ENDING CHRONIC HOMELESSNESS
Findings from the ACCESS project and the initiative to end chronic homelessness reveal the challenges of organizing and coordinating large-scale community-level efforts to address homelessness. The greatest success in both programs was achieved at the local level, in places where the commitment to the objective and the ability to influence implementation were greatest.
Nationwide, homelessness was reduced by 31 percent between 2007 and 2015 (USDHUD, 2015). The national data and the five case studies of Ten- Year Plans to End Chronic Homelessness reveal that it is possible to reduce chronic homelessness, even though the goal of ending it has so far been elusive. Success has been achieved in this vulnerable population despite a severe economic recession, the persistent scarcity of affordable housing, a fragmented system of mental health care, and disability entitlements that fall far below the poverty level. Successful implementers of ten-year plans have had to pivot in response to policy, funding, and staff changes that invariably occur with transitions in political leadership at all levels of government, without losing sight of the goal to end chronic homelessness. Homelessness among people with severe mental illness still rages, however, in metropolitan centers like New York City and Los Angeles, and in cities and hamlets across the nation. The importance of ending the scourge of homelessness in a prosperous nation such as this demands a careful consideration of lessons learned so far.