems together. 

It shows what happens when you invest in the right kinds of solutions.  When you take the latest of what we know works to end homelessness, and not only apply it, but also bring these solutions to scale in a rapid timeframe.  Think about it.  We’ve seen a six-fold expansion in permanent supportive housing through the HUD-VASH program in four years.  We’ve seen a fourteen-fold increase in rapid re-housing in five years.  Imagine what we could achieve if we had that kind of scaled investment for all populations?

The progress on Veterans also shows what happens when you take a traditional health care and benefits system (the VA) and charge them to also take responsibility for ensuring that none of their clients becomes or remains homelessness. And that to me is the really exciting thing.  When preventing or responding to homelessness becomes core to the mission of mainstream health care and other public systems, that’s when homelessness will be a thing of the past.

Now it is not lost on me that we are here in Phoenix and that the VA has faced some challenges recently.  Last week, Laura and I had the chance to sit down with VA Secretary McDonald. He told us that while he is fully focused on fixing the access issues at the VA, the work of ending homelessness among Veterans is absolutely one of his top priorities.  In fact, he doesn’t see this work as separate from fixing access issues, but as central to them.  Ending homelessness among Veterans is mission critical to improving access to VA health care and services. 

When I hear statements like these, and as I look across the country at what is happening in communities, it makes me think that we have entered a new era—the next phase—in the evolution of homelessness policy.  That is the era of systems.  Local problem-solving systems.

Those days when the response to homelessness was just about responding to basic needs and managing the symptoms are long behind us.  So are the days when we thought moving people from one step to another in a long series of therapeutic programs. 

We’ve learned that what it takes to end homelessness is first and foremost about housing—permanent housing. And we learned that everyone—no matter how complex their health and behavioral health challenges—can achieve stability in permanent housing.  We learned that it just takes different types and levels of help for people to achieve that stability.  No one is hard-to-house or hard-to-engage.  It’s just that we needed the right tools.  And we needed to make sure that we were putting the right tools to the right problems.

We’re learning now that just operating even great programs is also not enough.  Even the best programs achieving the best outcomes will not end homelessness on their own.  A bunch of isolated virtuosos playing their own beautiful melodies in a room does not a symphony make. 

The communities that are making the greatest progress on ending homelessness are those where those programs are working as a part of a system of programs, where programs working in concert as part of coordinated system that:

  • Rapidly detects and identifies people experiencing or at-risk of homelessness
  • Prevents homelessness wherever possible
  • Quickly connects people to permanent, stable housing with access to appropriate supports,
  • And while stable permanent housing is being secured, people are given access to safe shelter and emergency services. 

The next phase of our work to end homelessness is to build local problem-solving systems for ending homelessness.

Building these systems to end homelessness means taking the Housing First concept from the individual program level, to Housing First as a whole system orientation.  Where a coordinated set of programs is working together, planning together, talking together to rapidly and without barriers or preconditions deliver the right kind of housing and services that help people achieve stability in permanent housing.

Thinking of Housing First as a whole system orientation takes us away from those fights that we used to have.  You know what I’m talking about.  Those fights between whether we need more shelter or housing.  Whether your program or my program should get to apply for Continuum of Care funds.  When a community comes together to work as a single system, those decisions get made together.  And they get made on the basis of outcomes and measure and data.  They get made on the basis of whether or not you are meeting your primary outcomes of connecting people to permanent housing quickly, ensuring that people stay in housing, and people don’t come back to homelessness.

Now the Federal government cannot create local systems for ending homelessness.  That work happens at the community levels and through the efforts of people like you in this room.

Our job is to provide the resources, the tools, and the guidance on how to use those resources and tools to support your efforts.  And to remove the bureaucratic obstacles to using those resources and tools.  

At the Federal level, we are already engaged in the work of supporting the creation of local systems to end homelessness premised on Housing First principles. 

We are doing that for Veterans through the collaboration between USICH, VA and HUD.  With HUD-VASH, SSVF, and other programs both within the VA and outside the VA, the programs are in place.  Our attention must turn to how we can engage all public and private resources and stakeholders to work collaboratively to identify and engage Veterans experiencing homelessness and connect them to these programs.  The VA’s 25 Cities effort is supporting communities to implement coordinated entry systems and housing delivery systems.  I know Phoenix and Tucson are in the house.   They are doing great work through this effort.  We can and must take the lessons of this work beyond the 25 communities.

We are doing it for families.  Earlier this year, we issued a simple blueprint known as Family Connection for how to create the systems we need to end family homelessness.  It talks about investing in and providing tailored interventions like permanent supportive housing, rapid re-housing, and affordable housing.  It talks about coordinated assessment as a way to target those interventions.  It also talks about the use of evidence-based practices that improve educational outcomes and well-being for children, and to strengthen family functioning and parenting. It talks about connecting to mainstream and community-based services.  We are working to leverage mainstream housing and services resources like Housing Choice Vouchers, Multifamily housing, TANF, Community Services and Social Services Block Grants, Head Start, the list goes on.  There are myriad Federal programs that can provide housing and services to families. 

We are building the foundation we need to build systems that can end homelessness for youth—a population that we are still learning more about and learning the different interventions and solutions that they need. 

And we are working on helping communities build the systems to permanently end the costly and tragic cycle of chronic homelessness.

Let me pause for a moment and say that I believe that there has never been a better moment than the present to build the systems that will end chronic homelessness.

The Affordable Care Act gives us the tools that make it possible to ensure that people experiencing chronic homelessness are provided with the wrap-around supportive services in permanent supportive housing that can end their homelessness, improve their health outcomes, and save taxpayer dollars.  In states like Arizona, the expansion of Medicaid coverage means that nearly all individuals experiencing chronic homelessness will be eligible for Medicaid.  And that is great.  But without connection to the right kinds of supports, we know that people experiencing chronic homelessness tend to use emergency rooms, inpatient hospital services, and acute care—and will drive up Medicaid costs.  On the other hand, we know that supportive housing improves health while lowering costs.  By financing the supportive services in supportive housing, Medicaid can help bring supportive housing to scale—at least on the services side of the equation—while achieving their goals of cost containment.

In the same way that we have made ending homelessness a core part of the mission of the VA health care system, we have the opportunity to make supportive housing a standard Medicaid benefit for people with chronic health conditions who experiencing homelessness.  Think of that.  A world in which the mainstream health care system does everything in its power to prevent and end homelessness simply because it knows that doing so will achieve better health and lower costs.

The week before last, HHS released some long-awaited guidance that clarifies and makes a clear statement that the services in permanent supportive housing are services that states can absolutely cover in their Medicaid plans.  And this includes not just the primary care and behavioral health services, but also the critical tenancy, pre-tenancy, and move-in supports that we know make all of the difference for people experiencing homelessness.  The decision on whether and to what degree and how to pay for those services are covered remains with States.  But States have a variety of options whether through things like the 1915i Home and Community Services option, Medicaid Health Homes, through 1115 waivers, or through managed care.  

I firmly believe that we are on the verge of many states fully embracing permanent supportive housing as part of their Medicaid plans and strategies.  And when that happens, we’ll have solved one-half of the equation for how to bring permanent supportive housing to scale.  That leaves the housing side.  We’ve been working with HUD to expand the housing side of PSH through reallocations, through the better targeting of existing units, and through the $40 million permanent supportive housing bonus and other strategies.  However, even with these strategies, we’ve determined that nationally we need another 37,000 units of permanent supportive housing to end chronic homelessness in 2016.  And we are asking Congress to fund a $301 million increase in HUD’s budget to meet that gap.  Thus far, they have not responded to this request, but it is not over.  We need Congress to understand that these resources are critical to ending chronic homelessness, as well as to put taxpayer dollars to better use.  The cost of doing nothing is not nothing.  Ending chronic homelessness is not only the right thing to do, it is also the fiscally smart thing to do.

Meanwhile, we are also working with HUD and SAMHSA to encourage and support community-level efforts to pursue assertive and persistent outreach and in-reach to identify and engage individuals experiencing chronic homelessness who have complex conditions and systematically connect them to permanent supportive housing. 

I know it’s hard to see sometimes what is coming out of Washington.  I can tell you that we are working at a furious pace to provide the guidance, resources, and information you need to build the systems to end homelessness for all.  Whether that is on how to use Medicaid to finance services in supportive housing, how to leverage TANF for rapid re-housing, how to engage PHAs to collaborate on homelessness or make decisions about what CoC-funded programs to reallocate.  And I want to hear from you what other support you need.

Because ultimately, it is you who are doing the hard work of ending homelessness.  It is you who ultimately need to build the systems of response that will signify an end to homelessness.

Whether you are a housing provider, a shelter provider, a behavioral health agency, a case manager, a peer support specialist, an executive director, or a local government official, you must now also think of yourselves as systems designers, systems engineers, and systems participants.  This means realizing the inherent interdependence and interconnectedness of your work.  You are inextricably linked.  That what decisions you make, the actions you take, the way you operate your programs all impact your colleagues and fellow organizations and homelessness overall.  Just like a symphony, if one instrument is out of tune or plays the wrong note, it can sour the whole piece. 

As systems designers, you take on new responsibilities and new challenges.  Those of you grappling with the development of coordinated entry systems know what I mean.  You now face questions about how to create a coordinated and streamlined means of accessing help without creating unnecessary bureaucracy and closing doors.  You now face questions about how to effectively target interventions to the right people, and how to assess people in a way that is uniform and standardized across programs, but do so in a way that is not rigid and robotic, or that overly simplifies the complexity of a person’s needs and strengths. 

You are grappling with what has been called the integration-fragmentation paradox.  That the more integrated a system becomes internally, the more fragmented it tends to become from other systems.  In other words, how do you create a coordinated system for ending homelessness that doesn’t become yet another silo alongside the health care silo, the child welfare silo, the workforce silo and so on? 

As much as we are working to get the response to homelessness to be more coordinated, we must not make the homeless response system another silo.   Let’s remember that homelessness is the result of fragmented systems in the first place.  It results from the failure of multiple systems to adequately address needs of people experiencing homelessness.

The solution to homelessness is not to create yet another silo but to weave together homeless programs seamlessly with mainstream and other public systems.  The solution to homelessness is not to create a separate system and silo, but to weave together homeless programs seamlessly with other public systems to wrap around the needs of people, and not the other way around.

Coordinated entry systems provide a locus for doing just that.  Coordinated entry is a way to bring programs and services and systems to the client.  It is about creating a rapid and streamlined housing and services delivery system to people, tailored to their individual needs and strengths.  It is a way for homeless programs to interface with Medicaid and TANF and behavioral health and corrections and schools and the workforce system and child welfare.   It is not about creating yet another door, yet another place where people must undergo a lengthy assessment, yet more bureaucracy. 

I will be honest with you that a lot is expected of you.  We are expecting you to design your systems to a standard that few other sectors have met.  Certainly the mental health system has not met the standard of creating streamlined access or being not fragmented from other systems.  Certainly the mainstream health care sector has not figured this out.  Child welfare, corrections, housing, education—none of them have gotten all of this right.

What I think you have going for you that sets you apart from other systems and which gives me hope that you/we will get this right is that the response to homelessness has always been a cross-sector partnership.  Aside from a handful of places, there is no single local or state government agency responsible for homelessness.  Instead, the work has always been led by non-profits, working alongside government partners and the private sector.  Those of you working to end homelessness have always collaborated.  Previously out of sheer necessity—because you didn’t have the resources to do it all—and now because you know that is the way to solve the problem.  The work of ending homelessness is, when done right, a case study in collaborative governance. 

That gives me faith.  I have faith that you can build the systems of programs needed to end homelessness. I have faith that you can build those systems in a way that always keeps the people at the center.  I have faith that working together, we can end homelessness, first for Veterans and then for all.  You have the tools and the know-how and we are fighting to give you the resources you need.   Now is the time to prove that ending homelessness is a reality.  Phoenix stuck a big flag in the ground with its work on ending chronic homelessness among Veterans.   

You are one big symphony playing one of the most moving and important pieces of our lifetime.  Your sheet music are your goals.  The notes and measures are your data and metrics.  Your instruments are your programs, your know-how, and your compassion.  It will be a masterpiece.  

Permanent Supportive Housing Bonus in FY 2014 HUD CoC Program: Strategies for Rapid Implementation

In this webinar short, USICH Senior Policy Director Richard Cho provides an overview of the $40 million bonus included in the FY 2014 CoC Program Competition. HUD has set aside this funding to create new dedicated permanent supportive housing to serve people experiencing chronic homelessness.

