Today the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) released its plan to prevent and combat homelessness.
Officially titled, “Opening Doors: The Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness,” the plan submitted to the President and Congress seeks to address homelessness at the national level by fostering collaboration among various government entities along with the private sector to meets its goals.
According to the report, over the last 30 years, the number of people experiencing homelessness in America has steadily increased. The good news is that while homelessness has grown, knowledge about what can be done to prevent and end it has also increased. The report is the nation’s first ever comprehensive Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness.
As the Executive Summary notes, “Our nation has made significant progress over the last decade reducing homelessness in specific communities and with specific populations. Communities across the United States— from rural Mankato, Minnesota to urban San Francisco—have organized partnerships between local and state agencies and with the private and nonprofit sectors to implement plans to prevent, reduce, and end homelessness…The results have been significant.”
The results of collaboration were also echoed within the report by Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who said, “Homelessness cannot be solved by a single agency or organization, by a single level of government, or by a single sector. Everyone should be reminded of the intricacies of homelessness as a policy area, and remember that preventing and ending homelessness will take real coordination, collaboration, and a constant exchange of ideas.”
The success and progress made possible in recent years has been evident to some in the non-profit world as well. "The evidence clearly shows the Housing First model has worked to reduce chronic homelessness in the last few years," said Neil Volz, Executive Director of Falling Upstairs, a South Florida non-profit that works on issues involving homelessness and poverty. "Therefore it is great to see the recently released USICH homeless plan build on that progress. We all need to work together and focus on what works to meet the challenges of homelessness."
Still there remains work to be done. According to the report, there are more than 640,000 men, women, and children who are homeless in America on a single day.
The report includes statistics about the number of homeless en mass as well as in more targeted groups like families with children and veterans. It then goes about laying out a plan to defeat homelessness in the U.S. by addressing many of the root causes.
The four key goals as presented in the report are:
Finish the job of ending chronic homelessness in five years;
Prevent and end homelessness among Veterans in five years;
Prevent and end homelessness for families, youth, and children in ten years; and
Set a path to ending all types of homelessness.
In addition to encouraging awareness and collaboration, the report’s strategy to combating homelessness includes increasing access to stable and affordable housing, increasing economic security through meaningful and sustainable employment, and improving access to programs and services.
USICH was reactivated by President Bush in 2001. The Council is comprised of Cabinet secretaries from several agencies including the U.S. Departments of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Labor (DOL), Health and Human Services (HHS), and Veterans Affairs (VA) as well as the Executive Director of the USICH Barbara Poppe. The mission of the USICH is to coordinate the federal response to homelessness and to create a national partnership at every level of government as well as 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.
The plan came about as a result of the HEARTH Act, which was enacted by Congress in May 2009 and mandated that the USICH produce a "national strategic plan" to end homelessness to Congress and the President.