Wrap Up: 2014 National Conference on Ending Family and Youth Homelessness

written by Steve Berg
February 20, 2014

I would like to thank the more than 800 people from around the country who attended our 2014 National Conference on Ending Family and Youth Homelessness, including the speakers, the workshop presenters, hard-working volunteers, and everyone else who brought their expertise, questions, and energy to New Orleans.
 
Alliance conferences are an essential opportunity for everyone working to end homelessness in the U.S., including Alliance staff, to learn about what strategies around the county are working and what new issues are emerging. They’re also a great way for people to provide support and encouragement to one other and build enthusiasm for this vital work.
 
Over the coming weeks, we will be providing conference materials, including workshop presentations, on the Alliance website and blog. If you’re interested in keeping up with what you learned at the conference, keep an eye out for these releases in the Alliance newsletter, on our Facebook page, and by following us on Twitter.
 
Today, though, I’d like to share some observations that Alliance President and CEO Nan Roman noted during her remarks at the closing plenary. These are key points that emerged during the two days we spent together at the conference, and I believe they warrant repeating.
  • It's time to ramp up our work on homelessness among youth. Interest and commitment are high, and it's time to move from theorizing about frameworks, to articulating and implementing concrete policy and practice changes that are going to impact the lives of young people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.
  • Data strengthen us. Over and over at the conference, we saw that it is the communities who are using data to build support for what they're doing and target their resources accurately who are making the most progress.
  • Programs that are doing the most to end homelessness among families and youth operate on the understanding that the people they serve are often strong and resilient, and that they can do things for themselves. The successes of rapid re-housing and Housing First strengthen this understanding: homeless people are not helpless dependents.
  • The stereotype of a homeless veteran as an aging single man with disabilities is certainly close to the mark in many instances, but veteran homelessness also includes families with children. As we approach the 2015 goal for ending veteran homelessness, family providers will play an increasing role in the final push to ensure that there is Never Another Homeless Veteran.
  • Working together is essential. No one community or one program on its own will ever achieve the results we want. The communities who are leading the fight to end homelessness, far from working alone, have made securing participation from a range of different interests and systems a major part of their overall strategies.
  • Approaches to homelessness really are changing for the better. More and more communities are innovating and implementing more effective approaches, thanks to thousands of people around the country who are working hard and working smart to figure out how to make these models benefit the greatest number of families and youth.
  • During a time when unemployment has been high, poverty has gone up, and incomes at the bottom have gone down, family homelessness has declined. At first, that progress could be credited to HPRP, but more recently it’s thanks to people like you, who are working in communities to make homelessness a rarer and briefer experience for families.
It’s true that we have plenty of challenges of us, but in an economic context where employment is slowly improving and state budgets are better, the potential payoff is even greater. If communities redouble their efforts to support each other in using the most effective models they can find, homelessness for families and youth will dwindle rapidly in the years ahead.
 
Thank you again to everyone who is working to end homelessness, and thank you for all you have done. Without you, the Alliance and its partners would never achieve our mission.