In Our Drive to End Homelessness, We Are All Colleagues

About 10 years ago, at a regular after-work meeting spot – you know, the spot where all the ideas and innovations come to light – a friend dubbed our group Colleagues in Ending Homelessness. I am still in contact with these colleagues, although I also consider them friends now. In my work at the federal level, I channel them often. They remind me to be persistent, stay grounded, and continue to fight for social justice.

Because of them, I’ve learned to NEVER underestimate the importance of partnerships in my work.  

Reflecting on the monumental work done over the last year, I think often about the partnerships that have been formed and are growing across the country by a much larger group of colleagues in ending homelessness. Partnerships that are old, new, strengthened, and even stretched. Partnerships that consistently challenge us to work better together collectively. Partnerships that are changing the dialogue on ending homelessness.

All partners are important and have critical roles to play. As I reflect on the progress we’ve made in 2015, I have been thinking the most about three:

Community Leaders Making Waves

Through the commitment and passion of community leaders who are not afraid to challenge the status quo, we definitively know that homelessness is a solvable problem. In communities across the country, we have seen leaders come together to make remarkable progress on ending Veteran homelessness,  while simultaneously laying the groundwork to end chronic, family, and youth homelessness. That success is due to collective leadership, collaboration, civic engagement, and persistence.

Local Officials Increasing Accountability

I am currently leading the interagency review of communities seeking federal confirmation that they had achieved the goal of ending Veteran homelessness. (To seek confirmation for your community, reach out to your local HUD, VISN or USICH coordinator.) That work has just reinforced my belief that local elected officials play key roles in all of our collaborations. Elected officials help us truly build a system-driven response, through which homelessness can be prevented whenever possible, or if it can’t be prevented, it is a rare, brief, and non-recurring experience. They are driving change by asking pointed questions and requesting data from their community leaders in ways that increase accountability and allow us to objectively assess progress against the federal criteria and benchmarks.

National Partners and Technical Assistance Providers Driving Towards the Goal

Over the past year, I have also valued the work of our national partners and many training and technical assistance providers. They continue to push us at the federal, state, and local levels to make data-driven decisions and create effective, sustainable systems. We do not always agree on every issue – what partners do? – but we are all striving toward the same goal, with the same commitment to get there. When I pause for a moment to remember the landscape 15, 10, or even five years ago, I’m overwhelmed by the tremendous progress we have made together.

I would like to thank each one of you, our national Colleagues in Ending Homelessness. Without your leadership and your commitment to collaboration, we would not be making the progress that we’re seeing on the ground, every day. Every community has their group of Colleagues in Ending Homelessness. If you don’t yet know them, find them. Challenge each other’s perceptions and ideas. Keep the conversation moving forward.

We know how to end homelessness. We know that we can end homelessness.  Together, I know that we can make it happen.