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Ending Homelessness in America

Homelessness is a complex issue, but it’s one we know how to solve.

For a year, Bobbie was homeless. She was one of the half-million Americans who face the uncertainty, on any given day, about where they will find their next meal, where they can get care when they are sick, and where they will sleep at night.

Bobbie was lucky to find the Stout Street Health Center – a community health center in Denver, Colorado that provides integrated health care and housing support for the city’s homeless population.

She told a local reporter that without the men and women working in the health center, “I don’t know where I would be.”

Last week I had the opportunity to visit the Stout Street Health Center and see the work they do for up to 18,000 men, women and children experiencing homelessness every year.

What if we could guarantee that no more Americans would have to face what Bobbie did? What if, in just a few years, we could help the more than a million people including children, families and veterans who have no place to call home? What if we finally and completely ended homelessness in the United States?

These questions might sound audacious, but they are the commitments that the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness has made. I’m proud to serve as Vice Chair of the Council, which includes the Secretaries of Housing and Urban Development, Education, Labor, Veterans Affairs, and 14 other agencies. Together, we’re charting a path toward ending veteran homelessness by 2015, chronic homelessness by 2017, and family, youth, and child homelessness by 2020. And as I step into my role as Chair of the Council in 2016, I look forward to making sure that we meet these bold goals.

Homelessness is a complex issue, but it’s one we know how to solve.

We know this because places across the country are making headway against it every day. Just this January, New Orleans became the first city in the United States to completely end homelessness among veterans. As a nation, we are well on our way to eliminating veteran homelessness by the end of this year.

At HHS, we’re working to address chronic and other types of homelessness. We want to make sure federal agencies, providers, and state and local partners understand how federal resources can address this need. We want to ensure that families with young children can connect to effective early childhood health and education programs, and that they can get coverage to access quality healthcare. And we want to make sure that youth and families have access to all the services they need to stay off of the streets, including substance use treatment and mental health care.

Ending homelessness is not only a priority for HHS and the Administration, but for me personally as well. Before I joined HHS, I worked with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s Pacific Northwest Giving Initiative. One of our key areas of focus was homelessness. I met with men, women and children who either found themselves without a home or were in danger of losing theirs. From them, I learned that we can have incredible impact by working together, across agencies and sectors.

In this nation where so many have so much, we must not let our neighbors like Bobbie suffer through night after night of uncertainty and insecurity. By finding common ground and working together with local providers and leaders in government, we can do more. Together, we can end homelessness once and for all.

Ending #homelessness in America: via @HHSgov @SecBurwell

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