In June, the Supreme Court upheld Obamacare. That was good news for the almost 6 million people who would have lost their health care insurance if the ruling had gone the other way.
The ruling also meant that Obamacare is likely to remain intact. And with Obamacare in place, more and more states are likely to expand their Medicaid programs to cover people with low incomes, not just families or people with disabilities. This means that the majority of extremely low income and homeless persons can keep their access to health care in places that have expanded Medicaid. To date 30 states have expanded their Medicaid coverage. And other states may join the list.
On behalf of the District of Columbia, it is my pleasure to welcome you all to our nation’s capital – where we have joined the nationwide race to end homelessness.
Washington is a wonderful city, a world-class city. This is my hometown, and I can tell you firsthand – we’ve come a long way since I was a kid. We enjoy one of the healthiest economies in the country. We are one of the fastest growing cities. We top just about every ‘top 10’ list when it comes to livability. And our city finances are strong. Yet despite our tremendous success and prosperity, prosperity does not reach every corner of our city.
Diversion has become a critical part of our conversations on how to end homelessness. But what do we really mean when we talk about diversion? It seems that when we start talking about how to implement diversion as part of a best practice crisis response system to end homelessness, everyone has a different idea of what it means.
To make sure we are effectively using diversion as a best practice to meet the objective of reducing the number of people who become homeless, let’s start with what the word “diversion” means. According to the Cambridge American Dictionary, "diversion" is defined as “the act of causing something or someone to turn in a different direction.”
Each year, thousands of Americans transition from active duty military service to veteran status. But after fighting for our country, these men and women are more likely than civilians to experience homelessness. Though the reasons for this are varied, many veterans struggle to return to civilian life, placing them at increased risk of experiencing homelessness. On any given night, nearly 50,000 veterans are homeless.
In 2009, our federal government acknowledged the growing problem of veteran homelessness and proposed a solution. Then-Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA) Secretary Eric Shinseki, in conjunction with President Barack Obama, established the audacious goal of ending veteran homelessness by the end of 2015. We’re now more than halfway through the year, with only five months to go. So how are we doing?
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.