The United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) affirmed its support for "Opening Doors: The Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness" at a July 12 meeting. In addition to affirming the Obama Administration’s commitment to Opening Doors, USICH reviewed progress over the past year, planned for the second year of Opening Doors and sent the first annual update of the Plan to Congress.
After the first year of the Plan, 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 in ending homelessness.
Among other successes discussed at the meeting, the following areas were highlighted:
- Agencies within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (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 needs to be improved.
- 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, just as important is the fundamental change in the way many communities now 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 prepare for the opportunities that lie ahead. With careful planning now, the implementation of 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.
"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 Department of Labor Secretary Hilda Solis.
"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.