Council Discusses Strategies to Increase Momentum on Ending Chronic Homelessness, Drive Action on Youth Homelessness

On April 12, the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness convened for the first Council meeting of 2016. Education Secretary John King, our vice chair, led the meeting, which focused on several of our key priorities for the year:

  • Securing the resources being sought within the President’s FY 2017 Budget to achieve the goals of Opening Doors

  • Increasing state-level coordination of Medicaid, behavioral health, and housing resources and systems to help take supportive housing to the scale needed to end chronic homelessness and address other state-level priorities

  • Continuing to strengthen the coordination across federal programs that serve youth experiencing homelessness and developing a shared understanding of what it means to end youth homelessness

State-Level Systems Change for Ending Chronic Homelessness

Outgoing USICH Deputy Director Richard Cho reported that our progress in ending chronic homelessness has slowed substantially over the last couple of years – the national decline was less than 1% between the 2014 and 2015 Point-in-Time counts. Cho highlighted the importance of the 25,500 new units of supportive housing in the President’s FY 2017 Budget to bring an end to chronic homelessness.

In the meantime, however, Council agencies are pursuing innovative strategies to support and engage state-level leadership to engage and coordinate existing resources to increase the availability of supportive housing. One such effort is the State Medicaid-Housing Agency Partnerships Technical Assistance, which kicks off in early May and will provide intensive assistance to eight states. The Council heard from two participants of that technical assistance effort, Kate McEvoy, director of the Division of Health Services for the Connecticut Department of Social Services, and Betsy Aiello, deputy administrator for the Division of Health Care Financing and Policy for the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services.

Each discussed why their states were enthusiastic about this new technical assistance effort, and the concrete outcomes they hoped to achieve through the intensive planning process—outcomes related to chronic homelessness, but also related to other priorities, such as providing more efficient care for people with high Medicaid costs, facilitating re-entry efforts, and addressing the housing needs of people with disabilities within their states. They said the interagency effort, led by HHS, HUD, and USICH, will help them structure the partnerships and take the steps forward to align Medicaid, behavioral health, and housing resources and systems to all play their roles in helping to scale up the supply of supportive housing.

Driving Efforts to End Youth Homelessness

USICH incoming Deputy Director Jasmine Hayes, and the Interagency Working Group to End Youth Homelessness, then provided an update to Council on the collaborative efforts underway to develop a shared federal understanding of what it means to end to youth homelessness. In July 2015, the Council adopted the Working Group’s vision of the core components of a coordinated community response to prevent and end youth homelessness. The Working Group has been working intensively to develop common measures of success, joint messaging, tools, and preliminary performance measures to help drive progress toward ending youth homelessness in communities and nationally. The Council agencies committed to continued joint actions.

New Tools

Several new reports and tools relevant to the Council meeting topics were issued during the week of the Council meeting, including:

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