On Tuesday, I attended the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) release of the Obama Administration's much anticipated comprehensive plan to prevent and end homelessness, titled, Opening Doors: The Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness. The Corporation for Supportive Housing (CSH) applauds the USICH's work to create a dialogue among federal agencies with the clear goal of ending homelessness in America.
Local communities and states have been developing plans to end homelessness for over a decade, but the one glaring omission has been the lack of a plan from the federal government.
Last year, President Obama said, "I'm heartbroken that any child in America is homeless...it is not acceptable for children and families to be without a roof over their heads in a country as wealthy as ours." Soon after, he signed the Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing (HEARTH) Act, which mandated the creation of a federal plan to end homelessness.
The new plan sets out an ambitious but reasonable goal of ending homelessness among veterans and ending chronic homelessness by 2015; and to ending homelessness among families and young people by 2020. In order to do that, "Opening Doors" provides direction to federal agencies and guidance to state and local governments. It serves as a much-needed road map for joint action by agencies to mold the development of programs and budget proposals towards a set of defined targets.
This inter-agency coordination did not begin with the release of the plan; it began in January as the USICH held local meetings, listened to focus groups and gathered thousands of comments online from providers and people experiencing homelessness. In addition, there were meetings among the federal agencies to talk about how homelessness intersects with child welfare, youth, justice, veterans, defense and health agencies to name a few. This created internal discussion within federal agencies and laid the foundation for the cross-agency work laid out in the federal strategic plan.
CSH congratulates the hard work of the USICH and commends the Obama Administration for completing the plan in such an inclusive way. We deeply appreciate the opportunities we were afforded to contribute our recommendations, in which we emphasized permanent supportive housing as a proven solution for preventing and ending homelessness. Indeed one of the objectives of the plan is to end chronic homelessness, once and for all, and the key strategy for doing so is the creation of supportive housing.
It was an honor to attend the release where we heard from Barbara Poppe, head of the USICH along with U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan, U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Eric K. Shinseki and U.S. Domestic Policy Council Director Melody Barnes. These are the capable people who will be tasked in the coming months and years with making sure the President's words, and the federal government's newly announced objectives, become reality.
There has been admirable momentum to create the plan, now that energy must shift to carrying out the plan. Let's all work together to get it done.