Q&A: Barbara Poppe, United States Interagency Council on Homelessness

Photograph of Barbara Poppe.

Last week, we highlighted a recent webinar by Barbara Poppe, executive director of the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness. Titled “Ending Youth Homelessness by 2020,” the webinar detailed the efforts of Opening Doors, the first federal program aimed at preventing and ending homelessness.

After the webinar, NCFY spoke with Poppe to learn more.

NCFY: Opening Doors is committed to ending chronic and veterans’ homelessness by 2015. Why will youth and family homelessness take an additional five years?

BARBARA POPPE: When the program launched last June, there was already a trend of reductions in chronic and veterans’ homelessness over the last decade. The Opening Doors plan incorporated those goals and decided we could reach our goal by 2015.

Whereas family homelessness has actually been on the rise for the last few years because of the recession putting more families at risk. And our administration just began work on family homelessness through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

The issue of youth homelessness is further complicated because there’s even less of a data foundation to build on than there was for family homelessness.

There’s not even agreement about what age group is considered “youth.”

NCFY: What are the main obstacles for the goal of ending youth and family homelessness by 2020?

POPPE: In addition to our lack of concrete definitions, there hasn’t been a consensus built about evidence and best practices, either. We’re trying to build our understanding of what exactly we know, and identify the best practices. So one obstacle is getting all the groups that advocate for homeless youth to come together and align their efforts.

A second issue is creating the small-p political will to align all the fragmented resources to make progress.

The third one is getting the best practices “up to scale”— replicating the best practices in programs across the country.

NCFY: How can youth workers stay up to date on the progress of Opening Doors?

POPPE: Certainly the first way is through the Opening Doors website and our social media platforms.

The second is youth.gov, the joint website of all the federal agencies who are working on youth issues.

And the third place is the National Alliance to End Homelessness, who have taken a particular interest in youth over the last year or so.

NCFY: So how can organizations participate in the campaign to end youth homelessness by 2020?

POPPE: Participate in your local homelessness management information system (HMIS), and participate in point-in-time counts, which usually occur in the last week of January.

But also get involved in the local continuum of care and the local efforts to end homelessness. We encourage the larger communities in particular to develop their own plan to end youth homelessness. Providers should be at the table to help create that, but they have to work with their partners within the child welfare, housing, and human services systems. We have to get communities interested in their own plan to get them on board with ours.

Related resources:

NCFY's summary of the webinar

Opening Doors website


National Alliance to End Homelessness


9-5 pm Eastern