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Federal Council Aims to Cut U.S. Homeless Rate by 25% by 2025

By Jonathan Springston, Editor, Relias Media

A federal agency has released a blueprint to cut the U.S. homeless rate by 25% by 2025 and to eventually end homelessness entirely.

The U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH), which coordinates with 19 federal member agencies, state and local governments, and the private sector, released a plan that calls for systemically preventing homelessness while addressing racial and ethnic disparities. The plan offers many tactics, including treating housing as an immediate solution to homelessness, but not the only solution. After moving off the streets and into housing, people need personalized assistance that includes access to healthcare, job training, legal aid, and education.

USICH built their blueprint based on feedback from more than 500 people who have experienced homelessness; leaders, providers, advocates, developers, and other partners from more than 600 communities, tribes, and territories; more than 1,500 online comments; and more than 80 listening sessions. Much of this feedback included calls for not only providing more affordable housing and inclusive services, but also building a system that prevents Americans from going homeless in the first place.

In early 2023, the Biden administration and the USICH are expected to move quickly. Working with various states and cities, the administration said it will deploy response teams to develop and execute local strategies over two years to reduce the unsheltered homeless rate. These groups will be led by a full-time lead and part-time federal program experts. These teams will work with local leaders, homeless service providers, and people who have experienced homelessness or currently are without shelter.

“My plan offers a roadmap for not only getting people into housing but also ensuring that they have access to the support, services, and income that allow them to thrive,” said President Joe Biden. “It is a plan that is grounded in the best evidence and aims to improve equity and strengthen collaboration at all levels.”

Data from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development show more than 580,000 people experienced homelessness on a single night in January 2022, a 0.3% increase from 2020. Homelessness among people in shelters declined by 1.6%, while homelessness among people in unsheltered settings increased by 3.4%. The number of veterans experiencing homelessness decreased by 11%, the number of families with children experiencing homelessness declined by 6%, and the number of people younger than age of 25 years who experienced homelessness on their own as “unaccompanied youth” also declined by 12%.

Homelessness among single individuals increased by 3.1%, and the number of chronically homeless individuals increased by 16%. Americans who identify as Black, African American, African, Native American, or Pacific Islander all continue to be overrepresented among those experiencing homelessness.

The National Alliance to End Homelessness praised the federal blueprint, especially the focus on preventing people from going homeless.

“Each day, homeless systems and frontline workers tirelessly do the life-saving work to serve and ultimately end people’s homelessness. Yet, each day the number of people forced into homelessness only increases,” said Steve Berg, chief policy officer. “This plan places a new and urgent priority on aligning upstream systems to better prevent people from ever having to access homeless services in the first place.”

The National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH) called the blueprint “a well-designed, strategic, measurable, and inclusive plan that restores the true role of the USICH to that of a leader in federal policy to end homeless.”

“NCH has long believed that ending homelessness requires a strong coordinated effort by the U.S. federal government, as well as the USICH,” the group said in a statement. “Being led and governed by those with previous experience of homelessness, we appreciate the USICH’s emphasis on genuine partnerships with people experiencing homelessness, as well as the need to address structural racism.”

In the upcoming February 2023 issue of ED Management, author Dorothy Brooks will report on treating homelessness as a healthcare matter in the emergency department (ED). Frontline providers in the ED often are the first to encounter patients with medical problems and housing instability or homelessness.

CHI Memorial Hospital in Chattanooga, TN, is one of five sites participating in a pilot project that is studying ways healthcare organizations can partner with community-based groups to address homelessness and housing instability. Brooks will examine how the housing issue can influence and complicate emergency care decisions, and what role the ED is playing in the pilot-driven efforts.

For more on this and related subjects, be sure to read the latest issues of Hospital Case Management.