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A Systematic Approach to Ending Family Homelessness

Mark GreenbergBy Mark Greenberg, Acting Assistant Secretary, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

This week, the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness releases Family Connection: Building Systems to End Family Homelessness, which outlines a multi-pronged approach to ending family homelessness. It focuses on four key areas of action: developing coordinated entry systems, ensuring that housing intervention strategies are tailored to needs of individual families, strengthening linkages to local mainstream support systems, and building the research base and further developing evidenced-based practices. 

I co-chair the Interagency Workgroup on Ending Family Homelessness, along with Mark Johnston from HUD and Laura Zeilinger from the Interagency Council.  We are encouraged by the collaborative approach that multiple agencies across the federal government took in developing this framework.  We look forward to an ongoing dialogue with federal partners, states, providers and advocates to reach our goal of ending family homelessness by 2020.

At the Administration for Children and Families (ACF), we recognize the importance of a collaborative, strategic approach to ending family homelessness.  We understand that many families experiencing homelessness are very similar to other very low-income families, and that strategies to help families connect with stable employment and affordable housing are crucial to efforts to help them avoid or exit homelessness.  We also recognize that domestic violence is a major contributor to homelessness among families, and that closer coordination between domestic violence programs and other homelessness service providers is essential to ensure that needs of parents and children that have experienced domestic violence are addressed.  We understand that more successful transitions for young people leaving foster care can reduce both youth and family homelessness. And, we appreciate both that the experience of homelessness can seriously disrupt participation in early childhood programs, and that connections to child care, Head Start, and other early childhood service programs can reduce the risk of homelessness.

At ACF, we’ve encouraged agencies that administer the federal Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) grants to play a role in rapid rehousing efforts, both with rental assistance and employment services.  In February 2013 ACF released an Information Memorandum detailing the ways TANF could help support efforts to reduce family homelessness.

And, ACF has strongly encouraged Early Childhood Development programs to do more to identify and serve homeless children. By supporting children’s learning and development in safe, stable and nurturing environments, quality early childhood programs can help to buffer the stress, challenges and risks associated with homelessness.  In January 2013 ACF sent Head Start programs and state child care administrators a letter and resources detailing possible strategies for better serving homeless children.

We’ll be taking additional actions in the coming months, along with other federal partners, and in coordination with local efforts.  We welcome your guidance and suggestions for other actions we can take in support of the national goal of ending family homelessness by 2020.

This blog was originally published by United States Interagency Council on Homelessness.

Mark Greenberg is the Acting Assistant Secretary for the Administration for Children and Families under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  Mr. Greenberg serves as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary and as Acting Commissioner for the Administration on Children, Youth and Families.

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