Ending Chronic Homelessness: Strategies for Action. The Secretary's Work Group on Ending Chronic Homelessness

03/01/2003

At the start of calendar year 2002, Secretary Thompson established the Secretary's Work Group on Ending Chronic Homelessness. He asked Deputy Secretary Claude Allen to lead the Work Group in a comprehensive review of the Department's relevant programs. The Work Group was to report recommendations for a Department-wide approach that would contribute to the Administration's goal of ending chronic homelessness and improve HHS' ability to assist persons experiencing chronic homelessness.

 

Representation on the Secretary's Work Group On Ending Chronic Homelessness:

  • Office of the Secretary
  • Administration on Aging
  • Administration on Children and Families
  • Assistant Secretary for Budget, Technology, and Finance
  • Assistant Secretary for Legislation
  • Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation
  • Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
  • Health Resources and Services Administration
  • Office of the General Counsel
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

The action simultaneously addressed two needs:

  • First, it brought the relevant HHS agencies into a collaboration to formulate a Department-wide strategy that addressed the multiple needs of this subgroup.
  • Second, by focusing on chronic homelessness, it established a compelling link to themes that had been articulated by the White House, HUD and VA on this same issue.

On February 28, 2002, Deputy Secretary Allen convened the first meeting of the Secretary's Work Group on Ending Chronic Homelessness. Representatives were chosen by agency administrators for their knowledge of agency programs and their ability to represent the agency authoritatively (Appendix A). Mr. Allen itemized charges to the Work Group members and offered a plan of approach to undertake four tasks:

  1. Define the population that experiences chronic homelessness and itemize their service needs.
  2. Analyze the response of relevant HHS mainstream assistance programs to the itemized service needs.
  3. Specify outcomes and objectives that would improve the response of these mainstream programs to long term and repeated homelessness.
  4. Offer actions the agencies could take that would improve access to and coordination of services that would contribute to reducing and ending chronic homelessness.

 

Charge to the Work Group:

  • Improve access to treatments and services
  • Improve coordination across these services
  • Identify strategies to prevent additional episodes of chronic homelessness
  • Itemize accountability and evaluation processes

An Interagency Subcommittee was formed immediately (Appendix B) and charged with pursuing each of the four tasks. The Subcommittee met formally over a dozen times and held numerous informal meetings to analyze data, formulate recommendations, and edit written work.

To accomplish its work, the Subcommittee:

  1. Reviewed epidemiological and services research literature that documented what is known about those who experience long term and repeated homelessness and about treatments, services, and supports that are effective with these persons. This material is summarized in Chapter 2.
  2. Developed, administered and tabulated a service inventory for eight relevant mainstream HHS programs. The inventory sought not only to understand the administrative features of each program, but their specific response to the services needed by persons experiencing chronic homelessness. The findings are summarized in Chapter 3.
  3. Summarized what was learned from the inventory in the areas of
    1. a) administrative characteristics of the programs;
    2. b) regulatory or program design barriers to services identified by program officials;
    3. c) service coverage offered by relevant programs, including what was known about current access by homeless persons; and
    4. d) opportunities or concerns that program officials identified for improved access by chronically homeless persons.
  4. Convened a Listening Session on July 16 to benefit from the experiences of States, municipalities, and providers who had struggled with weaving together a comprehensive set of funding sources to address the complexities of chronic homelessness. Six presenters, including the executive director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness spoke to Work Group and Subcommittee members about their experiences, with particular attention to the use of HHS assistance to provide treatments and services responsive to chronic homelessness.
  5. Based on the above processes, the Subcommittee identified objectives under each of its charges that could position HHS to be more responsive to the issue of chronic homelessness. Numerous options were itemized that could contribute to implementing the objectives, with an emphasis on short term steps HHS could take that would support the Administration's goal of ending chronic homelessness. The Work Group selected and refined these options and developed goals and strategies for a comprehensive Department plan. The Work Group recommendations are presented in Chapter 5.

Throughout the process, the Deputy Secretary's office provided critical guidance and support for the completion of the tasks. Work Group members were kept informed via a series of progress reports that summarized progress and next steps and by their representatives on the Interagency Subcommittee.

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