Ending Homelessness Today
The official blog of the National Alliance to End Homelessness
Homelessness Doesn’t Discriminate
August 21, 2014
Have you seen this video yet? I wouldn’t be surprised if you have. It went viral not long ago. As of this writing it has almost three million views. So lots of people have seen it, shared it, and, I would venture, watched it multiple times. I know I have.
The video, a promotional tool for the “Rethink Homelessness” campaign, depicts actual homeless people holding cardboard signs bearing startling facts about their lives. And while it’s tempting to criticize the video because it perpetuates a stereotype, the video also forces its viewers to acknowledge the humanity of the people many choose to regard merely as a disquieting fixture of urban life.
About 610,000 people experience homelessness on a given day in this country, and no, most of them are not standing on sidewalks holding cardboard signs, panhandling. Many are in shelters; many are living in their cars; many are depleting the savings they amassed while not homeless; and many more are subsisting on homeless services while working hard to lift themselves out of homelessness.
Still, it’s a stereotype that is based on the reality of a minority of homeless people in big cities resorting to this method of calling attention to their desperate situation. Here in D.C. I see it every day on my commute to the office: veterans, mothers, teenagers, and the chronically homeless with their cardboard signs, just blocks away from the White House.
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Why Housing First Benefits Everyone (Not Just Homeless People)
August 20, 2014
Since the first Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress in 2007, the number of people experiencing homelessness on a given night has decreased by 9 percent. That’s almost 62,000 people. To what can we attribute this considerable decrease?
Since the majority of the decline occurred between 2010 and 2013, following the implementation of the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program (HPRP), it’s safe to say Housing First had a lot to do with it. Getting homeless people back into housing as quickly as possible, without requiring them to meet preconditions such as employment, income, absence of criminal record, or sobriety, is a key element of the Housing First approach and the rapid re-housing model. And it’s reducing homelessness.
At our 2014 National Conference earlier this month, several experts speaking in the “Research on the Efficacy of Housing First” workshop discussed the effectiveness of Housing First and how the approach doesn’t just help reduce overall homelessness, but also improves provider-consumer interactions, increases housing stability, and saves money.
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How Can RRH Providers Better Serve Survivors of Domestic Violence?
August 19, 2014
If you attended our 2014 National Conference on Ending Homelessness, you were probably overwhelmed by the sheer number of workshops. With 90 workshops and almost 300 presenters, it was impossible to catch them all. But I did get a chance to sit in on several great rapid re-housing workshops and listen to some pretty talented folks talking about their programs and research.
One workshop I found particularly powerful was “Providing Rapid Re-housing for Victims of Domestic Violence.” You can access all of the presenter’s presentations here, but in this blog post I’d like to draw attention to some points from the presentation by Kris Billhardt, of Home Free in Oregon, “Rapid Re-Housing with DV Survivors: Approaches that Work.” You can find her presentation here, as well as embedded directly below.
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HUD Secretary Julián Castro’s Keynote Remarks, 2014 National Conference on Ending Homelessness
August 18, 2014
These are the keynote remarks delivered by the Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Julián Castro on the second day of our 2014 National Conference on Ending Homelessness, July 30, 2014. You can also find them on the HUD website.
Thank you very much, Laura (Zeilinger), for your kind introduction.
More importantly, thank you for your leadership at the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness. Getting 19 federal agencies on the same page isn't always easy work.
But you've done an excellent job of bringing everyone together to advance common goals. I applaud all your efforts and look forward to working with you, and my colleagues in the Cabinet, as I take my seat on the Council.
I'd also like to thank Nan Roman, and the entire team at the Alliance, for their extraordinary leadership over the years.
Your compassion for people-and passion for justice-has made an incredible difference. I value all your work and thank you for inviting me today.
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The Homeless Children and Youth Act: Does It Address the Real Problem?
August 14, 2014
Tens of thousands of families with children and unaccompanied youth go unsheltered every night in this country. They are homeless, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has programs to respond to their crises. But they are not getting the help they need because there is not enough money to serve them all.
At the same time, there are millions more families, children, and youth who are housed every night, but not stably or affordably so. They need help to pay for their housing, and HUD has rental assistance that would solve their problems. But only one in four who is eligible will get that assistance, because, again, there is not enough money to serve them all.
