3 Things I’ve Learned from Working at the Alliance

It is with a mixture of excitement and sadness that I write this “goodbye” blog post for the Alliance. After more than five years here, I am ready to take on the challenge of grad school, but I will miss working with passionate and driven people across the country dedicated to such an important topic.

In my time here, I’ve learned a few things – well, I’ve learned a ton of things, but for the sake of this post, I’ll narrow it down to just the big ones.

1. We CAN end homelessness. This may seem obvious for those of you who are working on this issue every day and have seen the progress we’ve made in the past few years; however, for me, starting here fresh out of college, it was not. I understood that ending homelessness was the goal (hence the name of the organization), but I did not realize that we already had the solutions and drive across the country to really make it happen.

There have been obstacles along the way, but I’ve seen firsthand how people with dedication and creativity can overcome those obstacles with innovative solutions. We will make this happen.

2. Advocacy can make an impact. As a political science major, the opportunity to work with Congress was a thrilling prospect. In college I learned how a bill becomes law (beyond the awesome School House Rock version), but when I got here, Congress was, well, Congress, and things didn’t quite go by the textbook. There’s been quite a lot of political upheaval in the last five years, and it’s had a dramatic impact on policy, particularly the federal funding process.

As the Alliance’s advocacy person, the political junkie in me was fascinated by all the crazy parliamentary procedures, big negotiations, and other tactics that members of Congress used to, frankly, avoid making real decisions. But when it came to progress on homelessness policy and funding this was all pretty bad news.

In the grand scheme of things, homelessness assistance is a tiny line item in the congressional budget, but your calls, meetings, site visits and more, made a difference. While numerous other programs faced cuts and flat funding, homeless assistance was preserved and in some cases even GREW! This should be counted by all of us as a huge win for the past five years – advocacy makes a difference!

3. Ending veteran homelessness will allow us to set a path toward ending all homelessness. Over the past few years, we have achieved tremendous political momentum toward ending veteran homelessness, and as a result, we’ve seen serious progress: a 33 percent decline since 2009.

The reductions we’ve achieved in the number of homeless veterans demonstrate that, with congressional support for funding programs that serve homeless vets, political will at all levels (including a federal initiative involving multiple agencies), and resolute commitment from leaders at the local level, we can and will get this done.

The causes of veteran homelessness are similar to those experienced by the non-veteran population, and the solutions are the same (rapid re-housing, crisis housing, permanent supportive housing). So we already have the know-how. Ending veteran homelessness will send a clear signal to policymakers and community leaders that we can and must get this done for everyone.

As I wrap up my last few days here, I am filled with gratitude for everything I have learned and the amazing people I have met along the way. I look forward to following the journey of making sure that every person in this country has a place to call home.