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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Homelessness No More - In About Five To Ten Years

The White House yesterday unveiled its plan to eradicate, and prevent, homelessness in America within the next five to ten years through its Opening Doors initiative.

(L to R) HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan, with Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius,
and Veterans Affairs Secretary Erick K. Shinseki, with Domestic Policy Council Directory, Melody Barnes. Photo/CD Brown.

The initiative, in collaboration with the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness and under the guise of HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan,  Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, and Veterans Affairs Secretary Erick K. Shinseki, seeks to end chronic homelessness in five years; prevent and end homelessness among Veterans; and prevent and end homelessness for families, youth, and children in ten years.  The Opening Doors initiative also seeks to align with mainstream housing, health, education, and human services while strengthening existing partnerships with agencies like HUD and the Veterans Affairs, to forge new partnerships with agencies like HHS and the Department of Labor.

"This is the first comprehensive federal plan after 30 years of ineffective policies that have not ended homelessness", said John Lozier, Executive Director of the National Care for the Homeless Council.  "It recognizes the critical connection between homelessness and poor health, and looks to the opportunities present in Health Reform to help break those deadly linkages."

The Obama Administration's FY2011 Budget supports the key priorities reflected in the HEARTH ACT, enacted by Congress in May 2009,that includes the Emergency Solutions Grant, 10,000 new unitis of permanent supportive housing, and a newly authorized competitive rural program.

"This is an unprecented coordination of federal resources and support from the White House and from members of the Cabinet to insure that we address these goals, recognizing that even in a difficult environment that we're moving forward, that we're bringing together the resources of all these agencies as well as other members of the USICH to get the job done",   White House Domestic Policy Council Director, Melody Barnes told us after the session.

While the House and Senate may be divided on issues like health care, Barnes said both parties have offered their support to end homelessness.

"This is a reflection of the fact that Republicans and Democrats - from all over the country - realize that we have to deal with this problem right now."

In 2009, there were 110,917 adults experiencing chronic homelessness; 983,835 people accessing shelters and transitional housing programs.

"Opening Doors will require strong partnerships with Congress, states, localities, philantrhopy, and faith based and community organizations across the country", said USICH Vice Chair and Labory Secretary Hilda Solis.

Sharayna Warmsley of Buffalo, New York (and Ohio) knows homelessness.

"I've been homeless quite a few times", said Warmsley who told us that unstable family conditions caused her to be homeless.  She left home over issues of abuse and violence.

"After the abuse I said no, and I didn't want to take it, and went off on my own."

Warmsley said she had been on her own since ten, even though she continued to come back home.

"It was hard to obtain funding or get into programs without ID, or a social security card, or birthday certiticate so I came home."

Sharayna Warmsley shares her homelessness story with a reporter. Photo/CD Brown.

Warmsley, now twenty-two, said during her periods of homelessness she would stay house-to-house, in abandoned buildings, and old cars. She credits a friend for taking her to a teen drop-in help center where she was introduced to YEP (a Youth Empowerment Program) that connected her with another agency that provided her with basic needs like shoes, school supplies, and a stipend to help with rent.

She says the strategy of USICH "makes sense".  Although currently unemployed, she shares her story of homelessness with other youth around the country to encourage them.

Homelessness Documentary: Dr. Sheila Johnson's Other City

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