On a Path to Ending Homelessness

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Ed Note: In case you missed it, check out Secretary Donovan’s post on HUD’s blog following yesterday’s release of the federal strategic plan to prevent and end homelessness.

Someone once told me -- in your head it's a dream, but on paper it's a plan.  As a nation, we’ve talked about addressing the issue of homelessness, and now we have a plan.  Over the last year, the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH), consisting of 19 federal agencies and chaired by Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan, drafted the nation’s first comprehensive strategic plan to prevent and end homelessness.

The impetus for such a plan was simple.  In the United States, no one should spend a single night without a place to call home.  Yet, 634,000 people, including 107,000 veterans, experience homelessness on any given night.  The families and individuals that experience homelessness and the advocates that work so hard on this issue know that we need to act with a renewed sense of urgency.

Yesterday, the lead Cabinet secretaries from USICH – Secretary Donovan, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, and Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Eric Shinseki – joined USICH Director Barbara Poppe to unveil and submit Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness to the President and Congress. 

The plan sets ambitious but measurable goals: (1) end chronic homelessness in five years; (2) prevent and end homelessness among veterans in five years; (3) prevent and end homelessness for families, youth, and children within a decade; and (4) put us on a path to ending all types of homelessness.

The plan builds on existing interagency partnerships and evidence-based models that are working at the local level.  It will focus the resources and efforts of federal agencies to offer a variety of comprehensive solutions.  For example, the partnership between HUD, HHS, and Education will provide homeless families with not only a home, but the wrap-around services they need to remain off the streets.

This is doable but it requires all of us to work together - Congress, federal agencies, state and local officials, faith-based and community organizations, and business and philanthropic leaders across our country.

We applaud the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness for their tireless efforts to put on paper what we know is possible.  Preventing and ending homelessness will positively impact the lives of individuals and families, veterans, children and youth, those who are chronically ill, those suffering from domestic violence, and those combating discrimination of all sorts.

We look forward to working with dedicated state and local leaders to open doors and opportunities for men, women, and children all across the country.

Melody Barnes is the Director of the Domestic Policy Council

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