October 2014 Council Meeting

Council Explores Progress on Ending Homelessness and Federal Action Going Forward

Just ahead of reporting remarkable advancements in ending homelessness across America, Obama Administration officials who make up the Council met on October 15, 2014, to measure the progress in the work of USICH and its partners, to discuss the data, and to chart the path forward to advance the goals of Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness.

Labor Secretary Thomas Perez, presiding over his first meeting as Council chair, gaveled the meeting to order saying, “I’ve had the privilege of serving on a lot of task forces over the course of my career. I’ve seen ones that have worked well and ones that have haven’t worked so well. This is a group that has worked incredibly well.” Secretary Perez credited the success of the Council to three things: having a dedicated team at USICH and around the Administration singularly focused and working on this issue daily; the steadfast leadership of the Council; and most importantly the focus on metrics and accountability. The plan has metrics and accountability, Secretary Perez said of Opening Doors, adding “we value what we measure, and we measure what we value.”

“We have an excellent Federal plan,” said Laura Zeilinger, USICH Executive Director. “The feedback that we’ve gotten is that it is very helpful for creating a framework for States and communities to think about how to have a well-rounded approach that is going to advance efforts to prevent and end homelessness.”

Joining Secretary Perez and Zeilinger were HUD Secretary Julián Castro, VA Secretary Robert McDonald, and OMB Director and former Council Chair Shaun Donovan.  Also in attendance were HHS Deputy Secretary Bill Corr, White House Domestic Policy Director Cecilia Muñoz, White House Secretary of the Cabinet Broderick Johnson, as well as representatives from the Departments of Justice, Education, Agriculture, Interior, Defense, Commerce, and Energy.

2014 PIT Count Results

Highlighting metrics and accountability, the Council received a first-hand look at the data that was reported in the 2014 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress, which enumerates the number of people experiencing homelessness who are sheltered and unsheltered on a single night.  Ann Oliva, HUD Deputy Assistant Secretary for Special Needs, provided the briefing on the report which found 578,424 individuals experiencing homelessness on a single night in January 2014. This represents an overall drop in homelessness of 10 percent since the 2010 launch of Opening Door: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness.  The data also shows a 25 percent reduction in all unsheltered homelessness during the same time.

“This is a direct result of the strategies in Opening Doors, like implementation of the Housing First approach, HUD-VASH, and prioritization of people experiencing chronic homelessness within permanent supportive housing units,” noted Oliva.

Veteran homelessness is down 33 percent since the launch of Opening Doors, including an incredible 43 percent reduction in the number of Veterans and their families living on the streets.

“This work is a testament to the hard, hard work done by VA, HUD, USICH, and community partners,” Oliva said. “It’s really about targeting the resources that we have in the smartest way possible so that we’re reaching the most vulnerable people,” she added, noting the continued improvement in data collection.

The report finds that fewer families are experiencing homelessness, down 15 percent since 2010, including a 53 percent reduction in families who are living unsheltered. The data also shows, however, that the sizes of families experiencing homelessness are getting bigger. When you look at the 2014 PIT data, together with the Department of Education’s data on school-age children experiencing homelessness and HUD’s Worst Case Housing Needs Study, the numbers show that while fewer families are living on the streets or in shelters, they still face housing crises and a severe shortage of affordable housing.

Data on youth homelessness continues to improve, and this year’s PIT counts achieved greater success than in previous ones in identifying hard-to-find-youth using a variety of new tools and strategies. Still, Federal and community partners are working to capture a more confident baseline for the number of youth experiencing homelessness at a point in time.

A Deep Dive on Chronic Homelessness

The 2014 PIT count data shows a 21 percent reduction in chronic homelessness since 2010. People who experience chronic homelessness (defined as individuals with disabilities who have experienced homelessness continuously for a year or more or who have experienced at least four episodes of homelessness in the last three years) are extremely vulnerable. Of all populations, people who experience chronic homelessness are the most likely to live unsheltered. About 63 percent of people experiencing chronic homelessness are unsheltered.

Even with tremendous progress since 2010, the effects of sequestration in 2013 resulted in a slower decline last year—2.5 percent between 2013 and 2014—which is a low percentage when compared to previous years.  

“We’re at a critical juncture with respect to the goal of ending chronic homelessness,” said Richard Cho, USICH Senior Policy Director. When Opening Doors was initially launched, chronic homelessness was seen as among the easiest to achieve— having had the support of previous Administrations, a good stock of permanent supportive housing inventory, and vastly improved technology to track data.  However, with that improved technology, Council agencies and communities were able to see that the inventory wasn’t serving those most in need, according to Cho. Inventory was concentrated in the North and East although southern and western States also had very high needs. In addition, they realized that estimates of chronic homelessness were not accounting for those who cycle on and off the streets and in and out of institutions. Most importantly, requests to Congress to increase the supply of permanent supportive housing have remained unfunded.

The Council has taken bold steps to make increased progress: leveraging opportunities afforded by the Affordable Care Act, incentivizing the prioritization of existing permanent supportive housing more wisely, increasing technical assistance to communities, and requesting historic investments from Congress that would not only end chronic homelessness but also save taxpayer dollars. The President’s 2015 Budget specifically requests $301 million for the creation of 37,000 new units of permanent supportive housing—enough to end chronic homelessness in 2016.

Cho also explored with the Council the economic impact of ending chronic homelessness, stating: “ending chronic homelessness is not only the right thing to do for people, it’s also the fiscally smart thing to do.”

Detailing the overwhelming evidence that permanent supportive housing lowers public costs, especially in health care, Cho highlighted a study in Seattle that found a 50 percent decrease in emergency services costs after people experiencing chronic homelessness were connected to permanent supportive housing for just one year. Costs related to law enforcement and incarcerations have also seen precipitous drops where chronic homelessness has been prioritized.

“To me,” said VA Secretary Robert McDonald, “the really big news here is that the rate of return on investment is outstanding.”

Former Council chair Shaun Donovan, Director of the Office of Management and Budget and lifelong homeless advocate, praised the progress to date, noting that it’s important to “tell the story that when government works together to make tough, strategic choices, we can really solve big problems in this country.”

HHS Releases Two New Reports on Using Medicaid to Cover Services for People in Permanent Supportive Housing

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE) today released two new reports: Primer on Using Medicaid for People Experiencing Chronic Homelessness and Tenants of Permanent Supportive Housing (, and a companion document, Medicaid and Permanent Supportive Housing for Chronically Homeless Individuals: Emerging Practices from the Field (

The reports serve as tools for States and communities working to expand services and supports for people in permanent supportive housing.  While they focus on services for people experiencing chronic homelessness, the options highlighted in the Primer can be used by States to increase the role of Medicaid in providing supportive services to any individual who requires supportive services to achieve housing stability and improved health and well-being.

The Affordable Care Act creates unprecedented opportunities for health and behavioral health coverage for people experiencing homelessness. Through both the expansion of Medicaid coverage and new opportunities for care coordination such as through the new Health Home option, all States have the opportunity to increase Medicaid’s role to serve individuals experiencing homelessness. Some States and communities have already led the way in designing innovative Medicaid programs to serve individuals experiencing homelessness and formerly homeless individuals through permanent supportive housing, a proven and cost-effective intervention for ending homelessness, improving health, and lowering public costs.

As the Medicaid program evolves to meet the needs of its beneficiaries, new policy and clarifications of existing policy will be made subsequent to the publication of this Primer. These will be disseminated through State Medicaid Directors’ Letters and through other guidance which will be available on the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid website at  Stay tuned for fact sheets and briefs from USICH and its partners that will help States, community health centers, supportive housing provider organizations, and organizations serving Veterans understand the options outlined in these documents.

Assets Summit

these are documents for the Partnship Summitt 10/16/14

VA Announces $93 Million Available for SSVF Program

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is announcing the availability of funds for supportive services grants under the Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) Program. This Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) contains information concerning the SSVF Program, initial supportive services grant application processes, and the amount of funding available. Awards made for supportive services grants will fund operations beginning approximately March 1, 2015, through February 28, 2018.

The overriding goal for this NOFA is to ensure that appropriate levels of resources are provided to communities with the greatest need to end Veteran homelessness. VA will provide approximately $93 million over a 3-year period for non-renewable grants to eligible entities proposing services for one of 28 priority Continuums of Care. VA has designed this 3-year effort to provide a surge of resources in communities with the highest need. These 28 locations have been selected based on factors that include levels of Veteran homelessness and current unmet service needs.

For more information visit: 

New HUD and VA Funding Will Connect 9,000 Veterans to Permanent Housing

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) today announced more than $62 million to help more than 9,000 homeless Veterans find permanent supportive housing.  The rental assistance announced today is provided through the HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) Program, which combines rental assistance from HUD with case management and clinical services provided by VA. See the local impact of the housing assistance announced today.

HUD is awarding $57 million to support 8,276 Tenant-Based Vouchers for rental units in the private market, and $5 million for 730 Project-Based Vouchers (PBV) for existing units or new construction in specific developments. HUD-VASH is an important part of the Obama Administration’s efforts to provide critical housing and services to Veterans experiencing homelessness that also includes HUD’s Continuum of Care program as well as VA’s Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF).

Since 2008, more than 59,000 vouchers have been awarded and over 74,000 homeless veterans have been served through the HUD-VASH program. 

Read the full release.

VA Announces New Grants to Help End Veteran Homelessness, Initiative Targets 70,000 Veterans and Families in High Need Communities

In addition to the $300 million in Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) program grant awards announced on August 11, 2014 serving 115,000 Veterans and their family members, today Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert A. McDonald announced the award of $207 million in SSVF grants that will help an additional 70,000 homeless and at-risk Veterans and their families. The grants will be distributed to 82 non-profit agencies and include “surge” funding for 56 high need communities.

During the brief history of this program, VA has helped tens of thousands of Veterans exit homelessness and prevented just as many from becoming homeless. The “surge” funding will enable VA to strategically target resources to high need communities where there are significant numbers of Veterans who are homeless or at-risk of homelessness.

“With the addition of these crucial resources, communities across the country continue a historic drive to prevent and end homelessness among Veterans,” said Laura Green Zeilinger, Executive Director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness.  “The SSVF program gives Veterans and their families the rapid assistance they need to remain in permanent housing or get back into permanent housing as quickly as possible.”

Read the full release.

HUD FY2014 Continuum of Care Program Competition: Strategies for Continued Success

On September, 19, 2014, USICH hosted a webinar for communities on strategies for continued success in responding to The Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) for the Fiscal Year (FY) 2014 Funds in the FY 2013 - FY 2014 Continuum of Care (CoC) Program Competition (FY 2014 CoC Program Funding Notice).  

Through this competition, HUD will award $1.83 billion in funds for FY 2014. The FY 2014 CoC Program Funding Notice carries forward and continues the policy priorities outlined in combined FY 2013-FY 2014 CoC Program Competition NOFA, which are focused on accelerating progress on Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness.  

This funding Notice includes a number of new important changes and considerations unique to the FY 2014 funding round.  No CoC application is required for this competition; CoCs will only need to include project applications and rankings. In addition, HUD is setting aside approximately $40 million for a funding bonus to create new dedicated permanent supportive housing to serve people experiencing chronic homelessness. Although all CoCs approved in the FY 2014 CoC Registration process may apply, priority will be given to those CoCs that have a high need in relation to chronic homelessness as described in the funding Notice.

Participants in our webinar learned about the results of the FY 2013 competition, the unique aspects of the FY 2014 CoC Program funding competition, the permanent supportive housing bonus to serve people experiencing chronic homelessness, and tips for reallocations and prioritization.


Richard Cho, USICH
Lindsay Knotts, USICH

VA seeks nominations for Advisory Committee on Homeless Veterans members

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), Veterans Health Administration (VHA) Homeless Programs, is seeking nominations of qualified candidates to be considered for appointment as a member of the Advisory Committee on Homeless Veterans (herein-after in this section referred to as “the Committee”). In accordance with 38 U.S.C. § 2066, the Committee provides advice to the Secretary, through the Under Secretary for Health, on the provision of benefits and services to homeless Veterans. In providing this advice, the Committee assembles and reviews information relating to the needs of homeless Veterans; provides an ongoing assessment of the effectiveness of the policies, organizational structures, and services of VA in assisting homeless Veterans; and provides ongoing advice on the most appropriate means of providing assistance to homeless Veterans.

Nominations for membership on the Committee must be received no later than 5:00 p.m. E.S.T. on September 30, 2014.

