According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), an estimated 1.5 million people experienced homelessness last year in this country. This summer, President Barack Obama laid the groundwork for helping America’s homeless veterans and families with young children when the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness announced the nation’s first-ever comprehensive plan to address homelessness. Titled “Opening Doors,” the 67-page strategy increases the role of the federal government in preventing and ending homelessness. Through federal, state and local collaboration, the plan aims to end homelessness among veterans and the chronically homeless by 2015 and among children, youth and families by 2020.
How is the government proposing to do this? The plan details several projects that would assist the homeless. Examples include:
• Combining Section 8 housing vouchers with other assistance to help 6,000 homeless families
• Using vouchers funded by Medicaid and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to assist 4,000 chronically homeless people in getting off the streets
• Helping homeless veterans get into housing quickly through a collaboration of local housing and social services and the Housing and Urban Development (HUD)-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing program
At the Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries (DRMM), we strongly believe that you must attack the root problems of homelessness. What led to a person’s life on the streets? How can we keep it from happening over and over again? The answer lies in providing educational and vocational opportunities that will lead to successful jobs and careers. DRMM’s many academic and job training programs are ever-evolving, and through partnerships with colleges and universities we are able to teach our clients valuable skills that will help them reverse the cycle of homelessness.
The second part of the answer involves the availability of transitional housing and affordable housing. In addition to emergency shelter, DRMM provides transitional and permanent housing for our clients. Many of them will tell you there’s nothing like knowing you have your own living space, whether it’s a single room or a multi-room house. It’s also the Obama administration’s contention that people need a home before they can address the underlying problems in their lives.
I believe the White House plan is on the right track. Affordable, permanent housing is essential, and support services collaborations between agencies and governments do work. Hopefully, with commitment and dedication from all the stakeholders, this combination will prove successful in changing the face of homelessness in America.