Back to School for Homeless Children by Tanya Tull

In 1998,  I first heard Tanya Tull speak about “Housing First”, and I was just blown away.  For a growing number of years, I was increasingly uneasy with policies created in DC or Harrisburg or City Hall because they were unintentionally making homelessness an “acceptable condition” in our society while simultaneously institutionalizing an expensive system which was centered on the maintenance of homelessness, not its eradication.  Her keen insight again reminds us in August of painful challenges homeless children will face in a week or so….phyllis ryanjackson

Summer is drawing to a close – and school is starting up in communities across the country.  I can’t help but think about the hundreds and thousands of children and youth who will be enrolling in new schools, away from friends and teachers they have known, simply because they have lost the housing they were in at school’s end last June.  For some, relatives or friends with whom they had been staying temporarily have asked them to “move on,” and so they have – to shelters, to motels, to other relatives or friends – or parents have dispersed their children among various relatives who can take a child or two, but not the entire family.  The good news is that the entire homeless services system for families with children is slowly beginning to turn around, partly because the “housing first” approach makes better sense than “services first,” but also because a transformation of the Continuum of Care to this approach is now mandated by the HEARTH Act. For a great overview of how and why “housing first” has emerged to the forefront, I recommend this article recently published  in Shelterforce (Spring 2012), a publication of the National Housing Institute – “Housing First”.

As many people know, Beyond Shelter is credited with development of the first “housing first” program in the country - in 1988.  Over the next 15 years, we worked proactively to both test and refine the basic methodology as pertains to ending family homelessness – and to share the basic model across the country.  We are deeply grateful to the National Alliance to End Homelessness ( for both supporting our early efforts and then taking up the fight to promote systems change on a national scale.

Partnering for Change is an evolution of Beyond Shelter’s Institute for Research, Training & Technical Assistance. With years of experience behind us, we are dedicated to assisting organizations in learning more about the “nuts and bolts” of  Housing First for families, particularly for those with multiple problems, including families who have been labeled “chronically homeless.”  We will be conducting introductory webinars on Housing First periodically during the year – and will also modify the basic presentation to meet local needs, upon request.  Meanwhile, we invite you to register for the next  introductory webinar on Housing First, to be conducted on September 5, 2012, 10:00 A.M. Pacific Standard Time.  For more information and to register, please go to workshops/training.


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