Today the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness has announced a delay in the release of the Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness. Though we don’t know for sure when the plan will be officially released, my anticipation will continue to build. Here are 5 reasons the Federal Plan matters to me:
- Change – Under the Bush Administration, state and local governments were largely responsible for addressing homelessness. But states can’t do it alone. An issue this big requires federal leadership, and federal resources. The plan signals a shift in responsibility, and we hope it will make necessary reforms to the federal systems that allow homelessness to continue.
- Accountability – In March 2009, President Obama said, “I’m heartbroken that any child in America is homeless…it is not acceptable for children and families to be without a roof over their heads in a country as wealthy as ours.” We couldn’t agree more, but acknowledging the problem is not the same as solving it. It is our hope that the plan contains specific, measurable goals against which we can measure federal progress on homelessness. The Law Center, and other advocates across the country, will work to hold the government accountable to those goals.
- Human Rights – The Law Center is dedicated to the internationally recognized understanding that adequate housing is a human right. HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan has acknowledged his belief in this right, and we’re leading a campaign to see the human right to housing realized in the United States. We don’t know yet whether the Plan will contain human rights language – we hope it will – but either way our belief that adequate housing is a right, not a privilege, pushes us to try to find nationwide solutions to this country’s housing problems.
- Progress – Homelessness has been a major issue in the United States for more than 20 years. Many people, myself included, don’t remember a time when shelters weren’t full and people didn’t have to sleep on sidewalks or park benches. At the Law Center, we talk about ending homelessness because we believe we can do it. If homelessness hasn’t always existed, we don’t have to regard it as an inevitability. It is my hope that the plan will be a good one, that it’ll be effectively implemented, and that we will see tremendous progress toward our goal of making homelessness history.
- Jacob – I know a man whose life led him to the streets. He is a veteran, and disabled. His son, who struggles with mental illness, often accompanies him. They sleep on church steps at night and find meals at the local day shelter during the day. Jacob plays his harmonica to pass the time, and volunteers at the shelter. About six months ago, thanks to the tireless efforts of advocates, Jacob and his son found stable housing for the first time in nearly half a decade. I look forward to the Federal Plan because it’s hard to see my homeless friends and neighbors struggle simply to survive.
I don’t believe the Federal Plan will solve all our problems. I hope it will be a step in the right direction. And I’ll wait, along with my fellow advocates, in anticipation – to see what the government’s going to do about ending homelessness.
-Whitney Gent, Development & Communications Director