Public and private sector leaders arrived at this year’s National Alliance to End Homelessness (NAEH) conference knowing that change would be the paramount topic. With a fragile, ever-changing economy that has drastically affected hurting Americans and the agencies that care for them, the notion of embracing change comes as no surprise.
Four years ago, our country elected a President who promoted change. Now, nearly half of our population is considering changing the person who holds that office.
Change is a constant in our world and, even more so, in our work. New rules. New funding. New cuts. New priorities. New plans.
It’s hard to keep up.
So many detailed PowerPoint presentations and passionate speakers. So many workshops filled with creative people figuring out how to change with the times.
Topics like “Piloting Wellness Programs in Permanent Supportive Housing,” “Helping Young Adults Pay Rent,” and “Retooling the Section 8 Moderate Rehabilitation Single Room Occupancy Program.”
These are the TED Talks for homelessness, where the best ideas are worth spreading. And if the historical outcomes of the reduction of homelessness are any indication, there has been much success in implementing these “best ideas.”
From 2010 to 2011, homelessness among America’s veterans was reduced by 12 percent. In the past three years, more than one million American families were saved from being evicted into homelessness.
Not bad, especially during the heart of America’s “Great Recession.”
Some of this nation’s leaders spoke clearly about embracing new ideas and changing old ways to end homelessness.
The Secretary of Health and Human Services said that successful data would drive the direction of depleting federal dollars. The Assistant Secretary of Housing and Urban Development said that more emphasis would be placed on rapidly re-housing people who are newly homeless, rather than funneling millions into prevention.
The Executive Director of NAEH proposed eliminating automatic funding renewal for programs that have been funded for years. This debate about making programs more competitive has gone on for years, and makes many established homeless agencies sweat more than the D.C. heat does.
But most people who have encountered homelessness in their communities know that every sector of society, including the vast resources of the federal government, is needed if we want every American to be housed.
Without a national platform, such as the NAEH Conference, that discusses fresh new ideas, this country would still be mired in a 30- year-old homeless service system, leaving many people stuck in temporary shelters for years.
And that’s what I call sticky situation.
Photo from Yoga Dharma Bikes.