More than 100 housing and homeless service providers from 44 non-profit and governmental organizations turned out for HomeAid Northern Virginia’s Annual Housing Forum last week, sharing experiences and strategies for addressing the complex needs of—and finding solutions for—homelessness in the region. HomeAid national partner Bank of America was the Presenting Sponsor of the Forum for the third year in a row, and HANV Board member and Bank of America VP Greg Carter talked about the Bank’s partnership with HomeAid. Brookfield Residential, also a national HomeAid partner, was the Venue Sponsor for the event.
Samantha Batko, director of the Homelessness Research Institute – National Alliance to End Homelessness, kicked off the morning with a fascinating and informative historical analysis of regional homelessness rates over the past decade, which since 2010 to 2016 have shown a 14 percent drop in overall homelessness. Batko shared her views on the four beliefs that she views are key to ending chronic homelessness: rapid rehousing works; assessing and prioritizing need is critical; the value of local data and planning cannot be overstated; and the value of community-based partnerships and services will create and build a supportive community.
A panel discussion moderated by Karen Cleveland followed, featuring Jon Frederick of Alexandria Housing Development Corporation, Meghan Huebner of The Alternative House, Meredith McKeen of Northern Virginia Family Service, Ben Noll of Friendship Place, and Shannon Steene, Carpenter’s Shelter. This panel provided real-world advice on a wide range of issues, including working with young adults who are survivors of domestic violence but are still recovering from their childhood trauma, collaborating between jurisdictions for veterans, building relationships with multiple boards and government entities for the greater good, and working with individuals who have insufficient income, addiction, or eviction records.
Later, attendees broke into roundtable discussion groups to debate topics such as implementing coordinated entry; landlord engagement; immigration orders and resources for the homeless community; resource gaps and needs; aging populations and housing needs; and coordinating advocacy efforts.
Overall, the Forum was overwhelmingly rated by attendees as valuable to very valuable, with attendees calling the 2017 Forum the best and strongest in three years and giving extra kudos to the speakers, topic choices, the wealth of information provided about upcoming projects, and the presence of a State Representative, who was able to provide government context for much of the discussion.