A P ublic ation of the D owntown Emergency Servic e Ce n t e r Issue 24 / Summer 2012
DESC co-presents first national conference focused on Housing First DESC recently joined New York based Pathways to Housing to co-present the first-ever national Housing First Partners’ Conference. Held in New Orleans in Bill Hobson presents at the conference March, its purpose was to further the conversation about interpreting and implementing Housing First as a best practice in ending homelessness. Together DESC and Pathways successfully launched a foundational, national forum and dialogue for housing operators and service providers, as well as federal, state and local government officials, researchers, and participants of Housing First programs. As early pioneers of Housing First in the 1990s, DESC and Pathways have shown that while at first thought to be counter-intuitive, Housing First can truly have dramatic outcomes for the lives of chronically homeless people and their communities. Over the past 15 years, Housing First has challenged the traditional ‘housing readiness’ model by showing positive results with people previously thought to be beyond help. While Housing First is simple in concept, its application and practices are definitely complex. Today many service providers are embracing Housing First, thanks to verified successes by DESC and Pathways. Some organizations may be receiving increased pressure from public policy makers to adopt Housing First and are concerned about how to take the right steps to adopt it. It can be tough to commit the resources to fully adopt Housing First when there is a lack of understanding as to what it truly entails. The conference addressed these issues through in-depth presentations and conversations with attendees.
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While DESC’s first priority is to provide services and create opportunities for vulnerable people in the Seattle area, in response to growing requests for advice, we now also make ourselves available for consultation and assistance when we can. Through working with communities around the nation, we learned that policy makers, service providers, and funders (both government and private) desire help with putting Housing First models into practice. The conference exceeded all expectations and attendance was well over capacity. Participants included the Executive Director of the President’s over 600 attended the Housing First Conference Interagency Council on Homelessness and senior officials from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and the Veterans Administration (VA). Thanks to our sponsors: the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, Enterprise Community Partners, Corporation for Supportive Housing and the National Alliance to End Homelessness. Special thanks to the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), and HUD, who provided scholarships for over 35 consumers of mental health services so they could attend via scholarships. All participants contributed to an impassioned dialogue about the many facets of Housing First policy and practice, furthering our collective mission to end homelessness nationwide.
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