In 2000, the National Alliance to End Homelessness unveiled the aptly titled, "A Plan, Not a Dream: How to End Homelessness in Ten Years." The 10-Year Plan, as it came to be called, presented a fresh, comprehensive and multi-system approach to ending homelessness. It utilized data, leveraged existing support systems, promoted outreach and focused on housing. It integrated all we knew about the most promising and proven practices to end homelessness.
Now, 10 years after the launch, we pause to take stock of our progress.
There are now 234 completed plans to end homelessness. Of these, 185 are city or county plans, 25 are state plans and 24 are regional plans.
Along the way, we've encountered some challenges. Implementation is a struggle for many communities. Some communities are not utilizing their plans. And this recession continues to throw up barriers at every turn: massive cuts to state budgets, ever-increasing job losses and reductions to local and community services to name just a few.
Here at the Alliance, we know that homelessness continues to be a challenge for communities, even those who had the best of intentions for their 10-Year Plans. Looking back 10 years after its launch, it would be easy to dismiss it as a well-intentioned idea that did not produce the intended goals. But we don't see it like that at all.
The 10-Year Plan was and still is a revolutionary idea in the field of homelessness: a completely new way to look at the problem that has long plagued our national conscience. It was a systematic, comprehensive, step-by-step plan to end -- not just curb or reduce or alleviate -- homelessness.
And we know that ending homelessness is still possible.
What the 10-Year Plan did was introduce the ideas necessary for finally ending homelessness:
Plan for outcomes
Collect data, evaluate need, and identify the populations that require assistance. Include all parties responsible to these populations in planning for solutions.
Close the front door
Prevent homelessness before it happens by effectively using the resource offered by mainstream poverty programs. Ensure effectiveness by holding these agencies responsible for the outcomes of their clients.
Open the back door
Develop more affordable housing so that people can work themselves out of homelessness.
Build the infrastructure
Address the root causes of the problem, including the lack of affordable housing, insufficient incomes and inadequate services.
These principles have not only changed the way that local, state, and national systems address homelessness, but continue to be guiding principles in the most effective solutions to homelessness. That these policies have been accepted, embraced, and implemented are bold steps forward in the battle to end homelessness for all. Their acceptance helped lead to a 10 percent reduction in homelessness nationally between 2005 and 2007. But we're not done yet. Communities across the country still have a lot of progress to make on implementing these solutions.
The 10-Year Plan has been and continues to be a critical tool to move the conversation about homelessness forward, to a place of even further real action.
I look forward to pushing that progress in the next 10 years and demonstrating that -- moving forward with what we know and pushing progress into the future -- this is what ending homelessness looks like.
Follow Nan Roman on Twitter: www.twitter.com/naehomelessness