For more information visit:

USICH Internships

Location: 1275 First Street NE, NoMA/Gallaudet, Washington, D.C.; position with National Initiatives Team may be based elsewhere within the Pacific Time Zone

Start Date/Duration: Rolling basis, year round

Salary: $10/Hour

Description of Responsibilities:

The mission of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) is to coordinate the Federal response on homelessness and to create a national partnership at every level of government and with the private sector to reduce and end homelessness in the nation while maximizing the effectiveness of the Federal Government in contributing to the end of homelessness. Currently USICH is implementing Opening Doors, the first-ever Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End homelessness as the Administration’s response to this important issue. USICH is comprised of 19 Federal agencies and entities and currently chaired by Department of Labor Secretary Thomas Perez.

USICH is seeking interns to support its work on behalf of the nation’s efforts to end homelessness. There are currently multiple intern positions available across the various teams at USICH, including our Policy, National Initiatives, Communications and Executive Office Teams. Assignments may include but are not be limited to:

  • Researching and compiling of information, statistics, studies, etc. on housing related issues;
  • Coordinating activities, meetings, forums and USICH initiatives with Federal, State, local and private stakeholders around the U.S.;
  • Supporting essential administrative assignments related to document and correspondence preparation, answering calls, facilitating webinar and conference calls and responding to general questions of a non-policy nature;
  • Tracking and analyzing appropriations, authorizing and other legislative developments;
  • Data analysis and assessment of resource implications of policy decisions;
  •  Analysis of federal programs, policies, and procedures as they relate to the Federal response to homelessness-related issues;
  • Writing and editing a variety of publications, presentations, technical assistance materials, and other documents related to the work of USICH;
  • Compilation of content for website; website management; and,
  • Special projects, as assigned.
  • Internships at USICH offer exposure to a range of USICH work ranging from key policy decisions to local and State-level implementation of Opening Doors. Work may involve contact with senior personnel at Council member and other government agencies, congressional staff, and the housing industry. 


Applicants must be self-starters who are flexible, able to balance multiple competing tasks, work well under tight deadlines, and have excellent organizational skills. Additionally, applicants must have the ability to perform research, think critically, write succinctly, manage multiple deadlines, and work both independently and in a team-based environment. Position requires knowledge of Microsoft Office products and professional English writing and grammar conventions.

Domestic policy knowledge and/or experience, particularly related to housing, homelessness and/or health care, is a plus but not required. Experience with/knowledge of (USICH member) federal agencies’ events process and organizational structures a plus. USICH internships are designed for graduate students; however, high-performing undergraduate students with experience in healthcare, housing, homelessness, public policy and administration and strategic communication are urged to apply. 

How to Apply:

If interested, contact With your inquiry, please include a cover letter which includes your availability and resume.

Positions open until filled.

USICH is an Equal Employment Opportunity employer. This position requires a background check. Direct Deposit is mandatory. This is a federal government, excepted service (Schedule A) position, open to all candidates with or without prior federal government experience.

Family Connection Webinar: Tailored Interventions and Assistance

Ending homelessness among families and children is a priority for the nation and for every community. Millions of extremely low-income households do not have access to affordable housing, putting them at-risk of housing instability and the types of crises that can result in homelessness. The challenge is clear: Our most recent data show that 222,197 people in families—an estimated 70,960 households—were experiencing homelessness on a single night in January 2013.  In the first three years of implementation of Opening Doors, we have reduced homelessness among families by eight percent.

On September 10, 2014, two community partners, Memphis, TN-based Community Alliance for the Homeless, Inc. and Northern Virginia Family Service, joined USICH and HUD on a webinar to share examples of how they are using a range of resources and program models to better serve families in need of a safe and stable place to call home. Panelists discussed their most effective strategies for helping to lift families out of homelessness, as well as prevention methods that help avert housing crises.

The webinar, “Family Connection: Tailored Interventions and Assistance,” is the second in a series, based around the guidance in the resource, Family Connection: Building Systems to End Homelessness. Click on the webinar materials on the right to download. 

Stay tuned for information about the next Family Connection webinar, and be sure to tweet us at @USICHgov to let us know your most pressing questions about ending family homelessness in your community.

USICH, HUD, and VA Announce 33% Drop in Veteran Homelessness Since 2010

USICH, HUD, and VA released new national estimates today that show Veteran homelessness has declined 33 percent since 2010 and the release of Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness. Data from the Point-in-Time count conducted in January 2014 shows that 24,837 fewer Veterans are homeless today than in 2010. This includes a nearly 40 percent drop in the number of unsheltered Veterans sleeping on the street.

 “As a nation, we have proven that homelessness is a problem we can solve,” said USICH Executive Director Laura Green Zeilinger. “Communities all across the country are meeting this costly tragedy with urgency and a focus on helping all Veterans and their families achieve safe and stable housing.”

 The Federal government has provided significant new resources to help communities pursue the goal of ending homelessness among Veterans. Communities that target these resources strategically are making significant progress and can end Veteran homelessness in their communities in 2015. These strategies include Housing First, permanent supportive housing, rapid re-housing, and aligning local goals and strategies with Opening Doors.

 Read the full press release.

VA Announces $300 Million in Grants to Help End Veteran Homelessness

Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert A. McDonald today announced $300 million in grants that will help approximately 115,000 Veterans and their families who are experiencing homelessness, or are at risk of it. The grants, issued under the Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) program, will be distributed to 301 community agencies in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

Under the terms of the grants, service providers will offer Veterans and their family members outreach, case management, assistance in obtaining VA benefits, and assistance in receiving other public benefits. Community-based groups can offer temporary financial assistance on behalf of Veterans for rent payments, utility payments, security deposits and moving costs.

Read more.

Partnerships for Opening Doors Summit



On October 16, 2014, a national summit on integrating employment and housing strategies to prevent and end homelessness —Partnerships for Opening Doors —was sponsored and hosted by the Butler Family Fund, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH). The Summit provided an opportunity for communities, federal government agencies, and national organizations to learn together to identify promising program practices, emerging community practices, and common misconceptions and barriers to using federal funding to support these practices. The Summit identified key activities that DOL can undertake in the near term that could improve access to quality jobs, skills training, and supportive services in the context of employment, training and career pathways for those experiencing homelessness.

Read a writeup on the Summit by USICH Management and Program Analyst Peter Nicewicz. 

See more photos from the Partnerships for Opening Doors Summit.

Read this letter to Jobs for Veterans State Grant program employees from Secretary Thomas Perez on the importance of ending Veteran homelessness and connecting Veterans to jobs.

July 2014 Council Meeting Update

Council Focuses on Leveraging Mainstream Resources, Discusses an Amendment to Opening Doors, and Elects New Leadership

On July 18, 2014, HUD Secretary and Council Chair Shaun Donovan convened Council agencies for the second meeting of 2014.  Council agencies discussed efforts to leverage Federal mainstream resources in the areas of housing, employment, income supports, education, and health care to end homelessness.  The Council also discussed the proposed amendment to Opening Doors and elected new Council leadership.

Shaun Donovan USICH Council Meeting July 18, 2014This was Secretary Donovan’s last Council meeting as HUD Secretary and as Council Chair. Secretary Donovan—now Director of the Office of Management and Budget—reflected on his encounters with homelessness from his childhood in New York City, where he noticed the explosion of homelessness on his morning walks to school, to his volunteer work at a homeless shelter in college, to his internship at the National Coalition for the Homeless. 

“I never could have imagined I would be sitting here at this table with all of you helping lead what I think has been the most comprehensive, smartest, most aggressive campaign against homelessness this country has ever seen,  culminating in a President who is actually willing to say we’re not going to just put a bandage on this problem. We’re going to end it,” said Donovan.

“That’s what’s allowed us to get to a place where we’ve lowered Veteran homelessness by 24 percent in three years, chronic homelessness by 16 percent and made progress in a range of areas with families and children at a time when frankly, given the economic circumstances, you’d expect homelessness to be exploding just like it was when I was kid. How right it feels to have my last day include this meeting.”

Council Leadership Transition

perez burwell USICH Council leadershipAs Director Donovan moves to his new role, the Council elected Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez as Chair and Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Mathews Burwell as Vice Chair. Secretary Perez noted that it was an honor and that Secretary Donovan’s leadership set a high bar for the Council and the nation’s efforts to end homelessness. 

Leveraging Mainstream Resources to End Homelessness

The Council discussed progress and planned actions to increase the degree to which Federal mainstream programs and resources are being brought to bear in efforts to end homelessness—a core tenet of Opening Doors. Ending homelessness with targeted homelessness programs alone is not possible. Federal mainstream resources not specifically targeted to homelessness must also be leveraged.  Whereas the combined set of Federal programs specifically targeted to homelessness total about $5 billion in FY 2014, mainstream programs are significantly larger in scale. 

HUD’s Housing Choice Vouchers, for instance, are funded at more than $19 billion in FY 2014 and TANF is funded at over $16 billion.  Federal spending alone on Medicaid in FY 2014 is projected at almost $300 billion. These programs provide affordable housing and services that are critical to providing pathways out of homelessness.

At its July 18 meeting, the Council reviewed strategies to increase the impact of eight mainstream programs— Housing Choice Vouchers/public housing, HUD multifamily housing, workforce systems, schools and local educational agencies, Medicaid, TANF, Head Start, and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI).

Richard Cho, USICH Senior Policy Director and Judith DeHaven, Director, Program Support Division, Office of Public and Indian Housing at HUD, presented these strategies to the Council, describing how agencies are using available policy tools to increase access to programs and services for people experiencing homelessness.

“We know that leveraging mainstream programs for homelessness is not simple,” Cho explained, noting that mainstream programs typically have broad mandates and purposes, high levels of state and local discretion in prioritizing resources, and many competing demands. Even with these constraints, federal agencies can encourage state and local systems to use these resources to assist people experiencing homelessness.  Specifically, Federal agencies are pursuing efforts in six categories:

  • Bright spotting” to identify innovative and promising policies and practices that can be replicated widely
  • Issuing guidance to clarify what systems can do to better serve people experiencing homelessness, or creating incentives in funding solicitations and other vehicles
  • Provide clear messaging from agency leadership encouraging mainstream systems to focus on people experiencing homelessness
  • Providing technical assistance and tools to state and local systems on how to modify their programs, adopt new policies and form partnerships to better serve people experiencing homelessness
  • Engaging industry trade groups and associations to champion the issue among their members, disseminate resources and highlight promising practices
  • Partner with national experts to advise and assist with engagement efforts

Council agencies looked to HUD’s work to engage public housing agencies as an example of what federal agencies can do to leverage mainstream resources. DeHaven described how HUD has been able to promote greater access to Housing Choice Vouchers and public housing, increasing new admissions among people experiencing homelessness significantly over a short period of time. DeHaven said constant messaging from senior leadership to HUD staff further reinforced their efforts to promote these strategies.

Building on this example, HUD, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Department of Labor (DOL), the Department of Education (ED), and the Social Security Administration (SSA) developed related strategies for multifamily housing, Medicaid, workforce systems, schools, Head Start, and income supports. The Council adopted the strategies and will review progress on them in the coming months.

Along with leveraging mainstream resources, using existing targeted homelessness assistance resources more strategically is critical to ending homelessness. Scarce resources must be used strategically and should target people who are the most vulnerable. USICH has created this tool to help communities assess the strategic value of their Continuum of Care (CoC) funding, as well as to help identify mainstream funding alternatives that will allow CoC resources to stretch even farther.

Services in the CoC Program: Assessing Value and Finding Funding Alternatives

Amending Opening Doors

Council agencies discussed also the proposed amendment to Opening Doors.  USICH Executive Director Laura Zeilinger explained that Opening Doors remains the right plan with the right set of strategies. When the plan was launched in 2010, it was presented as a living document, informed by the most current information and evidence on what works.

“Over the past four years of implementation, we have learned much about the role of health care in ending homelessness,” Zeilinger explained. “We also learned about what effective crisis response systems look like and how communities can harness data to end homelessness.” 

In addition, while the nation has made progress on ending chronic homelessness, the lack of Congressional support for needed resources means we will not reach our goal to end chronic homelessness in 2015. “If Congress acts to fund the President’s Fiscal Year 2015 Budget requests for 37,000 new units of permanent supportive housing, we can bring the national inventory of permanent supportive housing to a scale that will end chronic homelessness in 2016 and prevent its recurrence.”  Accordingly, USICH proposes amending the goal to 2016, with the explicit acknowledgment that achieving that goal would be contingent on appropriations. 

USICH is seeking broad stakeholder input into the proposed amendment to Opening Doors. Already, hundreds of stakeholders from across the country have either participated in a community input session or have shared their ideas through an online forum.  We urge you to participate in this process. 

HUD and USICH: Core Principles of Housing First and Rapid Re-Housing Webinar

The U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) recently hosted "Core Principles of Housing First and Rapid Re-Housing," a webinar designed for homelessness service providers, communities, and policymakers to understand the core components of the Housing First approach and the Rapid Re-Housing model and how both work together to help end homelessness.


