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FEDS BATTLE HOMELESSNESS

 WASHINGTON - The US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) recently released a study indicating 65% of all homeless people are minority groups.  The lead Cabinet secretaries from the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) - from the U.S. Departments of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Labor (DOL), Health and Human Services (HHS), and Veterans Affairs (VA) - joined Executive Director of the USICH Barbara Poppe to unveil and submit to the President and Congress the nation's first comprehensive strategy to prevent and end homelessness. Domestic Policy Council Director Melody Barnes accepted the plan on behalf of President Barack Obama. The full report, titled Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness, is available at www.usich.gov.

The USICH is chaired by HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan and the Vice Chair is Labor Secretary Hilda Solis. The 19 member agencies span the nation's housing, health, job, education, and human services to coordinate the Federal response to homelessness and to create a national partnership at every level of government and with the private sector to reduce and end homelessness in the nation while maximizing the effectiveness of the Federal government in contributing to the end of homelessness.

"As the most far-reaching and ambitious plan to end homelessness in our history, this plan will both strengthen existing programs and forge new partnerships," said Donovan. "Working together with Congress, state and local officials, faith-based and community organizations, and business and philanthropic leaders across our country, we will harness public and private resources to build on the innovations that have been demonstrated at the local level nationwide. No one should be without a safe, stable place to call home and today we unveil a plan that will put our nation on the path toward ending all types of homelessness."

By combining permanent housing with support services, federal, state, and local efforts have reduced the number of people who are chronically homeless by one-third in the last five years. 

"Communities across the country have stressed the need for federal leadership to prevent and end homelessness," said USICH Executive Director Poppe. "For the first time, the nation will have goals, strategies, and measureable outcomes that will guide us toward a fiscally prudent government response. Local, state, and federal governments cannot afford to invest in anything but the most evidence-based, cost-effective strategies."

In recent years, over 300 communities have developed plans to end homelessness. "We know that the Federal government alone cannot address this challenge," said USICH Vice Chair and Labor Secretary Hilda Solis. "Achieving the goals in Opening Doors will require strong partnerships with Congress, states, localities, philanthropy, and faith based and community organizations across the country. After all, the people of our nation are best served when we work as a team.

Opening Doors serves as a roadmap for joint action by the 19 USICH member agencies along with local and state partners in the public and private sectors. The plan puts us on a path to end veterans and chronic homelessness by 2015, and to ending homelessness among children, family, and youth by 2020. The Plan presents strategies building upon the lesson that mainstream housing, health, education, and human service programs must be fully engaged and coordinated to prevent and end homelessness, including:

  • Increasing leadership, collaboration, and civic engagement, by a focus on providing and promoting collaborative leadership at all levels of government and across all sectors and strengthening the capacity of public and private organizations by increasing knowledge about collaboration and successful interventions to prevent and end homelessness.
  • Increase access to stable and affordable housing, by providing affordable housing and permanent supportive housing.
  • Increase economic security, expand meaningful and sustainable employment and improve access to mainstream programs and services to reduce financial vulnerability to homelessness.
  • Improve health and stability, by linking health care with homeless assistance programs and housing, advancing stability for youth aging out of systems such as foster care and juvenile justice, and improving discharge planning for people who have frequent contact with hospitals and criminal justice systems.
  • Retool the homeless response system, by transforming homeless services to crisis response systems that prevent homelessness and rapidly return people who experience homelessness to stable housing.


The HEARTH Act, enacted by Congress in May 2009 mandated that the USICH produce a "national strategic plan" to end homelessness to Congress and the President. Beginning in January 2010, USICH held regional stakeholder meetings, organized federal working groups focused on specific populations, solicited public comment through an interactive website, and engaged experts from across the country to develop an action plan to solve homelessness for veterans, adults, families, youth, and children. 

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