05/02/2016 - Using the Supportive Housing Opportunity Planner Tool to Drive Efforts to End Chronic Homelessness
It is critical for communities to know and understand their local need for supportive housing in order to end chronic homelessness. Here's how two communities are using the Supportive Housing Opportunities Planner tool to steer conversations around realigning supportive housing units to bring availability to scale.
04/22/2016 - Council Discusses Strategies to Increase Momentum on Ending Chronic Homelessness, Drive Action on Youth Homelessness
On April 12, the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness convened for the first Council meeting of 2016.
Eight states have been selected to participate in intensive technical assistance to align Medicaid and housing resources to scale supportive housing. These efforts will help states end chronic homelessness.
02/26/2016 - Federal Partners Announce States Selected for Medicaid-Housing Agency Partnership Program Support
Eight states have been selected to participate in technical assistance to bring supportive housing to scale through Medicaid-Housing partnerships.
Deputy Director Richard Cho reflects on the recently released document, Fulfilling the Dream: Aligning State Efforts to Implement Olmstead and End Chronic Homelessness.
We know what it will take to end homelessness in our country. We've outlined our top priorities for 2016 to get us closer than ever before.
This morning, HUD published the final definition of chronic homelessness. This definition gets us closer to the originally intended target population-people with high service needs and disabilities who, if not provided with permanent supportive housing, would likely remain homeless.
When this rule goes into effect in January 2016, it will put us all in a better position to end chronic homelessness. Our Deputy Director, Richard Cho, offer his perspective.
HUD has issued a final rule on the definition of chronic homelessness. The University of Pennsylvania's Dennis Culhane walks us through the reasoning behind the changes and explains how his research has led him to the conclusion that the new definition best meets the intent of a policy designed to target people who are experiencing chronic homelessness.
Data can help drive progress - if we use it well and wisely. That's true for communities and it is true for the multiple interagency working groups USICH convenes to make Federal policy decisions to help end homelessness across America.
The state of Maine found that many individuals experiencing chronic homelessness frequented shelters several months at a time, bouncing between providers yet not appearing "chronic" to any one shelter. This resulted in a congested shelter system statewide and increased costs.
In order to more easily identify and target services to people staying the longest in shelters, Maine's Statewide Homeless Council decided to focus on identifying "long term stayers", people staying in shelters or outdoors for over 180 cumulative days within a 365 day period. Cullen Ryan, Executive Director of Community Housing of Maine, discusses how data helped jump start this collaborative effort and the impressive results that have come of it.
For too many people, the experience of homelessness involves police encounters, lockups, courts, or jail and prison cells as much as it does shelter beds. Some people are caught in a revolving door between the streets or shelters and jails, not to mention other institutional settings. Deputy Director Richard Cho provides details on interagency discussions taking place and strategies being implemented to break this cycle.
Veterans Day is a time to reflect on the sacrifices our service members have made for us, and what we owe them for that sacrifice. I think I speak for all Americans when I say that one thing we certainly owe them is the opportunity of a place to call home. The Commonwealth of Virginia, and all the other communities that have achieved this amazing milestone, have honored that commitment to Veterans and serve as profound examples to the rest of the country that we can, in fact, end homelessness.
11/04/2015 - Federal Partners Announce Availability of Program Support for State Medicaid-Housing Agency Partners
The U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH), the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), in partnership with national organizations, are pleased to announce a new opportunity for states needing targeted program support aimed at strengthening state-level collaboration between health and housing agencies to bring to scale permanent supportive housing by coordinating housing resources with Medicaid-covered housing-related services.
The Administration is committed to bringing to scale the cost-effective, evidence-based solution known as permanent supportive housing to end chronic homelessness in 2017, as well as to support the community integration for people with long-term services and supports needs. USICH, HUD, and HHS recognize that access to affordable, stable housing and access to coordinated and comprehensive health care services will improve health outcomes for Medicaid beneficiaries and lower health care and other public services costs for states and communities.
As the FY 2016 budget process moves forward, there could be good news for our efforts to end homelessness, and in particular, ending chronic homelessness. Deputy Director Richard Cho walks us through why ending chronic homelessness is not only the most compassionate thing to do, but also the most fiscally responsible thing to do.
