Obama Sets Deadline to End Homelessness

President Obama is set to embark on an ambitious social initiative: Ending the blight of homelessness by the start of the next decade.

Instead of cutting social programs, the administration is determined to make them work more efficiently. The plan, known formally as Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness, takes best practices established when President George W. Bush made homelessness a priority in 2003.

“Investing in the status quo is no longer acceptable,” explains Obama in the plan’s introduction. “Given the fiscal realities … our response has to be guided by what works. Investments can only be made in the most promising strategies.”

Obama made it clear that ending the “national disgrace” of homelessness was a priority when he first took office. The HEARTH Act of 2009 spurred a mandated investigation into the lives of the 640,000 men, women and children who find themselves homeless any day in the U.S., along with the 37% lacking shelter of any kind.

The result, a multi-level and multi-agency effort, is a first for the federal government, which traditionally left the issue to the states. Thankfully, some of those states successfully remedied the problem, developing best practices the plan will adopt as national standards.

Among these best practices is a collaboration between state and local governments and the private sector. The plan identifies partnerships with local businesses, nonprofits, faith groups and volunteers, using every possible resource at the community level to emphasize local governments’ roles in bringing housing providers together. Medical and psychological caregivers also help coordinate efforts.

The strategy addresses four goals. While the Obama’s administration praised Bush for reducing chronic homelessness (persons who have been homeless for more than a year, a group that saw an 11% decrease in 2009)—it will prioritize ending chronic homelessness by 2015.

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