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HUD Secretary Donovan: Focus on Whats Possible Yields Housing for Veterans

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Wed Nov 23 2011

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At last week’s Excellence in Government conference HUD Secretary Shaun

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Donovan reminded us to focus on what’s possible – including collaboration. One

of HUD’s four priority goals set at the beginning of the Obama administration was

finding housing for homeless veterans, Donovan recalled, and in two years, a

program combining forces of HUD and Veterans Affairs is ahead of its targets;  it found housing for 25,761 homeless veterans.

 

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Often the temptation is to design programs to prevent what could

go wrong rather than taking opportunities to make things right, Donovan said.

This HUD- Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing program, called VASH, is an example of

that opportunity.

 

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 “Too often in government we don't know

what success looks like,” he said. “It’s incredibly simple but it's incredibly

powerful to say ‘Let's all agree on what success looks like and let’s set a

specific target.” That can organize not only internally everyone on the team to

be focused in the same direction, but actually it really helps to organize

other agencies you work with.”

 

A program called rapid re-housing was one of the most innovative

things HUD did, according to Donovan. Many at the conference where he spoke

felt the rapid re-housing program made a lot of sense. In cases where a family

will become homeless over a small thing, like a missed security deposit, the

government pays that rather than have taxpayers incur the much larger costs of losing

the housing, parents losing jobs, kids falling behind in school, and people

being unproductive while falling homeless.

 

Donovan said HUD exceeded its expectations for rapid

rehousing. The department expected to help a half million people but wound up

helping a million people as of last summer.

 

This

is certainly opening doors and making a difference, the theme of the winter Public Managerwww.ThePublicManager.org. The issue also includes an article from Donovan and from Barbara Poppe of the

interagency task force President Obama and Congress established to coordinate

the federal response to homelessness. Donovan wrote in the upcoming Public

Manager, 

 

“At

the HUD headquarters building in Washington, DC, we have a map that visually

represents where veterans are homeless in our country, and another map that

shows where HUD- Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (VASH) vouchers are being

used—and they are virtually identical.”

 

Diana Farrell, director of McKinsey and Co. who used to work for

the National Economic Council, said at the conference Donovan has been

effective in moving the national discussion on housing and homelessness to include

social goals like caring for the nation’s veterans.

 

For more on Donovan read the work of Emily Kopp who sat next to me

at the conference, click here.

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