An picture of a D.C street

The Washington scene changes from week to week.This week it was the Renaissance Hotel that underwent a transformation, playing host to the National Conference on Ending Homelessness. This huge three-day affair, organized by the National Alliance to End Homelessness Conference offers nonprofits, researchers and advocates from across the country a chance to exchange ideas about programs that states and counties can adopt in keeping with a challenging national commitment made four years ago to end of chronic homelessness in America by 2015.

I attended the conference as a representative of the People for Fairness Coalition (PFC), a self-advocacy group which holds its weekly meetings Miriam’s Kitchen. At the conference I joined crowds of other representatives from many cities, eager to learn about the new strategies to address homelessness. One workshop that impressed me centered around how service providers, government and everyone in between should use accurate data to state their cases, whether in seeking funding or making statements to the public. I could feel the speaker’s message loud and clear.

At another, I listened as representatives from housing authorities gave their suggestions on how to move forward with creative solutions to homelessness. One powerful speaker explained how her housing authority is harnessing Temporary Assistance for Needy Families funds to get families into housing. I was amazed by the many policies and initiatives. And I was grateful to hear folks from other cities say how impressed they were to learn about Washington’s self-advocacy groups including PFC. The only city that had anything close was Portland, Maine.

The conference ended with a huge rally held to bring attention to cuts to U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development programs due to federal budget sequestration. After talking with a group from Philadelphia, I ended up missing the rally, which was a big disappointment. But, I still had a wonderful time.

I left the conference feeling deep gratitude to the Alliance and the many communities that want to see an end to homelessness. That goal is something I see as sacred and important, believing as I do that housing is a human right.