Congresswoman Maxine Waters hosted a briefing earlier this month to review the progress we have made in ending homelessness for all Americans under the newly amended Opening Doors. The briefing especially highlighted the opportunity we have to end chronic homelessness in 2017. USICH Deputy Director Richard Cho reflects on our national commitment to ending chronic homelessness and why that commitment matters.
09/04/2015 - Strategies You Can Use to Connect People Experiencing Homelessness to SSI/SSDI Benefits
Social Security benefits are often a primary source of income for people with disabilities who are experiencing homelessness. Sometimes, it is a challenge for people to navigate the application process, gather the correct documentation and medical records, or receive correspondence through the mail. Key Strategies for Connecting People Experiencing Homelessness to SSI and SSDI Benefits provides guidance for all organizations that provide homeless services on assisting people through the application process.
The idea was simple: target the most costly and frequent users of public resources who were living on the streets of San Diego and, using a Housing First model, provide them with permanent housing and intensive wraparound services.
06/25/2015 - A Closer Look at Opening Doors - Spotlight on Changing of the Goal of Ending Chronic Homelessness
Among people experiencing homelessness, there is a subset of individuals who experience homelessness for long periods of time, and/or in repeated episodes over many years—people experiencing chronic homelessness. These men and women commonly have a combination of challenges including mental health problems, substance use disorders, and complex health conditions that worsen over time and often lead to an early death. Studies have found that people experiencing chronic homelessness cost the public between $30,000 and $50,000 per person per year through their repeated use of emergency rooms, hospitals, jails, psychiatric centers, detox and other crisis services, the use of which make little improvements to their health and well-being. Given the cost it bears in human lives and public dollars, ending chronic homelessness is a moral and fiscal imperative.
The solution to end chronic homelessness is permanent supportive housing, which combines affordable housing with tailored, supportive services. This combination of housing and support helps people achieve housing stability, connections to care, and improved health and social outcomes.
The newly amended Opening Doors provide more specific information regarding the role of Medicaid in covering health and supportive services to end homelessness, including services that support housing stability, such as in permanent supportive housing.
The U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH), along with its 19 member agencies, announced today the release of an amendment to Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness.
On behalf of the entire team at USICH, the teams at our Federal member agencies, and our many dedicated state and local partners working tirelessly to prevent and end homelessness, I am thrilled to share with you this updated version of Opening Doors, as amended in 2015.
Twenty-five years ago, in the earlier years of the AIDS epidemic, health care and housing providers figured out that without housing, the health of people living with AIDS deteriorated far more rapidly than for those who had stable homes. AIDS Housing of Washington, now Building Changes, helped coin a critically important phrase that became a game changer in the fight against AIDS: “Housing is healthcare.”
On any given night, we know that nearly 85,000 Americans with disabling health conditions who have experienced homelessness for long periods of time—some for years or decades—can be found sleeping on our streets, in shelters, or other places not meant for human habitation.
With so many people now able to access health care coverage, the results are in: the Affordable Care Act is working.
05/07/2015 - Medicaid is a Game-Changer for Ending Chronic Homelessness, But to Win, We Have to Play
It has been proven time and time again that for people experiencing chronic homelessness and suffering from chronic health conditions, the path to improved health begins with stable housing, namely through supportive housing. Supportive housing (also known as ‘permanent supportive housing’) has been shown to improve physical and behavioral health outcomes for people experiencing chronic homelessness, while simultaneously lowering health care costs by decreasing emergency room visits and hospitalizations.
Sonia Niznik (pictured right, with her Case Manager, Rudy Trinidad) was taking shelter from Arizona’s dry summer heat at a “cooling center” provided by a local church when a team of outreach workers began conducting screenings using the Vulnerability Index-Service Prioritization and Decision Assistance Tool (VI-SPDAT). At the time, Sonia had been without a home for about three years.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Office of Community Planning and Development, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, and U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs’ Veteran Health Administration have recently announced a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that sets forth shared understanding of each agency’s respective roles and responsibilities regarding the use of Homeless Management Information Systems (HMIS).
