Department of Health & Human Services
Monday, March 31, 2003
WASHINGTON (HHS) -- HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson Friday released a comprehensive plan aimed at ensuring the department's resources are focused on reducing and ultimately ending chronic homelessness. The new initiative, Ending Chronic Homelessness: Strategies for Action, was developed specifically to address the growing need for an integrated network of support systems for chronically homeless persons -- those that have a disabling condition and who experience frequent or extended periods in the homeless assistance system.
"In the United States, approximately 200,000 people are chronically homeless," Secretary Thompson said. "The large majority of these individuals have serious and disabling health conditions, including psychiatric and substance use disorder. HHS' plan is a blueprint that will help develop a cohesive set of policies that recognize and make accessible the many essential health and human services needed for people to get and keep permanent housing."
Secretary Thompson announced the plan today as he assumed chairmanship of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (ICH). He commended immediate past ICH Chair Mel Martinez, Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), for his leadership in creating a focus on new housing opportunities for homeless people.
As the new ICH chair, Secretary Thompson will focus his upcoming year of service on improving resources for chronically homeless people who often face barriers to gaining and keeping permanent housing and ultimate self-sufficiency due to lack of coordination among services.
"Across the country, homeless advocates and providers are anticipating Secretary Thompson's year as chair of the council," Philip Mangano, executive director of the council noted. "His announcement today of HHS' Strategies for Action, coupled with his legendary creativity in freeing mainstream resources to work for the most vulnerable, will offer the focus from HHS needed to end chronic homelessness."
The HHS plan contributes to the Secretary's One Department theme by seeking to improve access to health and human services, building state and local capacities to respond to homelessness and preventing new homeless episodes. Highlights include:
Encouraging applicants to HHS programs to identify how services to homeless people will be addressed and coordinated; Awarding incentives for funding under the President's expansion of health centers that include a focus on serving chronically homeless people; Documenting effective service and use of resources that address homeless services, and increasing training and technical assistance; Evaluating programs to identify practices that will prevent homelessness among people returning to the community; and Establishing an internal homeless workgroup to be led by HHS Deputy Secretary Claude Allen.
In fiscal year 2003, the HHS' Health Resources and Services Administration will invest some $9 million to expand capacity of the National Health Service Corps (NHSC). This investment in the NHSC will help provide more access to primary, dental and mental/behavioral health care for homeless people in urban and rural areas.
Additionally, HHS, HUD and the Department of Veterans Affairs are currently soliciting applications for $35 million in funding to create a collaborative and comprehensive approach to addressing the problem of chronic homelessness by providing a range of services and supports needed to promote and maintain self-sufficiency. The programs include improving access to housing services, substance abuse and mental health services and primary health care services.
HHS will continue to support the ICH regional Policy Academies to form new partnerships and exchange strategies in order to assist states in developing their own plans on chronic homelessness.
HHS' comprehensive homelessness plan executive summary can be found on the HHS Web site at http://aspe.hhs.gov/hsp/homelessness/strategies03/.