Sunday, July 08, 2007

Homelessness conference in DC

Tomorrow through Wednesday I'll be at the annual conference of the National Alliance to End Homelessness.

The time is marked by opportunity to make substantial new progress. New programmatic solutions are moving individuals out of homelessness and into housing faster every day. More communities are committing to achieve progress and show results in the form of fewer people without a place to live. People who work with Congress speak of a new day, including a new interest in housing the poorest Americans.

The time is coming for a new sense of accountability, for everyone involved to accomplish the goals they’ve set out – ending the scourge of homelessness. Hundreds of communities have committed to do so. The federal government has expressed it as a policy priority. Public, private, and nonprofit sectors have embraced the call.
Increasingly, all involved in this struggle are discovering what to do and how to make progress.
It’s time for a new push.
It’s time for communities to put to work the practices they know work.
It’s time for policymakers to know what their part is.

Chapel Hill and Orange County are stepping up to the plate. It's exciting to be part of this national movement.
For me, it's interesting that the conference is in Washington. My first venture into public service was when I was living in Alexandria, Virginia, just out of law school. I got appointed to Alexandria's Mental Health, Mental Retardation, and Substance Abuse Services Board. It was the mid-1980s, just as the consequences of Reagan-era deinstitutionalization were setting in. The streets of our nation's capital were scandalized by the appearance of the homeless. There was too much to do and not enough money. Faced with inevitable budget cuts, our Board contemplated "shutting down the Washington Monument" (code for denying money to the most visible programs as a cry for help) versus making cuts with less obvious impact. There were no good options.

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