United States Interagency Council on Homelessness - No on should experience homelessness. No one should be without a safe, stable place to call home.
 Ending Family Homelessness                                  March 20, 2013        


Looking to the End of Family Homelessness: A Pledge We Make to Our Children 

A blog from USICH Policy Director Katharine Gale 


Opening Doors sets a national goal of ending family homelessness by 2020. In one way, this goal is audacious and bold, and in another, it's too far off-we need to end family homelessness as soon as possible. Each day we do not, children's lives are torn off course and their futures are threatened. Homelessness is life-disrupting and potentially traumatizing for anyone, but it is particularly so for children; instability and lack of security can negatively impact children's health, development, and academic achievement.


Unfortunately, in the last Point-In-Time count report, family homelessness was up slightly, 1.4 percent, from the previous year. Given that the 2012 PIT followed the deepest point of the recession this slight uptick wasn't surprising. In fact, family homelessness would almost certainly have been much worse had it not been for the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Rehousing program, funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which assisted more than 1.3 million individuals and families with prevention and rapid rehousing assistance. 


In many communities, HPRP also influenced positive changes in the way homeless systems operate - building lasting new partnerships with mainstream employment, education and child care programs, improving data collection, testing assessment tools, and facilitating the adoption of lighter-touch approaches, like progressive engagement, to rapidly rehouse more family households.


Research has helped us understand a lot about homeless families. In most ways they are like other very poor families; the potential range of crises that a low-income family may face, from a medical crisis to job loss to eviction to domestic violence can all lead to housing loss, though only a small number of those that face such crises actually enter the homeless system. We also know that homeless families are often headed by young people, and/or are families with very young children. They don't have the support systems they need in the moment they face homelessness to help keep them out of it. 


Our job then is to address their immediate need for shelter and housing while helping them make the links to other supports, formal and informal, that can support them in the rest of their journey.  We may not stop them from being poor, at least not right now, but we can help them achieve the most basic condition of being a family - sharing a home together.


Read more from Katharine Gale on the blog


Read all of our updated content on ending family homelessness

Progressive Engagement: Using the Lightest Touch to Assist the Most Families

Progressive Engagement uses the lightest touch possible to help each household reach stability 


Progressive engagement provides an opportunity to use

Photo courtesy of St. Stephens Human Services, Minneapolis

resources differently to appropriately serve as many households as possible. The progressive engagement model fits neatly with one of the major themes of Opening Doors, retooling the crisis response system. Creating a crisis response system means looking at all the resources communities currently invest in addressing homelessness and figuring out how best to deploy them to meet the goals of reaching all who need assistance and returning homeless households to stable housing more quickly. The lessons learned from HPRP and other programs that used progressive engagement techniques across the country are important to scale up now, as all communities look to stretch dollars further and help the most people possible. 


Progressive engagement refers to a strategy of starting off offering a small amount of assistance initially, and adding more if needed to help each household reach stability. This strategy uses the lightest touch possible for each household to be successful, knowing more assistance can be added later if needed. Communities learned from HPRP and conveyed to Federal policymakers that most families need only short-term assistance to gain and retain housing. However, some families need more help, which can be challenging to determine. The progressive engagement model is a promising practice to help assist families who have varied levels of need. 


We encourage you to take a look at our full article on progressive engagement to find out how it works and how to implement this model in your community.


Go to full article


The National Conference on Ending Family and Youth Homelessness and USICH's Regional Coordinators 

USICH Regional Coordinator Amy Sawyer reflects on NAEH Conference 


During the last full week of February national leaders, practitioners, advocates, educators, and people who have experienced homelessness converged in Seattle, Washington to participate in the National Conference on Family and Youth homelessness sponsored by our partner, the National Alliance to End Homelessness.


The goals of the week were to learn about a new vision for ending youth homelessness, share new initiatives from the Federal government to end youth and family homelessness, and understand how to build from the work being done in local communities. During morning coffee, throughout sessions, over lunch, in the course of community visits, and over evening gatherings participants connected. We asked questions, shared successes, and pondered challenges we've come across.  Collectively, the emerging conversations linked research with promising practices to create a shared vision for applying effective system-wide strategies in an environment that demands efficient and targeted use of resources.


In her blog, USICH Regional Coordinator Amy Sawyer reflects more on the importance of this conference and collective work in her role as a Regional Coordinator. 


Read it here


Read USICH's 2012 Annual Update to Opening Doors

The second year of implementation of Opening Doors was met with continued commitment from Federal leaders of the 19 agencies on the Council and greater collaboration among State and local governments and nonprofits to reach the goals. USICH and its partners are continuing to improve the data we collect, the partnerships we forge, and the innovations we help stimulate in cities across the United States to invest in only the most cost-effective and evidence-informed solutions.Opening Doors 


This update provides an overview of the Council, Opening Doors, the latest information available on the number of people experiencing homelessness, the federal programs that provide assistance, and information on USICH and member agencies' activities and accomplishments in the last year. Within this update's reporting period we have made some marked progress to the goals. Through significant collaboration between the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Department of Veterans Affairs, we achieved an 18 percent decrease in the number of Veterans experiencing homelessness between 2010 and 2012. For the first time we have a federal framework in place for how we will move forward to end youth homelessness in America,  and with strategic use of one-time Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) funds we prevented and ended homelessness for 1.3 million people and strengthened the way homeless systems operate. 
We encourage you to take a look at this year's report and read how we're making progress across the themes of Opening Doors and what's needed moving forward. 


News from our Partners

Department of Housing and Urban  Development


HUD releases CoC Renewal Awards to 7,000 Organizations Across the Country    

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development released its Continuum of Care (CoC) Program awards last week. It renewed $1.5 billion in grants to support more than 7,000 local organizations serving people and families experiencing homelessness across the U.S.


Each of these organizations are the leaders in providing high-quality and vital services to Veterans, youth, families, children and individuals experiencing homelessness in our nation and are committed to ending homelessness.



Department of Health & Human Services


Save the Date: SAMHSA-hosted Webinar on Homelessness Among Veterans of Recent Conflicts 


On April 18 from 2:00 - 3:30 pm EST, SAMHSA will host a webinar detailing homelessness among Veterans of recent conflicts and share some important ways community leaders and agencies can work to best serve this population. This webinar builds on the work of an expert panel hosted by SAMHSA, whose guiding principles and conversation was summarized by USICH in this fact sheet.


Stay tuned for the registration link!


Table of Contents
Looking to the End of Family Homelessness
Progressive Engagement
Regional Coordinators and the NAEH Conference
USICH releases 2012 Annual Update
News from our Partners
On the USICH Blog

On the USICH Blog


Last week, Amy Grassette, former Chair of the National Consumer Advisory Board of National Health Care for the Homeless Council and current Secretary of the NHCHC Board of Directors, guest blogged for USICH. 


Her blog discussed how homelessness can happen to anyone. She explains, millions of families are just one accident, illness, or layoff away - a lesson her family found out the hard way. 


Her family had always been self-sufficient, acquiring and operating an airport shuttle business three months, but lost their business in 2001 once air travel sharply declined due to the attacks of 9/11. Without their business, Amy's family was unable to keep their home. 


Her family faced obstacles while trying to regain their housing stability, like a Section 8 Voucher Program that had frozen its wait list. What finally did help her family was the  Homeless Families Program (HFP) at Family Health Center  in Massachusetts.


Read her family's story


Upcoming Events
The National Human Services Data Consortium (NHSDC) spring Conference
Thursday, April 25- 
Friday, April 26


2013 National Coalition for Homeless Veterans Annual Conference
Wednesday, May 29-
Friday, May 31
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