Obama administration Cabinet members and officials from the U.S Interagency Council on Homelessness on June 22 unveiled “Opening Doors: The Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness,” the administration’s latest federal initiative targeting homelessness.
Officials said the plan will involve joint action by the council’s 19 member agencies along with local and state partners in the public and private sectors, and will put the country on a course to end homelessness in ten years. The goals include ending homelessness among military veterans by 2015, and to end homelessness among children, families, and youth by 2020.
“As the most far-reaching and ambitious plan to end homelessness in our history, this plan will both strengthen existing programs and forge new partnerships,” council chairman and U.S. Department of Housing and Development Secretary Shaun Donovan said during a news conference to announce the plan.
In 2009, a HUD study found that on an average night in the U.S. 643,067 people are homeless, with 63 percent staying in a homeless shelter of some type. African-Americans accounted for a disproportionate share of those housed in a shelter; while African Americans represented 12.4 percent of the total U.S. population in 2008, they comprise an estimated 39 percent of the total sheltered homeless population.
Some organizations already dealing with the problem of homelessness said they feel some of the council strategies are vague and present no firm commitment to allocate federal funds to implement many of those strategies.
“The Federal Strategic Plan must hold itself to the same standard it holds local communities: clear numeric goals, timetables, and funding and implementing bodies to ensure they move from planning to action,” Neil Donovan, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based National Coalition for the Homeless, said in a statement on the group’s Web site.
Among the plan’s goals are increasing leadership and collaboration among existing housing, health, education, and human service programs; increasing access to stable and affordable housing; and improving the health and stability of the homeless individuals looking to get back on their feet.
“For the first time, the nation will have goals, strategies, and measurable outcomes that will guide us toward a fiscally prudent government response,” Barbara Poppe, executive director of the council, said during the announcement event. “Local, state and federal governments cannot afford to invest in anything but the most evidence-based, cost-effective strategies.”
The entire federal plan is available online at www.hud.gov