People who worked with me in 2004 through 2006 understand that the mere mention of a ten year plan to end homelessness can cause my face to tense and that little vein by my temple to pop.

But I’m not going to dig into that sordid history today.

Instead, I want to praise the Interagency Council on Homelessness (ICH) for gamely completing its plan, Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness, as directed by the 2009 Homeless Emergency and Rapid Transition to Housing (HEARTH) Act.  The ICH plan pulls together much of what we have learned about collaboration and coordination of resources.  It rightly emphasizes strategies based on proven methods, such as moving people quickly to permanent housing and providing them the services they continue to need in housing.  And, perhaps most importantly, it illustrates how the federal government is truly organizing itself to address and end homelessness.

So that is encouraging.

But homelessness did not arise solely by a failure of federal policy, and federal policy alone cannot end it.  Trends in state and local policy have exacerbated the problem as well.

Since 2000, the National Alliance to End Homelessness spearheaded a campaign to draft state and local ten year plans to end homelessness, and the ICH, under Phillip Mangano, championed plans to end chronic homelessness.  These efforts resulted in 234 plans completed across the country.  Recently the National Alliance released an assessment of those plans, Shifting Focus: What’s New in Community Plans to End Homelessness. The study found that only 8% of plans named a funding source, 18% had numeric outcomes, 35% had an implementing body, and 41% had a timeline.

This does give one pause.  If nearly two thirds of the plans fail to designate the organizing leadership to implement the plan, and no new resources are identified, then we have much to do locally to seize opportunities coming from the federal government.  With so many states facing serious deficits, this preparation becomes increasingly critical.  In California, we face a $19 billion deficit, with the governor proposing draconian cuts to cash assistance programs and essential services. (Click here for the California Budget Project analysis.)  At a minimum our local plans to end homelessness must be updated to document the progress we have made thus far and respond to these increasingly dire circumstances.

But that’s all I can write for now.  I feel a tic coming on.

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