04/23/2015 - The Supportive Housing Opportunities Planner (SHOP) Tool: Setting a Path to End Chronic Homelessness
Much of my passion for ending homelessness comes from my time on the front-lines where I worked to connect very vulnerable people – adults with disabling conditions who had often spent years without a safe and stable place to call home – to permanent supportive housing. Even in my small city, there were times when units were not available for people who needed them the most.
It is truly an honor to have this opportunity to serve as Executive Director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) and to help carry forward the great work of this agency and of my predecessors. It is also a distinct privilege to work with the fantastic team of staff we have at USICH, both the team working here in DC and our Regional Coordinators working out in the field.
I was happy to welcome U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez to Tucson earlier this year for our annual Point In Time Count, also known as the Street Count.
I was proud to stand with Connecticut Lieutenant Governor Nancy Wyman to support the March 9 launch of Connecticut’s 100-day effort across four communities to accelerate efforts to end homelessness.
In our shared mission to end homelessness, we know that data drives results. It drives the strategies and implementation of Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness, a framework for action for partners at every level of government and the private and nonprofit sectors.
This week, President Obama put forward a 2016 Budget that again demonstrates his Administration’s deep commitment to ending homelessness.
Massachusetts has a lot to cheer about this week, from the Patriots big win on Sunday to recent efforts to end chronic homelessness through a statewide initiative. The Super Bowl victory was all about teamwork and leadership and the new initiative will require these same virtues.
As I come to the end of my first week as Interim Executive Director of USICH, I am acutely aware that there are only 11 months to reach our goal to end Veteran homelessness in 2015.
On January 7, 2015, New Orleans announced that it had achieved an end to homelessness among Veterans. In doing so, New Orleans has become the first major city in the U.S. to achieve this goal, and well ahead of the Administration’s goal of ending Veteran homelessness across the nation by the end of 2015.
I was eight or nine when the idea of working with people experiencing homelessness first crossed my mind. It had been a long day and some relatives and I were walking to dinner. The city was crowded and as we passed under a building’s scaffolding, through the fast-walking legs of adults, I saw a man crouched by the edge of the sidewalk. What struck me was that everyone ignored him. It seemed to me that I was the only one who could see him. Once we reached the restaurant I broke into tears. When I got home I explained what happened to my mom. “Maybe you can work with the homeless when you’re older” she said.
As the year draws to a close, I am struck by how far we have come in our effort to end homelessness. 2014 has indeed been a historic year.
All across the country, communities are developing coordinated entry systems to streamline and facilitate access to appropriate housing and services for families and individuals experiencing homelessness. In the Greater Richmond area of Virginia and in Los Angeles County, California—like in other places—efforts to bring these systems online are in full swing.
Around the country, more communities are working in partnership with the Federal government to develop housing crisis response systems that effectively prevent and end homelessness.
Many readers have likely heard about the great progress being made toward ending homelessness in Salt Lake and Utah. Earlier this fall, I had the privilege of joining more than 475 people for the 11th Annual Utah Homeless Summit organized by Utah Department of Workforce Services’ Housing and Community Development Division.
When we see people who are homeless on our streets and in our parks, and take some time to think about them, we might feel pity, sympathy, annoyance, fear, or a host of other emotions. But we probably never think “that person could be me.”
Two new documents released by HHS on October 10 make it clear, once and for all, that the services provided in permanent supportive housing can indeed be covered and financed by Medicaid.
Just ahead of reporting remarkable advancements in ending homelessness across America, Obama Administration officials who make up the Council met on October 15, 2014, to measure the progress in the work of USICH and its partners, to discuss the data, and to chart the path forward to advance the goals of Opening Doors.
10/31/2014 - Good News from New Orleans: Federal and Community Collaboration Helped Transform This Veteran’s Life
Mr. H. seems like a completely different person from the man I met just a few months ago.
10/30/2014 - Partnerships for Opening Doors – Ending Homelessness through Meaningful and Sustainable Employment
“One of the best ways to eliminate homelessness is to get people jobs,” said Labor Secretary and Chair of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) Thomas Perez at the Partnerships for Opening Doors summit, which took place at the Labor Department's headquarters in Washington, DC, on October 16, 2014.
