After more than two years away from in-person conferences, it was a breath of fresh air to be around so many committed, passionate members of the field for the Alliance’s National Conference on Ending Homelessness in Washington, D.C. The energy in each plenary, breakout session, and even conversations in the hallways was palpable: a reminder that we are not alone in this work. The work of ending homelessness is hard, and has been even harder over the past few years. But we have an opportunity now to take the lessons of the pandemic onwards and set a different course on our work to end homelessness.
Based on conversations with conference attendees, listening into sessions, and learning from people closest to the work, here’s where I see are major themes the field can focus on right now:
- Implementing Practical and Operational Solutions
One of the most prominent themes throughout the conference was implementing solutions that make systems work efficiently: ones that maximize the existing resources that communities have to confront homelessness and address the scope of affordable housing resources in their area. A key theme, in several sessions, and conversations, was concrete solutions like shared housing and master leasing, and how using these strategies can help to streamline service delivery and system flow.
- Lived Experience
Solutions to homelessness aren’t real solutions if they don’t involve people with lived expertise in their design and implementation. People with lived experience should be involved in policy and program decisions at all levels.
Establishing and maintaining partnerships and collaborating across systems continues to be critical. As we move forward, the homeless services field should look to build these partnerships mainly with affordable housing and public health folks.
Upcoming elections will be extremely important to the success of our work. A key part of this will be making sure people vote in the upcoming midterms. Visit the Alliance’s Every One Votes guide on how to ensure that people experiencing homelessness can access their right to vote
- Narrative Change
Negative messaging on homelessness is increasing. We, as a field, have to be vigilant about getting our good work out there just as loudly. Through evidence-based best practices, we know what works – and we need to let people know what works.
Unity and community have been a big theme across all conference spaces. People can feel alone in this work, but they’re not; there is a hunger for community. We can’t do this work alone – and we don’t have to.
The field has worked tirelessly, and as tired as we are, there is more work to do. But if this time at the conference has showed us anything, it is that we can do this work best when we work together.
For those of you who joined us, thank you for traveling to share your expertise, and to listen and learn from each other. For those who could not make it, the conference plenaries are available on the Alliance’s YouTube channel. I hope to see you at a future conference!