Can Obama End Homelessness?

Homelessness is a serious problem in Rhode Island. More women, children, and men are homeless here than ever before. And the record number of homeless entering our shelter system will continue to grow as our state tries to recover from a severe economic crisis, record high unemployment and a devastating foreclosure crisis.

This week, the country received its first ever comprehensive plan to end homelessness. In Opening Doors: The Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent Homelessness the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness has laid out a broad reaching plan that calls for increased interagency collaboration and outlines nationally tested best practices and strategies for ending homelessness.

This plan is a positive step in the right direction – it establishes homelessness as a national priority and sets ambitious goals of ending long-term and veteran homelessness in five years, and family homelessness within ten. The plan provides our state with the an opportunity to update and revisit our own Action Plan to End Homelessness and initiate a coordinated effort between state and federal agencies.

The plan validates many of the efforts that homeless and affordable housing advocates in Rhode Island have been working toward – constituent voice in decision making, expanding the supply of permanent supportive housing and the supply of affordable rental housing, engaging key state stakeholders in the work to end homelessness, and retooling the homeless emergency crisis system.

A plan of this scope will only be as good as the time, money and resources that are committed to it. Obama can’t do this alone. Our federal delegation, state legislators, city and town governments and other key supporters will have to work together if this plan is to have its intended impact.

This plan is an ambitious, inspiring first step. Now it is time to fund the plan – both locally and federally – and end the devastating impact of homelessness.

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