Housing First is a whole-system orientation, and not a "program," that offers permanent, affordable housing as quickly as possible for individuals and families experiencing homelessness, and then provides the supportive services and connections to the community-based supports people need to keep their housing and avoid returning to homelessness. The approach begins with an immediate focus on helping individuals and families get housing. Income, sobriety and/or participation in treatment or other services are not required as a condition for getting housing. All services are voluntary and are not a condition for retaining housing. Housing provides people with a foundation from which they can pursue other goals. Tenants are assisted in developing or improving skills for independent living while they live in permanent housing instead of requiring them to complete a transitional residential program first.

Rapid Re-Housing is the practice of focusing resources on helping families and individuals quickly move out of homelessness and into permanent housing, which is usually housing in the private market. Services to support rapid re-housing include housing search and landlord negotiation, short-term financial and rental assistance, and the delivery of home-based housing stabilization services, as needed. Priority is placed on helping individuals and families move into permanent housing as rapidly as possible and providing services to help them maintain housing. Rapid re-housing has demonstrated effectiveness in reducing homelessness, particularly among families. Rapid re-housing also increases turnover in shelters, which allows them to accommodate more families without increasing capacity.

Both work together to ensure that occurrences of homelessness are rare and brief, help people obtain permanent housing quickly and connect people with the care and support needed to maintain their housing and achieve a better quality of life.


Richard Cho, USICH

Ann Oliva, HUD

Lindsay Knotts, USICH

Mayors Challenge Included in President’s Year of Action Progress Report

The President's 2014 Year of Action Progress Report Includes Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness

After declaring 2014 a "Year of Action," the White House released an updated progress report today detailing the more than 40 actions that the President and his Administration have taken since January to build expand opportunities for Americans — among them being the Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness announced June 4. The initiative seeks public commitments from local leaders to use federal and community resources to end homelessness among Veterans by the end of 2015. To date, more than 111 governors, mayors and county officials have pledged. Learn more about the Mayors Challenge by clicking here.

Read the President's report

CNCS Will Issue $11 Million through Social Innovation Fund Pay for Success Grants Competition

The Corporation for National & Community Service announced that the 2014 Social Innovation Fund (SIF) Pay for Success (PFS) Grants Competition will provide up to $11.2 million in grants to nonprofit organizations and city and state governments seeking to advance and evaluate emerging models that align payment for social services with verified social outcomes.  The PFS Competition intends to encourage the implementation of PFS projects to enhance the reach and impact of innovative community-based solutions in low-income communities. States and communities are pursuing PFS strategies supporting interventions to address a number of social challenges, from health interventions to chronic homelessness.corporation for national community service

As part of the PFS Competition, each grantee will be awarded between $200,000 and $1,800,000 each year over the three year project period. Every SIF grant dollar must be matched by the grantee with nonfederal dollars and services. Applicants should send a Notice of Intent to Apply by July 15, 2014. Applications are due July 31, 2014 at 5 p.m. EST. 

VA to Award $5 Million in Grants to Aid Veterans with Special Needs Who Are Experiencing Homelessness

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) today announced that it is renewing $5 million in funding available to 25 organizations in 11 states that provide transitional housing and supportive services to Veterans with special needs who are experiencing homelessness. Grant and Per Diem Program (GPD) Special Need Grants allow organizations to continue providing housing and services to Veterans experiencing homelessness, including women, frail elderly, terminally ill, chronically mentally ill and individuals who care for minor dependents.

 “We will continue our work until no Veteran has to sleep on the streets,” said Acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson. “We have made significant progress toward our goal to end Veterans’ homelessness.  That progress would not have occurred without the important work of GPD Special Need grantees and other local partners.” 

 VA’s Homeless Providers Grant and Per Diem Program provides funds to community agencies that provide services to Veterans experiencing.  The program promotes the development and provision of 

The Notice of Funding Availability for the GPD Special Need is available at The deadline for submitting proposals will be July 16, 2014.

U.S. Department of Labor Awards $36 Million in Job Training Grants for Veterans Experiencing Homelessness

U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez announced $36,710,368 in grants awarded to 156 organizations to provide job training to more than 12,000 Veterans who are experiencing homelessness. The grants are being awarded under the department's Homeless Veterans' Reintegration Program (HVRP), administered by the Veterans' Employment and Training Service (VETS).

"These job training programs will provide the skills that Veterans require to find and keep a job and secure housing," said Secretary Perez. "The progress made in recent years to reduce Veterans homelessness is encouraging, but it remains our moral duty to do all we can to honor our Veterans with the dignity of a good job and opportunities to build a solid middle-class life for their families."

The grants include $9,094,355 in funding for 37 new grantees to help connect Veterans with employers, who will help identify the skills needed for in-demand jobs and careers. They will also provide job placement, career counseling, life skills and money management mentoring, as well as help in finding housing. VETS estimates that these new funds will help approximately 3,000 Veterans.

For more information, including a list of grantees, visit:

HUD Provides Additional Funds for nearly 900 Local Homeless Programs across the Country

WASHINGTON – U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan today announced a second round of grants totaling $140 million to nearly 900 local homeless assistance programs across the country (see attached chart). Provided through HUD’s Continuum of Care Program,  the funding announced today will ensure additional permanent and transitional housing renewal projects are able to continue operating in the coming year, providing critically needed housing and support services to those persons and families experiencing homelessness.

Today’s grant announcement includes 436 new local projects aimed at providing permanent supportive housing for persons experiencing chronic homelessness through a Housing First approach and to “rapidly re-house” families with children that are living on the street or in emergency shelters.  View a complete list of all the state and local homeless projects awarded funding.

“Communities all across the country are changing their approach to reducing homelessness and now is not the time to retreat from doing what we know works,” said Donovan.  “Investing in proven strategies such as ‘Rapid Re-housing’ and ‘Housing First’ help to break the cycle of homelessness as we’ve known it in these communities.”

Read the Full Press Release

Learn More about HUD’s FY 2013-2014 CoC Program Competition

Implementing Housing First in Permanent Supportive Housing

implementing housing first in permanent supportive housing

Permanent Supportive Housing is an intervention for people who need housing assistance and supportive services to live with stability and independence in their communities. Many Permanent Supportive Housing programs use a Housing First approach (rapid access to housing with minimal preconditions) to serve people experiencing homelessness. This fact sheet describes the process for incorporating Housing First within a permanent supportive housing program. 

Read Implementing Housing First in Permanent Supportive Housing.

101,628 People Housed in Four Years through 100,000 Homes Campaign

Today on Capitol Hill, the 100,000 Homes Campaign announced it had reached its goal of connecting 100,000 people experiencing homelessness with permanent housing. In fact, the innovative campaign launched four years ago has helped welcome 101,628 people home, including 30,000 Veterans. 100,000 Homes is a movement of New York-based Community Solutions.

"Campaign communities have shown that it is possible to end homelessness quickly and permanently, even for people considered the hardest to help," said 100,000 Homes Campaign Director and former Army Captain Becky Kanis. "This is an urgent national crisis, and we are out of excuses."

Together with local businesses, foundations, government agencies, landlords, outreach workers and service providers, the campaign worked with 238 communities around the country to help find housing for people experiencing chronic homelessness and were medically vulnerable. The campaign estimates it saved taxpayers $1.3 billion that would have otherwise been spent on services like emergency room visits, detox centers, jails and psychiatric interventions.

The campaign announcement gathered partners, including USICH Executive Director Laura Zeilinger, officials from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Home Depot Foundation Director Fred Wacker, and former Army Private First Class Alvin Hill, who became the campaign's 100,000th person connected with housing.

"By reaching this milestone, the 100,000 Homes Campaign and communities across the country are providing further proof that ending homelessness is possible," said Zeilinger. "Now is the time to harness the momentum and charge forward with greater urgency, using the evidence-based practices we know work to end homelessness—Housing First, permanent supportive housing, and rapid re-housing."

For more information about the campaign, visit and read this fact sheet.

First Lady Launches Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness

First Lady Michelle Obama Announces Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness

Watch First Lady Michelle Obama Announce the Mayors Challenge to End Homelessness - June 4, 2014

Click the image above to watch First Lady Michelle Obama announce the Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness - June 4, 2014.


First Lady Michelle Obama, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD),  U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness announced today the creation of the Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness during an event at the White House.  More than 75 mayors and county and state officials across the country pledged they are committed to ending veterans homelessness in their communities by 2015 using the power of federal, local, and non-profit resources.

“With Opening Doors, the first-ever federal strategic plan to prevent and end homelessness, this Administration made ending Veteran homelessness a national priority. The progress we’ve made has put this goal in close reach,” said Laura Zeilinger, Executive Director, U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness. “Now is the time to act with greater urgency and resolve. We call on every mayor and local leader to convene community partners, focus efforts on outcomes and instill relentless accountability to deliver on this commitment for every single one of our Veterans.”

The Obama Administration has already reduced veterans homelessness by 24 percent since 2010 and ending veterans homelessness by the end of 2015 is within reach, but we must continue to accelerate our progress to reach the ultimate goal.  The successes of ending chronic homelessness among Veterans in Salt Lake City and Phoenix have raised the profile of ending Veteran homelessness and prove that with buy-in from local officials and community partners, ending Veteran homelessness is an achievable goal.

Mrs. Obama and Dr. Jill Biden have led the Joining Forces initiative’s efforts to give our service members and their families the opportunities and support they have earned.  Find out ways you can get involved in local efforts to end Veteran homelessness in your own community.

Read the White House Fact Sheet on the Mayors Challange to End Homelessness

Read the Press Release from HUD.

Read Transcripts of First Lady's Remarks.

The State of Homelessness in America 2014 Released

The State of Homelessness in America 2014 Released

Highlighting across-the-board reductions in homelessness throughout the country, the National Alliance to End Homelessness just released The State of Homelessness in America 2014. The report is the fourth in a series that charts progress toward ending homelessness in the United States. It examines trends in homelessness between 2012 and 2013, studies populations that are at risk of homelessness from 2011 to 2012, reviews changes in the assistance available to people experiencing homelessness, and establishes a baseline from which to measure changes in the homeless assistance system enacted by the Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing (HEARTH) Act.

Click here to read the report.

USICH, HUD, ACF and Westat Host Webinar on Ending Family Homelessness

The U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH), the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration on Children and Families (HHS ACF), and Westat hosted the first in a series of webinars addressing response systems to end family homelessness and introduced Family Connection: Building Systems to End Family Homelessness, an interactive resource designed to help communities and stakeholders build and implement an effective housing crisis response system for families.

Click here to access the presentation.

Family Connection: Building Systems to End Family Homelessness

The U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH), the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration on Children and Families (HHS ACF), and Westat hosted the first in a series of webinars addressing response systems to end family homelessness and introduced Family Connection: Building Systems to End Family Homelessness, an interactive resource designed to help communities and stakeholders build and implement an effective housing crisis response system for families.


Ending homelessness for families and children is a priority for the nation and for every community. By providing the right amount of assistance to help families obtain or regain permanent housing as quickly as possible and ensuring access to services to remain stably housed, achieving an end to family homelessness is possible.

Given the current economic realities in most communities, situations in which families experience a crisis and lose their home will likely occur. Recognizing this reality, USICH and Federal partners adopted a vision of an end to family homelessness to mean that no family will be without shelter and homelessness will be a rare and brief occurrence. To achieve an end to family homelessness, we encourage communities to join us to strengthen our local crisis response systems together.

Working together with our partners at the state, local, and federal level to strengthen the local crisis response systems, we will:

  • Ensure that no family is living unsheltered
  • Shorten episodes of family homelessness by providing resources that enable families to safely reenter permanent housing as quickly as possible
  • Link families to the benefits, supports, and community-based services they need to achieve and maintain housing stability
  • Identify and implement effective prevention methods to help families avoid homelessness

Encoding Our Future: HMIS as the Infrastructure for Social Change

Remarks delivered by Eric Grumdahl, Policy Director, at the National Human Services Data Consortium conference, Minneapolis, MN, May 2, 2014.

Eric GrumdahlThank you all for the opportunity to be with you today. I feel like I'm in a room of kindred spirits: people eager to solve complex technical problems in the service of complex social problems. Although I now work in DC, I cut my teeth on HMIS and other data systems right here in Minnesota. I'm probably the geekiest USICH director to address this conference. Thanks for having me.

As many of you probably know, USICH is a small, independent Federal agency responsible for coordinating the Federal response to homelessness across the big 19 agencies on the Council. The Council itself is composed of the heads of those agencies, with HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan serving as our Chair for 2014.

