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Biden administration launches new effort to get homeless people off the streets

FILE - A homeless person's tent sits on a bridge over the 110 Freeway in Los Angeles, Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2022. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)
FILE - A homeless person's tent sits on a bridge over the 110 Freeway in Los Angeles, Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2022. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)
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The federal government is trying to streamline efforts to get homeless people off the streets in six key locations.

The Biden administration announced an initiative called ALL Inside on Thursday as the next step in its strategy to reduce homelessness by a quarter over the next couple of years.

The administration says it will provide tailored support to local officials to reduce unsheltered homelessness in Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, the Phoenix metro, Seattle, and the state of California.

California accounts for half of all unsheltered people in the country.

Susan Rice, the president's domestic policy advisor, said during a launch event for ALL Inside that the nation’s homelessness challenge has its roots in an inadequate supply of housing.

She said there are around 580,000 homeless Americans, and about four of 10 are unsheltered. Those are folks living on the streets, in tent encampments, in abandoned buildings or other places not intended for long-term habitation.

Unsheltered homelessness increased by 3.4% between 2020 and 2022, according to government figures.

Rice said things like job training and mental health for homeless people can be better addressed once they have adequate shelter.

"We know we can’t meaningfully address our nation's homelessness problem without a distinct focus on unsheltered homelessness, and that’s what we're unveiling today," she said.

Rice called the ALL Inside launch an "all-hands-on-deck moment," and she said the federal government will offer these six locations "knowledge, resources and elbow grease" to tackle their homelessness problems.

A dedicated federal official will be embedded in each location for up to two years to accelerate local strategies.

And dedicated teams from the federal government will help these locations cut through red tape – identify opportunities for regulatory relief and flexibilities, as they put it – and tap into federal funds to get people off the streets.

The U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness and 19 federal member agencies will take part in the initiative, offering various forms of assistance towards housing, health care and other needs of unsheltered people.

For example, multiple agencies, including Veterans Affairs and the Social Security Administration, will help homeless people obtain government-issued identification and other critical documents.

VA Secretary Denis McDonough, who is also the chair of the Interagency Council on Homelessness, said there’s been significant progress in reducing homelessness among veterans. He said there’s been a 55% drop since 2010.

But he said there are still over 33,000 homeless veterans, and he said the ALL Inside effort will help.

Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass called the collaboration “historic” and said she’s hopeful it will help streamline the process of finding housing for some of her city’s 47,000 homeless people.

Bass said they’ve been eliminating street encampments by moving people into motels. So far, over 1,200 people have been moved, but they have run into a bottleneck in progressing people to permanent supportive housing.

“I think we can do some groundbreaking work that can really provide a model for other cities and states experiencing homelessness,” the mayor said during the launch event.

Philanthropy and the private sector will have a role to play in the ALL Inside effort, according to the administration.

That’s vital, according to Donald Whitehead Jr., the executive director of the National Coalition for the Homeless.

"I think it's incredibly important, because the nonprofits will be actually providing the services on the ground," Whitehead said Friday. "So, those closest to the problem are closest to the solution."

His group has a field office in Los Angeles, and they work closely with the Interagency Council on Homelessness.

Whitehead applauded the ALL Inside initiative as a good start and hopes it will help break down bureaucratic barriers and expedite services.

He also said it’s smart to leverage expertise at the federal level to help local communities.

Whitehead said he thinks this effort could help beyond the six locations directly involved.

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"It hopefully is a pilot that will expand," he said. "I'm very hopeful that this isn't a one-off, that this initiative actually expands to the entire country. Because these are some of the places where homelessness is most visible, but it exists across the United States."