The most important aspect of this strategic plan is what it says about the thinking of HUD current leadership and what it communicates to HUD staff and partners – namely, a shift towards housing-oriented, integrated solutions to end homelessness.
First of all, the plan signals an extremely important change in approach for the whole department. Homelessness a high priority goal for its mainstream programs, particularly the Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers program. This is critical because it will be nearly impossible to end homelessness if our only resource is targeted homeless assistance funding, like the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants.
Another interesting part of the plan is the heavy focus on combining housing and services, which is described as one of HUD’s signature initiatives. This includes the Housing and Services for Homeless Persons Demonstration that we’ve blogged about before.
If HUD sticks to this message in the coming years, it would dramatically improve our efforts to end homelessness.
Here are some more specific:
HUD has five goals, and they’re not much different than in the last Strategic Plan. They include:
- Strengthen the Nation’s Housing Market To Bolster the Economy and Protect Consumers
- Meet the Need for Quality Affordable Rental Homes
- Utilize Housing as a Platform for Improving Quality of Life
- Build Inclusive and Sustainable Communities Free From Discrimination
- Transform the Way HUD Does Business
Within each goal are several sub-goals, and one of those (sub-goal 2A to be exact) is: End homelessness and substantially reduce the number of families and individuals with severe housing needs.
The plan also says that HUD will measure the following outcomes:
- Reduce the number of homeless families.
- Reduce the number of chronically homeless individuals.
- Reduce the number of homeless veterans to 59,000 by June 2012 (jointly with the Department of Veterans Affairs).
So there is a fair amount of content on homelessness, but how important is this Strategic Plan? Strategic Plans are supposed to guide the budget and policy making process, but Congress has a very big role in those decisions, and what HUD plans to do isn’t always what happens.
While it’s not exactly a picture of the future, it does tell us a lot about the thinking of the people who are leading HUD and the message they are sending to HUD’s nearly 10,000 staff and many partners, including local Public Housing Agencies.
The good news is that message they are sending is that ending homelessness is a priority, and they are willing to make changes to some big programs to help make it happen.