December 16 marked this winter’s first snow storm here in Washington. It was also the final meeting in 2010 of the US Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH). The blustery conditions outside provided a stark reminder of the dire circumstances confronting the homeless this time of year and the importance of the task at hand for the Council in leading the Federal government’s efforts to eradicate homelessness.
The focus of the meeting was the Administration’s goal to end chronic homelessness by 2015. In addition to four cabinet secretaries – Hilda Solis (Labor), Shaun Donovan (HUD), Eric Shinseki (VA), and Arne Duncan (Education) – DPC director Melody Barnes attended the meeting and shared the President’s commitment to the work of USICH. We also heard an update on an HHS and HUD demonstration program that combines public supportive housing vouchers with health care and community-based wrap-around services.
At the end of the meeting, members from 19 federal agencies elected Secretary Solis as chair for the 2011 term. U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was elected vice chair. Secretary Solis takes over as chair from Secretary Donovan who oversaw the development of Opening Doors, the first-ever federal strategic plan to prevent and end homelessness (pdf). Nonprofit organizations, including faith-based groups, play an important role in the implementation of Opening Doors as providers of homelessness services, from shelters to supportive housing programs to health clinics.
If you have questions or comments about this posting, please send a message to cfbnp (at) dol.gov.
Ben Seigel serves as the Associate Director at the Department of Labor Center for Faith based and Neighborhood Partnerships.