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Rhode Island: Leading the Way toward Ending Homelessness

Earlier this month, Rhode Island built on national momentum to staff the Rhode Island Interagency Council on Homelessness. 

For nearly ten years, communities around the country have developed plans to end homelessness. Sadly, some of those plans sat on a shelf without action or results or had early results and then fizzled out. But the homelessness and housing community has gotten a wave of new energy and support from the new leadership at the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness. Under the guidance of Barbara Poppe, USICH has issued its own plan (which just celebrated its first anniversary) and this in turn has encouraged states to reinvigorate and move forward on their plans-and it’s been exciting to see the progress.

Setting an Example

Earlier this month, Rhode Island built on that momentum as Governor Lincoln Chafee signed a Memorandum of Agreement with CSH and three funders (the Rhode Island Foundation, United Way of Rhode Island and Rhode Island Housing) to staff the Rhode Island Interagency Council on Homelessness. The MOA shows the state’s commitment to implementing their plan and it builds a roadmap for how to do it.

Rhode Island is investing in the human capital needed to end homelessness, with a smart collaboration among government, philanthropy and nonprofits. Governor Chafee has taken on the responsibility to build the political will needed to fight and win the battle against homelessness. And the funding partners are demonstrating how philanthropic support can drive action on plans to end homelessness.

This isn’t the first time Rhode Island’s funder community has been a lever for innovation in solving homelessness. In 2004, the United Way of Rhode Island gathered stakeholders to determine how to focus funds to have the greatest impact on housing and homelessness. CSH worked hard to convince the group to back a Housing First pilot, which they did. And with matching funds leveraged from the State, the result was 150 people moving from shelter to permanent supportive housing.

CSH is proud to continue our role in Rhode Island’s efforts as a partner in this new Agreement. As we do in other parts of the country, we’ll help the state make meaningful progress on its plan by providing expertise in local, state and national models for creating systems change, and working closely with the Governor’s office to increase the understanding of homeless populations and the programs available to assist them.

Together, we are setting the standard for systems change that will be replicated across the country. I’m confident that through smart collaboration around affordable and supportive housing, our shared vision of a state that ends homelessness for every man, woman and child will be achieved. I believe Bob Hohler, late of Melville Charitable Trust, would be proud to see where his original investment in CSH to set up the Rhode Island office has led.

Deborah De Santis is President and CEO of the Corporation for Supportive Housing.


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-Christine Marge, Director of Housing and Financial Stability at United Way of Greater Los Angeles

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Very often a lack of jobs and money is not the cause of poverty, but the symptom. The cause may lie deeper in our failure to give our fellow citizens a fair chance to develop their own capacities, in a lack of education and training, in a lack of medical care and housing, in a lack of decent communities in which to live and bring up their children.

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