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Confronting the Challenge of American Homelessness in the 21st Century

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The winter 2011 issue of The Public Manager kicks off with a 3-article forum on homeless in the U.S. and what government can do to make a difference. Having had first-hand experience on these matters during my long government career - including assignments with the U.S. Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO) during the early years of the 'war on poverty" and the US Department of Health, Education & Welfare/Health & Human Services (HEW/HHS) - I was interested to learn what 's different in 2012! Well, these articles indicate that today's solutions are largely built around a combination of: 1) sustained, creative intra- and inter-governmental collaboration, 2) vigilant performance measurement (at all levels) and 3) smarter governance.

The first article, contributed by U.S Department of Housing & Urban development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan, is "Ending Homelessness in Our Time: Why Smart Government is Key," offers a very promising overview - particularly the "teasers" about actual case illustrations across the country. One would like to learn more about the innovative efforts already showing results in Cleveland, Chicago, NYC, Greater KC, Nashville and the State of Utah and such related apporaches as "HUDstat" and the varied HUD partnerhsips with HHS, the US Departments of Labor (DOL), Education (EDUC) and Veterans Affairs (VA). Are there Web sites where we can learn more about these innovations AND their measurable performance outcomes? I guess for that, we'll have to dig further at HUD's Web site - which I will do and report back in my next post.

The second article, Interagency Collaboration Moves the U.S. Closer to Ending Homelessness authored by Barbara Poppe, executive director of the US Interagency Council on Homelessness, drills down more deeply into the strategic planning, goals, roadmap building AND numerical measures of success that have gone into these efforts. The key to all these multi-farious investments and undertakings at different levels of government and the private sector is Opening Doors Across America, "the nation's first (integrated) strategic plan to prevent and end homelessness" which has four goals: 1) ending chronic homelessness by 2015; 2) preventing & ending homelessness among veterans by 2015; 3) preveneting & ending homelssness for families, youth & children by 2020; and 4) setting a path to end all types of homelessness.


Finally, in the third article, Homes Wiped Away by Natural Disasters, Frances Edwards, former emergency preparedness director for San Jose CA, shares poignant lessons from several natural disaster-devestated communities that demonstrate what kind of mitigation steps can be put in place to reduce the extent of homelessness. Some of these measure include: risk-based zoning, strict building codes, limitations on building in flood zones and along fault lines, further requirements in wild land and urban interface zones, etc. Again, further probing needs to be done to share links to sites that provide readers with more details on the rich case illustrations Ms. Edwards refers to (including the Whittier Narrows earthquake of 1987, the Loma Prieta earthquake of 1989, the Oakland-Berkely Hilss firestorm of 1991 and Hurricane Katrina less than six years ago.

Please feel free to share more thoghts and details (including links) on these and related matters. I will do likewise.


About the Author
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