United States Interagency Council on Homelessness
Seal of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness
|Formed||July 22, 1987|
|Headquarters||1275 First Street NE
Suite 227 Washington, DC 20002
|Annual budget||$3,500,000 (2014)|
The United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) is an independent federal agency within the U.S. executive branch and is composed of 19 Cabinet secretaries and agency heads. The current chairperson is Department of Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell serves as the vice chairperson. The Executive Director of USICH is Matthew Doherty. USICH partners with these 19 federal agencies, state and local governments, advocates, service providers, and people experiencing homelessness to achieve the goals outlined in the first federal strategic plan to prevent and end homelessness, Opening Doors.
The mission of USICH is to:
Coordinate the federal response to homelessness and to create a national partnership at every level of government and with the private sector to reduce and end homelessness in the nation while maximizing the effectiveness of the Federal Government in contributing to the end of homelessness.
The USICH staff is made up of a small team headquartered in Washington, DC, led by Executive Director Matthew Doherty. Deputy Directors and staff members serve as liaisons with each of the 19 Federal Agencies that make up the Council to make progress on the goals and strategies of Opening Doors. USICH works with states and national programs on the ground through five Regional Coordinators, who connect with state and local governments in the creation of strategic plans and to promote the strategies of Opening Doors in local communities.
USICH works with its partners to
- Establish and maintain effective, coordinated, and supportive relationships with every federal agency;
- Organize and support states and communities to effectively implement local plans to end homelessness;
- Develop an effective portal to federal programs and initiatives;
- Establish and maintain productive communications with Congress;
- Establish partnerships with public and private sector stakeholders;
- Monitor, evaluate, and recommend improvements in serving those experiencing homelessness and disseminate best practices;
- Provide professional and technical assistance to states, local governments, and other public and private nonprofit organizations.
In 2010, the agency released the first federal strategic plan to end homelessness in the United States which includes four goals
- To finish the job of ending chronic homelessness by 2015.
- To prevent and end homelessness among Veterans by 2015.
- To prevent and end homelessness for families, youth, and children by 2020.
- To set a path to ending all types of homelessness.
The Interagency Council on the Homeless was authorized by Title II of the landmark Stewart B. McKinney Homeless Assistance Act enacted on July 22, 1987 (PL 100-77). The McKinney Act established the Interagency Council on the Homeless as an “independent establishment” within the executive branch to review the effectiveness of federal activities and programs to assist people experiencing homelessness, promote better coordination among agency programs, and inform state and local governments and public and private sector organizations about the availability of federal homeless assistance. In 2002, Council members voted to approve changing the name of the agency to the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH), a change that was enacted into law in 2004 (PL 108-199).
The most recent reauthorization of USICH occurred in 2009 with enactment of the Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing (HEARTH) Act. (PL111-22).
The Council originally included the heads (or their representatives) of 16 Federal agencies. Five additional agencies were subsequently added by Council vote or statutory amendments, while two agencies are now inactive. The current members of the Council include the heads of the following 19 Departments and agencies: U.S. Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, Justice, Labor, Transportation, and Veterans Affairs, Corporation for National and Community Service, General Services Administration, Office of Management and Budget, Social Security Administration, United States Postal Service, and the White House Office of Faith-based and Community Initiatives.
It is estimated that 640,000 women and men are without shelter each night in the United States. Mandated by Congress under the Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing (HEARTH) Act of 2009, USICH was tasked to create a national strategic plan to end homelessness which will be updated periodically to reflect progress and changing priorities. As a result, Opening Doors was drafted and serves as the nation’s first comprehensive national strategy for ending homelessness.
This strategic plan, entitled Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness, was presented on June 22, 2010 to President Obama’s staff and members of Congress. The plan was created to help strengthen existing programs geared towards addressing the issues of homelessness and works to create partnerships with not only existing programs, but forge new ones in the effort to help the nation. The strategy also presents cost-effective strategies for states, local and the federal government.
"Opening Doors" serves as a roadmap for joint action by the 19 federal agencies of USICH, along with state and local partners in both the private and public sectors. In the process of developing this comprehensive plan, USICH held stakeholder meetings, work group meetings to focus on statistics of the population pertaining to this issue, held expert panels, and sought public comment through an online website.
Aside from the plan’s four main goals listed above, objectives were created around five main themes in order to specify how the strategy will work to address the issue of homelessness. The themes include the following:
Increase leadership, collaboration, and civic engagement
- Objective 1: Provide and promote collaborative leadership at all levels of government and across all sectors to inspire and energize Americans to commit to preventing and ending homelessness.
- Objective 2: Strengthen the capacity of public and private organizations by increasing knowledge about collaboration, homelessness, and successful interventions to prevent and end homelessness.
Increase access to stable and affordable housing
- Objective 3: Provide affordable housing to people experiencing or most at risk of homelessness.
- Objective 4: Provide permanent supportive housing to prevent and end chronic homelessness.
Increase economic security
- Objective 5: Increase meaningful and sustainable employment for people experiencing or most at risk of homelessness.
- Objective 6: Improve access to mainstream programs and services to reduce people’s financial vulnerability to homelessness.
Improve health and stability
- Objective 7: Integrate primary and behavioral health care services with homeless assistance programs and housing to reduce people’s vulnerability to and the impacts of homelessness.
- Objective 8: Advance health and housing stability for youth aging out of systems such as foster care and juvenile justice.
- Objective 9: Advance health and housing stability for people experiencing homelessness who have frequent contact with hospitals and criminal justice.
Retool the Homeless Crisis Response System
- Objective 10: Transform homeless services to crisis response systems that prevent homelessness and rapidly return people who experience homelessness.
- Philip Mangano, 2002–2009
- Barbara Poppe, 2009 - March 2014
- Laura Green Zeilinger, March 2014-January 2015
- Matthew Doherty, April 2015-present