Beginning in March, 2001, the Secretary's office initiated several activities to improve the Department of Health and Human Services' (HHS) response to the services needed by persons experiencing homelessness.
- Secretary Tommy Thompson met with Secretary Mel Martinez of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Secretary Thompson committed his Department to a collaboration that capitalized on the expertise of HHS in service delivery and of HUD in housing.
- HHS staff initiated regular, informal discussions with HUD and Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) staff to understand the programs and opportunities that could be involved in a collaboration.
- HHS, HUD and VA staff explored goals and activities of mutual interest and recommended to leadership that collaboration was best achieved by adopting a specific and targeted focus on the issue of long term and repeated homelessness.
- Discussions with the HHS Operating Divisions were held to determine what options they saw to make their programs more accessible to homeless persons.
- Budget formulations and other administrative scenarios within HHS were considered.
- An ambitious partnership with States was initiated that acknowledged the role of State agencies in setting the priorities for using HHS assistance. The Secretary sent all Governors an invitation to participate in the partnership. Beginning in November 2001, a series of Policy Academies for State and Local Policymakers was begun. Thirty-six States applied to participate in the first of these, knowing that only eight could be accommodated.
Throughout these explorations, a leading concern was for HHS-assisted services to be more accessible to eligible homeless persons being placed in HUD-supported housing. Interdepartmental discussions had clearly identified new emphases that were making it increasingly important for applications for HUD's homelessness assistance to demonstrate the use of mainstream HHS treatment services to assist chronically homeless people. By summer's end, it was clear that the complexity of HHS' structure and program variety obviated a simple linear plan, i.e., one that involved an easily introduced change that expanded opportunities for access by homeless individuals.
The final development of significance came in the release of the Administration's budget for fiscal year 2003. President George W. Bush endorsed as goal of his administration ending chronic homelessness in a decade.
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