Racism, equity, policy are key topics at HFPC 2021

Screenshot of a virtual auditorium with two men on a splitscreen
DESC’s Daniel Malone and Pathways Housing First’s Sam Tsemberis address the audience in the virtual auditorium during HFPC 2021, held April 20-21.

DESC’s latest production of the biennial Housing First Partners Conference concluded this week with another successful edition, this time virtual.

DESC and our partner Pathways Housing First brought together over 1,300 people from around the country and 13 other nations to listen to each other and discuss the range of issues most important to Housing First practice, including racism, equity, federal policy and harm reduction. DESC’s Executive Coordinator Maria Jacinto coordinates the conference alongside our conference managers from Horizon Meeting Management and Sound Thinking.

A major takeaway from the conference this time was the continued commitment of so many people to Housing First’s core principles of accepting people as they are and providing people with what they need for a satisfying life as they determine it.

Significant content, including the powerful opening plenary, addressed the effects of racism and what the Housing First field needs to be doing to eliminate it. Panelists Amanda Misiko Andere, CEO of Funders Together to End Homelessness, Colleen Echohawk, Executive Director of Chief Seattle Club and founder of the Coalition to End Urban Native Homelessness, Peggy Bailey, Senior Advisor to the Secretary of the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, and Arthur Evans, CEO of the American Psychological Association held a candid and at times deeply personal conversation that was moving and inspiring to conference goers.

The conference featured an array of notable nonprofit leaders, activists, medical experts and government representatives, including keynote speakers U.S. Representative Pramila Jayapal on “The View from Congress: Advocacy and Federal Policy Related to Homelessness and Housing First,” and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia Fudge.

First held in 2012, the conference aims to further conversation among practitioners about Housing First as a proven model for ending homelessness for those with chronic health conditions and long stints of street homelessness. Housing First has been increasingly supported and implemented in crisis response and homeless systems, interventions and as an overall community approach to addressing homelessness.

The pandemic canceled the March 2020 conference, planned for Seattle. Each conference has been bigger and better than the last, and this year’s conference was the biggest yet.

“I was surprised at how well it went, and the engagement of the participants on the virtual platform,” said DESC Executive Director Daniel Malone.

Both Daniel and Maria were inspired by this statement by Funders Together to End Homelessness CEO Amanda Misiko Andere that so captures the spirit of Housing First: “We meet people where they are, but we can’t leave them where we found them.”

We plan to share video and audio with you at a future date. To see a list of some of the workshops and speakers, please visit HFPC Program.