For all of you gathered together today for this conference to help us use data to solve tough social problems, I'm personally grateful for the work you are doing on homelessness and bring the greetings and appreciation of the Obama Administration with me. I know your loved ones, school buddies, and distant relatives may not really understand what you do. "Something to do with data and IT." I want you to know that this Administration does understand what you do. Thank you, for helping to build the infrastructure for social change.

Social change is never easy, is it? Only 10 years ago, the first HMIS data standards were published, and it is easy to forget that before then, most places struggled to have meaningful data to guide homelessness policy, especially locally. Only a decade ago, the data we had was often drawn from studies and research that pointed the way forward but most likely came from somewhere else and so were always prone to the objection that "yeah, but it's not like that here." 

Today, thanks to the infrastructure you build and maintain and enhance and use, most places in our nation have access to readily available, regularly refreshed local data on the magnitude and nature of the problem and the impact of our various interventions and responses. That is critical progress, but as many of you know, that is just the beginning.

Today, I want to reflect on our data about homelessness: how we've used it and how it has shaped our response to the problem; how we need to push ourselves to use it better today; and how are data and practice might evolve together. 

First, how we've used data.

Since the launch of Opening Doors in 2010, we have measured national progress on the goals of the Federal strategic plan to prevent and end homelessness using the annual Point-in-Time count and Annual Homeless Assessment Report data. The story the data tell is compelling, showing unprecedented decreases in homelessness throughout a challenging recession, with progress led by decreases in Veteran and chronic homelessness.

I'm sure most here know the statistics, but they bear repeating: since 2010, Veteran homelessness has decreased by 24 percent. That's one in four. Chronic homelessness has dropped by 16 percent. Unsheltered homelessness across all populations has decreased by 13 percent, with a 30 percent decrease among unsheltered Veterans. How this has happened is a story of courage and dedication and hard work among thousands of people who experienced homelessness and thousands more who supported them. 
It is also a story about our data. 

Let's talk about the linkages between data and investments and impact. The Federal budget is the most powerful vehicle for establishing the Administration's priorities. It is not a wish list: investments proposed in the budget telegraph both what the Administration values but also the confidence that an investment made will have commensurate impact. 

As you can probably imagine, when the Administration develops its budget, there are many, many important and worthy efforts that vie for attention and funding. Every proposal, every detail has to withstand the scrutiny not only of the Administration's best and brightest trying to eke every ounce of impact out of every dollar, it also must be ready for the scrutiny of the taxpayers, the media, advocacy groups, and the Congress itself. To do all of this, it is not enough to be good and important; big investments require strong evidence of impact.

You know that this Administration has committed to ending homelessness. Ending it, not managing it. We know that ending homelessness requires big investments. 

I say all of this because I want to convey the full meaning and weight of this fact: The President's fiscal year 2015 budget proposes the investments needed to end Veteran homelessness in 2015 and to end chronic homelessness in 2016. To end it.

A decade ago, imagining this level of investment may have strained belief. Homelessness is no more worthy or important today than it was then. One of the most important things that has changed is our data. Today, we have a track record to show of investments that have yielded impact. We have a better understanding of the problem than we have ever had. We have an ability to forecast -- that is, to quantify -- the impact of the strategies that will help us reach this bold and ambitious goal. And we have developed new, more effective and cost-efficient approaches to ending homelessness. All of that owes a debt of thanks to the data that we've assembled and that the systems you build collect, manage, and analyze that data.

These benefits of data in the context of the Federal budget also apply locally — perhaps even more so. Data help elected officials and Continuum of Care leaders who want to propose changes or investments in at least two important ways: first, data on impact and effectiveness will help us make sure that these changes are for the better. Using data to guide changes means we are following the evidence, not ideology and not inertia. Second, having strong data provides cover — political or otherwise — to help us be bold in those decisions. We have 20 months until we have committed to end Veteran homelessness. Now is a time for courageous action, not half-measures.   

All of this progress and the role that data have played in it are exciting. Let me pause now and recognize that we have not arrived. We still have a lot of work to do. 

My portfolio at USICH includes our work on Veteran homelessness, youth homelessness, and homelessness among Native Americans. Across those overlapping populations, we see huge differences in terms of access to data. VA has some of the best data available on homelessness, and a national center led by Vince Kane with Dr. Dennis Culhane as the head of research to understand what VA's data say about how to end Veteran homelessness, and how to apply it to practice. 

In contrast, our work on youth homelessness and homelessness among Native Americans routinely confronts the limits of our data, and what we know that we don't know often stymies our most earnest efforts to advance solutions. Again, remember that advocacy for new funding must be grounded in evidence of impact. That's why the Federal framework to end youth homelessness sets out two equally urgent strategies: to improve our data on youth homelessness while at the same time building our capacity to respond. There are many parallels with our work on Native homelessness, but we have much further to go. Wilder Research's partnership with tribal governments to conduct a survey on homelessness on reservations is one of a few bright spots we can point to nationally.

Apart from filling in our knowledge gaps, how else does our data on homelessness need to evolve?

The investments proposed in the budget will only get us to the goal if communities and providers make the hard, ethical decisions needed to use those resources to their greatest effect — to target resources wisely based on people's needs, not just filling vacancies or service slots. To make sure that we are investing in the programs that yield housing outcomes as cost-effectively as possible, not just supporting all the programs we've supported because that is the easy, default thing to do.

We know that ending homelessness, like all social change, is hard. But, for the first time ever, the Federal government has proposed investments that can take us to the goal, with your help. 

We need your help.

Our data are powerful, but too often, in far too many communities, we're not really using that power fully. Helping communities use resources wisely is neither easy nor always popular work. I am here to tell you that it is critical to our success.

How many folks here either offer or use an HMIS system with built-in ways to help communities understand the relative impact of various programs in achieving housing outcomes, in a way that illuminates differences between the people engaged? Labor Secretary Perez recently compared this kind of analysis to competitive diving, where divers' scores are based on both the execution of the dive and the degree of difficulty. To understand the impact of programs, we need to understand both who they engage as well as their effectiveness. HMIS has a critical role to play illuminating both sides of that question. Are we using that capability well?

How many of your systems help service providers identify and engage Veterans and people experiencing chronic homelessness in real time? If you are working in communities that are still taking a first-come, first-serve approach to outreach efforts and in access to critical resources, are they aware of the alternatives? Do they know how other communities are doing it differently, and the impact that targeted engagement and access to resources has on moving the needle? This is happening in places like Salt Lake City and should be happening more broadly. Targeting resources is obviously linked to your work on coordinated assessment, but you do not need to wait for your coordinated assessment system to be fully developed to improve targeting. 

How many systems have links to mainstream data systems, so that data that originated in a school or public assistance department or a hospital or a jail can help you focus on who is being engaged through those systems but doesn't have their housing needs met? The data on who is homeless exist in HMIS, and the data on who uses emergency room frequent exist -- why wouldn't we have those two systems talking to each other? Yes, there are legal hurdles and technical challenges. But it is possible, and we should be doing it.

How many support outreach and engagement in the field? I don't mean "yes, I guess you could load the webpage on a smartphone," I mean really useful mobile features and functionality? There are communities like Houston that are making data available in a street outreach context that not only facilitate connections to housing, but also to other resources like health care coverage. 

Without minimizing the challenges — technical, financial, legal, and otherwise — if we are not doing these things now, what are we waiting for? These are the kind of things data systems are good at and the kinds of problems that people in this room can solve.

By now, I suspect everyone in this room will have read and absorbed the new HUD data standards released yesterday afternoon. Actually, in this room, I think that's possible.

Here's what I hope you see in the evolution of these standards. First, a bold — truly courageous — decision to make the HMIS data standards a tool that serves purposes broader than reporting to HUD. At USICH, we live in this interagency space all the time, and it is wonderful and inspiring to see an agency take something good, something that has had a transformative impact like the HMIS data standards have within HUD's programs and across our efforts to end homelessness, and make them as useful to other agencies as they have been to HUD. Thank you, HUD, especially to the SNAPS team led by Ann Oliva and a special shout out to Karen DeBlasio, who's work on the new data standards makes them what they are. As you probably know, for the past several years, HUD has been working with its partners at HHS and the VA to shape the data standards in a way that reflects the values that their grantees bring to your community. The data standards are better because of their involvement in the process.

This cross-jurisdictional application of HMIS means work in the field can be organized better around people instead of disconnected reporting requirements, to simplify some of the administrative complexity that exists right now and to align our semantic understanding of homelessness across programs. Using HMIS across programs also means that a single data standard can span the expertise of multiple agencies: we are making HMIS smarter on youth homelessness by bringing in the wisdom of HHS's Runaway and Homeless Youth Act grantees; HMIS is better on Veteran homelessness because VA's Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) grantees use the system. And I don't mean "smarter" just in terms of the data standards -- I also mean that we'll actually have better data about individuals and families experiencing homelessness in the system as well. 

For some of you, the data standards will support work your communities are already doing to address homelessness across populations and funding sources. For others of you, the new standards may lead to growing pains in your community, as additional stakeholders are being brought to the table and being held to the high standards you are setting for your data. I know these transformations can be painful, and I know that your systems don't reprogram themselves overnight. Thank you for the work to create this kind of alignment and to use HMIS as a platform for this kind of evolution. This is tremendously important work. 

The structural changes to the data standards also mean that the data can be more and more useful to practice. They are evolving in a way that support the work that case managers and outreach workers and supportive housing programs do every day. Some of you have heard me talk about the need to shift from a compliance orientation in our use of HMIS to a focus on supporting practice — the actual eligibility determinations and resource allocation decisions that should be informed by all of this data. Again, coordinated assessment already pushes us in this direction. The new data standards take some important steps in this direction structurally in clarifying the stages and frequency of data entry and in helping communities think about HMIS as a community-wide system instead of a siloed reporting database for each specific program. The changes help us understand homelessness locally, by making destination-at-exit a universal data element collected for all programs and tracking homelessness chronicity.

I think these new data standards are important and exciting, and I hope you agree. 

Now I want to turn to the last part of my talk: how do we think about the future? If what we can dream to be today is based on what we know today, what might we dream?
I suspect most of us agree that how we frame homelessness matters. In his dissertation on the importance of framing in the context of social movements, David Wesley said it well: 

Frames have several purposes. They align participants with certain ideologies and beliefs, they challenge existing beliefs, and they create new perceptions of reality. As such, frames are important in the development of social movements that, by definition, seek to challenge the status quo. 

David Wesley, "Social movement heterogeneity in public policy framing: a multi-stakeholder analysis of the Keystone XL pipeline" (2014). Law and Public Policy Dissertations. Paper 16

Frames have several purposes. They align participants with certain ideologies and beliefs, they challenge existing beliefs, and they create new perceptions of reality. As such, frames are important in the development of social movements that, by definition, seek to challenge the status quo.  -David Wesley, "Social movement heterogeneity in public policy framing: a multi-stakeholder analysis of the Keystone XL pipeline" (2014). Law and Public Policy Dissertations. Paper 16.

Data standards are, themselves, a form of framing. They articulate a paradigm — a frame of reference in which we elevate some things as important over others, where we define a scope of options that are anticipated to be possible or at least most probable. We can derive and refine these standards or this paradigm from experience, but experience itself is also mediated. There is no fixed Archimedean point from which to evaluate the merits of each paradigm. Our view is partial, and so is every other view.

So what do we want our view to convey?

As part of the Homelessness to Housing Stability Strategy for the Region of Waterloo in southern Ontario, Canada, the Region of Waterloo Social Service has a language guide that suggests reframing our discussion from focusing on homelessness to focusing on housing stability. Yesterday, you heard Cathy ten Broeke, Minnesota's Director to Prevent and End Homelessness, talk about how in Minnesota, focusing on housing stability has engaged stakeholders in finding options to end homelessness that a focus on homelessness alone may not. In addition to the practical and strategic considerations about this reframing, let's recognize that this also focuses us on the solution, it defines the response in terms of the future we seek.

One of the things I have really appreciated about working for USICH is that my documents are  never edited for brevity when I use person-first language. Person-first language is not about political correctness. It is about conceptual clarity. It is about choosing not to perpetuate the mistaken notion that homelessness is a characteristic of a person, rather than an experience that people survive and that remains fundamentally a social artifact, not a quality of someone's character. It is also about respect. I guess I would rather be known as a person within a bureaucracy than as a bureaucratic person. So, let's challenge ourselves to keep people first in how we frame the problem in our thoughts, in our concepts, and in the words we use.

symbol for disabilityproposed new symbol for disabilitySlate's The Eye design blog recently ran a piece asking the question whether the international symbol of accessibility needed to be redesigned.

