The Obama Administration’s Opening Doors: the Federal Strategic Plan to End Homelessness lays a roadmap for federal and state government action to end homelessness, which was described eloquently by one of its principal authors, Jennifer Ho, Deputy Director of Accountability Management for the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, at the Partnership’s second IForum on February 24.
Collaboration across policy areas - a main theme of Ho’s presentation - has been demonstrated by 19 federal agencies coming together to create the Opening Doors plan and then align their policies to implement it. The plan’s ambitious but attainable goals:
- End chronic homelessness by 2015
- Prevent and end homelessness among veterans by 2015
- Prevent and end homelessness among families, youth and children by 2020, and
- Set a path to ending all types of homelessness.
Ho said that even amid budget deficits, smart policymakers will devote resources to fight homelessness because it is so cost-effective. She urged everyone to use solid data and research to drive honest dialogue that builds support for effective interventions, and helps policymakers and practitioners target limited resources to where they will have the greatest impact. She noted that in her previous work advocating for supportive housing in Minnesota, having evidence of its cost-effectiveness made a much stronger case than many other state programs with longer standing and greater political support
Ms. Ho challenged Connecticut to vigorously pursue funding for supportive housing and other approaches to end homelessness through mainstream programs like Medicaid and employment services. She noted that although homeless-targeted programs have been highly effective, they are far smaller than these mainstream programs, and are not suited to the scale of the homelessness problem - we’ve been using millions of dollars on homelessness, but we need billions. And these mainstream programs are intended for the general population, and should do a better job of serving the homeless.
She also noted that strong collaboration between government agencies and among providers can save money and produce better outcomes. Because people facing homelessness have multifaceted and interconnected needs, they require help on many fronts. These various systems must work together in order to be successful and target resources effectively.
Ho's remarks were followed by a panel of experts including Alison Cunningham of Columbus House, Sister Judy Carey of St. Francis Hospital, Alice Pritchard of the CT Women's Education and Legal Fund (CWEALF) and Carol Walter of the Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness (CCEH) , and moderated by Steve DiLella of the CT Dept. of Mental Health and Addiction Services (DMHAS).
For more information about Opening Doors, click here.
Check out the pictures from the event!