Using Technology & Innovative Partnerships to Bring Federal Leadership Together Around Youth Homelessness

OUR OWN ERIN SORENSON WITH THE HHS TEAM BEFORE THE EVENT

OUR OWN ERIN SORENSON WITH THE HHS TEAM BEFORE THE EVENT

Imagine watching The Homestretch “in a room together” with 700 policy makers, advocates and educators from every region in the country—all dedicated to building new collaborations to address the problem of youth homelessness.  What if senior officials from all the different federal agencies whose work intersects with the issue were there with you, using the film as a means to examine and explore government and community response to youth homelessness?  And what if those same officials were available afterwards to spontaneously answer questions directly from street outreach advocates, counselors, teachers and the youth themselves?  This is exactly what happened on November 17th, in our Impact Campaign's most ambitious and far-reaching effort to date.  

A live audience of policy officials begins to arrive at The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in Washington DC

A live audience of policy officials begins to arrive at The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in Washington DC

Working closely with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and PBS/ITVS, The Homestretch was the centerpiece of a coordinated nation-wide screening and discussion event designed to bring deeper focus and attention to the crisis of youth homelessness in all ten regional HHS offices, while allowing for online participation by hundreds of additional stakeholders around the country. 

"This afternoon is a bit of a grand experiment where we're going to have a moment in time where we're building a community across the country - all engaged and trying to end youth and family homelessness" -- Raphael Lopez, Commissioner of the Administration on Children, Youth and Families at HHS, introducing the film to audiences watching around the country.

Watching the film's simultaneous screenings in HHS Region 3, Philadelphia and HHS Region 2, New York City

Watching the film's simultaneous screenings in HHS Region 3, Philadelphia and HHS Region 2, New York City

The seed for this coordinated, multi-city event was planted last spring, when we worked with HHS to host a groundbreaking inter-agency policy screening and discussion that brought together senior leadership from multiple Federal agencies in Washington, DC to have a candid discussion about how they could work together better to address this crisis.  Nine months later, thanks to funding from The Fledgling Fund and technology provided by ITVS's online video platform OVEE, we took that important conversation and expanded it nationwide, with unprecedented, simultaneous screenings and a true national discussion with stakeholders in ten federally designated regions across the U.S.  After the national discussion, the regions turned the focus back on themselves and continued the discussion locally with their own panels and events.  Organizations and individuals who were unable to attend a live event were able to fully participate in the broadcast and national panel online through the OVEE technology.

The online OVEE platform allowed hundreds of remote users to watch and discuss as well.

The online OVEE platform allowed hundreds of remote users to watch and discuss as well.

Over 500 people attended live screening and discussion events in the regions, while a total of 322 others participated in the event online through OVEE.  But far more than the numbers, it was the targeted nature of these audiences that made this conversation so important.  Participants included senior policy makers from HHS, the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Administration for Children Youth and Families, Family and Youth Service Bureau, as well as local elected officials, agency staff, agency grantees, homeless coalitions, non-profits, educators, and other stakeholders.  

Following the screening, Tina Kelley (former New York Times reporter and co-author of Almost Home) moderates a national panel, being streamed live from HHS headquarters in Washington, DC. Panel from left to right: William Bentley, Robert Listenbee,  Sarah Hunter, Matthew Doherty, Kelly Fitzpatrick

Following the screening, Tina Kelley (former New York Times reporter and co-author of Almost Home) moderates a national panel, being streamed live from HHS headquarters in Washington, DC. Panel from left to right: William Bentley, Robert Listenbee,  Sarah Hunter, Matthew Doherty, Kelly Fitzpatrick

"One of the key things I take away from The Homestretch documentary, which is a really powerful piece, is how these youth are navigating themselves through opportunity to opportunity trying to figure out what's going to stick, what's going to work for them and we're putting all of the responsibility on the youth. We need to flip that responsibility and be making sure that as communities, as systems, and as agencies and organizations, we're taking on that responsibility for determining the full range of opportunities that need to be available and not leaving it to each youth owns skills at navigating to be able to assure whether were connecting them to a right intervention or not."-- Matthew Doherty, Executive Director, U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness

"Obviously, we have to do better. It's not acceptable for our young people to live this way. We have a moral obligation to ensure that we have the appropriate resources that we can direct towards their support. I also think that it's important for us to work with them to develop the services and supports that they need as opposed to doing it for them. Young people will tell you they know what they want. Most of the time, their challenge is figuring out ways to work the very systems that we operate at the federal level, the state level, and the local level. " -- William Bentley, Associate Commissioner, FYSB

Click here to read the full Washington DC panel discussion transcript.

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Panel discussions in New York (HHS Region 2) and San Francisco (HHS Region 9), the Mayor speaking in Kansas City (HHS Region 7), and an internal staff meeting in Dallas (HHS Region 6) were just some of the targeted local events which followed the screening and national panel discussion.  

Coordinating this multi-city event involving simultaneous online and live events took over six months of intense planning and would not have been possible without deep, working partnerships between The Homestretch impact campaign team (headed by Impact Producer Erin Sorenson and filmmakers Anne de Mare and Kirsten Kelly); William Bentley, Karal Busch and Curtis Porter of the Family & Youth Services Bureau of HHS; and Chi Do, Renee Gasch and Robin Suchman of ITVS's outreach and technology departments, as well as the visionary support of The Fledgling Fund.  Huge thanks to everyone who made this event such a success!