The inaugural meeting of the ICH was held on September 24th, 2014. During this meeting, the goals of the council were established. Over 30 members of the community attended, in addition to the council members. We discussed the focus areas for the ICH and through that the working groups that should be established to investigate areas that require more research. The ICH decided to adopt working groups to focus in on issues of Veterans Homelessness, Young Adult Homelessness as well as Health and Housing.
Former DHR Secretary Theodore Dallas wrote “Nationally, over 600,000 people are homeless and approximately 10,000 of them live in Maryland. To help those Marylanders in need, we worked with the General Assembly and community partners to launch a new Interagency Council on Homelessness (ICH). The ICH was established by SB 796 (2014) to examine statewide initiatives aimed at ending homelessness throughout the state of Maryland.
I recently chaired the inaugural meeting of the new ICH on September 24th. Unlike previous versions of the ICH, this new version is more inclusive. In addition to representatives from 12 state agencies including the Governor’s Office for Children, there are three representatives from local Continuums of Care (the 16 federally-recognized bodies created to organize and deliver housing and services to meet the specific needs of people who are homeless as they move to stable housing and maximum self-sufficiency) and six advocates from throughout the state, as well as a community member who has experienced homelessness.
The ICH is tasked with coordinating state policy recommendations and working relationships among state, local, and nonprofit agencies concerning efforts to remedy and prevent homelessness across the state. It will also make recommendations about statewide data sharing efforts. We will also submit annual recommendations to the Joint Committee of the General Assembly to comply with federal policy initiatives and funding strategies.
The ICH will solicit input from the advocacy, business and faith communities as well as from consumers, on policy and program development for the homeless population and identify supportive services necessary to serve special populations such as veterans, youth, families and individuals with behavioral health barriers to housing. And finally, we will analyze the need for and availability of affordable and accessible housing resources and recommend changes necessary to move towards a statewide housing first approach.
There are a number of exciting initiatives happening across the state for housing our homeless population, such as supportive housing Innovations in Baltimore and Anne Arundel Counties as well as lower cost supportive housing development ideas from Baltimore City. We have an upcoming Youth Count Demonstration pilot project happening in nine counties around the state in 2015. We are also working on further development and implementation of a statewide Homelessness Data Warehouse.
Following our first meeting last week, we will work to establish work groups focused on the priority issues related to homelessness alleviation. The topics of interest and priority were discussed during the first meeting. Among those discussed were Veterans, Health and Homelessness, Housing for Young Adults and the adoption of a Housing First model statewide. The work groups will focus work on the priority issues as defined by the larger ICH and will report back to the larger body. The larger ICH will meet quarterly.”
If you would like more information about the work of the ICH please contact Heather Sheridan at firstname.lastname@example.org.