January 3, 2011

A New Year and New Leadership in the Fight to End Homelessness

Written by:
HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan, outgoing Chair of the Interagency Council on Homelessness
As 2010 came to a close, I was proud that the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness elected my good friends and colleagues, Secretaries Hilda Solis and Kathleen Sebelius, as its Chair and Vice-Chair for 2011. The first Labor Secretary to serve as USICH chair in its history, Secretary Solis served as the Council’s Vice-Chair during what proved to be a watershed year in the fight to end homelessness.

Indeed, their election reminds us how far we have come in that fight over the past decade – as communities around the country proved that by connecting housing with voluntary supportive services, we could actually prevent homelessness and save money for the taxpayer. It was that bipartisan progress at the local level that paved the way for the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-housing program in President Obama’s Recovery Act – which has now prevented or ended homelessness for 750,000 people and, according to the US Conference of Mayors is “fundamentally” changing the way communities respond to homelessness. And in this new year, the HEARTH Act President Obama signed will put these principles into practice, giving communities the critical tools they need to strategically and effectively confront it.

Together, a bipartisan coalition has emerged – Democrats and Republicans, inside government and out, working together to show that homelessness isn’t simply a noble fight, but a problem we can solve.

And with Opening Doors—the first federal strategic plan to end homelessness—we have made solving this problem the responsibility of the entire Federal government. The most far-reaching and ambitious plan in our history to put our nation on the path toward ending all types of homelessness, Opening Doors marshals the collective force of 19 separate agencies to end chronic homelessness and homelessness among veterans in five years, while ending homelessness for families, youth, and children within a decade. And I want to thank USICH’s executive director, Barbara Poppe, and all my colleagues in President Obama’s cabinet, including Veterans Affairs Secretary Shinseki, for bringing this visionary plan to fruition.

At HUD, we’ve made Opening Doors central to our own Strategic Plan – fully engaging HUD’s mainstream housing programs to meet the housing needs of homeless men and women. And with our January “Point in Time” count of homeless men and women on any given night in America and the release of our Annual Homeless Assessment Report just around the corner, we are committed to getting results – to having a clear understanding of the scope and breadth of homelessness and to measuring our progress toward ending it.

And so, as groundbreaking as these last 12 months have been in developing the framework and tools we need to end homelessness, 2011 is poised to be the year we turn this blueprint into action. And with Secretaries Solis and Sebelius at the helm, I have no doubt we will. 

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