The Federal Plan to End Homelessness: Turning Plans into Action

written by naehblog
June 22, 2010

The U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) released a new federal strategic plan geared toward preventing and ending homelessness today.

And it was quite the production. Not quite presidential, but the Secretaries of the Departments ofHousing and Urban Development (Shaun Donovan), Health and Human Services (Kathleen Sebelius),Labor (Hilda Solis), and Veterans Affairs (Gen. Eric Shinseki) all showed up to unveil Opening Doors: The Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness at a White House briefing this morning.

And right they were to make a to-do. Opening Doors is the first comprehensive federal plan developed to prevent and end homelessness, laying out specific goals and clear timeframes. The plan even identifies the data sources (point-in-time homeless counts, to be exact) by which they’ll be measuring progress, allowing for real accountability. 
Opening Doors sets four major goals:

  • Finish the job of ending chronic homelessness in five years;
  • Prevent and end homelessness among veterans in five years;
  • Prevent and end homelessness for families, youth, and children in ten years; and
  • Set a path to ending all types of homelessness.

(Any of this sound familiar?)

And while we’re very excited at the prospect of having a federal partner to help achieve our mutual goal of ending homelessness, we know that it’s not going to be easy. We know that the process of moving from plan to action will require more than good intentions.

How do we know?

Because this isn’t the first time we’ve heard of a plan. In 2000, we launched the Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness. After releasing, A Plan, Not a Dream: How to End Homelessness in Ten Years, we asked communities to take the charge and develop local plans to incrementally, systematically, end homelessness in their communities.

And the results were remarkable!

From 2005 to 2008, we saw a ten percent decrease in the total number of homeless people in the United States. In the same timeframe, there was a nearly 20 percent decrease in homeless families and a nearly 30 percent decrease in chronic homelessness. (For the full report on progress, check out Homelessness Counts: Changes in Homelessness from 2005 to 2007.

But progress didn’t come easily. To date, over 266 communities have developed their own community plans to end homelessness and those plans that have shown real progress have harnessed the political will and public support to invest real resources into the cause. Hard work, financial resources, and plenty of community investment were the keys to success. (In fact, the Alliance identified the four components critical to ensuring community plan success in this report.)

So all we’re hoping is that the plan can be turned into action. Implementation is the key to progress (as Nan notes) – and if this plan is implemented well with the heft and resources of the federal government, it promises to be instrumental in ending homelessness in the United States.

As a next step, federal agencies are meeting to prioritize which strategies should be implemented first and to develop implementation plans. USICH will report annually on progress toward implementation and achieving reductions in homelessness. 
The plan was required by the Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing (HEARTH) Act, which was enacted into law in May 2009. For the full, 67-page plan, check out the USICH website.