Thanks once again to everyone who came to the National Conference on Ending Homelessness, and to the many more who followed the action on Twitter or watched speeches on Facebook Live. Here are my key takeaways:
People working to end homelessness are clearer than ever about what it will take. To permanently end homelessness, there are two things that need to be in place, and those were spelled out in detail.
1. One is a crisis response system so that when anyone loses their housing and becomes homeless, they will be found, kept safe, and quickly helped move back into housing. This includes:
- Low-barrier, housing-focused shelters
- Strategies to address unsheltered homelessness
- Rapid re-housing strategies that build upon success with veterans, families, individual adults, and youth
- Diversion and similar interventions that help keep people from entering shelter
- Permanent supportive housing, including strategies to leverage mainstream programs like housing vouchers and Medicaid
- Strategies to address homeless families. This is some of the best work being done on homelessness. Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s speech, and the awards for the public, private, and non-profit sectors in Washington, D.C., were among the examples of how well this is working.
- System-building approaches to make all these interventions more effective for the largest possible number of people.
2. Making larger reforms so that more people can afford and access housing. This was a big part of the keynotes from Senators Kamala Harris and Cory Booker. And we all know this is true: as long as people keep losing their housing due to high rents, low incomes, evictions, discrimination, and other factors, our work will not be done.
Other major take-aways:
We have to address racial disparities, race discrimination, and racism. The Alliance made a major commitment to these issues, and the sessions were packed. Simply put, everyone wants to ensure that the homeless services system makes disparities better, not worse.
Employment is a key intervention. People are looking for ways to make employment a viable way to get people out of homelessness. A lot of voices have come to the table on this issue, both in our sessions and in this year’s preconference meetings. Employment is right at the center of effective rapid re-housing.
More people are seeking partnerships. Among the groups and interests whose enthusiasm was the greatest were Public Housing Agencies, law enforcement, corrections, and health care. All are seeing homelessness making it harder to achieve their goals, and expressed a new-found level of urgency about working together to solve it.
Advocacy is essential. The number of Hill Day meetings was extremely strong, and there was a good response to the Alliance’s policy priorities.
Help with the NOFA. This was one of those years when the conference took place while the NOFA was open. We hope the content at the conference was helpful for those working to prepare their community’s NOFA application. More content will follow, with a continuing blog series, and a webinar coming up August 2, at 2:00 p.m. eastern.
Doing digital! The Alliance’s conference App. reached new levels of utility. Powerpoints from each of the sessions are available on the App, we used it to communicate about breaking Hill meetings, and an unprecedented number of people used it as their tool to interact with the conference. Even if you haven’t downloaded it yet, you can still search NAEH in the Apple or Google Play stores to download the app and access this year’s sessions.
And finally: we see the progress, and we also see that there is still a lot work to do, with hundreds of thousands of Americans homeless every night and many distractions. But the conference reminds us that people committed to ending homelessness are a large and capable group, supporting, encouraging and learning from each other.
We’re going to make this happen.