These icons provide a powerful example of how the framing of our concepts embeds all kinds of beliefs, assumptions, and ideologies. Comparing these two symbols, ask yourself which wheelchair you would you prefer to use. We cannot avoid our frames being laced with assumptions and beliefs. But we can try to bring those assumptions into view, and my challenge to us all today is that we think hard about the beliefs that we want to hold. 

If an end to homelessness is increasingly in sight, how do we envision the end in the way that we frame the problem today? If we are going to end homelessness, what do our data systems and what does our homelessness response system — or our housing stability system — need to look like as we do?

Thankfully, our work together on homelessness is not the first time a social problem has been solved. Our colleagues in the 

public health world have been here before. The health impact pyramid developed by Dr. Thomas R. Frieden in the American Journal of Public Health suggests the answer, in calling for increasingly population-based responses, to change the context and socioeconomic conditions so that people at risk of homelessness are predisposed to housing outcomes, not bouts of homelessness.

Interestingly, this shift mirrors the same semantic and conceptual shifts we just talked about — moving from focusing on one person's homelessness as the problem, to focusing on the environmental and contextual factors that determine whether risks of homelessness lead to exposure to homelessness.  


This table suggests how these concepts from the public health world might apply in the context of housing stability.

But what does this mean for our data systems? A lot, I suspect. Let me call out three key points.

First, if we recognize that context shapes homelessness, how is context part of the story of homelessness that we tell? Do we describe that homelessness exists in a context of unprecedented worst-case housing needs? At a local level, do we quantify the availability of affordable housing alongside our population measures of homelessness? Do we frame homelessness in the context of parallel efforts to improve access to skills and employment? If not, why not? Homelessness Analytics, a collaborative effort of VA and HUD, can help situate data on homelessness in the context of other social indicators. 

Second, as population-based responses to homelessness become more and more essential to taking us across the finish line, how are our efforts — and our data systems — linking to the broad population-based services delivered through our health care and economic assistance systems? If we think about effective prevention, we cannot wait until someone shows up at shelter -- that is too late. So, how are we engaging these mainstream systems to help identify people in danger of becoming homeless to intervene appropriately early and to make those mainstream systems an essential part of the response? This work must happen locally, and our data systems can support it happening well. 

Third, how are we ensuring that those systems are sufficiently sensitive to detect the warning signs of homelessness, to guide those interventions? The know-how for doing so must come from our experience ending homelessness. The best example I'm aware of is the clinical reminder that VA has implemented in every VA medical center in America. Since October 2012, any time a Veteran is engaged for health care services they are asked two questions, the responses to which are strongly correlated with risk of homelessness: 

・    In the past two months, have you been living in stable housing that you own, rent, or stay in as part of a household?
・    If not, are you worried or concerned that in the next two months you may not have stable housing that you own, rent, or stay in as part of a household?

More than 4 million Veterans have been screened to date, and Veterans experiencing homelessness or at risk are referred to appropriate services. Can we imagine a world in which we could say the same about every hospital visit? We need your help — and your data systems — to get there.

Big questions, big opportunities. I think it is a measure of our success to date that they are becoming increasingly relevant ones.

So, in closing, let me say again, thank you for the work you do. Thank you for the progress that has been driven by the data you painstakingly collect, analyze, and improve. We are at an exciting and critical time in the history of our nation's efforts to end homelessness. Thank you for your partnership to make sure that we have the full benefit of the data in your systems and the human stories they tell as we bring about an end to homelessness in this country, and safe and stable housing for all.

Thank you.

Senator Cory Booker to Deliver Keynote at 2014 National Conference on Ending Homelessness

Senator Cory Booker to Deliver Keynote at 2014 National Conference on Ending Homelessness

Cory Booker

The National Alliance to End Homelessness announced today that New Jersey Senator Cory A. Booker will deliver a keynote address on Wednesday, July 30 at the luncheon plenary of the 2014 National Conference on Ending Homelessness. The conference will take place at the Renaissance Washington Hotel from July 29 to 31, 2014. 

New Jersey's first ever African American senator, Senator Booker previously served as mayor of Newark, NJ, during which time he worked with New Jersey's Essex County and the Corporation for Supportive Housing to develop the Essex-Newark Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness. 

The annual conference includes best practices for service delivery, federal agency sessions, and advocacy and public education trainings. The Alliance previously announced that Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan will provide a keynote address on the first day, July 29, of the three-day conference. 

For more information, visit the conference website.

HUD Awards $29 Million To 26 Local HIV-AIDS Housing Programs

HUD announced $29 million in grants to assist more than 1,200 extremely low-income persons and families living with HIV/AIDS annually. This funding will provide these households with a stable living environment, which is essential to accessing healthcare and HIV related services. In addition to housing assistance, these local programs will provide access to the needed supportive services such as life skills, job readiness services and employment training.

The funding announced today is offered through HUD's Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS Program (HOPWA) and will renew HUD's support of 26 local programs in 18 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands (see attached chart and individual project descriptions below).

"These grants will give our local partners a vital resource to keep low-income individuals and families living with HIV/AIDS healthy," said Secretary Shaun Donovan. "Having a place to call home can make all the difference to someone who might otherwise be homeless or on the brink of homelessness."


Addressing TB Among People Experiencing Homelessness

The U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Health Care for the Homeless Council (NHCHC), and the National Tuberculosis Controllers Association (NTCA) hosted a webinar addressing Tuberculosis (TB) among people experiencing homelessness.


Homelessness is a public health issue. TB rates are 10 times higher for people experiencing homelessness than for those with a safe, stable place to call home. In this webinar, presenters describe the work being done at the national and local level to prevent and address TB among people experiencing homelessness and those working with homeless populations. Additionally, staff members from the San Francisco Department of Public Health outline how they have successfully addressed TB and established screening programs, leading to sustained declines in the disease among people experiencing homelessness. The information shared includes lessons learned and recommendations for other homeless providers and health care workers. This webinar is designed to complement the recently released Preventing and Addressing Tuberculosis among People Experiencing Homelessness.


  • Liz Osborn, Management and Program Analyst, U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness
  • John Lozier, Executive Director, National Health Care for the Homeless Council
  • Donna Wegener, Executive Director, National Tuberculosis Controllers Association
  • Krista Powell, Medical Officer, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • Julie Higashi, TB Controller, San Francisco Department of Public Health
  • Kate Shuton, Shelter Health and Homeless Family Coordinator, San Francisco Department of Public Health

U.S. Federal Interagency Reentry Council Releases Resources For Communities

The Reentry Council recently released a set of “Mythbuster” fact sheets that cover a range of important topics. These fact sheets are designed to clarify existing Federal policies that affect formerly incarcerated individuals and their families in areas such as public housing, employment, parental rights, Medicaid suspension/termination, voting rights, and more.

The Reentry Council supports successful reentry from incarceration by reducing recidivism and victimization, assisting those who return from prison and jail to become productive citizens, and saving taxpayer dollars by lowering the direct and collateral costs of incarceration.

USICH is proud to serve as a member of the Interagency Reentry Council. Stable housing with appropriate supportive services is a key factor in preventing or ending homelessness and reducing recidivism for people coming out of incarceration. 

The Reentry MythBusters are particularly useful for:

  • Prison, jail, probation, community corrections, and parole officials who want to ensure that individuals can access healthcare, behavioral health treatment, and federal benefits, as appropriate, immediately upon release to help stabilize the critical first days and weeks after incarceration. Pre‐release applications and procedures are available for certain federal benefits (veterans, Social Security, food assistance, and student financial aid).
  • Reentry service providers and faith‐based organizations who want to understand the laws and policies related to public housing, employment, VA services, child support options, and parental rights while incarcerated.  
  • Employers and workforce development specialists who are interested in the incentives and protections involved in hiring formerly convicted individuals. The Reentry MythBusters are also helpful to employers who want to better understand the appropriate use of a criminal record in making hiring decisions.   
  • States and local agencies that want to understand, modify, or eliminate certain bans on benefits (TANF, SNAP) for people who have been convicted of drug felonies.  

For those who want to delve deeper, The What Works in Reentry Clearinghouse offers easy access to important research on the effectiveness of a wide variety of reentry programs and practices. It provides a user-friendly, one-stop shop for practitioners and service providers seeking guidance on evidence-based reentry interventions, and serves as a useful resource for researchers and others interested in reentry. 

Effective Community-Based Solutions to Encampments

Ending homelessness is about protecting and furthering human rights. Balancing health, safety, and community impact concerns created by encampments of people experiencing homelessness can be challenging, but there are solutions.

Across the country, many communities are wrestling with how to create solutions for people experiencing homelessness in encampments.  Depending on variables such as terrain, visibility, and accessibility, encampments can take multiple forms, including groups of tents or semi-permanent structures on public or private property. Oftentimes, encampments occur on land which has never been intended for any human habitation. Unfortunately, the first response to encampments often considered by communities and elected officials are ordinances that criminalize certain behaviors, such as panhandling, sitting and/or lying on public sidewalks, and camping.  However, criminalization measures are not real solutions. Real solutions result from strategies and responses that help people living in encampments achieve permanent housing.

As such, USICH believes that encampments also are not a solution to homelessness—as encampments do not provide permanent housing outcomes, nor do encampments best serve those who are experiencing homelessness. Encampments only offer a temporary and reactive response to homelessness. Encampments—regardless of whether or not they are officially sanctioned or publically or privately funded—can distract communities from focusing on the real solution of connecting people experiencing homelessness with safe, stable, permanent housing. Encampments also create risks for their inhabitants related to safety, health, and sanitation. The costs associated with trying to ensure the well-being of people living in encampments can be spent more strategically to create permanent housing and services options for people experiencing homelessness in encampments, which will decrease overall homelessness in a community. 

However, USICH firmly believes that prematurely dispersing people from encampments is not an effective approach to addressing the issue of encampments. Dispersing people from encampments is costly, contributes to distrust and conflict, and is a short-term intervention at best. Many people who live in encampments have nowhere else to go and may be experiencing chronic homelessness and/or be extremely vulnerable due to disability or illness. As described in USICH’s publication Searching out Solutions: Constructive Alternatives to the Criminalization of Homelessness, providing people who live in encampments with access to permanent housing is the solution to encampments.

To help support communities that are seeking to connect people living in encampments to permanent housing, USICH is documenting the strategies and best practices successfully implemented in communities to address the issue of encampments. Below is a sneak peek of the common themes and solutions that will be highlighted in a forthcoming publication, which will serve as guidance to communities working to end homelessness for people living in encampments.

Successful Strategies

Examples of strategies that communities can implement to address successfully the issue of encampments by connecting people to appropriate housing options include:

  • Preparation and Adequate Time for Planning and Implementation: Plans for creating solutions to encampments should ensure that there is adequate time for effective collaboration, outreach, engagement, and the identification of meaningful housing options to occur. Adequate time is essential to achieve the primary objective of meeting the needs of each person and assisting them to end their homelessness.
  • Collaboration: Any plan should include collaboration between a cross-section of public and private agencies, neighbors, and business owners. Any plan should feature strong relationships with a broad range of community service providers and the permanent housing resources that are being targeted to the effort in order to maximize efficiency, align resources, and address any system gaps.
  • Intensive and Persistent Outreach and Engagement: The agencies responsible for collaboratively implementing the plan should have strong outreach experience and demonstrated skills in engaging vulnerable and unsheltered people.
  • Low-Barrier Pathways to Permanent Housing: The plan should include clear, low-barrier pathways to attaining and sustaining permanent housing opportunities and should not include a focus on relocating people to other encampment settings.

Community Examples

Below are examples from three communities that have encountered the challenges that accompany homeless encampments and have responded with effective, people-centered strategies.

  • Between 2010 and 2012, St. Louis, Missouri (population 318,172) was faced with four adjacent riverfront encampments, in which approximately 60-70 people were living. As described in their detailed report Moving Forward: Policies, Plans & Strategies for Ending & Preventing Chronic Homelessness (2012), city partners made great strides in each of the four recommended strategies described above, resulting in housing solutions for all camp residents.
  • In Asheville, North Carolina (population 85,712), homeless service providers, police, and the Department of Transportation are currently working together to create solutions for several small encampments. Police, who participate in Crisis Intervention Training, are involved mostly in the initial stages of the outreach effort but work with other partners to avoid unnecessarily arresting camp residents. Asheville has seen an 82 percent reduction in chronic homelessness, which is largely contributed to the collaborative efforts of these engaged partnerships.
  • Members of the Colorado Springs, Colorado (population 431,834) Police Department collaborated with local service providers to become better informed about the needs of people experiencing homelessness. They worked to improve relationships with providers and their clients, and they became resources for outreach forming Homeless Outreach Teams (H.O.T).  Their model won the 2010 Herman Goldstein award for community policing and inspired the Wichita Police Department in Kansas to follow in their footsteps and devote full-time officers to work with service providers and people experiencing homelessness. (For more information, the USICH Blog piece by Officer Nathan Schwiethale of the Wichita Police Department’s Homeless Outreach Team can be found here.)

