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US expert on ending homelessness points to lessons learnt

8 June 2017

US expert on ending homelessness points to lessons learnt

New Zealand can benefit from lessons learnt in the United States, where homelessness is reducing, a US expert says.

According to the US Dept. of Housing and Urban Development homelessness in the US reduced by a total of 10% between 2009 and 2015 with chronic homelessness down by 22%.

The head of the US National Alliance to End Homelessness, Nan Roman is in New Zealand to speak at the Community Housing Aotearoa Impact Conference, and to meet political and community leaders working to end homelessness in New Zealand.

She says housing is at the heart of ending homeless, along with necessary support services.
“Housing ends homelessness, no matter what country you live in. People who have a home aren’t homeless.

“That doesn’t mean people don’t need services. But housing comes first – housing that’s affordable and for people with disabilities too, it means permanent supportive housing that has services attached.”
Ms Roman says the US experience of an evidence-based and planned approach to end homelessness might hold valuable lessons – positive and negative -- for New Zealand.

“We’ve been reducing homelessness in the US,” Nan Roman says. “And it’s because we’ve learned what does– and what doesn’t work -- and changed how we do things.

“We’ve learned it’s important to have good data, to know what the size of the problem is, what interventions are effective and cost effective, and to measure progress.”

“Our goal is not just to have a system that handles or manages people’s homelessness — we want to END homelessness.”

Under Nan Roman’s guidance, the Alliance successfully identified and promoted innovative strategies for ending homelessness that have been adopted by communities across the US.

Her advice to politicians and community organisations is to ensure that any plan for addressing homelessness:

commits to ending homelessness, with a timeline for getting there and bringing together the partners needed to solve the problem
focuses on the strategies that are proven to work, with an emphasis on housing
remembers that although we know what to do, we need to do enough of it and do it long enough to reach the goal
[ends]

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