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  • The Center for Rural Homelessness

CRH Response to the USICH Federal Homeless Research Agenda Request for Information

By: Jarrett James Lash & Sean L. Small, Co-Founders of the Center for Rural Homelessness

Date: Sep 17, 2023

Key pages:

Public Announcement:

RFI Information:

Who We Are:

The Center for Rural Homelessness combines deep research with practical services to help equip nonprofits to serve the unsheltered and uncounted: rural America's hidden homeless populations. We seek to embolden the conversation and place a spotlight on the heroes providing quality care to unhoused individuals despite the challenges of identifying, mitigating, and eliminating homelessness in Rural America.

Is there anything about the proposed homelessness research agenda you would like to share?

We at the Center for Rural Homelessness request that the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) ensure a clear representation of geographic diversity in the creation of the Federal Homeless Research Agenda. Many rural communities have thinly stretched resources across large geographic areas. In many states, rural areas are grouped into one “Balance of State” CoC, meaning that the geographic area comprising the CoC can extend hundreds of thousands of square miles. The confluence of difficulties presented often results in unhoused individuals in rural America becoming invisible to their community.

Our team feels that recent programs that are part of All In: The Federal Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness have failed to create an equitable representation of rural and Republican-led communities. Specifically, our team has previously published that the “ALL INside” initiative fell short of including a mid-sized metropolitan area or rural area. Of the five local government partners, each is some of the largest metro areas in the United States - Los Angeles (2nd largest), Chicago (3rd largest), Dallas (4th largest), Phoenix (10th largest), and Seattle (15th largest); California has the highest population of all states. Furthermore, in each of these cities and the selected state, the highest seat in their executive government is held by a Democrat. We hope that the USICH does not fail to include geographic and political diversity in its research as it did with the “ALL INside” initiative.

The forthcoming research, as part of the “All In” plan, has the unique opportunity to bridge the partisan and geographic divide. By incorporating elements from both conservative and liberal perspectives, as well as both rural and urban populations, policymakers can develop comprehensive, effective solutions to address homelessness while bridging the partisan divide. Collaboration and a shared commitment to solving this crisis are essential to making meaningful progress in helping homeless individuals regain their stability and dignity. Furthermore, the identification of bipartisan solutions can assist the USICH with effectively integrating identified tactics and programs across geographically and politically diverse American communities.

This is critical as homelessness rose less than a half percent nationwide from 2020 to 2022, but rose almost 6% in rural communities. We must consider our rural neighbors to win the fight to eliminate homelessness.

Referring to the goals and values sections of the draft research agenda, what would you add or change?

In reference to, “Conducted over 50 key informant interviews, focus groups, and listening sessions with researchers, people who have experienced homelessness, national organizations, and federal agencies.”:

The Center for Rural Homelessness requests that the USICH ensures that it includes researchers, people who have experienced homelessness, and national organizations that have a unique experience in working with homeless populations in rural parts of the United States. According to the 2019 Point in Time count, 17.6% of unhoused individuals were in rural areas. Therefore, we hope that 8 to 9 of the key informant interviews were conducted with these individuals and organizations to ensure proper geographical representation. If this was not the case, we hope that subsequent key informant interviews can be conducted to ensure fair geographic distribution.

In reference to Evaluated systematic reviews of homelessness interventions (see Appendix 1):

The Center for Rural Homelessness requests an evaluated systematic review on how to create a coordinated entry program in a rural community.

In reference to Convened a research workshop with Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago that included a diverse group of researchers, people who have experienced homelessness, and national advocates:

When the USICH discusses diversity, the Center for Rural Homelessness suggests that the definition includes geographic and political diversity.

What would you change in the "Preventing Homelessness" section?

In reference to Screening and Identifying Risk:

The Center for Rural Homelessness suggests that predictive analytics tools be used with a focus on context to reduce unfounded generalization (e.g., automatically applying risk findings using data sets from large, urban areas to rural areas). We believe that preventing homelessness requires a deep understanding of nuance and complexity, which can be better achieved when tools to better assess and understand the needs of those most at risk of experiencing homelessness are developed, used, and interpreted by and with those with knowledge and experiences unique to settings of interest.

What would you change in the "Ending Homelessness" section?

In reference to Cost of Ending Homelessness:

The Center for Rural Homelessness requests that the USICH consider reasons why the Continuum of Care Supplemental Special Notice of Funding Opportunity to Address Unsheltered and Rural Homelessness was deemed necessary. If there is a belief that the annual Continuum of Care Program Competition was not yielding an equitable distribution of funding to rural areas, we request that there be a review regarding how the annual competition can be adjusted to better provide equitable geographical representation.

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