Letter From Our CEO: The Power of Learning | October 2017

Bobby Watts


Bobby Watts, CEO of the National HCH Council

Dear Friends,

The National Health Care for the Homeless Council recently held a weeklong series of meetings from October 2-6 in Nashville, TN, for our Organizational Members and other attendees. I was privileged to attend this gathering of nearly 100 clinicians, consumers, advocates, and administrators, and, to me, the experience underscored just how important those in the Health Care for the Homeless (HCH) community are to each other. We held a great Fall Training Symposium on October 4th with clinical, advocacy, and administrative workshops on topics such as the opioid epidemic, storytelling, and leadership in challenging times.

Based on the post-event evaluations, I and nearly all others learned a great deal, whether one was new to the HCH movement or had decades of tenure in the field. What strikes me as I reflect upon that time is that we had very few outside presenters—almost all the wisdom and experience came from within our HCH community. We have a tremendous store of knowledge, and part of the job of the National HCH Council is to bring that information out so that we can benefit from one another’s experience.

We are currently preparing for our preeminent gathering for learning—our 2018 National Health Care for the Homeless Conference & Policy Symposium, which will be held from May 15-18 in Minneapolis, MN. The theme of HCH2018 is Community, and we hope you will join others in the HCH community at our Conference to get renewed, get equipped, and learn from others. However, I hope you will not only come to learn, but also consider coming to teach some of the lessons you’ve learned about community: our Call for Proposals for HCH2018 is open, and submissions are due SOON—the deadline is Friday, October 27th.

In this issue of Council News, you will find materials from our Fall Training Symposium, an archived Council webinar on street medicine, and a new publication from the Kaiser Family Foundation on changes in veterans’ health coverage co-written by the Council’s Senior Policy Director Barbara DiPietro.

One of the most moving times for me at our recent Leadership Summit was hearing the experiences of our colleagues in areas affected by this season’s hurricanes. We heard from and about our colleagues’ experiences in Houston, Miami, and Orlando, but, unfortunately, not much information was available from Puerto Rico. These HCH programs responded heroically, helping to get those living on the streets to safe shelter before the storms arrived, as well as attending to the needs of the multitudes that were newly homeless and those who were experiencing homelessness before the storms. Some HCH facilities were damaged, and some staff suffered property damage—but still they served others in the time of their greatest need. The Council has a great body of literature about addressing the needs of people without homes before, during, and after natural disasters—and our collective knowledge has increased during the recent crises, including the horrendous fires in California and the Northwest. We have seen the need for policy changes in how people without homes are treated in the leadup to and aftermath of these disasters.

The Council will continue to help gather and share our collective wisdom about responding to natural disasters and the man-made disaster of homelessness as we continue to learn—together.

In Solidarity,


Bobby Watts

Chief Executive Officer
National Health Care for the Homeless Council
(615) 226-2292
bwatts@nhchc.org