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Obama to integrate services to help homeless

WASHINGTON - Better coordination among the many agencies that try to help homeless people find employment and health care as well as stable places to live is a central component for reaching the Obama administration's ambitious goal of ultimately ending homelessness.

A proposal announced yesterday at the White House by cabinet officers, called "Opening Doors," suggests a major shift in the federal approach to homelessness. The effort would be driven mainly by integration of support services and applying state and local models at the federal level, according to the federal Interagency Council on Homelessness.

The effort calls for ending chronic homelessness, in which people cycle through shelters and hospitals, and homelessness among military veterans in five years, and for ending homelessness among families and children by 2020. The plan aims eventually to end all types of homelessness.

Funding for the effort includes some of the $2 billion in stimulus money allocated last year to the 19 federal agencies in the council. The money is in addition to $3.79 billion budgeted for such services in 2010.

The Obama administration is seeking $4.2 billion for the council's agencies in fiscal 2011, including money specific to the new plan's initiatives, said Jason Kravitz, a council spokesman.

Providing the resources to end homelessness will be cheaper for taxpayers than continuing to have people cycle through shelters and hospitals, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan said.

Vouchers for more than 2 million low-income families and affordable rental units for another 1 million low-income households are planned or are already being implemented. Services are offered specifically for homeless women who are veterans.

Nan Roman, president of the National Alliance to End Homelessness, said she expects the Obama administration's plan to yield results similar to those of the Bush administration, under which chronic homelessness fell 30 percent since 2006.

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