Interagency Council on Homelessness Releases Statement on Rising Rate of Unsheltered Homelessness

The U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) released a statement on May 25 in response to a deepening crisis involving unsheltered homelessness and the spread of encampments. The statement asserts that unsheltered homelessness is being exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and acknowledges that the crisis is growing worse every day. The statement calls on state and local elected officials to refrain from quickly clearing encampments and instead to integrate strategies for addressing unsheltered homelessness into a coordinated, cross-government effort that involves individuals experiencing homelessness themselves and utilizes emerging best practices in outreach, shelter, supportive services, and housing.

The statement also reiterates the negative impact of removing encampments when removal is conducted without offering low-barrier shelter or other housing options. “There are many reasons a person without a home may stay outside rather than in a shelter,” reads the statement. “Local shelters may be full, or the individual may not meet requirements for sobriety and other mandates. They may not want to be separated from family members, partners, or pets. Or they may fear having their belongings lost or stolen. Creating safe, inclusive indoor spaces that address these concerns is crucial. Forcing people to move into a shelter or moving them from place to place without a clear pathway to housing only dissolves trust and leads to personal setbacks.”

In the statement, USICH also announces a new plan to issue guiding principles and practices to help communities address unsheltered homelessness and encampments. These materials will draw on ongoing work being conducted at local levels and serve to collect and share emerging best practices.

Read the statement at: