This past December and January, the National Center for Excellence in Homeless Services held in-person networking meetings with representatives of multiple federal agencies to discuss opportunities to collaborate with government stakeholders in efforts to end homelessness. Building relationships with government agencies is a key component of the Center’s National Homelessness Social Work Initiative (NHSWI), supporting our work to impact the policymaking process and make social work the go-to profession for responding to homelessness. The intention of the meetings was to begin building a collaborative relationship between the National Center and federal agencies and groups with a vested interested in addressing homelessness.

As part of the NHSWI, a New York Trust funded initiative in its second year, the National Center has partnered with the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) to engage federal agencies, including the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), and the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH).  CSWE offered invaluable help in the process of arranging and preparing for the in-person meetings.

Meetings were held with staff members from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), USICH, the Congressional Caucus on Homelessness, HUD, and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ Homeless Veterans Initiative Office. In addition to National Center staff from UAlbany and staff from CSWE, representatives from National Center partner schools also attended, including faculty from Hunter College, the Catholic University of America, the University of Maryland, California State University-Long Beach, and the University of Texas at Austin.

Meeting discussions were oriented around introductory conversations to introduce the government representatives to the work of the National Center, the goals of the NHSWI, and to learn about current federal activities and priorities. Topics discussed at the meetings included:

  • SAMHSA’s PATH (Projects for Assistance in Transition from Homelessness) program and how the National Center might connect with the program’s network of homelessness providers across the U.S.;
  • The Housing First philosophy embraced by the VA and USICH, and how this aligns with research and policy suggestions set forth by NCEHS partners, including a recent book publication by faculty partners;
  • The VA’s efforts to continue the momentum created by the current administration to address veteran homelessness and opportunities for the National Center to support this work;
  • USICH’s Priority Communities Initiative, part of the Opening Doors strategic plan, and how the National Center might create linkages between our partner schools and government agencies within those communities; and
  • Opportunities to connect with the National Alliance to End Homelessness for future advocacy efforts.

These networking meetings are an exciting opportunity for the National Center to introduce its mission, its current projects, and its consortium of schools of social work to the key federal agencies working to end homelessness nationally. The National Center is taking necessary next steps to explore the multiple and varied recommendations that emerged from these meetings. One immediate development was the creation of a workgroup with members from the VA, National Center staff, and representatives from our partner schools. Capitalizing on the VA’s enthusiasm to further advance their work on veteran homelessness, the workgroup will meet monthly to discuss opportunities to collaborate and coordinate efforts.

Future blog posts will provide updates on additional activities as they emerge.

Blog Post Authors: Jeffrey Roberts (graduate student assistant) and Amanda Aykanian (Research and Project Lead)

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