The U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) is the only federal agency with a sole mission focused on preventing and ending homelessness in America.
The council consists of 19 federal agencies that help create and catalyze implementation of the Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness.
USICH works across federal, state, and local governments, as well as the private sector, to help communities create partnerships, use resources in the most efficient and effective ways, and employ evidence-based best practices.
USICH believes housing should be a right—not a privilege, and we’re guided by the following values:
Racial Equity: USICH believes we will never end homelessness until every American has equal opportunity to live in a safe and affordable home. For far too long, Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) have been denied equitable access to housing and the systems that help people stay housed: health care, education, employment. Research shows that racial equity has benefits for society as a whole.
Housing First: USICH believes in evidence-based practices, particularly Housing First. Compared to other interventions, Housing First has been proven to quickly rehouse people and to reduce the likelihood of experiencing homelessness again. It’s also the most effective intervention for chronic homelessness, which increased 15% last year.
Decriminalization: USICH believes the decriminalization of homelessness is essential to ending it and to closing the revolving door between incarceration and homelessness. Experiencing homelessness doesn’t make someone a criminal—or a bad person. Instead of implementing unproven, ineffective measures against people without a home—most commonly through bans on camping—governments should invest in programs and services that are proven to rehouse people and to keep them permanently housed.
Inclusion: USICH believes people who have experienced homelessness play a critical role in the goal of ending homelessness. People with lived expertise must be meaningfully included in decision-making about the planning and implementation of policies and programs. Many of the most effective and most equitable innovations, such as Housing First, were born from listening to people who have been in the shoes of the people they help.
USICH drafted the first Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness in 2010. It was called Opening Doors, which was amended in 2012 and 2015. Three years later, Home, Together was released.
In the decade after USICH published the first federal strategic plan, homelessness declined 9% overall. The plan drove significant progress among families and veterans experiencing homelessness, which respectively declined nearly 30% and 50%.
According to the Urban Institute, national and local leaders credit USICH with making homelessness a federal priority, increasing collaboration – especially among previously unengaged stakeholders, and helping them advocate for resources. Without USICH, they believe that “the sense of a shared vision would weaken, as would the momentum to tackle the difficult work ahead.”
That shared vision is driven by the federal criteria and benchmarks that USICH and our 19 member agencies created to guide communities as they worked to prevent and end homelessness among specific groups: families, youth, veterans, and people with disabilities. These efforts showed that we can set big goals and make major progress on them. For example, more than 80 communities and three states had ended veteran homelessness through the 2014 Mayors Challenge. Now, this criteria is again helping communities define the essential elements of their response to homelessness, while the benchmarks serve as measurements that any community can use to evaluate its overall effectiveness.
In September 2021, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and USICH launched House America: An All-Hands-On-Deck-Effort to Address the Nation’s Homelessness Crisis. This is a joint federal initiative to help communities maximize the historic American Rescue Plan to rehouse people using a Housing First approach and to increase the supply of and access to affordable housing.
Our Executive Director leads the agency’s operations and oversees its strategies in collaboration with the council and council leadership.
Our National Initiatives Team is based throughout the country and provides technical assistance to state, local, and tribal leaders to help them achieve the goals of the federal strategic plan.
Our Policy Team works with the White House and federal agencies to advance federal policies, programs, and priorities that help people experiencing homelessness.
Our Legislative Affairs Team develops and implements legislative strategies, reports, and positions to advance USICH’s mission as it relates to Congress and the White House.
Our Finance and Administration Team ensures that USICH uses its budget in effective and appropriate ways.
Our Legislative Authority
USICH was originally authorized by Congress through Title II of the landmark Stewart B. McKinney Homeless Assistance Act of 1987 (PL 100-77) to serve as an “independent establishment” within the executive branch.
The agency was most recently reauthorized by the Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing (HEARTH) Act of 2009.