The Federal Strategic Plan to End and Prevent Homelessness

This morning, the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness announced the release of Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness. The plan, which will be the Obama Administration’s official policy position on homelessness, will give direction to the federal agencies and guidance to state and local governments. 


The plan does a great job of outlining the issues.  It’s comprehensive, covers all populations, and acknowledges different federal definitions of homelessness and their importance — as opposed to the Council’s past tendency to recognize only the HUD definition of homelessness.  The goals are also good; this is the first federal government document to explicitly call for preventing and ending family homelessness in ten years.

But throughout the plan the strategies are vague.  There is lots of talk about dissemination of best practices to states and localities, about more research, about reviewing federal programs to identify barriers that prevent homeless people from accessing housing or services.  All very important things.  But beyond items already in the President’s current (FY 2011) budget proposal, and lots of references to how most homeless people will have Medicaid in 2014 thanks to health reform, there are no specifics as to how the plan will be funded.  After all, if the federal government wants to provide leadership on the issue of homelessness, it must bring a meaningful commitment of new dollars to the table.

For example, how will the Obama Administration put us on a path towards ending family homelessness in 10 years?  Only development of affordable housing can really get this job done.  And sure enough, the plan indicates that the federal government will work towards this goal by funding the National Housing Trust Fund, but it offers no details about how much funding will be requested of Congress.  The plan also commits the federal government to work with states and localities to push them to build more affordable housing, but does not say how that would be accomplished.  And the plan cites a need for new housing subsidies, but fails to describe how many are needed and how we will get them.

Along with housing, the plan addresses a range of other issues important to the Law Center’s work.  But once again, specific commitments are lacking.  The introduction includes a comprehensive discussion of education, but no goal or strategy focuses on keeping children enrolled in school and receiving critical services.  The plan includes a short, forceful statement opposing criminalization of homelessness and promoting constructive alternatives, but fails to offer a list of such alternatives.  And it references criminalization as violating human rights norms, through a quote from Law Center Executive Director Maria Foscarinis – but it says nothing further about a right to housing.

We’re glad that the Interagency Council took the time to put this plan together.  It’s going to help us in our work.  But if we really want to end homelessness it’s going to take more than just a plan – we’ll need specific strategies and the promise of enough money to accomplish them.  We look forward to working with the Interagency Council in a long-term effort to make this happen.

-Jeremy Rosen, Policy Director

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6 Responses to The Federal Strategic Plan to End and Prevent Homelessness

  1. Lori says:

    I myself am facing a housing crisis right now. The problem is a real lack of resources. The other issues are agencies under the Federal government level don’t necessarily act as if they know about the HEARTH act. I have downloaded the act and were reading through it. Trying to find out more specific info on how it applies to my circumstances. However,I still don’t know how the PHA applies the HEARTH act.

    I am trying to become more aware of the policies that affect my life.But talking to Government(county level),they seem to not know how to help or don’t really want to make a phone call to help. The poor suffer because they think that they are doing all they can.

  2. R Fojas says:

    I think if you need 10 years to stop homelessness, you will be too late. You will all be out of office by then.

    It seems you don’t know and you don’t feel how members of a family leaving their dwelling which they have learned to love and to which they have learned to have peace and contentment feel. These people will never forget their sadness and feeling of helplessness at a time when the government or you can be of great help to them. But you choose to help the banks and lenders and forget the people who voted for you in office.

    But if you can help these people now, they will never forget you as one who helped them in their time of despair and great need. They will never forget what you have done to them. They will be joyfully not only vote for you but help you and assist you in your candidacy should you choose to run again.

    I think you can end foreclosure immediately. This will help tremendously these people in despair right now. This will also help the government, the economy, and the country.

    Why not make all these underwater loan transferred to a RENT-TO-OWN PLAN. Let homeowners in general, subject to some exceptions, be renters with option to buy the property. Price can be at present value or whatever valuation you want to use provided the monthly payment is affordable by the owner. This will stop many foreclosures and prices will star to pick up and economy will start to grind again. Later on, the borrower and lender may share in the increase in price (equity) when the prices go up again.

    People will love you. They will always remember you — including at election time. Good luck and may this country progress again.


  3. VLP says:

    I agree with u RMF…I am a quad. (Paralyed) neck down. I am nursing home borderline.

    I am fighting to stay in my rent home or I will be put in a nursing home and am only 43. It’s bad enough for all my walking homeless friends; let alone my handicapped friends. Most of us can maintain the houses but have no credit or a large down payment; so we end up in the street or the ones that r like me get shoved in a home and feel like we were sentenced to Prison. When to leave, drink, eat, etc…and we have a mind, just not a body.

    Some even have kids and when they go homeless OCS (Office of Child Support) steps in then and takes them from having unsanitary housing. (Streets, cars, hopping friend to friend….) Where was OCS before they were put on the streets? And then when they take them; they don’t help u get on ur feet. NO, they just sell ur kids.

    We can end foreclosure. and help tremendously!!! We the People!! I’m in despair right now. I’ve been fighting HUD for 4 years, scared to death of being homeless! BUT if HUD would recognize the laws (and change some laws) to help people RENT-TO-OWN; we could find seller’s to take the voucher to live! HUD could pay their part, us pay ours and when paid off, voucher goes to another family.

    I know this is a long process BUT people won’t be homeless, and government isn’t waiting for renter’s to die to give another family a rental voucher!! They are giving a home to a family to pass on to their own family in their death so they aren’t homeless too!! And stop our children from being homeless.

    In closing if anyone else gets in my position or my friends with kids; DON’T GIVE UP AMERICA!!! I’ve fought hard and write letter after letter; complain, reach out…..Now 4 yrs later my congressman answered my letter and turned it over to discrimination and they sent to Dept of JUSTICE. Who is looking it over now and i have faith that God will move some rocks and in my area no one will go though what i have!

    Thanks for reading and God bless!!

  4. Bernadette says:

    I am a bit confused. My confusion lies in the reality of our homeless problems. Ending homelessness completely?! Please tell me what happens when the writers and others that constructed this act realize that some of these people do not want housing, they are not all just broke financially. A large percentage of them have money and families. They simply do not want to be part of that any longer. So for these people we what, medicate them and they will want to be “normal”, frankly that scares the hell out of me. Are you taking the option away ?,taking away the freedom to choose to take medication or not, to refuse counseling ,to not be forced into a way of thinking that has been set forth by a body of people that are not like them. By the way many of the homeless who choose to be this way are veterans.
    The outline sounds nice and is a great notion but alot of questions need to be answered for people that actually work with homeless and know the reality of why some of the “homeless” are there and how they got to be there.
    Iam personally focused on another often unaddressed portion of the population of homeless and that is the teens. (Not in a family unit) I read that all parts and portions of the homeless population are addressed in this act, and I will be reading it in its entirety. I look forward to getting answers to my concerns and questions.

    Thank you for the opportunity to leave a message here for others to read. And for those who read this, ask questions.

  5. Mildred says:

    Homelessness can stop, when evictions stop. Give the tenant the opportunit to pay up before trashing their circumstances and credit all over the court and sheriff’s domain. Agencies, both federal and local should be more willing and available to help instead of treating you like a social outcast. This is the most Barbaric event in America and should be outlawed.


  6. elizabeth says:

    sad to say that a lot of homeless families are still being turn away from the right to shelter. one family in particular, husband ,wife and three small girls where evicted from there home and the system feels it has the right to tell another family member that they must provide shelter for them. Very nice, but what if that family says no I don’t want five more people in my house, then what are they to do.Its really sad seeing this actually happen. DHS feels they can do that what can we do to change that.

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