National Coalition Asks for New Interagency Council Director
The National Coalition for the Homeless sent a letter to President Obama. Full disclosure: I have a board position with the National Coalition Coalition for the Homeless, and helped start this process.
National Coalition for the Homeless
2201 P Street, NW
Washington DC 20037-1033
The Honorable Barack Obama
President of the United States of America
The White House
Washington DC 20500
The National Coalition for the Homeless wishes to congratulate you on your inauguration as the President of the United States, and to commend you for pledging to reduce poverty during your term in office. We look forward to working with you as you implement action steps to fulfill pledges made during your campaign to address domestic poverty, including its most extreme manifestation – homelessness.
We understand that a number of entities within the Executive Office of the President have been assigned with responsibility for policy development regarding poverty, among them the Office of Mobility and Opportunity, Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, and Office on Urban Affairs. We note the rapidity in which appointments to these new offices are being made.
Thus we are disappointed that a statutorily-established executive branch entity that must also be a central player in your Administration’s poverty activities – the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (ICH) – is lacking an appointment of your choosing to its Executive Director position. We urge you to make a prompt appointment of a new ICH Executive Director – an appointee who will advance your vision for an America where all people prosper and thrive, including those among us with the greatest needs.
Moreover, we call upon you to use the appointment of a new ICH Director as your moment to signal a change in direction in the current national approach to ending homelessness and as your opportunity to articulate an aggressive mandate to eliminate homelessness from our nation during your term of office.
Regrettably, the prior Administration took a narrow approach to homelessness policy – focusing the bulk of its energy toward single adults with disabilities who experience homelessness for long periods of time (the “chronically homeless”), to the abject neglect of those people who are also homeless for lesser periods of time and/or due to factors other than disability and family status. It also foisted the preponderance of responsibility for homelessness planning on city and county governments, while failing to establish a role for the national government itself. Moreover, exorbitant sums of money were spent on population counts and information management system acquisition, while investments in affordable housing, supportive services, and emergency responses fell far short of need.The current ICH Executive Director is tied to these policy choices. It is urgent that you accept his resignation and appoint someone with fresh ideas and a new mandate, including addressing the foreclosure crisis and its impact on homelessness, particularly among renters.
President Obama, the time for definitive and decisive action to end homelessness for the 3.5 million Americans who experience it annually (and growing due to the economic recession and foreclosure crisis) is now. People experiencing homelessness or at risk of a housing loss are waiting impatiently for bold leadership on this topic from your Administration. The national government can no longer deprive any one homeless “subpopulation” from resources and services in order to fund whatever is the “current hot trend” in social policy. It can no longer let the national human needs budget stagnate while asking counties, cities, and towns to stand the gaps. Our elected and appointed officials at the sub-national level can no longer flail on their own without the national government as a reliable and dependable partner.
We urge you to appoint an ICH Executive Director with the professional skills and personal attributes necessary for mobilizing all component agencies of the Council, as well as state, local, and private partners, toward the development and implementation of a national strategic plan to end homelessness. The plan must end homelessness for all and single out no subgroups over others for preferential consideration. The national strategic must embrace housing for all, universal livable incomes as a minimum standard, freedom from crippling health care debts, educational opportunities for all, and federal protection or repeal of laws and actions that make it illegal to be poor. The plan must articulate concrete action steps and timetable for reaching these aims. We also encourage you to convene a White House summit on homelessness in your first term to raise awareness of the issue and to draw on the collective wisdom of government officials, advocates, services providers, and homeless families and individuals in devising strategies to prevent and end homelessness.
We believe that by your election the American people have spoken. They have said that it is time tackle once and for all time seemingly intractable national problems. Certainly homelessness is among those challenges that have plagued American society for far too long. We urge you to quickly name to the ICH Executive Director position an individual with the leadership ability to implement our shared vision of an America free of homelessness.
We look forward to being consulted in the appointment of the next Executive Director of the Interagency Council on Homelessness, and in helping that appointee advance your forthcoming national strategic plan to end homelessness.
The Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless supports the message in this letter, and we hope that the administration picks a new InterAgency Council on Homelessness Director.
Posts by Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless staff and Board.