Co-hosted by the Departments of Labor (DOL) and Housing and Urban Development (HUD), USICH and the Butler Family Fund, the day-long national summit focused on integrating employment and housing strategies to prevent and end homelessness. Leaders from 11 communities representing Workforce Investment Boards, Continuums of Care, state Workforce Development Councils, advocacy and community-based and national nonprofit organizations engaged in intensive discussions to identify key actions for Federal partners to take to improve access to meaningful and sustainable employment, skills training, and supportive training for people experiencing or at-risk of homelessness.
Every day, people who experience homelessness are subjected to local laws and ordinances that challenge their human rights and create real and lasting barriers.
Just ahead of reporting remarkable advancements in ending homelessness across America, Obama Administration officials who make up the Council met on October 15, 2014, to measure the progress in the work of USICH and its partners, to discuss the data, and to chart the path forward to advance the goals of Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness.
This week, USICH published a tool to help CoCs better understand reallocations. Creating Effective Systems to End Homelessness: A Guide to Reallocating Funds in the CoC Program.
People experiencing homelessness need homes. This is the simple solution to ending homelessness, right? The complexity comes in finding, and funding, the homes. Read on to find out how stakeholders in King County, Washington, are succeeding at both.
The 25 Cities Effort is designed to help communities intensify and integrate their local efforts to end Veteran and chronic homelessness.
This week CSH, in partnership with the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance, published Creating a Medicaid Supportive Housing Services Benefit, an easy-to-follow framework for states that want to create a Medicaid benefit to pay for the services in supportive housing.
Seattle-based nonprofit housing provider DESC will create new units of permanent supportive housing in the Interbay neighborhood downtown. The units will serve 97 people who are experiencing homelessness and live with health issues.
It is not enough for us to do the vitally important daily work that we do at our organizations to combat homelessness. We must also debunk the stereotypes that have sprung up about it. A fallacy that I have heard many times throughout my career is that “people choose to be homeless.” I vehemently disagree. People do not want to be homeless. Period.
Like most partnerships, one of the most critical ingredients is empathy. We have to be able to understand one another's incentives and find the common ground that aligns our work together.
Through the 25 Cities initiative spearheaded by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, communities have been invited to convene local leaders eager to build on their successes, identify new strategies, act decisively to strengthen their coordinated response systems and, in the process, end Veteran homelessness. To get started, teams of dedicated individuals are meeting for two-day-long intensive work sessions that drive a sophisticated planning process, resulting in specific action steps that will be carried out in months – not years.
In the first, of what I learned would be many, interagency meetings on chronic homelessness, Housing First adoption was discussed as a primary strategy for accelerating progress. And one of the very first tasks I was given was to help provide a clear, operational definition of Housing First.
I recently partnered with the San Diego Regional Continuum of Care Council (RCCC) to host a first-of-its kind discussion locally, billed as Housing First: A Community Conversation for San Diego.
Today, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) released the 2014 HMIS Data Dictionary and HMIS Data Manual, with an effective date of October 1, 2014. This joint release demonstrates the significant collaboration between the three agencies to support data collection on homelessness across their programs and systems.
Jim Ryczek, Executive Director of the Rhode Island Coalition for the Homeless, recounts the journey he and his friend and fellow advocate John Joyce embarked upon in order to create a bill of rights on behalf of people experiencing homelessness in Rhode Island.
Setting up a coordinated assessment system is complex and doesn’t happen magically. But don’t let that stop you. Putting coordinated assessment in place doesn’t start with the challenges. It starts when communities decide that the challenges are worth facing.
03/25/2014 - Trading Hospital Doors for Front Doors: Hospital “Super Use” by People Experiencing Homelessness
Kelly Doran and Roberta Capp propose that to provide better health care at lower costs, we must recognize homelessness as a health issue and supportive housing as a health intervention.
03/19/2014 - Changing the Terms: How Innovative Communities are Using the ACA to Improve Homeless Services
Lisa Stand, senior policy analyst for the National Alliance to End Homelessness, explains just how useful the Affordable Care Act is in improving homeless services in community programs.
Our lack of progress on ending chronic homelessness comes not from a lack of knowing what to do, we’ve known the solution to chronic homelessness for many years—permanent supportive housing.