USA — Federal Council Proposes Plans to End Homelessness

WASHINGTON — An inde­pen­dent coun­cil of Cab­i­net mem­bers announced a pro­pos­al yes­ter­day they said will seek to end vet­er­an home­less­ness in five years and put the nation on a path to end home­less­ness in the Unit­ed States by 2020.

The Unit­ed States Inter­a­gency Coun­cil on Home­less­ness released “Open­ing Doors: The Fed­er­al Strate­gic Plan to Pre­vent and End Home­less­ness.” The plan is the nation’s first com­pre­hen­sive fed­er­al plan to com­bat home­less­ness, Hous­ing and Urban Devel­op­ment Sec­re­tary Shaun Dono­van said in a White House news con­fer­ence.

“The cul­mi­na­tion of more than a decade’s work in com­mu­ni­ties across the coun­try, this plan reflects Pres­i­dent Obama’s belief that no one should expe­ri­ence home­less­ness — no one should be with­out a safe, sta­ble place to call home,” Dono­van said. “We believe we can and will achieve that.”

The council’s strat­e­gy includes sev­er­al mile­stones in which they will mea­sure progress. It calls for end­ing chron­ic home­less­ness – where peo­ple cycle in and out of shel­ters and hos­pi­tals — and home­less­ness among vet­er­ans in five years, Dono­van said. Next, they will get every fam­i­ly, youth and child off the streets with­in 10 years, and then even­tu­al­ly set a path to end home­less­ness alto­geth­er, he said.

The pro­pos­al sug­gests the efforts would focus on inte­grat­ing sup­port ser­vices and apply­ing state and local ini­tia­tives at the fed­er­al lev­el, accord­ing to the coun­cil. It serves as a roadmap for joint action to main­stream hous­ing, health, edu­ca­tion and human ser­vices pro­grams.

Dono­van cit­ed the home­less vet­er­an pop­u­la­tion, under­scor­ing the need for a joint, inter­a­gency approach. More Viet­nam-era vet­er­ans are home­less today than the num­ber of U.S. ser­vice­mem­bers who died in the Viet­nam War, he said.

“Our vet­er­ans remind us that end­ing home­less­ness is big­ger than any one agency or lev­el of gov­ern­ment,” he said. “By strength­en­ing exist­ing inter­a­gency part­ner­ships, this plan hon­ors the sac­ri­fice of those who have served their coun­try and assures our troops serv­ing in Iraq and Afghanistan that they won’t be for­got­ten when they return home.”

He added that the HUD-VA part­ner­ship already has pro­vid­ed 30,000 units of per­ma­nent sup­port­ive hous­ing to vet­er­ans and their fam­i­lies.

The effort involves oth­er part­ner­ships, such as one between the Health and Human Ser­vices and Labor depart­ments that uses hous­ing a plat­form, Dono­van explained. Acces­si­ble health care and job train­ing will help to keep those at risk off the streets, he added.

The coun­cil is com­posed of 19 Cab­i­net sec­re­taries and oth­er top offi­cials, includ­ing Vet­er­ans Affairs Sec­re­tary Eric K. Shin­se­ki. Shin­se­ki announced VA’s plans last year to end home­less­ness among vet­er­ans with­in five years.

With the devel­op­ment of the new strat­e­gy, the “down­ward spi­ral” for vet­er­ans into home­less­ness has begun to break down, Shin­se­ki said in yesterday’s news con­fer­ence. More than 640,000 men, women and chil­dren – includ­ing an esti­mat­ed 107,000 mil­i­tary vet­er­ans – live on the streets. In 2005, an esti­mat­ed 195,000 vet­er­ans were home­less, accord­ing to VA.

Shin­se­ki spoke to the Nation­al Coali­tion of Home­less Vet­er­ans here June 21. And like Dono­van, he point­ed to the need to address issues such as health and edu­ca­tion before vet­er­ans even become home­less.

VA’s 2010 bud­get for end­ing home­less­ness among vet­er­ans is $3.5 mil­lion. At least 85 per­cent will be spent on pro­grams to treat depres­sion, post-trau­mat­ic stress, trau­mat­ic brain injury, sub­stance abuse and sui­cide pre­ven­tion, Shin­se­ki said in his June 21 remarks.

“Resources are mov­ing in the right direc­tion,” he said. “We have to be smarter about how we use these resources while we have them, and put in place the rela­tion­ships, the pro­ce­dures, and the dis­ci­plines that get 99 cents of impact out of every dol­lar we spend. Good­ness here is not any one organization’s agen­da but what best serves our home­less Vet­er­ans. We must move to excel­lence in our col­lab­o­ra­tive efforts.”

The next step for the coun­cil will be imple­men­ta­tion. Over the com­ing weeks, the coun­cil will work with Con­gress, local leg­is­la­tures, health care providers and com­mu­ni­ty orga­ni­za­tions to put their plan into action, coun­cil mem­bers said.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)