Jan 09, 2012

Jake Maguire's picture Posted By Jake Maguire

Statewide Efforts Gain Steam in Virginia, Nationally

The Campaign is seeing a new trend in enrollments as more and more communities band together to enroll as states. Already, Louisiana, Virginia, Georgia, and Delaware have signed up with statewide efforts, and several other states are preparing to take this step. Communities that enroll as states agree to work together and coordinate, often through a single statewide player like the governor’s office or a state coalition to end homelessness, to move their most vulnerable residents into permanent housing. The benefits often amount to a “campaign within the Campaign,” as communities learn and teach each other about state-specific resources and processes for maximum effectiveness.

Today, we’re profiling the statewide effort in Virginia, where organizers are learning that it truly does take a village, and sometimes a little push from the statehouse, to change local responses to homelessness. 

Last May, Governor Bob McDonnell signed Executive Order 10 (E.O. 10), implementing Virginia’s new Housing Policy Framework, which calls for a 15% reduction in homelessness by 2013.  E.O. 10 has resulted in partnerships between state agencies, local communities, local and regional governments, private and nonprofit entities and the federal government.  What we’re seeing out of Virginia shows that when groups get together to coordinate efforts, they can expand the boundaries of what is possible.

The Virginia Coalition to End Homelessness (VCEH) has been working on issues of homelessness since 1984 and is the only statewide agency working on these issues.  The coalition works to build community capacity to advance long-term solutions through education and advocacy.  With a shared goal, VCEH felt coordinating efforts between communities and the state government would lead to more effective and efficient results. So, the group volunteered to coordinate the statewide 100,000 Homes Campaign effort.

VCEH’s Executive Director, Phyllis Chamberlain, previously served as the Director of Field Mobilization for the National Alliance to End Homelessness, a post that made her well aware of the 100,000 Homes Campaign. The Campaign’s goals clearly aligned with VCEH’s efforts and E.O. 10, but the coalition knew the campaign would be ineffective unless it had the support of local communities.  So, before joining the campaign as a state – the group went to work building the interest and support of various communities across Virginia. 

“Virginia is a large state, but it’s unique because it doesn’t have any major metropolitan cities like other states across the country,” explains Policy and Program Manager Robin Gahan. “Because of this, Virginia has a real local feel.”           

Gahan and her colleagues knew that an effective approach in Chicago or New York City might need to look a little different in Virginia.  They encouraged communities to exercise autonomy in tailoring the Campaign to their local needs. VCEH has made sure to provide assistance, but they are finding that what works best for their statewide effort is to make sure that local communities are steering the ship as much as possible.

From the looks of it, this approach is proving successful.  In the spring of 2011, after devoting several months to building community interest and support for the campaign, and after bringing several communities to a 100,000 Homes Campaign Registry Week Boot Camp, Virginia joined the 100,000 Homes Campaign under the name, 1,000 Homes for 1,000 Virginians.  Concurrent with Virginia joining as a state, Richmond signed on as the state’s first Campaign community.  Through coordinated efforts on the part of VCEH, Community Solutions, and local communities, nine cities in Virginia are now a part of the statewide fight to end homelessness.

Current member communities include: Arlington County, Martinsville, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Prince William County, Richmond, Roanoke, Virginia Beach and the Virginia Peninsula!

Stay tuned to hear more about other statewide Campaign efforts.

To consider enrolling your community as a state, contact Linda Kaufman (eastern US) or Mike Shore (western US)!

-Whitney Howard