Council Discusses Sustaining Momentum, Planning for Incoming Administration

(L-R) VA Secretary Robert McDonald, HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell,
and USICH Executive Director Matthew Doherty 

USICH chair and HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell called our third Council meeting of 2016 to order on Tuesday, October 18. The convening brought together representatives from our 19 federal member agencies for a discussion on sustaining the progress and momentum we’ve seen on ending homelessness across the country, and ensuring continued implementation of the most strategic actions to finish the job.

USICH Executive Director Matthew Doherty assessed our progress in achieving the objectives of Opening Doors, followed by an analysis of the areas where we must push harder to achieve our goals, including the need for more affordable housing, reducing the cycle of criminal justice system involvement among people experiencing homelessness, and strengthening connections to employment, among other essential strategies.

“We need to focus on the resources at the federal, state, and local levels that can spur the creation of dedicated affordable housing units and to continue to improve access to those units for people exiting homelessness,” Doherty said. “Within that supply, we need to make sure that we're emphasizing the need for an expanded supply of supportive housing to end chronic homelessness and meet the need for additional investments into such housing.”

National Organizations Share Perspectives on Priorities

(L-R) Amanda Andere, Funders Together to End Homelessness; Steve Berg, National
Alliance to End Homelessness; Baylee Crone, National Coalition for Homeless Veterans

The Council invited three of our national partners to share their viewpoints on priorities for 2017. National partners and stakeholders play a critical role in advancing Opening Doors, bringing valuable perspectives on the challenges states and local communities face in implementing the plan’s strategies.

Baylee Crone, executive director of the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, discussed sustaining the progress we’re seeing in reducing Veteran homelessness. Noting the 47% reduction in Veteran homelessness, and the 56% reduction in unsheltered Veteran homelessness, Crone said that she’s seeing higher engagement by Veterans with VA programs and services, and particularly the Supportive Services for Veteran Families program.

“This program has helped us develop not only a new lexicon of terms to use in our work, but also successful interventions that we're able to scale across populations and across communities, things like by‑name lists, coordinated intake, diversion protocols, coordinated case planning meetings,” Crone said. “It's also helping us finally understand how we prevent homelessness in the first place.”

Steve Berg, vice president for programs and policy at the National Alliance to End Homelessness, commended the guidance provided to date regarding the kinds of housing-related services Medicaid can cover, and highlighted the need to issue further guidance for state Medicaid programs and the behavioral health care system regarding the health care, mental health care, and supportive services that are critical to helping people experiencing chronic homelessness maintain housing stability. “Medicaid is key to that. If we can make that work, then we won’t have to have chronically homeless people living on the streets anymore,” said Berg.

Amanda Andere, chief executive officer of Funders Together to End Homelessness talked with the Council about the unique role philanthropy can play in efforts to prevent and end homelessness. “It’s important for philanthropy to be at the table with our federal partners and our public funders,” said Andere. “We [philanthropists] can do things like funding data and studies, when others cannot, to advance efforts to end homelessness across the country.”

Sustaining Progress and Momentum on Ending Homelessness

Co-chairs from four of the interagency working groups focused on the population-specific goals of Opening Doors — Veterans, Chronic Homelessness, Families, and Youth — then presented plans for sustaining the interagency efforts moving forward and priorities identified for their work in 2017. While the interagency working groups each have their own specific objectives, they all shared common themes:

  • We must continue to strengthen our data, estimates, and projections.
  • We must secure the necessary investments of resources to take interventions to scale.
  • We need to continue to provide guidance and technical assistance to communities to help them build capacity to use resources and best practices as efficiently as possible.
  • We must continue to engage mainstream systems to ensure a strong focus and partnership on housing and homelessness issues.

We know that it will take all of us, from here at the federal level to our partners working in the field, to achieve continued success. The Council is committed to ensuring that our momentum continues to build, and our strong and steady progress continues to grow.