Our Core Values and Truths as We Work to Strengthen the Federal Strategic Plan

These were Matthew's remarks at the National Conference on Ending Homelessness on July 18, 2017.

Thanks, Nan, and the whole team at NAEH for putting on your biggest conference ever. And thanks to all of you for being here.

All of the previous speakers—Secretary Carson, John and Anne, Marc and Jeff, Kathryn—did a great job of identifying key challenges and opportunities in the work ahead of us, including emerging issues, but also issues that have been far too long neglected, and that we need to address urgently in our work.

At USICH, we’ve spent a lot of the last 6 months thinking and communicating about the work ahead of us—ahead of us all, together.

And now we’re starting an intensive process of working with our federal partners—and with stakeholders like all of you—to think through and hammer out the details of how we are going to revise and strengthen the federal strategic plan to prevent and end homelessness.

We had a great session with folks here at the conference yesterday morning, and we’ll be hosting other forums and creating on-line input opportunities in the months ahead. Thanks so much to those of you who attended yesterday and shared your expertise and priorities.

One of our core responsibilities in this planning effort is to not lose sight of the essential values and truths that have informed our work together and that have helped to drive the progress we’ve been seeing.

And one of your core responsibilities is to help hold us accountable to those values and truths, to help make sure that we don’t lose sight of them during a time of uncertainty and change.

To help you hold me accountable, I am going to name a few of them aloud, a few of the values and truths that we’re working hard to hold on to as we tackle the work ahead.

Values and Truths

First, we’re going to stay true to the vision of ending homelessness. 

When Opening Doors was released, we didn’t yet have the proof that ending homelessness was possible. But now we know we can do it—and we know that we can end it in big cities, suburbs, small towns, and rural areas across America.

Last week, Lehigh County, Pennsylvania, and Will County, Illinois, helped us reach the milestone of 50 communities in the country to have effectively ended Veteran homelessness.

Let me say that again: 50 communities have ended Veteran homelessness.

Is there anyone here from Will County or Lehigh County? Anybody know anyone from Will County or Lehigh County? Please congratulate them when you see them!

The vision of ending homelessness and setting bold, ambitious goals have gotten us to this point, and there’s no going back. In fact, we’re releasing revised versions of the criteria and benchmarks for ending family homelessness this week.

We’re also going to hold on to the value that our decisions and strategies should be driven by evidence and data and what we know is working--Housing First, supportive housing, rapid re-housing, targeting and prioritizing, coordinated entry, by-name lists—the strategies that have been central to the progress made in recent years.

We’re also going to stay focused on the truths about the differences in people’s experiences of homelessness and on doing more to address the disparities in who experiences homelessness in our country.

For example, because we know that LGBTQ youth are at such higher risk of homelessness, we must continue to tailor and target our strategies. And we must all do more to make sure that LGBTQ youth can find support no matter where they live or who they turn to for assistance.

Also, because we know that African-Americans and Native Americans are at such higher risks of homelessness, we must do much more to face head-on the causes of those disparities, including confronting our own racism, and addressing the stark disparities in many other systems, such as criminal justice systems, that can help cause people’s homelessness.

And we’re going to hold true to the value that we all have to be in this work together—federal agencies, national organizations, state and local agencies, services providers, elected officials, advocates, private funders, housing developers, business leaders, all of us. We don’t always have to agree, but none of us gets to decide that we’re leaving the table and going off on our own.

And, finally, we’re going to stay true to the belief that the most important thing that federal agencies can do is to support you to do your best work.

So, those are some of the values and truths we’ll be striving to hold on to and to keep putting into action—that’s one of our biggest jobs.

One of your jobs? Letting me know if you think we’re falling short and are not living up to these truths and these values. Let me know. I am not hard to find—shoot me an email, send me a Tweet at @USICHgov or @m_j_doherty, give me a call, get in touch.

I’d prefer you don’t tell me on Facebook, as I like to keep Facebook a respite of puppies and birthdays and flowers and stuff, but do what you gotta do. Just make sure to let me know.

And if you don’t want to let me know – please let someone else on the great team at USICH know.

Strengthening the Federal Plan

One of your best opportunities to help make sure we all stay on track together is giving us your guidance and your expertise on how we can best strengthen the federal plan to tackle the challenges we have in front of us.

We’ve heard from many of you already.

You’ve said that we need to do more to make sure that people exiting homelessness can access meaningful employment opportunities and income that can sustain them.

You’ve told us we need to do more to understand and tackle the distinct challenges that rural and Tribal communities face in ending homelessness and addressing housing needs.

You’ve told us the challenges you’re facing in ending unsheltered homelessness, and in helping people to exit encampments successfully.

You’ve told us that we need to do more to help make sure that emergency shelter systems can serve as efficient engines for helping people exit homelessness quickly.

You’ve said that we need to do more to provide housing options to people affected by opioid use and other substance use and to make sure that people’s housing can truly be a platform for recovery and opportunity.

And we know we need to do much, much more to help people avoid homelessness altogether – but that there is much more to learn about the full range of prevention strategies that will be needed.

We know you all have plenty more to tell us.

We’re listening, and we will be offering many other opportunities for you to weigh in and share your thoughts with us.

Another truth that I hold on to, each and every day, is that there is a roadmap for ending homelessness in America—but I also know that we have to create that roadmap together.

I hope you’ll join me in holding on to that truth, too.

Thank you.

To see more of your suggestions about our work ahead, see Matthew’s post-plenary tweetstorm. Reply with your ideas!