These examples illustrate that a comprehensive approach to addressing encampments is the right solution for communities and for the people who experience homelessness in encampments.

For communities that are still struggling with this issue, please continue to share your lessons learned. USICH is eager to learn from communities that are planning, collaborating, and engaging with community stakeholders in order to connect people living in encampments with meaningful housing options.  As USICH prepares a publication on this topic for release later this year, we welcome input and suggestions, case studies, and examples of policies and materials that can help inform and strengthen this planned publication.

Please share your lessons learned with us; contact your USICH Regional Coordinator.

Model Program Profile: St. Leonard’s Ministries

Saint Leonard’s Ministries is a project of the Episcopal Charities of Chicago and provides residential and supportive services for ex-offenders as they transition from incarceration back into society. The program consists of several distinct components:

  • 40 beds of emergency housing at the St. Leonard’s house for men and 18 beds of emergency housing for women at the Grace House for Women. Rooms are either single occupancy or shared. Three meals a day are provided and residents have access to laundry, computers, and other important basic services.
  • 42 beds of second stage housing for men at St. Andrew’s Court.
  • Mental health care, counseling, and substance abuse treatment. All residents receive access to these vital services on site which include relapse prevention strategies.
  • Assistance with accessing benefits, community services, and housing placement.
  • Job training and education provided at the Michael Barlow Center. Formerly incarcerated men and women have the opportunity to study in an adult high school program, take green building maintenance courses, use a computer lab, work with volunteer tutors, train for culinary careers in the onsite training kitchen, and work with an employment placement specialist.

St. Leonard’s hopes to be able to open transitional single room occupancy housing for women in the coming year. The recidivism rate of St Leonard’s residents is 20%, compared to an overall state rate of over 50%.

Advice on the challenges of helping this population and tips for overcoming these challenges from the Executive Director, Bob Dougherty:

The main challenge faced by an organization like St. Leonard’s is one of perception of our work within the community. We know how to help our residents with solutions that work, but the community can often have a “not in my backyard” attitude towards the reentering population that is difficult to overcome. It is important to remind key stakeholders that these interventions work and the population we are talking about deserves a second chance. In many cases they actually deserve the first chance that they never had. Another challenge faced by programs like St. Leonard’s is that funding streams are limited; there are more providers and more need than current funds allow and we are not as effective as we’d like to be.

Two steps for successfully changing outcomes for previously incarcerated individuals:

The first step is pretty simple. We involve ourselves in their lives. At St. Leonard’s we make sure our residents know that we care about them and their success.  Often our residents come to us with a perspective that no one is going to give them a chance so it isn’t even worth trying. We show them that this isn’t true by giving them a chance ourselves.

The second step is to provide the tools they need to be successful. I can’t stress enough that one of these tools is mental health care and substance abuse treatment. Many of our residents have struggled with addiction their entire adult life: they can’t just wake up one morning and decide to no longer be burdened by it. They need help and a partner to work with them as they get through it, including contingency plans if they relapse.  They also need education, job skills, and help accessing benefits.

Tips for other providers on ways to improve a program to help this population:

If you can’t provide all the services you want to, look for organizations in your community who have the resources you need and approach them about a partnership. We have invaluable partnerships with many organizations. A local public high school allows our residents to get high school degrees. We receive clinical help from the Adler School of Psychology and tutors and interns from several nearby universities. Churches and food pantries help us find the food we need to feed our residents. The City of Chicago, the State of Illinois, and the Department of Corrections are all critical to our success as well.

One simple thing to do that we have found really helps is to coordinate with our residents’ parole officers, both before they exit the institution and while they are in our program.

Jail Inreach: Healthcare for the Homeless - Houston

The Jail Inreach program run by Health Care for the Homeless-Houston begins helping Houston’s incarcerated homeless population in the jail itself. Prisoners who have a history of homelessness, mental illness, and/or multiple non-violent incarcerations are referred to Healthcare for the Homeless by the Harris County Jail. Case managers visit with the prisoners up to six or seven times to develop a discharge plan and to build trust. Once an individual is released, a case manager meets them at the gate and helps them through the process of finding housing, qualifying for benefits, and getting continued quality mental health and substance abuse care.

A more than 50% drop in rearrest rates occurred in the population of inmates that were a part of the Jail Inreach Program.

Advice on the challenges of helping this population and tips for overcoming these challenges from the Executive Director, Frances Isbell:

The biggest challenges are the basics. There isn’t enough housing available, notably permanent supportive housing. There also isn’t enough funding available from the state level.  The state government tends to push the issue down to the county level, but counties don’t usually have the same level of resources to address the robust need.  It actually saves the state money by helping these individuals with critical health care and substance abuse therapy as well as housing and benefits support.  These individuals circle in and out of emergency rooms and jail cells, and the best way to stop that cycle is with health care and housing.

Tips for other providers on ways to improve a program to help this population:

The Harris County Jail is a valuable partner in our program. If possible, try to establish a partnership with the local jail in your community as well. The corrections department helps us identify individuals that would be a good fit for our programs and they coordinate daytime releases so that we can have a case manager waiting at the gate.  This pick up is a critical moment for those reentering, as it is very easy for these individuals to go right back to their old neighborhoods and lifestyles. With this coordination, we can get to the individual first and offer them an alternative.

Substance abuse therapy and mental health care are absolutely critical. When prisoners are incarcerated they have access to behavioral health care and medicines that treat mental health disorders, but as soon as they are released that access disappears. In Houston, individuals are not given any extra medication when they leave nor, often, are they given a prescription.  It can take four to six months to schedule an appointment through the public health system; far too long for an individual with a mental health disorder to have no safety net. We are able to solve this problem by walking individuals over to our health clinic (which is four blocks from the jail) as soon as they are released.

Other partners can be helpful to providers as well. Case managers can’t do everything, so they need to be experts at finding the resources to help their clients. For us this means working closely with the county government health systems and the local housing providers. There are also specialty courts that have been very helpful in Houston to limit the incarceration of folks who are not serious criminals but who have other treatable problems like addiction and mental health disorders. These courts include a Homeless Court, a Mental Health Court, a VA court, and a Drug Court. Social workers at these courts also link individuals to services.

Interview with Jeanette Kinard: Holistic Public Defender’s Offices

USICH spoke with Jeanette Kinard the Director of the Mental Health Public Defenders (MHPD) Office in Travis County Texas (County seat of Austin, TX).

In many public defenders offices, lawyers work on a timeline that begins with their clients arrest and ends when the case is dismissed, their client accepts a plea bargain, or the case ends in trial. Holistic public defenders offices work differently. They don’t start with the exclusive goal of defending the client legally in one case. Instead they have the goal of helping the client address the issues that brought them to the court system to begin with. They address the holistic needs of their clients by providing access to case management and services that go beyond legal aid and help the clients achieve long term stability.

In Travis County, Texas, a team of two lawyers, two master’s level social workers, and two case workers handle 400 legal cases plus an additional 100 other cases referred to them by other lawyers each year. They work exclusively with clients the court has determined to have a mental illness, many of whom are also experiencing homelessness at the time of arrest. The MHPD team either connects their clients directly to services or works with partners at local organizations to provide medical care, housing assistance, employment services, clothing, and some very basic household needs, and to set up access to Social Security and Veterans’ benefits.

“We don’t have a time limit for working with clients and we don’t have strict rules that clients must adhere to,” said Jeanette Kinard. “We work with the client for as long as they benefit from it. In some cases this means active case management over a few years. And we work with clients in a way that helps them achieve their goals.” In one example, Kinard said that a client who had a severe substance abuse disorder needed to enter rehab, but he wouldn’t do it because in order to complete the inpatient program he would have to give up his dog. The MHPD staff developed a calendar to dog sit for the client while he completed rehab and got sober. “Sometimes we have to be a little creative, the client needed rehab to get healthy, but he also needed his dog. This is just one example where the holistic approach allowed us to meet the client where he was and help him make steps toward stability,” said Kinard.

After five years, it is clear that this program is successful. MHPD clients use fewer justice system dollars after they receive support from MHPD. Trials, bookings, jail bed days, and recidivism are all reduced. Several other counties in Texas have since adopted a similar model and are also seeing results. Communities benefit in three ways: the burden on the justice system (and likely other public systems) is reduced, local residents in need of support are helped to reenter society, and the visibility of homelessness is reduced. 

A note from Jeanette Kinard:

There are different models of holistic public defender’s offices that can work. Our office operates with dedicated mental health lawyers and it has worked very well for us. San Mateo County, California pioneered a model that relies on a centralized office for case management and social services, but contracts out legal services to a qualified list of lawyers who manage their own expenses. This contract based model is something that might work better but achieve similar results for smaller communities as it doesn’t require full time legal staff.

Annual Update 2013

Three years have passed since the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) launched Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness. This update provides the latest data on the number of people experiencing homelessness, an overview of the progress USICH and its partner agencies have made toward the goals set forth in Opening Doors, and information on USICH and member agencies’ activities and accomplishments in the third year of implementation since the release of Opening Doors in June 2010.

Opening Doors has served as a catalyst for significant progress in preventing and ending homelessness in the United States. Opening Doors’ implementation throughout the country continues to grow. The 2013 Point-in-Time (PIT) count reflected a steady and significant decrease in national rates of homelessness since the launch of Opening Doors in 2010. This trend is evidence that, in partnership with communities across the country, the Obama Administration has had a significant impact on the trajectory of homelessness. The progress is particularly remarkable given the economic downturn our country faced and the reality of an economy that has slowly, but steadily been improving. According to HUD’s national PIT estimate, the total number of people identified as experiencing homelessness on a single night decreased by six percent between 2010 and 2013 and four percent between 2012 and 2013. The decrease in persons who are unsheltered was even greater, dropping by 13 percent since 2010 and over 11 percent between 2012 and 2013.

Progress was made across all sub-populations. Perhaps most notably, the country has seen homelessness among Veterans decline by 24 percent since 2010. In addition, the number of people experiencing chronic homelessness declined by 15.7 percent between 2010 and 2013. For the first time in the last five years, the number of families on the street or in homeless programs at a point in time decreased in 2013, as did the number of families experiencing homelessness over the course of a year. Data from HUD’s 2013 PIT indicated that 71,000 families were homeless at a point-in-time in 2013. Longitudinal data from HUD’s AHAR indicate that a larger number—167,000 families—were homeless and sheltered at some point in 2012. Department of Education data, which includes doubled-up households, indicate that more than one million school-age children and their families were homeless at some point during the 2012-2013 school year.

Ending homelessness is possible. However, the country must make adequate investments in effective interventions in order to achieve that goal. Using the tools available (e.g. broad dissemination of information, Federal guidance, technical assistance, and competitive awards) USICH and Council agencies have supported communities’ efforts to implement evidence-based practices and maximize efficiencies wherever possible.

In Phoenix/Maricopa County, Arizona, for example, USICH, HUD, and the VA worked closely with State and local partners to increase focus on collaboration and data-driven decision-making. As a result of a close partnership between VA staff, the Arizona Department of Veterans Services, public housing agencies, and local non-profit and public partners, the community announced that it has ended chronic homelessness among Veterans. The accomplishment will be verified through the 2014 Point-in-Time count.

Understanding that permanent supportive housing is the key solution for chronic homelessness, in Houston, Texas, Federal and local partners designed an initiative to use Federal housing and health care resources to create at least another 1,000 units of permanent supportive housing. Supported by analytic tools provided by USICH and HUD, Federal and local partners in Houston are confident that the additional housing units will contribute towards the goal of ending chronic homelessness in their city.

Opening Doors recognizes that homelessness cannot be solved with targeted homeless programs alone. In the last year, the Council developed toolkits and provided technical assistance and guidance to help communities better leverage the mainstream housing and supports necessary to advance efforts on ending homelessness.

For example, HUD provided public housing agencies (PHAs), as well as owners and operators of HUD-funded multi-family housing programs, with guidance on how to improve access to affordable housing for people experiencing homelessness in their communities. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued guidance on how communities can use funds from the Temporary Assistance or Needy Families (TANF) program to provide rapid re-housing to families who are experiencing homelessness. USICH created a database of solutions to further assist communities in their efforts to improve their approaches to ending homelessness. The database includes examples of best practices from around the country, a Housing First Checklist, and a guidebook PHAs can use to increase their efforts to coordinate with local homelessness service providers.

