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Erika C. Poethig, Acting Assistant Secretary for Policy Development and Research

Message from the Acting Assistant Secretary

As HUD’s new Acting Assistant Secretary for Policy Development and Research (PD&R), it is my pleasure to present the fifth issue of Evidence Matters. With former Assistant Secretary of PD&R Raphael Bostic deciding to return home to Los Angeles and the academic world, it’s a bittersweet debut.

Whether it’s developing a comprehensive monthly Housing Scorecard, overseeing a historic lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender housing discrimination study, or bringing the way HUD affirmatively furthers fair housing into the 21st century, Raphael has made evidence-based policymaking integral to PD&R and HUD. But even more, he’s shaped how this administration responds to challenges such as poverty and promotes opportunity for all Americans in new and important ways. His wit and intellect will be sorely missed.

In his time here, Raphael put HUD at the forefront of research into housing and social policy. As a consequence, one of his most profound legacies was ensuring that HUD has a seat at the table in the Obama administration’s critical interagency work. Nowhere is that impact clearer than for the challenge that is the subject of this issue of Evidence Matters: the fight to end homelessness.

HUD has been able to prevent or end homelessness for 1.3 million people through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. And we’ve already housed more than 30,000 veterans through interagency partnerships such as HUD-VASH, which combines rental assistance through HUD’s Housing Choice Voucher program with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA’s) case management and clinical services.

With the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness’ Opening Doors, we’ve forged a historic partnership across 19 different federal agencies to create the first-ever federal strategic plan to prevent and end homelessness. The most advanced research on homelessness shows us that homelessness cuts across traditional program silos. Whether they involve public health, public safety issues such as domestic violence, or the social and educational outcomes of children, the links between homelessness and other critical social problems are well understood by the research community and demand an interagency response.

The existing research on homelessness as a platform for social service intervention is a full decade ahead of other research on housing as a platform for better life outcomes. In the following pages, you’ll read about research from the mental health community that links access to quality housing with positive health outcomes, as well as Dennis Culhane’s hallmark effort demonstrating that combining housing and supportive services not only led to better outcomes for the homeless but also saved taxpayer money. The sophistication of these data has had real consequences for public policy in the Obama administration. Initiatives to combat homelessness are among the few to receive increased funding in this difficult budget environment; HUD’s Homeless Assistance Grants, for example, grew by 14 percent in the administration’s first budget and have maintained this funding level in subsequent years.

It’s instructive that in recent years, most of the studies that have taught us about the connections between housing and health have come not from journals focused on housing or social policy but from premier medical journals. Research into housing as a platform is giving us not only important new data but also a new community to talk to, whether it’s doctors, medical researchers, or public health professionals.

Clearly, the days of homelessness research being developed, conducted, and discussed solely by and among “housers” have long passed. That’s why HUD’s work to stay on the cutting edge of homelessness research is so important, and why a cross-agency, cross-disciplinary approach must stay at the heart of our research agenda. PD&R is moving forward with studying emerging trends in homelessness, from the rise in family homelessness to the uptick in homelessness among young people. We’re also continuing to explore and deepen our partnerships with other agencies such as VA and the U.S. Department of Education.

As we work to build richer data resources across the federal government, one of the tasks ahead is to promote the same innovative research at the state and local level, looking at the outcomes of housing plus education, housing plus financial services, and other potential connections through which housing can be leveraged to improve the quality of people’s lives.

As homelessness policy has shown us for years, public policy informed by quality research can lead to truly remarkable outcomes. As we continue to forge new paths in homelessness research, I’m excited to see where the evidence takes us.

— Erika C. Poethig, Acting Assistant Secretary for Policy Development and Research


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