Interagency Council on Homelessness Affirms Commitment to Opening Doors
Yesterday, Department of Labor Secretary Hilda Solis chaired the second meeting of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness in 2011. The meeting was hosted at the White House and focused on the one-year anniversary of Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness. Secretary Solis was joined by Department of Health and Human Services Secretary and Vice Chair of USICH Kathleen Sebelius, Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan, Domestic Policy Council Director Melody Barnes, and representatives from member agencies. The Council met to review progress and challenges related to implementing Opening Doors, as well as to plan for the second year. Action was taken to affirm the Administration's commitment to the Plan and to send the first annual update on Opening Doors (currently under final review) to Congress.
"Over the last year, there has been unprecedented collaboration from federal agencies with one another, and with state and local governments and nonprofits in our efforts to implement the federal plan," said Secretary Solis.
Progress in implementing plans locally, in states, and here in the federal government has occurred across the United States. While it is too soon to tell the full impact of the first year of Opening Doors, evidence is emerging that local and state efforts supported by federal targeted and mainstream resources, coupled with partnerships with the private and nonprofit sectors, are making a significant difference.
"The federal government is laying the groundwork for future successes through better collaboration, better data collection, better use of mainstream resources, and engaging states and local communities in the plan's goals and strategies," said USICH Executive Director Barbara Poppe.
The annual update will be released shortly and provides an in-depth look at implementation efforts, as well as the latest data about people experiencing homelessness and the federal programs that provide assistance. At the meeting, the Council discussed some highlights from the first year of Opening Doors:
- Smart government requires that resources are aligned to be both efficient and effective. Collaboration is required for alignment.
- Agencies within HHS and the VA are working with HUD to coordinate better data collection, analysis and reporting. Good data is essential to measuring what works, what doesn't and what we need to do better.
- Proven tools to prevent and end homelessness are being adopted. For example, the Department of Veterans Affairs has issued a charge to its medical centers, local providers, and partners to initiate community planning and adopt best practices such as Housing First and Critical Time Intervention.
- Targeted resources are being used more effectively. The Recovery Act's Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program (HPRP) has assisted more than 935,000 people. While this is significant, perhaps even more important is the fact that the program paved the way for a fundamental change in the way many communities respond to homelessness, moving from shelter-based interventions to cost effective systems of prevention, diversion, and rapid re-housing.
- The accessibility of mainstream resources is improving. Affordable Care Act implementation has served as a major focal point in the past year, with HHS playing a catalytic role in helping communities begin to prepare for the opportunities that lie ahead. With careful planning now, the implementation of the Medicaid expansion can significantly increase access to primary and behavioral health care for people experiencing homelessness, and may prevent homelessness for people who will have access to more affordable or fully-subsidized health insurance.
- State and local communities are increasingly engaged in partnerships to prevent and end homelessness on the local level. One example is the meaningful engagement of USICH and its federal partners with community stakeholders in Los Angeles to increase progress on ending chronic and Veterans homelessness.
Also in attendance were the Department of Veterans Affairs Undersecretary for Health Dr. Robert Petzel, Department of Labor Assistant Secretary for Employment and Training Administration Jane Oates, Corporation for National and Community Service Acting Chief Executive Officer Robert Valasco II, General Services Administration Chief of Staff Michael Robertson, and Department of Justice Senior Counselor for Access to Justice Mark Childress.