As the only non-researchy member of the Homelessness Research Institute at the Alliance, I felt especially privileged to be a guest at today’s meeting of the Research Council – a gathering of the leading thinkers on homelessness. I was lucky to be seated at a table with Dennis Culhane, Jill Khadduri, Mary Beth Shinn, Bob Rosenheck, and representatives from a smattering of federal agencies: HHS, Commerce, HUD, Census, and the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness.
And after a morning spent going around the table to discuss everyone’s latest research efforts, those agency liaisons took their turns. We eagerly anticipated learning what, if anything, our federal partners are doing to advance the research necessary to end homelessness. What projects are they initiating? What questions are they asking and answering? What are they doing to bring us closer to a country where everyone has a place to call home?
This and that, it turns out.
By far the most impressive agency was the Department of Housing and Urban Development. They’re pursuing a number of reports and studies to examine the effects of some of the most promising strategies to end homelessness, including: research on the Housing and Services for Homeless Persons Demonstration, research on youth aging out of foster care, and research on the effectiveness of prevention (to name just a few). What’s admirable about the array of research topics is not how widely varied they are – but how they represent the leading emerging strategies to fight homelessness. If these studies are conducted well, they will offer a wealth of new information that could really push homeless assistance forward.
The other agencies represented also expressed an interest in pursuing research topics related to homelessness – important not only because the agencies provide resources and administer programs that help people experiencing homelessness, but because interagency effort, as emphasized in Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to End Homelessness, is imperative to end homelessness. This is not a mission that one body should – or could – execute alone. It hinges on leveraging the array of resources we have available to assist vulnerable people and families toward independence.
And good data is an incredible resource.
As we say, in order to effectively solve a problem, we must first fully understand. Meetings like today will help us learn more and more about homelessness – and what we can do about it. And slowly but surely, we’ll be able to end homelessness together.