09/21/2011 11:35 am ET | Updated Nov 21, 2011

Opening Doors Across America

In June of last year, when the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) sent Congress and the president a plan called Opening Doors, the first federal strategy to prevent and end homelessness in our nation's history, I was impressed. The plan set measurable and achievable goals and asked communities to join a coordinated federal response to homelessness in America. It also promised to bolster local efforts with realigned government resources and policies and ongoing coaching and support for communities. This week, USICH is launching the Opening Doors Across America initiative to offer clear direction on the steps cities and states must take to achieve the goals laid out in Opening Doors. Joining the initiative as an Opening Doors Community will help a locality build its capacity to end and prevent homelessness faster and more efficiently.

Opening Doors Across America dovetails with the goals and strategies of the 100,000 Homes Campaign, and I hope communities will draw on the complementary offerings of the two together. Both efforts emphasize collective buy-in to a series of ambitious goals, and both advocate concrete metrics to track and improve outcomes. They also share a commitment to providing communities with expertise on proven practices and new resources to break through the logjams and inefficient systems that have allowed homelessness to persist for so long.

Importantly, Opening Doors Across America offers a relationship to federal government resources, regulatory and financial. 100,000 Homes Campaign communities have tapped a variety of federal programs to help move the most vulnerable homeless Americans into permanent housing. USICH is positioned to help those communities navigate the federal landscape and maximize the funding and tools available from Washington.

The 100,000 Homes Campaign is helping communities identify their vulnerable homeless residents, streamline their housing placement systems, and improve housing retention. Opening Doors Across America can enhance these efforts with resources to help communities transform existing homeless services into rapid response systems, take advantage of new Medicaid funding opportunities created by healthcare reform, and much more.

I hope that all those throughout the country who are working to end homelessness will learn more by attending the Opening Doors Across America introductory webinar on Tuesday, September 27 from 4 to 5pm EST. I also encourage communities to learn more about the 100,000 Homes Campaign. Nearly 100 Campaign communities have already collaborated to find permanent housing for nearly 11,000 people nationwide.