USICH, Council agencies, and communities have been doing everything possible within existing resources to accelerate progress. With sustained support and investment in solutions that work, achieving the goals of Opening Doors is within reach. Failure to invest in solutions is the more costly route. Not only is homelessness destructive and demoralizing for individuals and families, it is also expensive for taxpayers. Too often, people experiencing homelessness become caught in a revolving door between emergency departments, hospitals, and the criminal justice system, resulting in high costs to the public and poor outcomes for the individuals. Research continues to show that this revolving door pattern contributes to the rising cost of Medicaid as well as other costs associated with this system of care. Providing affordable housing and supportive services creates a platform for health and stability for individuals as well as for the community at-large.

Opening Doors has demonstrated that the right strategies are in place to succeed. By relentlessly pursuing the goals in Opening Doors and fully investing in solutions that work, the United States can achieve the vision that no one should be without a safe and stable place to call home.

Read the update

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.

Read the appendix

2014 National RHY Grantees Conference Call for Presenters

The 2014 National RHY Grantees Conference will be held November 11-13 in Phoenix, Arizona.  Over 50 workshop trainings seesions available for workshops addressing pressing issues and cutting-edge practices most helpful to grantees.  The deadline for submitting proposals is May 15, 2014.

Applicationa and more information here

2014 NAEHCY Conference Call for Proposals

The National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth is accepting proposals to present a concurrent session at the 2014 NAEHCY Annual Conference. Download the Request for Proposals (RFP) below and follow the instructions included. Only proposals submitted through NAEHCY's online RFP submission form will be accepted. The link to the online RFP submission form is included in the RFP and Presenter Instructions below. 

Obama Administration Renews Critical Support for nearly 7,100 Local Homelessness Programs across U.S.

HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan today announced nearly $1.6 billion in grants to renew support for 7,100 local homeless housing and service programs across the U.S., Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands (see attached chart).  Provided through HUD’s Continuum of Care Program, the funding announced today will ensure these local projects remain operating in the coming year, providing critically needed housing and support services to those persons and families experiencing homelessness.

“In the face of budget cuts from sequestration, Continuums of Care and grantees were forced to make difficult choices and do as much as possible to advance their local efforts to end homelessness with fewer resources,” said Laura Zeilinger, Executive Director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness.  “Communities are making the smart choice, investing HUD funds in evidence-based, cost-effective programs.  Now we need help from Congress to fully fund these programs and provide communities with exactly what they need to reach the goals of Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness.”


Featured Articles

Coordinated Assessment: Putting the Key Pieces in Place

Remarks by Eric Grumdahl at a gathering of community stakeholders focused on ending Veteran and chronic homelessness
Thursday, March 27, 2014

Today, I would like to share what we at USICH see as key components of an effective coordinated assessment system. I will talk about some questions you might be wrestling with, some tactics you can use to make progress, and then review key components of coordinated assessment.

Before coming to Washington, I was responsible for housing and homelessness programs for a metropolitan county, where we were pushing in fits and starts toward a no-wrong-door coordinated assessment system linked to our mainstream systems. I understand that coordinated assessment sounds straightforward, but in practice it can be really challenging.

We suspect that your community is wrestling with some of these critical questions:

  • Is your response effectively reducing how many people experience homelessness?
  • Does it ensure that resources are used well?
  • Does it contain the right mix of interventions?

We know that communities are facing challenges to ensure that the success rate of your response to homelessness is as high as it can be, and that permanent housing is obtained as quickly as possible by everybody served by it. We know that in a resource-constrained environment a central challenge is to make sure that the resources that are available are designed and delivered strategically.

We also know that homelessness-specific resources are not the only game in town, and that indeed we won't end homelessness through targeted programs alone. Communities must engage mainstream resources as much as possible.

So how do we make progress? The key tactics that we've identified among communities making progress include the following:

  • Communities need to use data to focus efforts and drive performance.
  • Mainstream systems and resources need to be engaged completely.
  • Communities have to make hard choices about where interventions and resources are focused and do that in a systemic way, not just a program-specific way.
  • Communities have to be using proven practices. There's a large and growing body of proven practices to end homelessness, like adopting a Housing First approach to reduce barriers to accessing services and focus on interventions on achieving housing outcomes.
  • Finally, we know that the challenge of using the limited resources available is to be wise and strategic about how they should be invested, especially as new opportunities present themselves.

So, how do we create a coordinated assessment system that helps us do these things?

We view coordinated assessment as being about people. Coordinated assessment sounds fancy and clinical, but fundamentally it is about shifting the orientation of our response to homelessness toward identifying the best options for each individual and family experiencing homelessness. It is about structuring the way we use our resources, with shared, explicit criteria, and a common process and a common purpose for how decisions get made.

It is not about simply following the output of a tool, but it does require yielding program-specific decision-making. It's about buying into the benefits of a shared response – for the people served, for the system as a whole, and even for programs themselves – rather than preserving business as usual.

Coordinated assessment puts people – not programs and not tools – at the center of offering the interventions that work best. Offering interventions: we need a system that enables people to choose what intervention best responds to their needs and goals, to have those options informed by helpful assessment and on-the-ground insight and understanding, and to have our entire system oriented to ensure that the smartest choices for people are the choices people make.

Rather than a mysterious black box that spits out matches between people and interventions, consumer choice and practitioner wisdom both have a central place in an effective coordinated assessment system. Policies and practices that screen out the people most in need of an intervention do not.

Here are some of the key components of coordinated assessment:

First, we know that the path from homelessness to housing varies significantly from person to person, from family to family. We would ideally have a system that whatever front door somebody entered, they could quickly be connected to the right resources. That means making sure that there's meaningful coordination between the homeless response system and the intake processes for mainstream systems. Creating those linkages can be challenging, but ultimately mainstream systems have as much to benefit from having an option for the people experiencing or at risk of homelessness that they encounter as people experiencing homelessness and the homeless response system have to benefit from a connection to those mainstream resources.

Next, we know that if we're not connected with the people in need of interventions, it's impossible for coordinated assessment system to make smart connections between people and resources. That means that outreach is essential for a coordinated assessment system to function well.

We also know that these systems have to leverage the local capacities and resources including data systems like your local Homelessness Management Information System and take into account the specific and unique factors in every community, including the physical and political geography, the capacity of partners in your community, and the opportunities unique to your context.

The purpose of coordinated assessment is to make sure that the right access to services is established. This can happen in a variety of ways: access to services can be centralized, a one-stop shop approach; access can be coordinated, leveraging outreach capacity and linking or integrating with mainstream systems. There isn't a single path or option for how best to increase access to services -- how you do that depends a lot on the details of your community. The point here is simply that increased access is central to the purpose.

We also want to be sure we have access to the right stuff. We know that at a systems level, that means making sure that the various types of interventions that are available are all aligned and used strategically where they're most helpful. Again, we have to yield on making decisions about access to resources in isolation in order to get the benefits of a true systems approach and the best use of our limited resources.

Slide 10 provides a schematic view of how some of these pieces fit together. Coordinated assessment is linked with outreach, with a strong assertive outreach linkage to the discharge processes for a variety of mainstream systems. That "in-reach," as it is sometimes called, can be in addition to the other connections to the intake processes for other mainstream resources. These connections, informed by an assessment process with clear criteria to guide the prioritization of access to some services over others, leads to rapid connection to the housing and services that each person served needs and wants.

The push to establish for coordinated assessment systems is enshrined in the HEARTH Act and HUD's regulations for it. Those regulations stipulate the following criteria for a coordinated assessment system:

  • It must cover the entire continuum of care.
  • It must be easily accessible and well-advertised.
  • It must use an assessment tool that is standardized across the whole system.
  • It must be attuned to the local needs and conditions.
  • It must include at least the Continuum of Care and Emergency Solutions Grant programs.

The last point here is really important, because even though the HEARTH Act regulations require that the Continuum of Care and Emergency Solutions Grant programs are in the coordinated assessment system, that is really just a starting point. Many communities are exploring how mainstream systems can also play a part, either as feeders into coordinated assessment, or as additional resources that a coordinated assessment process can access.

VA's vision for a coordinated assessment system reinforces the HEARTH Act requirements: a coordinated assessment system needs to be centralized or coordinated, easily accessible, and use a tool that puts people at the center and is based on established criteria. The purpose, or benefit, is to have a better process for connecting people to services, including better referrals and better coordination between programs, which produces better results for people.

I want to emphasize that coordinated assessment is a process, not a tool. The process serves your community's efforts to end homelessness by bringing into the open, in a more explicit way, how resources are deployed – and should be deployed – to serve the members of your community experiencing homelessness. Tools are an important part of assessment systems, but the tool alone is not sufficient.

So the shift that we are calling for is from thinking about access to programs in isolation, to thinking about options for individuals and families, shifting from "should my program accept this person," to thinking about "which programs offer the best options for this person or family." Another way to think about this is it's having good social work at a systemic level, while maximizing the impact of the resources you have by targeting them intentionally.

We acknowledge that yes, there are challenges with putting a system like this in place. Yes, there are thorny issues about control, discretion, history, and inertia. The point of departure on every community's journey to establish a coordinated assessment system is recognizing the benefits that come from having a system in place, committing to moving toward a systemic response, and to confronting these challenges.

So, what can communities do? Here are some suggestions.

First, you can begin to coordinate the efforts across your community to identify people experiencing homelessness and engage them in services. This coordination provides you with the platform for shared decision-making about access to resources. Often, parallel outreach efforts are not aware of each other’s efforts to engage the same individual, which makes coordinated anything tough.

Outreach also needs to be oriented to achieve housing outcomes. We understand that the purpose of outreach is engagement, and yes, engagement can take time. But the purpose of engagement is housing, and so we must make sure that every engagement attempt has housing as the goal.

Of course, you also need to assess the variety and capacity of programs in your community, to identify and fill critical gaps, and to ensure that there's a range of those options needed for a coordinated assessment system to work well. We can't have a response to homelessness that recognizes that one size does not fit all if we only have one size to offer.                                             

Next, you can begin to engage the programs and interventions in your community about adopting a common way to make decisions. Yes, this can be hard. The Federal government has your back in this work. HUD's regulations and VA's vision require communities to move in this direction. I know many communities have already begun this work, and a few have their systems in place. Learn from each other.

There are also some "must-haves" for your local system. Every community must adopt a Housing First approach, but we also have to make sure that local adoption of Housing First is meaningful —commit  to remove preconditions from each person's access to housing, focus on housing outcomes, and delink service expectations from housing --. It's easy to say your community adopts Housing First. Make sure you're doing it in a meaningful way. VA, HUD, and USICH all have tools to help you.                                                      

Similarly, we need supportive services that don't screen out or alienate the very people who would most benefit from them.

Every community must commit to making careful decisions about how we target the most intensive interventions like permanent supportive housing. In fact, how we should prioritize access for permanent supportive housing can be a case study of how coordinated assessment can work more generally. What we need is to shift from reacting and having a passive role in identifying supportive housing tenants to a more deliberate and intentional engagement of those most in need of that resource and intentionally prioritizing who gets access based on clear and objective measures of need.

In terms of mainstream resources, communities are not alone in trying to identify ways to link mainstream services to your local efforts to end homelessness. HUD has provided some really helpful guidance for public housing authorities and for multifamily housing developments. USICH has released a guidebook focused on partnerships between public housing authorities and other parts of the homeless response system, which can help you in thinking about how to maximize the impact of those partnerships.

In addition to public housing authorities, make sure that you are making connections in your community to your healthcare system, with the workforce development system, and with mainstream income and benefits. These resources are not only critical for each person experiencing homelessness, but also serve as an important front door for people to access care.

Finally, just as coordinated assessment itself is a process, the process of building a coordinated assessment system can yield a lot of benefits. These include creating new partnerships and collaborations, increasing your understanding of how homelessness manifests locally, and most importantly making sure you're using resources wisely to achieve our intended outcomes. As your community moves toward coordinated assessment, you will undoubtedly identify gaps in your system, and the collaboration you create can help you identify options for filling those gaps.

On behalf of USICH and the Obama Administration, thank you for the work that you do and for your commitment to establishing the systems we need in place to achieve our shared goal of ending homelessness.

Thank you.

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The Solutions Database is a living resource hub. USICH is continuing to identify programs and practices that will be added to the database in the future. Profiles reflect the most accurate information available at the time the profile was written, but things can change. If you feel something in the database is in error, if you have a resource for us to add to a current solution or if you would like to recommend a solution to us as we move forward updating the database, please contact USICH Communications.

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