Ending Homelessness: A Complex Problem with a Solution in Sight

NEW ORLEANS (October 8, 2020) – While the causes and contributing factors can be complex, the solution to the intractable and rising national challenge of homelessness is, in many respects, simple: housing ends homelessness.

“We can think of this national crisis in terms of rising data points, but the experience of homelessness affects real people — our friends and neighbors — and it disproportionately impacts the most vulnerable members of our communities,” said Allison Ulrich, Civix’s Senior Grants Manager who has spent her professional career working on issues of housing and homelessness. Longstanding racial and ethnic disparities in housing and homelessness are also present, disproportionately and negatively impacting Black, Indigenous, and people of color across communities. These racial and ethnic disparities have been intensified by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. “Decisive action is long overdue, but now more than ever, preventing and ending homelessness represents a community public health and racial equity issue that urgently demands our attention.”

According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), more than half a million people experience homelessness on any given night. This comes at a high human and financial cost for those experiencing homelessness and for our communities. People without housing often experience high rates of chronic mental health and physical health conditions, as well as co-occurring disorders; our public systems and services must be both effective and responsive to their unique needs. COVID-19 has also exacerbated inequities for Black, Indigenous, and people of color, putting them at further risk of homelessness and in greater need of assistance from the homeless services system.[1]

“Homelessness is already an escalating problem for many communities. We can only expect to see matters become more dire as the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic impacts linger, including what is forecast to be a protracted recession. As communities contend with how best to protect their most vulnerable residents, as well as those that are newly experiencing homelessness, finding effective and equitable solutions to homelessness is vital,” said Ulrich. She says that while the causes and effects of homelessness are often complex, the solution is straightforward: housing.

The challenge is, however, that many communities face extreme shortages of affordable housing and limited resources to fund key housing interventions such as rapid rehousing and permanent supportive housing which can prevent and end homelessness. As a California Bay Area native, a region that has some of the steepest rents and rates of homelessness in the nation, Ulrich has seen the effects firsthand. After earning a law degree, she began working in the Bay Area to provide housing counseling services. She went on to coordinate housing development activities across 10 area counties for the Department of Veterans Affairs, and she later began advising Continuums of Care across the U.S. She also serves as the Policy Chair for the American Public Health Association’s Caucus on Homelessness and on the board for a nonprofit organization addressing food insecurity in New Orleans.

“Through my experience across the country over the past 15 years, I’ve seen how focusing on data-driven, systems-level improvements and best practices can dramatically increase a community’s ability to meet this challenge and effect positive change,” she said. “I am so excited about the potential we have at Civix. Our team is knowledgeable, experienced, and extremely dedicated to providing our public and non-profit sector clients, including Continuums of Care, with exceptional technical assistance and the tools they need to succeed in preventing and ending homelessness.”

For nearly 40 years, local governments, public sector agencies, and organizations have counted on Civix’s (formerly GCR) extensive multidisciplinary expertise to help navigate and identify solutions to the complexity of federal grants management, community planning, project management, and real estate matters. With Ulrich’s addition, the company is broadening its services to include helping communities employ thoughtful and strategic approaches to addressing the urgent challenges of homelessness and housing instability.

“We will apply the same systems and expertise that Civix has become known for in its disaster management and community development work to help communities improve the lives of their most vulnerable members through creating cost-effective, equitable, and efficient housing solutions and systems of care,” she said. “Effectively managing and maximizing resources is important; however, truly centering the voices and perspectives of those with lived experience is key.”

The chief source of funding for many states, local governments, and nonprofit providers to address homelessness is HUD funding, which requires significant capacity and regulatory knowledge for successful administration. As former state government grant and program administrators, best-in-class workflow developers, and planning experts, Civix brings lessons learned and best practices from administering and implementing over $200 billion in federal grants on behalf of communities across the country. Its team is also experienced in combining HUD funds with other sources in compliance with multi-agency regulations, which can translate into maximized housing outcomes.

“We are thrilled to have Allison join our team and open our eyes to how we can apply our resources and expertise to help communities address homelessness,” said Angele Romig, Civix’s President of Land and Grants. “This new service offering is a natural evolution for us and builds on our extensive work delivering strategic and effective solutions for the communities we serve. Whether needing to overcome crises or wanting to realize a brighter future, communities know they can rely on Civix.”

[1] U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Special Needs and Assistance Programs, last accessed on September 21, 2020. For more click here.

>>Read Allison’s Guest Post for the National Public Health Association

>>See the Civix offering to Fight Homelessness