Message From USICH Chairs
This is an excerpt of All In: The Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness. Read the full plan at usich.gov/all-in.
It has been our shared honor to lead the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) through the development of this new Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness, which will put our country back on track toward the goal of ending homelessness. Homelessness should not exist in the richest country in the world. As the former chair (Marcia Fudge, 2021-2022) and current chair (Denis McDonough, 2022-) of USICH, we are working not just to reduce but to ultimately end homelessness, period.
Homelessness is solvable. We know this because we have seen it done. When the Obama-Biden administration released the nation’s first comprehensive strategy to prevent and end homelessness in 2010—titled Opening Doors: The Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness—it launched a period of focus, resolve, and targeted investment that drove year-on-year reductions in homelessness, especially for veterans. Since 2010, veteran homelessness has decreased by more than half, with over 960,000 veterans and their family members becoming permanently housed or prevented from becoming homeless. The lessons learned and the innovative practices that emerged from our work with veteran homelessness serve as a roadmap for solving homelessness among all Americans. And though in recent years that progress has slowed, we have seen those efforts renewed with the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021* (ARP) and other federal efforts to address the current crisis.
The Biden-Harris Administration has made ending homelessness a top priority. The ARP provided a historic opportunity to invest in short- and long-term solutions to homelessness, with an unprecedented level of funding going directly to local governments. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) supported new collaborations between health departments and local homeless Continuums of Care with funding and public health guidance. The Department of the Treasury distributed emergency rental assistance to millions of low-income renters and gave state and local governments flexibility to use ARP funds for affordable housing. Under ARP, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) reimbursed the cost of non-congregate shelter to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission in congregate settings. The Department of Education granted states and school districts funds to better identify students experiencing homelessness and to connect those children and youth to school and community-based interventions and wraparound services. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) distributed ARP funds to nearly 1,400 health centers across the country, which provide health care and support services to nearly 1.5 million people experiencing homelessness. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) distributed emergency housing vouchers and HOME-ARP funding, focused on strengthening fair housing and tenants’ protections, and doubled its homeless services budget since President Biden took office. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) used the additional resources and flexibilities provided under the ARP to prevent and end homelessness Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness 5 for 69,946 veterans and their family members during fiscal year 2021 and, between January and September 2022, VA worked with veterans to achieve more than 30,000 permanent housing placements from homelessness.
In 2021, HUD and USICH launched House America: An All-Hands-on-Deck Effort to Address the Nation’s Homelessness Crisis to invite mayors, city and county leaders, tribal nation leaders, and governors into a national partnership to rehouse people and expand affordable housing using ARP funding and the Housing First approach. Leaders of more than 100 communities joined this nationwide initiative and committed to setting goals for rehousing and housing production through the end of 2022. We thank them for their leadership, and we are eager to share the lessons of their success with even more communities across the country.
Along with these activities across the federal government, USICH engaged in extensive listening sessions with thousands of leaders, providers, and advocates, and hundreds of people with lived experience to inform the new Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness. We are proud and pleased to present this new plan, which restores the importance of Housing First; is grounded in the voices of people who have experienced the trauma of homelessness; and does more than any previous plan to set a strategic and equitable path toward the systematic prevention of homelessness.
Solving homelessness means recognizing and confronting the factors that may have led to the tragic circumstance of homelessness. It means being guided by the data and evidence that some Americans who face ongoing discrimination are disproportionately overrepresented among those experiencing homelessness—especially people of color, LGBTQI+ people, and people with disabilities. It means recognizing that experiencing the crisis of homelessness is a form of significant trauma that can impact individuals and families for decades and generations. Solving homelessness means delivering help to the people who need it most and who are having the hardest time. It means putting housing first, along with the person-centered supports needed to succeed and thrive.
With this plan, we recommit the federal government to person-centered, trauma-informed, and evidence-based solutions to homelessness. We are confident in the knowledge that recovery is possible, that voluntary supportive services are the most effective way to reach people in need, and that communities across this nation can welcome and treat their unhoused neighbors with justice, respect, and dignity.
While we acknowledge there is much work ahead, we are proud of the work this administration has done to address homelessness. Together and with our fellow members of USICH, we look forward to partnering with and learning from you as we continue our work to end homelessness in America.
VA Secretary Denis R. McDonough
USICH Council Chair, 2022-2023
HUD Secretary Marcia L. Fudge
USICH Council Chair, 2021-2022
*The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (P.L. 117-2) was signed into law by President Joe Biden on March 11, 2021.