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  • The Center for Rural Homelessness

The Center for Rural Homelessness’s Response to the White House’s All INside initiative Section

By Jarrett James Lash May 23, 2023




OVERVIEW On May 18th, 2023, Biden-Harris Administration announced a new initiative to tackle unsheltered homelessness. The initiative, ALL INside, is being hailed by the Administration as a “first-of-its-kind initiative to address unsheltered homelessness across the country.” The official White House fact sheet states that the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) and its 19 federal member agencies will partner with state and local governments to strengthen and accelerate local efforts to get unsheltered people into homes in six places: Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Phoenix Metro, Seattle, and the State of California. The program seeks to strengthen federal coordination with local and state governments to end unsheltered homelessness by studying programs and procedures in the selected areas. The program will last two years and will gather information on how to support communities across the United States in their efforts to decrease homelessness.

RESPONSE

The Center for Rural Homelessness applauds USICH for its continued effort and commitment to ending homelessness in the United States. In many of the conversations that CRH takes part in, we have found that the communities with the most collaboration are finding the best results in their efforts to decrease the rate of homelessness in their communities. We hope that the ALL INside initiative finds strategies that will help provide a blueprint to communities across the United States. However, we feel that there is a clear slant towards communities that are politically aligned with the Biden-Harris Administration and are large in population. The selection methodology that identified the six state and local government partners has not been disclosed. 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. At CRH, we were surprised that the federal collaboration does not include at least one mid-sized metropolitan area, or those with at least 250,000, but fewer than 1 million, residents or a mostly rural area. California would not be the best candidate if there was a desire to study rural homelessness at the state level as it is the most populous state with many existing, robust statewide programs. Truly, no state in the U.S. has statewide homeless programs as highly funded as California does. Furthermore, California cities have 38,000 unhoused individuals while the rural areas have only 3,300 (less than 10% of the total statewide homeless population).1 A mid-sized U.S. state, such as Maryland, Ohio, or Colorado would have been a more representative choice for the USICH to create a blueprint for other states to follow. Lastly, The proposal explains that it will be “Convening philanthropy, the private sector, and other communities to identify opportunities for follow-on support and collaboration.” However, the described collaboration already exists in many communities through HUD’s Continuum of Care program. It fails to delineate how this new approach will bring further cohesion from already implemented programs nationwide. We applaud USICH in its efforts to decrease homelessness, not by increasing funding, but rather by increasing the connection between federal capabilities and local community action. We hope that the collaboration will take into consideration that all areas of the United States do not have the same robust public sector capabilities as the selected areas and the suggestions should be tailored accordingly.

SUGGESTIONS The Center for Rural Homelessness feels that the collaboration in California should ensure studies with rural and suburban CoCs as the other five selected partners already heavily lean on providing information for rural areas. This may come through direct collaboration with more rural CoCs such as CA-516 which encompasses Shasta, Siskiyou, Lassen, Plumas, Del Norte, Modoc, and Sierra Counties. The Center for Rural Homelessness also requests that USICH shares the selection process that was conducted to onboard the six state and local government partners. We would have preferred to see there was more transparency in the lead-up to the announcement which may have included communities submitting RFPs expressing their interest in participating in the program. Furthermore, the Center for Rural Homelessness suggests that the identified solutions are spearheaded through the Continuum of Care program for the local area. Of the selected local and state partners, many have robust public sector groups working directly to administer services to unhoused populations. However, across the United States, many communities rely heavily on nonprofit groups with nominal direct services from the public sector. Spearheading solutions through the CoCs may provide a cleaner blueprint for other communities to adopt the “best practices” identified in the two-year program.


 

1. https://www.ppic.org/blog/homeless-populations-are-rising-around-california/

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