By Liz Montaquila
The federal government has set ambitious goals for ending homelessness in America. In the U. S Interagency Council on Homelessness’ (USICH) plan, Opening Doors, released in June 2010, four key goals were announced; ending chronic homelessness and veterans’ homelessness by 2015; ending homelessness for families, children and youth by 2020; and setting a path to eventually end all types of homelessness.
Since issuing the Opening Doors plan, success has been made in reducing the number of veterans’ and chronic homelessness. According to the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development, veteran homelessness fell nationally by 7.2 percent (4,876 persons), and the numbers of chronic homeless also declined 6.8 percent (7,254 persons) from 2011-2012.
Boston saw a 4.2 percent decrease in chronic homelessness, and a 16.7% decrease in veteran homelessness during this time.
While HUD and the USICH recognize the success of their efforts in these areas, they also acknowledge that more needs to be done to target homeless children and youth.
In September 2012, USICH released an amendment to Opening Doors to specifically address what strategies and supports should be implemented to improve the educational outcomes for children and youth, and the steps that need to be taken to assist unaccompanied youth experiencing homelessness.
In February 2012, USICH took its efforts one step further and released their Framework for Ending Youth Homelessness, which expanded upon the amendment to Opening Doors. Framework aims to provide a clear explanation of what needs to be done specifically to address youth homelessness to help reach the goal of ending homelessness among children and youth by 2020.
According to USICH, “the youth framework sets a path for states, communities, and public and private stakeholders to work together on a strategic approach to getting to better youth outcomes in stable housing, permanent connections, education/employment, and well being.”
Framework includes a two-strategy approach. The first “Data” strategy is intended to get “better data on the number and characteristics of youth experiencing homelessness.
New England Public Affairs Coordinator for the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Rhonda Siciliano, said, “in an effort to better count and serve homeless youth, HUD changed its data collection requirements for 2013 to better identify homeless children and youth.”
The second “Capacity” strategy is intended to “strengthen and coordinate the capacity of Federal, State, and local systems to act effectively and efficiently towards ending youth homelessness.”
“We really think that these two strategies are complimentary,” said USICH program analyst Adrienne Breidenstine. “We need to get better data in order to have a better understanding of what our capacity needs to be to address the problem. And there’s a lot that goes in to each of these two strategies.”
Additionally, “The Framework lays out a preliminary type of intervention model” according to Boston’s USICH Coordinator Bob Pulster. “Its not meant to be the end-all-be-all” said Pulster, because there is more work to be done. But the model, he says, is based on initial, preliminary research and data gathering, and is intended to acknowledge the diverse needs of homeless youth.