Submitted by Mark Putnam, Director, Committee to End Homelessness in King County

MOnumentThis past July, several King County based Committee to End Homelessness staff braved the heat and humidity of a Washington, D.C. summer to attend the 2014 National Conference on Ending Homelessness.

The annual conference offers more than a thousand people from across the United States and Canada who work to end homelessness an opportunity to learn from each other, discuss effective solutions for ending homelessness with leading experts in the field, and offer their voices in shaping effective strategies and policies to end homelessness in their region.

This year’s conference signaled a new tone and energy in the work of ending homelessness. Attendees celebrated the great strides made in developing and implementing innovative strategies that aim to make homelessness rare, brief and one-time. We know what works and doesn’t work, and there’s a renewed energy to take on the challenge of adjusting current practices and systems to undertake these innovative practices.

Workshop speakers highlighted:

  • Housing first principles for all populations, including rapidly re-housing families and single adults as a viable and effective approach to help move people off the streets and into housing
  • Strategies to prioritize the most vulnerable people into the homeless housing system as the most effective way to target limited homeless resources
  • Utilizing data to inform decision-making, including developing standards to measure program and system-level performance and re-tooling systems to align with more effective and efficient efforts

The good news is that King County is on track, and in some cases even ahead of the game, in these efforts.

This year’s conference didn’t let us down! With 90 workshops over three days; with dynamic keynote speakers like Senator Cory Booker, HUD Secretary Julián Castro’, the new United States Interagency Council on Homelessness Chair, Thomas E. Perez, and Director of the 100,000 Homes Campaign, Becky Kanis Margiotta, we left DC even more committed and energized for the work ahead.

King County was well represented with local stakeholders presenting at conference workshops, including:

  • Emily Harris-Shears, Catholic Community Services (Targeting and Preventing Homelessness)
  • William Hobson, DESC (Person-Centered Options for Persons in Recovery)
  • Melinda Giovengo, YouthCare (Innovative Collaborations in Strengthening Models to End Youth Homelessness)
  • Jim Mayfield, WA DSHS (Research on Rapid Re-Housing)
  • Kollin Min, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (Partnering to Support Young Children and their Parents)
  • Jim Theofelis, The Mockingbird Society (Where Does State Policy Fit in Your Advocacy Playbook?)

And, our very own:

  • Mark Putnam, CEHKC (Strategies to Develop and Strengthen Your Continuum of Care)
  • Megan Gibbard, CEHKC (Transatlantic Practice Exchange: Lessons from Across the Pond AND Systemic Responses to Youth Homelessness)

The last day culminated with the key note from The First Lady of the U.S., Michelle Obama. Before the First Lady took the stage, the 1,600 conference participants were shown videos, including Seattle University’s American Refugees four animated short films about family homelessness, and a video from the Mockingbird Society featuring youth advocates.

While our own Michelle Valdez was fortunate enough to get a close-up and handshake from the First Lady, we all agree that the opportunity to hear her speak about the work of ending homelessness among Veterans (of which Seattle/King County is also a part of), was the icing on the cake.

We’ll end our brief update with a message from Michelle Obama:

“Yet, when so many others accept homelessness as a fact of life, you refuse to give up.  When they scoff at your idealism, you show them the data and evidence that prove that we can solve this problem.  And when they still throw up their hands and walk away from this challenge, you roll up your sleeves and get back to work.”

Committee to End Homelessness of King County staff attending included:

  • Mark Putnam, Director
  • Megan Gibbard, Program Manager
  • Michelle Valdez, Program Manager
  • Triina Tennelo, Program Manager

To Learn More:

National Alliance to End Homelessness – 2014 National Conference on Ending Homelessness

Materials and presentations:

First Lady’s key note speech: