On January 26, 2011, the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH), HUD and the Department of Education co-hosted an all day session dedicated to the word “homeless”. An entire day was spent assessing the feasibility of a common federal definition for homeless, including a single federal vocabulary and data standard that could be used in targeting homeless programs as well as mainstream programs.
The US government, across nearly two dozen domestic federal agencies, and people experiencing homelessness each have problems with the multi-defined use of the term “homeless”. Last year the General Accountability Office caused a welcome stir by publishing recommendations for the development of a common vocabulary for “homeless” and common data standards related to homelessness and housing stability. Though long held as a fact within communities nationwide, a single definition for homelessness has eluded the federal government for decades.
In the GAO report, Congress advised the session’s co-hosts of the important first step, in this correction process, of guaranteeing the involvement of a broad range of stakeholders. Ten of these stakeholders were current and formerly homeless men and women, who represented the homeless experience firsthand or Consumer Advocates.
The involvement of Consumer Advocates is a vitally important commitment made by the Obama administration and outlined in Opening Doors: The Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness 2010.