Strategic Action Plan on Homelessness. 2003 Strategic Action Plan Goal 2:  Empower our state and community partners to improve their response to people experiencing chronic homelessness


HHS is the largest grant-making agency in the federal government and the nation's largest health insurer.  HHS administers more grant dollars than all other federal agencies combined and handles more than one billion insurance claims per year.  These activities are administered by eleven Operating Divisions across the Department.  The Operating Divisions work closely with state, local, and tribal governments, as many HHS-funded services are provided at the local level by state, county or tribal agencies, or through private sector and faith-based grantees.  Much of the funding awarded by HHS is distributed in the form of block grants to states, allowing states to prioritize and direct the funding towards the needs they have prioritized, which may be different than their neighboring states.  As such, it is critical that HHS works with states and community partners to empower them and provide the appropriate tools by which to improve their response to people experiencing chronic homelessness.

  • Homeless Policy Academies: Between 2002 and 2005, HHS played a lead role in the development and implementation of nine Homeless Policy Academies designed to improve access to mainstream services for chronically homeless individuals and families with children experiencing homelessness.  The Policy Academies were designed to bring together state-level program administrators and homeless service providers in order to develop state-specific action plans designed to increase access to mainstream resources for persons experiencing homelessness.  To date every state and U.S. Territory and the District of Columbia has participated in a Homeless Policy Academy.  Over the course of three years, nine Policy Academies have been sponsored by HHS, HUD, VA, DOL, Department of Education, Department of Justice, Department of Agriculture, and the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness.
  • Follow-up Policy Academy Technical Assistance Customized technical assistance for the states who have attended a Homeless Policy Academy is a critical component of the Policy Academy activity.  Each state and territory has been provided with a technical assistance budget, and those funds can be used to support a range of technical assistance activities that enable the state to implement their action plans.  Funds from multiple contracts have been woven together to provide this technical assistance, and HHS is partnering with the other sponsoring federal agencies to fund technical assistance to all state and territories developing and implementing state action plans that were initiated by attending a Homeless Policy Academy.  Technical assistance has been delivered since 2003 and will continue into 2007.
  • Learning Community Workgroups:  In 2006, HHS partnered with other federal agencies to develop and implement a series of Learning Communities Workgroups, which were small meetings gathering representatives form ten to twelve states to focus on specific topic areas to help move states along in their implementation of their state plans drafted through the policy academy process.  Four Learning Community Workgroups were held during 2006 on the following topics: youth homelessness, transition/discharge planning, employment, and data and performance measurement. 
  • FirstStep, a CD-ROM resource: HHS and HUD jointly developed and disseminated widely FirstStep, an easy-to-use, interactive tool for case managers, outreach workers and others working with people who are homeless.  FirstStep, first released in October 2003, is a CD-ROM resource that staff can use to identify the health services and benefits needed by a homeless person available through mainstream programs, and to determine how to go about accessing these services.  Currently, CMS is making a series of refinements to the FirstStep product to address additional needs articulated by states and other constituents.  The Social Security Administration, the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Labor, and the Department of Veterans Affairs also partnered with HHS and HUD to develop FirstStep.
  • Participation of HHS Regional Offices in Regional Interagency Councils on Homelessness:  All ten regions have established regional ICHs or other homelessness committees involving appropriate federal agencies. Several Regional ICHs are working with their states and communities in the development of ten-year plans for ending chronic homelessness.  Other activities include technical assistance workshops for state and local homelessness program coordinators, conferences, resource directories, and working with local governments to identify barriers to accessing services.
  • National Training Conference on Homelessness and Mental Illness SAMHSA hosts a biennial national training conference addressing homelessness for people with mental illness and/or substance abuse disorders.  The conference typically features three days of interactive workshops on housing, services, and cross-cutting issues, and is attended by roughly 800 clinicians, program officials, and policy makers. 
  • National Health Care for the Homeless Conference HRSAsponsors an annual National Health Care for the Homeless (HCH) conference.  These conferences, typically attended by 800-900 consumers, providers, and administrators, focus on the clinical, administrative, and policy challenges facing homeless persons and those that serve them.  In addition to the main conference, there are supplemental all-day sessions on timely topic areas.
  • National Returning Veterans Conference: The Road Home: National Behavioral Health Conference on Returning Veterans and Their Families:  In March of 2006, SAMHSA sponsored a conference to give federal, state, and local public and private service providers evidence-based information and approaches that can help veterans and their families build resiliency to prevent and to treat mental health disorders (including Post-Traumatic Stress Disorders), substance abuse disorders, suicide, and/or co-occurring disorders. 
  • Symposium on Housing for Persons with Disabilities: Understanding Universal Design and Access Modification. In June 2004, the HHS Office on Disability partnered with CMS, HUD, Fannie Mae and North Carolina State University to host a Symposium on housing for persons with disabilities.  The focus of this Symposium was on universal design and access modification for persons with disabilities; including those with physical, visual, hearing, cognitive, and mental disabilities.  A webcast of the Symposium, as well as a webcast for a prior Symposium on home ownership are both available online at

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