Last year’s HEARTH (Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing) Act reauthorized the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness and revised its mission, membership and duties.
The Council now brings together 13 Cabinet-level departments, plus five sub-cabinet and independent agencies and the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.
The HEARTH Act charged the Council to develop a federal strategic plan to prevent and end homelessness. The plan is supposed to be submitted to Congress on May 20 and updated annually.
The Council says the plan will represent agreement among the agencies on a set of priorities and strategies they will jointly pursue over the next five years.
The plan will guide both the development of programs and agency budget proposals. So it clearly has the potential to significantly improve and better coordinate the federal government’s diverse homelessness prevention and homeless assistance programs.
The Council is proceeding from what it calls “the moral foundation” that “no one should experience homelessness–no one should be without a safe, stable place to call home.” It’s broken this aspirational goal down into four key objectives:
- Finish the job of ending chronic homelessness
- Prevent and end homelessness among veterans
- Prevent and end family homelessness
- Set a path toward ending all types of homelessness
Since it developed these, it’s apparently decided to also focus on preventing and ending youth homelessness and to explore the role of local communities, including the alignment of federal policies and funding to their homelessness prevention, emergency shelter and re-housing programs.
The Council has aimed for a transparent process, with “multiple opportunities for input, feedback and collaboration.” It seems to be doing a creditable job.
It has gathered input through six regional stakeholder meetings and several meetings during the recent conference of the National Alliance to End Homelessness. Now it invites us to share our ideas and vote for ideas others have submitted.
The latter range from the very specific, i.e., provide shelters with funding for case managers, to over-arching solutions, i.e. build more affordable housing. We’ve thus got many choices and a broad field for further suggestions.
So if you want to weigh in on the federal homelessness “roadmap,” here’s your chance. But don’t dally. The deadline for public input is March 22.