THIRD INTERAGENCY COUNCIL MEETING IN 2010 ADDRESSES VETERANS HOMELESSNESS
November 03, 2010
The Obama Administration held its third full Council meeting of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness on Wednesday, November 3. HUD Secretary and USICH Chair Shaun Donovan was joined by fellow Cabinet Secretaries Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki and USICH Executive Director Barbara Poppe.
In relation to the goal in Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness to prevent and end Veterans homelessness in five years, the Council charged its agencies to collaborate on a plan to increase access to mainstream and targeted programs for Veterans and their families. Poppe commented that there were three primary drivers to this imperative, "Veterans are members of local communities and should receive all the benefits and programs to which they are entitled, Veterans' family members need and deserve support from community programs, and the full extent of community and VA benefits, programs, and services will be necessary to provide sufficient resources to get to "0" homeless Veterans living on the streets."
VA Secretary Shinseki noted that in order to end homelessness in five years, the VA would need every agency's support and involvement to be successful. Secretary Donovan noted the importance of collaboration and commitment, "HUD is full partner with VA’s in this incredibly important mission.” HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius concurred and stressed the importance of also supporting Veterans’ family members. Employment and training are also key elements to end Veterans homelessness to which Labor Assistant Secretary for Employment and Training Jane Oates highlighted Job Corps' targeted outreach enrollment of young Veterans who want vocational skills training.
In order to tackle barriers for Veterans to access mainstream resources, the Council committed to develop and then disseminate key policy guidance about all federal programs, services and benefits available to Veterans and their families. The plan will help break down barriers for local communities and Veterans experiencing homelessness. Such barriers include the lack of awareness of benefits, services, and programs, as well as "myths" about eligibility requirements. Existing efforts to reduce these barriers include the VA Call Center for Homeless Veterans (1-877-4AID VET) and collaborations occurring between the VA, HUD, and Labor around housing and employment. The plan the Council agreed to draft will build upon these successful initiatives.
Poppe reported on the agency’s implementation of Opening Doors, which included a review of the interagency collaborations underway and forthcoming in Fiscal Year 2011. The Council reviewed and adopted Opening Doors' performance management plan. This is consistent with the Council's earlier calls for funding what works and focusing on outcomes to ensure that the federal government is aligned so the country is working towards common goals and common measurements of success.
In addition to the three Cabinet Secretaries, the Council meeting included HUD Assistant Secretary for Community Planning and Development Mercedes Márquez, Labor Assistant Secretary Jane Oates, VA Assistant Secretary for Public and Intergovernmental Affairs Tammy Duckworth, the Department of Education’s Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education Thelma Meléndez de Santa Ana, and the Department of Defense’s Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Wounded Warrior Care and Transition Policy John Campbell. A total of 16 agencies were represented, in addition to the White House Domestic Policy Council.