Revising & Strengthening the Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness

Pamela Ralston, July 2017

The United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) has been working diligently over the past six months on an intensive process of connecting with stakeholders across the nation to tackle the job of revising and strengthening the federal plan to end homelessness.

Back in 2010 when Opening Doors, the nation’s first comprehensive federal strategy to prevent and end homelessness, was presented to Congress, there truly wasn’t abundant acceptance that an end to homelessness could actually be realized – communities were still following their 10 Year Plans and a slowly progressing “business as usual” response to confronting the crisis of homelessness continued.Cities large and small routinely placed each household in emergency shelter and when no housing was available, they systematically placed each individual and family on a wait list for the next available vacancy to end their crisis. Folks were regularly helped through a first come – first serve approach and a “centralized” entry system was not prevalent. People were not assessed for vulnerability nor prioritized for housing based on their chronicity or their susceptibility of dying on the streets.

Opening Doors has come a long way since 2010!

  • Opening Doors was amended in 2012 to include the Federal Framework to End Youth Homelessness and strategies to improve educational outcomes for children and youth.

  • Opening Doors was completely updated and amended in 2015 to include an operational definition for an end to homelessness, clarifications regarding the role of health and behavioral health systems in supporting services for permanent supportive housing, the use of metrics and accountability, and improved guidance for retooling crisis response systems.

We now know that an end to homelessness does not mean that no one will ever experience a housing crisis again. The changeability of daily life, uncertain economic times, and unsafe or volatile family environments will continue to create circumstances where individuals, families, or youth could experience, re-experience, or be at risk of homelessness. The difference now is that we have the tools to rapidly respond to acute episodes of homelessness— most communities now have a systematic response in place that ensures homelessness is prevented whenever possible or is otherwise a rare, brief, and non-recurring experience.

USICH continues to work hard in scheduling listening sessions and events throughout the country and they need our help to make sure we all stay focused in confronting the challenges ahead of us. USICH staff have engaged with stakeholders about the challenges communities are facing in ending unsheltered homelessness, helping people exit encampments successfully and they’ve heard from communities about the need to identify options for people affected by opioid use and other substance use and to ensure that housing is  a platform for recovery and stability. USICH is working toward  “creating a roadmap” to end homelessness and they want to hear about our challenges, our progress and our ideas so they are equipped to help each of us persevere, advance and accelerate toward success!

You can share your ideas by contacting


Participant Guide to Revise Opening Doors

Revising and Strengthening the Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness