The Change We Seek: Minnesota’s New Action Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness

March 13, 2018

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On March 6, 2018, Minnesota embarked on an exciting new journey in our work to prevent and end homelessness. Nearly 850 representatives of state, tribal, and county governments, Continuums of Care (CoCs), people with lived experience of homelessness, homelessness service organizations, philanthropic partners, advocates, and many other stakeholders joined together to launch Heading Home Together: Minnesota’s 2018 – 2020 Action Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness .

This plan builds on the success of two previous Heading Home plans adopted by the Minnesota Interagency Council on Homelessness. The Council consists of members of the Governor’s cabinet, and collectively guides the work of state government to achieve housing stability for all Minnesotans. Since the first Heading Home plan started four years ago, and during one of the most significant affordable housing crises in decades, homelessness in Minnesota decreased twice as fast as it did nationally. Across the state, family homelessness dropped by 20% and chronic homelessness decreased by 27%. Since 2010, Veteran homelessness has decreased by 56%. Our council’s leadership and strategic use of state resources has been critical to this progress, but we know that state agencies cannot—and do not—end homelessness alone.

Heading Home Together marks a significant evolution in how our efforts are organized. The centerpiece of our new plan is a set of principles intended to define the end-state we seek in preventing and ending homelessness. A team of state staff and CoC leaders developed the principles to encapsulate the federal criteria and benchmarks for ending homelessness, established by USICH, along with HUD’s system performance measures .

These seven principles are:

Principle #1:   Identify and engage all people experiencing homelessness.

Principle #2:   Ensure that everyone experiencing or at risk of homelessness can access a safe and appropriate crisis response through diversion, prevention, shelter, or crisis housing with appropriate services.

Principle #3:   Rapidly link people experiencing homelessness with housing and services tailored to their needs, prioritizing the most vulnerable.

Principle #4:   Prevent the loss of affordable housing and fill the gap in the number of affordable and supportive housing opportunities available to people at risk of or experiencing homelessness.

Principle #5:   Use a person-centered, trauma-informed, Housing First orientation in our response to homelessness.

Principle #6:   Help people experiencing or at risk of homelessness increase employment and income.

Principle #7:   Organize plans and partnerships and increase system capacity to prevent and end homelessness on an ongoing basis.

Together, we believe these principles – and the criteria, benchmarks, and measures on which they are based – provide the most comprehensive and clear picture of what we mean when we say we want to prevent and end homelessness. They also serve to organize the strategies of our plan, which identify the work we all must do collectively to achieve the end-state described by these principles. In fact, earlier this week, one of our Council agencies issued Minnesota’s first funding opportunity that uses the criteria and benchmarks to end youth homelessness as the central framework for a new capacity building grant.

The process of developing Heading Home Together took nine months. Over 1,000 Minnesotans provided input into the creation of the plan and many more reviewed and commented on the draft plan and its strategies. In the end, more than 40 organizations, coalitions, and stakeholder groups committed to align their work with these seven principles.

This alignment represents the most significant evolution in our work: Heading Home Together is no longer a plan to guide state government, but a collective and shared vision for what every stakeholder and every sector must do together to reach that end-state. The plan includes specific actions – 147 in total – that state government will take to advance the strategies of the plan, setting the stage for other sectors and partners to identify the specific actions they will take to do so as well.

Next month, in partnership with philanthropy through the Heading Home Minnesota Funders Collaborative, we will launch the multi-sector leadership body responsible for driving progress on this plan, monitoring key metrics, identifying gaps, and addressing the challenges that impede our progress. This level of collaboration, collective action, and shared ownership will breathe life into the plan, giving us tremendous hope that, together, all of these partners will achieve the significant and lasting impact the plan envisions.

Cathy ten Broeke leads the Minnesota Office to Prevent and End Homelessness as the Director to Prevent and End Homelessness for the State of Minnesota. Eric Grumdahl is Director of Special Projects for the Minnesota Office to Prevent and End Homelessness and the Minnesota Department of Education.

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