USICH Holds First Council Meeting With White House’s New Domestic Policy Leader
Neera Tanden, President Biden’s new director of the domestic policy council, attended the latest meeting of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH), which was led by Council Chair and Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Denis McDonough. At the quarterly meeting, federal leaders received updates and discussed key implementation dimensions of All In: The Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness.
Since the last council meeting in March, the Biden administration has taken major steps to address the crisis of homelessness and implement the strategies in All In, which focuses on moving people off the streets and into homes, expanding access to housing and services that help people stay housed, and preventing homelessness before it starts. Highlights of recent work to prevent and end homelessness include:
- The White House and USICH launched the ALL INside Initiative to help the following six communities leverage All In to reduce unsheltered homelessness: Chicago, Dallas, Phoenix Metro, Seattle, Los Angeles, state of California. The Biden administration is embedding federal experts in the offices of mayors and other local leaders to cut red tape and help more people quickly move off the streets and into housing.
- The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) deployed more than $500 million in new vouchers and grants that—for the first time ever—target unsheltered and rural homelessness.
- HUD awarded $2.8 billion to Continuums of Care (CoCs) and announced more than $3 billion—the largest-ever single-year investment in the Continuum of Care Program.
- President Biden, in his Fiscal Year 2024 budget, proposed increased funding and new policies, including a guaranteed housing voucher for every extremely low-income veteran and youth aging out of foster care, $10.3 billion for targeted homelessness assistance, 90% more for Transitional Housing Assistance Grants to Victims of Sexual Assault, 64% more for Projects for Assistance in Transition from Homelessness, 23% more for Health Care for the Homeless, and $28 billion more for the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit.
- The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration announced the Integrated Behavioral Health and HIV Care for Unsheltered Populations Pilot Project.
Earlier this year, the VA announced a new goal to help more than 38,000 veterans move off the streets and into homes. During this week’s meeting, the council discussed federal actions that would make it easier for veterans experiencing homelessness to access and maintain housing. Current federal rules set income limits that make some veterans receiving VA disability benefits ineligible for federally-funded supportive housing, particularly project-based HUD-VASH housing financed with Low-Income Housing Tax Credits.
All In includes specific veteran-focused strategies, such as:
- Increase and improve coordination between DoD, VA, and other partner agencies to identify opportunities to strengthen appropriate housing connections with follow-up services for transitioning service members (TSMs).
- Provide information and outreach to military communities and legal service providers about federal foreclosure and eviction protections for service members and veterans.
- Broaden community outreach and marketing of VA’s resources to promote health, volunteerism and national service, wellness, education, employment, economic mobility, and legal assistance.
- Strengthen and build partnerships across federal, state, and private entities to expand housing stock availability as identified in the VA Homeless Programs Office Strategic Plan for 2021-2025.
- Promote the use of tools and provide guidance on how to screen for housing instability for TSMs sooner to refer to appropriate supports to avert a housing crisis that could lead to homelessness.
- Support expansion of VA partnerships with community-based legal providers (including those following the medical-legal partnership model) that help veterans with civil legal problems.
In addition to Director Tanden and Secretary McDonough, meeting participants included Health and Human Services Secretary and Council Vice Chair Xavier Becerra, HUD Deputy Secretary Adrianne Todman, AmeriCorps CEO Michael Smith, FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell, and representatives from the other federal agencies that make up USICH.
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