A Closer Look at Opening Doors - Spotlight on Changing of the Goal of Ending Chronic Homelessness

To accompany the release of Opening Doors, as amended in 2015, we will be taking a closer look at each of the four key updates to the document this week. We’ll be sharing comments from partners, community members, and the USICH staff on how the updates are impacting their daily work, helping to prevent and end homelessness across America, as well as highlight the key changes around the updated topic.

Spotlight on Changing of the Goal of Ending Chronic Homelessness

“The national goal and deadline for ending chronic homelessness set by Opening Doors enabled states like Utah to generate the momentum and energy needed to achieve our goal. And if Utah can do it, anyone can do it. Moving the target date for ending chronic homelessness in 2017 still gives states, counties, and cities the hard deadline they need to cultivate champions and re-purpose existing resources, while securing additional resources needed to achieve the goal. 

– Lloyd Pendleton, Former Director, Homeless Task Force, State of Utah

Among people experiencing homelessness, there is a subset of individuals who experience homelessness for long periods of time, and/or in repeated episodes over many years—people experiencing chronic homelessness. These men and women commonly have a combination of challenges including mental health problems, substance use disorders, and complex health conditions that worsen over time and often lead to an early death. Studies have found that people experiencing chronic homelessness cost the public between $30,000 and $50,000 per person per year through their repeated use of emergency rooms, hospitals, jails, psychiatric centers, detox and other crisis services, the  use of which make little improvements to their health and well-being. Given the cost it bears in human lives and public dollars, ending chronic homelessness is a moral and fiscal imperative.  

The solution to end chronic homelessness is permanent supportive housing, which combines affordable housing with tailored, supportive services. This combination of housing and support helps people achieve housing stability, connections to care, and improved health and social outcomes.

When Opening Doors was released in 2010, the Plan set forth a goal to finish the job of ending chronic homelessness in 5 years. To achieve this goal, the Administration has been working to bring the supply of permanent supportive housing to scale, but due in large part to a lack of Congressional support for the expansion of permanent supportive housing, we will not finish the job of ending chronic homelessness nationally in 2015. The newly amended Opening Doors adjusts the timeline of that goal to 2017, which is the timeframe in which the goal can be achieved nationally if Congress funds the resources requested in the President’s FY 2016 Budget, which would create 25,500 additional units of permanent supportive housing. This permanent supportive housing supply is necessary to help every person currently experiencing chronic homelessness quickly exit homelessness and to ensure that no person with disabling conditions has to experience chronic homelessness.

This change reflects the need for additional resources to achieve this goal nationally, although we urge states and communities able to achieve the goal with current resources to continue to act with urgency. This Administration is committed to working with every community to end chronic homelessness as quickly as possible.

View Opening Doors, as amended in 2015.

View the section-by-section Summary of Changes

Additional resources on preventing and ending chronic homelessness:

Having spent years working to achieve the goals of Opening Doors, and countless hours working on the 2015 Amendment, we asked the staff of USICH to share their thoughts on what the Plan and its recent updates mean to them:

While all people experiencing homelessness are of equal importance, the group that I have worked with the most, first-hand, are those experiencing chronic homelessness. I found this section in the newly amended Opening Doors to be closest to my heart. Opening Doors describes how to end homelessness for this group and sets a goal for when this can be accomplished. However, they also eloquently and judiciously discuss the broad spectrum of the conditions faced by this population, which I found to be an equally incredible achievement.

–Jenny Klein, Program Assistant

It’s has been an honor serving with the Council for over 10 years now. When I first joined USICH in 2005, we had an intense focus on the adoption of 10-year plans and chronic homelessness and the fact that permanent supportive housing, based on research and evidenced-backed practices, was relatively inexpensive compared to less proactive methods of sheltering and other reactive forms of addressing homelessness. 

Since then, I’ve seen the work of the Council greatly expand due to the drafting and adoption of Opening Doors in 2010. I have witnessed, first-hand, the shift to a more comprehensive focus on this issue, and the increase in the engagement of partners/stakeholders—from people experiencing homelessness to the civil servants who passionately and tirelessly work on this issue. We now have a solid method through which we’ve gathered the wide-spread support from across the nation at every level necessary to move the needle on homelessness and also against which we measure our progress and make adjustments reality calls for.

–Darren Franklin, Director, Finance and Administration

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