Matthew delivered these remarks at a press conference with Secretary Ben Carson regarding HUD’s announcement of $2 billion in awards to 7,300 homelessness assistance programs across the country.
WASHINGTON – (RealEstateRama) — Good afternoon, everyone. At the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, we work directly with our 19 federal member agencies to support state and local efforts to prevent and end homelessness in America. Secretary Carson and his team at HUD are critical partners in that work.
USICH helps ensure that all federal resources focused on preventing and ending homelessness are being used in the most efficient and cost-effective ways – and in support of the strongest and best practices. These Continuum of Care program grants are a great example of communities embracing the strongest practices and transforming how they respond to homelessness. As Secretary Carson mentioned, that includes a focus on using Housing First practices. These grant funds will help people to exit homelessness into permanent housing, with the right level of services, as quickly as possible and with as few barriers as possible.
Continuums of Care have been strengthening their local systems and embracing Housing First practices because they are a more effective use of public resources. But that’s not the only reason. Housing First practices also minimize the overwhelming disruption and trauma that being without a home can cause to children, to parents, to people with disabilities, and to youth and adults struggling with homelessness on their own. And Housing First practices also connect people as quickly as possible back to our neighborhoods and communities, and connect them to opportunities, like schools, employment, faith institutions, and services and supports they may need.
The Continuum of Care program resources have helped to drive change and progress in communities across the country. These funds are a critical investment into our capacity to prevent and end homelessness as a nation. But Continuum of Care funds are not the whole answer for communities striving to end homelessness.
State, local, and private funders need to align their investments with these grants, and with Housing First practices, so that these dollars are all laser-focused on permanent housing outcomes. And we need to solve the housing affordability challenges we see in many communities. Otherwise, the homelessness services systems funded through the Continuum of Care program will get increasingly bottlenecked by the lack of places for people to live. Some communities are experiencing severe bottlenecks already.
Secretary Carson mentioned the results of the 2017 Point in Time count of people experiencing homelessness that was released last month. That data pointed strongly to the impact that high rents and low vacancies are having in some communities and on our national progress. That data also documented increases in the number of unsheltered individuals in some communities.
This year’s competition provided the opportunity for communities to implement an innovative new program model, called the Joint Component. This new model is especially intended to help people who are unsheltered quickly access short-term, emergency bridge housing followed by permanent housing through a rapid rehousing subsidy and services. This model both addresses people’s immediate crisis need for a safe and stable place to be, and provides a quick exit to permanent housing with services to help them succeed.
By making the Joint Component an option this year, HUD demonstrated its continued commitment to supporting communities to test and innovate so that we can all continuously improve our strategies and our practices.
Finally, I also want to note that these Continuum of Care program funds are also not the whole answer for people experiencing homelessness. While stable housing is essential for success, it is not the stopping point for people. Stable housing is the platform from where people can address the challenges they face, from where they can pursue their goals for themselves and their families, and from where they can see and seize new opportunities.
To turn the platform that housing can provide into a true springboard to success, we need all parts of our communities to come together – business and civic leaders, schools and employers, faith communities and non-profit partners – to collectively own the challenge, to find our roles and chances to contribute, and to work together to make sure all of our neighbors can pursue their goals
That’s what success at preventing and ending homelessness is going to require – and that’s how our communities thrive and how our country thrives.