Two key Housing Forward staff members attended an inaugural event exploring emerging research, innovative strategies, and proven best practices to address homelessness among this specific population. The Solutions for Individual Homeless Adults Conference, presented by the National Alliance to End Homelessness, took place in San Diego, California February 21-23, 2019.
Jessica Ellenwood, Referral Manager with Suburban Cook County Coordinated Entry and Armando Smith, Director of Operations and Client Services, joined stakeholders from around the country to examine what is known about people who are homeless without their families, and to discover new ways to help end their homelessness. Except for smaller subgroups such as veterans and people who are disabled, this large segment is rarely prioritized and seldom receives housing assistance.
A highlight for Jessica was a concert by the Voices of Our City Choir (photo) which was created in response to the housing crisis. The non-profit group created in 2016 now has over 200 members who hold regular, open rehearsals which offer community-building among San Diego's homeless community. The success of the choir is tied to the power of music to reduce stress and increase healing; changing perceptions around the lack of housing; solidarity with others facing extreme hardships, and giving a voice to those who often feel unheard. In addition to being in demand now as performers, more than 30 unsheltered singers have been helped to secure their own housing. The choir is featured in a recent documentary and will be recording an album soon.
Both Jessica and Armando attended a movie screening and Q&A session with actor and filmmaker Emilio Estevez (photo). His movie ‘The Public’ is a fictionalized account of what happens when a librarian turns the Cincinnati Public Library into an impromptu homeless shelter during a brutal cold snap. The movie was at times both funny and poignant, showing the changing role libraries play in communities.
Despite less than ideal weather, the conference was well worth the trip with an agenda of 48 breakout and plenary sessions and networking events. The only downside reported was the difficulty is choosing which sessions to attend. Armando was particularly glad to have heard remarks from Amanda Andere, CEO, Funders Together to End Homelessness--a diverse network of over 230 philanthropic organizations dedicated to preventing and ending homelessness (photo below).
Both staff representatives returned to Housing Forward with new information and solutions for working with those who are unhoused as individuals, including young adults, veterans, and those experiencing chronic homelessness. For more information about the conference or NEAH, visit their website at www.endhomelessness.org.