Fall Council Discusses Strengthening Prevention Practices and Welcomes New Vice Chair

Report from the Executive Director

Executive Director Matthew Doherty presented a Semi-Annual Progress Report on implementation of Home, Together: The Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness over the first half of FY 2019, including highlighting key interagency accomplishments and opportunities to drive progress moving forward in alignment with the priorities identified by the Council and USICH for 2019.

Preventing Housing Crises and Homelessness

Home, Together includes an increased focus on strengthening prevention practices. More discussion is needed, however, regarding the multisector approach necessary to advance efforts to prevent housing crises and homelessness, including an active focus on housing needs, housing stability, and risks of homelessness across many different systems. In response to feedback from federal, state, and local partners, USICH and its member agencies have developed a framework for action, included under Objective 1.2: Increase Capacity and Strengthen Practices to Prevent Housing Crises and Homelessness in Home, Together, that includes a wide range of activities across multiple sectors focused on: (1) reducing the prevalence of risk of housing crises; (2) reducing the risk of homelessness while households are engaged with or transitioning from systems; and (3) preventing housing crises that do occur from escalating further and resulting in homelessness.

Deputy Director Jasmine Hayes, and Associate Professor at the University of Chicago Gina M. Samuels, presented on homelessness prevention to the Council. Afterward, the Council discussed the roles federal member agencies can play in implementing key strategies outlined as part of the prevention framework described in Home, Together. This included strategies for building strong local systems, expanding partnerships with mainstream programs that are not specifically targeted to people experiencing homelessness, and strengthening our ability to prevent housing crises and homelessness.

Samuels presented qualitative research from Voices of Youth Count, the national youth homelessness prevalence study. The presentation focused on findings from in-depth interviews with youth that highlight the connection between early family instability and disruptions, and later experiences of youth homelessness. The research findings provided early warning signs for future housing instability and helped to identify opportunities to intervene earlier to prevent homelessness.

Ending Homelessness in Rural Communities

In February 2018, Council member agencies formed an Interagency Working Group on Ending Homelessness in Rural Communities and developed a set of recommended strategy areas and actions intended to support rural communities in their efforts to make homelessness a rare, brief, and one-time experience – and to sustain that success once achieved. Since the Council adopted the Working Group’s recommendations in July 2018, significant progress has been made across the four overarching strategy areas.

For example, member agencies collaborated to develop a Federal Funding Tool for Addressing Homelessness in Rural Communities, which allows users to search for federal funding sources by eligible use or eligible recipient. And USICH published Strengthening Systems for Ending Rural Homelessness: Promising Practices and Considerations, a report that explores the unique challenges of building effective rural homelessness response systems and provides an initial set of strategies communities can use to take advantage of their unique strengths.