On September 20, HUD and the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) announced the launch of a new initiative, entitled “Dedicating Opportunities to End Homelessness.” The initiative targets ten priority communities, seven of which are CLPHA members: Atlanta, Chicago, Fresno, Houston, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Seattle, and Tampa. It aims to draw on local data and relationships; encourage collaboration between community leaders, across HUD program silos, and with USICH; and align and supplement existing plans to address homelessness, in service of meeting the goals of Opening Doors: A Federal Strategic Plan to End Homelessness.
Over the next month, the Federal leadership teams will convene in each of the target cities and hold meetings with major stakeholders in the communities. These stakeholders will have access to a new tool called the Strategic Planning Guide, which allows users to input data and assumptions about the local homeless population and available resources, in order to determine what additional resources and/or program improvements are needed to accomplish local objectives associated with the national Opening Doors goals.
Jonathan Harwitz, HUD Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy & Programs, convened the launch event, where Assistant Secretary for Public & Indian Housing Sandra Henriquez also spoke. The message delivered to housing authorities by Asst. Secretary Henriquez echoed the themes of the convenings on housing authorities and homelessness held in LA and DC earlier this year. Housing authorities should be at the table discussing homelessness in their communities. They have resources to contribute and the authority to make changes with major impacts. For example, they need to think about changes to their business practices and look at their admissions policies, to assess whether they are putting up unnecessary barriers to reaching those experiencing homelessness. Housing authorities can play a large role in the implementation of this initiative, as although it is a federal effort, local plans are intended to be place-based and community-driven.
CLPHA Executive Director Sunia Zaterman attended the launch of the initiative. She suggested that HUD consider ways in which administrative and regulatory streamlining could facilitate the effort and whether waivers might be warranted in some cases. She also recommended that HUD look carefully at the innovative initiatives that Moving-to-Work agencies have implemented to assist with the problem of homelessness in their cities, as they offer insights into best practices.
Timelines for the initiative are ambitious. Over the next week, HUD/USICH teams will meet and identify stakeholders to convene, with those gatherings taking place by October 15. By October 31, HUD Headquarters will demo the Strategic Planning Guide, and teams in the target cities will begin using it to determine local plans and timelines.