I am so happy to welcome you to our national conference on ending homelessness. The board and staff of the Alliance are deeply gratified that you have joined us here. And we thank all of you, also, for what you do to end homelessness across the nation.
This has been a year with many challenges. The gap between those who have and those who do not is growing; and many who are poor feel that their opportunities to escape poverty are shrinking. There are tremendous and persistent racial disparities. The cost of housing is increasing, but incomes are not keeping pace.
These are the big picture problems, and we have our challenges on the homelessness side of things, as well. At the national level, funding is getting harder to come by. The work that you are doing – coordinated assessment and entry, rapid re-housing, permanent supportive housing, critical time intervention, housing first, trauma informed care – are more sophisticated and effective. But they are also harder, requiring different skill sets, different administrative infrastructures, and different types of accountability.
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.
This video is a recording of a webinar that originally streamed, June 18, 2015, that covered steps two and four of the Alliance's "Five Steps for Ending Veteran Homelessness" resource. Presenters from the Alliance and UNITY of Greater New Orleans discussed strategies for recruiting landlords, identifying housing stock and supportive services, and matching veterans with them to ensure that they are successfully and permanently housed.
Earlier this year, New Orleans, which once had one of the highest per-capita rates of veteran homelessness in the nation, created serious buzz by becoming the first major city to effectively end veteran homelessness. With Houston following suit earlier this month, and more cities poised to make similar announcements, it is worth taking a look at New Orleans “six months on” to get a sense of what happens after the press conferences and a visit from the First Lady. In other words: what happens after you reach zero?
It is no secret that even after announcing an end to veteran homelessness, the work around re-housing homeless veterans and keeping veterans in housing never really ends. New Orleans is currently working very hard to sustain the progress that was made. The city, in partnership with UNITY, the lead agency for the homeless Continuum of Care, has set up a rapid response system to quickly locate and house homeless veterans, with the goal of housing them within 30 days. The rapid response system has been the cornerstone of maintaining a “functional zero.”
Recently, the National Coalition for Homelessness held its annual conference here in Washington, DC.
Homeless assistance practitioners, policymakers, and advocates from around the country gathered to learn about what’s working to end veteran homelessness. The contributions of numerous officials from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) were also featured, including a keynote from Secretary McDonald (or Bob, as he urged the audience to call him). In his remarks he touted the efforts of successful communities from New Orleans to Houston and beyond and spoke of VA’s efforts to cut through bureaucracy to get the job done.
Beyond VA’s presence, there were some major takeaways from the conference that are definitely worth sharing: