Opening Doors: The Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness

Posted on June 29, 2010

Last week, the federal government unveiled its very first strategic plan to confront the problem of homelessness in the US on an unprecedented scale. The new plan, called Opening Doors: The Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness, identifies four key goals: ending chronic homelessness in five years; preventing and ending homelessness among veterans in five years; preventing and ending family homelessness in ten years; and setting a path to ending all types of homelessness.

Strategic collaboration is the key to the successful accomplishment of these goals. Spearheaded by the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, the federal plan outlines an ambitious interagency collaboration that involves the active participation of nineteen federal housing, health, education, and human services agencies.

According to the Virginia Coalition to End Homelessness (VCEH), the federal plan “provides an excellent framework to guide Virginia’s efforts to align strategies and resources to bring us closer to the day when no Virginian will experience homelessness….The critical component to preventing and ending homelessness…is putting in place a system to prevent homelessness before it occurs and end homelessness as quickly as possible.”

Alice Tousignant, CEO of Virginia Supportive Housing, agrees. “While the Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness seems a bit short on specifics, I am very encouraged by the overall effort and am particularly pleased with the Plan’s six Core Values which are right on target.  I have made similar statements many times recently.  They are:

“As VCEH emphasized, collaboration is critical…Here in the Greater Richmond area, we have Homeward and in South Hampton Roads, there are similar efforts being coordinated by The Planning Council. If all of us as a community embrace these six core values in our approach to prevent and end homelessness, we indeed can make a real difference.”

Partners In The Fight To End Homelessness

Posted on May 25, 2010

The collaborative efforts of Virginia Supportive Housing and the Virginia Coalition to End Homelessness provide a perfect illustration of how agencies that are focused on the same issue can align strategies and complement each other’s strengths to bring about real change.

The mission of the Virginia Coalition to End Homelessness is to prevent and end homelessness in the Commonwealth of Virginia through community collaboration, capacity building, education and advocacy. Although it is not a direct service provider, its work in the areas of statewide research, data collection, policy development, and resource mobilization is critical to the work of Virginia Supportive Housing.

Virginia Supportive Housing’s mission is to provide permanent solutions to homelessness using an integrated approach that combines permanent housing and support services. As a direct service provider, VSH has a “ground-level” perspective of the problem of homelessness which might seem at odds with VCEH’s more abstract perspective. However, neither agency could achieve its mission in the community without the other, and together the two agencies have helped to transform the state’s response to homelessness in many ways.

One of VCEH’s top priorities for 2010 is to increase investment in permanent supportive housing for homeless people with disabilities, ex-offenders, and veterans by conducting a needs assessment and developing an action plan. This priority reflects not just a regional trend (as articulated in Richmond’s Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness), but also a nationwide shift in focus toward the integrated model utilized with such success by VSH.

By quantifying VSH’s successes in the form of measurable data, VCEH can make pragmatic recommendations borne out by practice. And by implementing evidence-based practices supported by research, VSH can strengthen the case for permanent supportive housing. In this way, the priorities of both agencies can be met in a way that is both mutually beneficial and deeply validating.

For more than two decades, VSH and VCEH have been joining forces in the regional fight to permanently end homelessness. It is collaborations like these that will ultimately put an end to a problem that has plagued our communities for far too long. VSH and VCEH agree – the time to end homelessness is now.

VCEH can’t achieve its mission without you. To support the effort to end homelessness in the Commonwealth of Virginia, become a VCEH member today!

We Can’t Afford To Be Ignorant About Affordable Housing Issues

Posted on April 20, 2010

I have asked Alison Jones-Nassar, VSH’s Volunteer Program Coordinator, to write this week’s blog. Thanks, Alice

Affordable Housing Awareness Week was launched on Monday morning with a symposium at the Jepson Alumni Center focused on issues surrounding the topic of affordable housing. The first speaker looked around the room, filled primarily by housing awareness advocates, and asked, “Why should we learn about housing affordability?” And indeed, the events scheduled throughout this week are designed to answer that very question. Ultimately, I think the answer to that question depends on another question. Does everyone deserve a safe and stable place to live?

Affordable housing is not an abstract issue for me. It is not something that I only think about during business hours. My family lives in an affordable rental community with income qualifications in Chesterfield. Living in this community has made it possible for my children to attend quality public schools and receive an excellent education.

We have lived in the same building with many of the same neighbors for six years, and so I can feel secure knowing someone is watching out for my kids when they let themselves in after school. The grounds are well-kept and the buildings are well-maintained. And we have easy access to libraries, fitness centers, and many other services and activities that most people would consider necessary for a decent quality of life. More communities like this are desperately needed.

Just last week I drove through a neighborhood across town where clusters of grown men stood together on street corners and small children played among spilled garbage cans and strewn glass. Yards were abandoned, windows were broken, and cracked gates hung off hinges. I was astonished to see entire houses collapsing from years of structural neglect. For too many people, especially single parent families, this is what “affordable housing” really means: unsafe drug-infested neighborhoods, poor schools, and a lack of even basic services.

Does everyone deserve a safe and stable place to live? For me the answer is a resounding yes. I believe that all mothers, not just me, want safe neighborhoods and good schools and places to play for their children. Everyone, not just people in award-winning Chesterfield, wants decent transportation systems and convenient grocery stores with fresh produce and jobs that pay the rent.

So … Why should we learn about housing affordability? Because when you get right down to it, the issues that surround the subject of affordable housing are issues that lie at the very heart of the concepts of fairness and equality on which this country was supposedly founded and to which we all supposedly subscribe.

Affordable Housing Awareness Week was designed to help ordinary people not only understand more about housing affordability, but to take action. This week, fifteen area non-profits including Virginia Supportive Housing are welcoming community volunteers who would like to build, paint, rake, weed, plant, clean and make a visible difference in the community we all call home. It’s a great opportunity to volunteer and it’s also a great opportunity to learn. Because we can’t afford to be ignorant about affordable housing issues any more.



VSH Volunteers Celebrate MLK Day With Service Project

Posted on January 19, 2010

For thousands of citizens across the city, state, and country, Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday is not just a day off. It’s an opportunity to honor Dr. King’s legacy as one of our nation’s greatest social justice advocates by engaging in a day of community service.


On Monday, January 18, fourteen Richmonders of diverse ages and backgrounds chose to celebrate the day by participating in a service project coordinated by Virginia Supportive Housing.

There are lots of ways that volunteers support the mission of Virginia Supportive Housing. MLK Day volunteers spruced up one of VSH’s nine Richmond properties by painting a second-floor corridor. Volunteers also participate in many other projects such as landscaping, serving meals, teaching basic computer skills, collecting non-perishable food items, helping new residents move in, and providing administrative support at the VSH headquarters.

Dr. King believed in the power of service to strengthen communities and achieve common goals. If you believe in the goal of ending the problem of homelessness in our community, then consider giving your time to VSH’s volunteer program. When you volunteer for Virginia Supportive Housing, you serve an organization that transforms lives, transforms communities, and provides permanent solutions to homelessness.

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