Recently, I traveled to Denver to attend and speak at the Housing First Partners Conference 2018. This year’s event consisted of nearly 600 providers, funders, advocates, consumers, policymakers, and thought leaders, committed to ending homelessness and promoting the Housing First model, congregating to discuss ways in which we can all work together to battle the homelessness epidemic. Every two years, DESC and Pathways Housing First put on the Housing First Partners Conference and set a focus for the event. This year, attendees convened to share ideas on how to “ensure the integrity of Housing First as an overall community approach and a whole system response to achieve health, recovery, and well-being of people experience homelessness.” With collaboration in mind, these ideas of whole system and community approach were incorporated into every aspect of the event.
I was fortunate to be asked to speak in the session entitled “Navigating the World of Medicaid in Support of Housing First” with Foothold client Lindsay Casale, Housing First Program Manager at Pathways Vermont. Lindsay has been a trailblazer at Pathways Vermont, especially when it comes to leveraging Medicaid dollars to support services and Housing First. In our session, we saw providers from every corner of the country sharing their challenges, successes, and questions about Medicaid as it relates to their state. We also had attendees from the Managed Care vantage point giving tips on best practices for agencies to follow in order to gain Medicaid dollars in ways that would prove sustainable in the long term. When our session came to a close, we were delighted to see attendees continuing the conversation with fellow advocates as they exited the room.
Outside of my session, Foothold brought community and collaboration to the conference with our Supportive Housing Resource Exchange. For the past three years, Foothold has worked to create in person forums at Supportive Housing conferences around the country as well as an online forum for stakeholders to ask questions, share resources, and view trends in the industry. We saw a range of questions and responses from attendees ranging from methods in which those on the autism spectrum could be supported, funding streams for expansion, ways in which we can collaborate in order to end homelessness, and more!
Not only did we set up camp with our Supportive Housing Resource Exchange, we were also asked by the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) to use the Resource Exchange as a tool in their listening session for providers to offer feedback on their plan to end homelessness. USICH will present its refined plan to Congress later this year, and they asked that we use the Supportive Housing Resource Exchange to collect all of the providers’ feedback in one place. USICH is now using this feedback to update their plan before they present to Congress again. This session truly embodied the collaboration the HFPC set out to create.
The Supportive Housing community is at a place where collaboration is essential if we truly want to end homelessness, especially for those who are the most in need. I left the Housing First Partners Conference feeling enriched by the conversations I had with many different members of the Supportive Housing community. I look forward to continuing these conversations in my work with Foothold clients, at other Supportive Housing conferences throughout the year, and online at the Supportive Housing Resource Exchange. The next stop for both the Supportive Housing Resource Exchange and me will be the CSH Summit in Los Angeles on June 5-7.