A Once-In-The-State Opportunity

Posted on July 6, 2010

As I sit here wearing my red, white and blue outfit in honor of the holiday that just passed celebrating our nation’s freedom, I find myself thinking about our nation more as the land of opportunity and having similar thoughts about our beautiful Commonwealth of Virginia.

Virginia has so much going for it: natural beauty; wonderful art and history; a diverse & thriving economy in many places; higher than average median income; and unemployment at about the national average.  Virginia also has about 40,000 people each year who experience homelessness.  But we have a tremendous opportunity in Virginia to finally do something about this problem, thanks to Governor McDonnell and his Senior Economic Advisor, Bob Sledd.

In April, the Governor issued an Executive Order to develop a Housing Policy Framework for the Commonwealth that included guiding principles, one of which was to “address the needs of homeless Virginians by focusing on the reduction of chronic homelessness, ensuring the continuing … safety net of shelters and services, and investing in transitional and permanent supportive housing.” 

To that end, the Governor appointed an Advisory Group of State agency representatives across several secretariats as well as private agency representatives from across the state that is charged with developing recommendations to help prevent and reduce homelessness in the Commonwealth.  I am honored to be part of this Advisory Group lead by Bob Sledd and especially heartened by the caliber of people at the table, to include Secretary Bill Hazel, Commissioner Jim Stewart and DHCD Director, Bill Shelton. 

The group’s charge is to develop a plan to leverage state resources more effectively, maximize the effectiveness of State services and resources for people who are homeless, realize efficiencies through enhanced coordination, and reduce the number of individuals who are homeless.  And, these guys mean business—we only have until October to deliver these recommendations, which must be realistic, doable, and specific!

There is also an opportunity to get input from providers and anyone in the public who would like to weigh in on best practice solutions and ideas for removal of any barriers to effective coordination and use of resources through four input sessions in different parts of the State that will be held during the next 30 days.

This is a great opportunity to make a real difference in Virginia.  This is our chance to help improve coordination, identify more efficient use of resources, impact the allocation of resources and funding priorities, influence State policy and most importantly help prevent and reduce homelessness in the Commonwealth.

What are YOUR thoughts on the issue of homelessness in Virginia and what our state needs to do to end it? Please take the opportunity to comment directly to this blog or to attend one of the input sessions.  I promise to listen to your input and to do my best to make sure this opportunity does not go by the wayside.

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