Neither literally homeless nor poorly housed youth or families with children are getting the help they need because both homeless services program and housing assistance programs are severely underfunded.
This is why it is perplexing that a new bill, The Homeless Children and Youth Act (S.2653), proposes to solve the problem of youth and families with children who are homeless or who lack affordable housing by expanding the definition of homelessness to vastly increase the number of people who are eligible for HUD’s crisis homeless assistance. But this bill makes these changes without providing any additional resources.
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Alliance President Keynote Remarks, 2014 National Conference on Ending Homelessness
August 13, 2014
These are the keynote remarks delivered by Alliance President and CEO Nan Roman on the first day of our 2014 National Conference on Ending Homelessness, July 29, 2014.
Thank you all so much for being here today. We have a full conference ahead of us, thanks to our unbelievable roster of keynote speakers, including First Lady Michelle Obama, Senator Cory Booker, and HUD Secretary Julián Castro. We have three transformative ideas from three innovative plenary speakers who are changing business as usual in their respective fields. We have nearly 300 workshop speakers ranging from federal officials and people who are or have been homeless, to local policy makers and the most talented housing and services providers and national organization leaders in the country. We have a little time to celebrate those of you who got over 100,000 of the nation’s most vulnerable people off the streets and out of shelters, and into housing with the services they need. I mean of course the fantastic work of all the communities that participated in the 100,000 Homes Campaign!
But most importantly, we have all of you: over 1,600 activists, advocates, learners and teachers with thousands of years of cumulative experience; thousands of questions about what you can do better, extra, different, and smarter; and thousands of answers. You have taken your extraordinarily valuable time and resources to come here to learn, share, and get to know each other. Thank you for being here. Thank you from the bottoms of our hearts, for everything you do.
In taking stock of where we stand on homelessness – what is going on in communities and in Washington and how we might be able to move forward – there are a few things that I want to reflect upon with you today.
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Here’s Video of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Speech from our 2014 National Conference
August 11, 2014
During our last conference, we had a phenomenal lineup of speakers: the new Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey, and of course First Lady Michelle Obama herself.
We were so honored to host such respected and influential national figures, and so heartened that they would stand with us in our commitment to end homelessness.
Even before conference was over, attendees and other people following the conference over social media were already clamoring for us to make video of the speakers’ remarks available online. So that’s what exactly what we’re doing this month.
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Field Notes: Introducing the System Design Clinic
August 07, 2014
We’ve heard from a number of Continuum of Care (CoC) leaders recently that they are feeling very overwhelmed. Clearly, the days when being a part of the CoC leadership simply meant filling out an annual application for funding from HUD are over. Today, CoC leaders are now taking on a number of huge tasks, including setting and monitoring performance targets, creating and operating a coordinated assessment, and establishing community-wide eligibility and prioritization standards.
The Alliance’s Center for Capacity Building created the System Design Clinic to help CoC leaders wrap their arms around some of these huge responsibilities. So far, we’ve conducted five System Design Clinics with 14 CoCs in Virginia, and we’ve learned quite a bit about what CoCs are challenged with and what they need to move forward.
The goal of the System Design Clinic is to help your community move from a collection of individual programs that address homelessness to a crisis response system that makes strategic, data driven decisions. During the clinic, communities develop action plans for becoming a high-functioning crisis response system. Attendees receive hands-on assistance analyzing and interpreting their data through the Homeless System Evaluator and the Qualitative Assessment Tools. Communities also receive three months of follow-up support to aid in implementing improvement plans.
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Here’s What You Need to Know About the Largest Portion of the Homeless Population
August 06, 2014
Often what most people think of when they think “homeless” is someone experiencing chronic homelessness: a disabled individual who has been homeless for longer than a year or more, or who has experienced at least four episodes of homelessness in the last three years. But the truth is that such individuals account for a small percentage of the overall population. (On a given night in 2013, they made up just 18 percent.)
In fact, as most people working in the homeless field are already aware, the largest segment of the homeless population is made up of non-chronically homeless single adults. A non-chronically homeless single adult is not homeless as part of a family and is either transitionally homeless (experiencing homelessness once and never returning) or episodically homeless, experiencing multiples episodes of homelessness and more likely to have a substance abuse or mental health issue.
In 2014, there were about 280,000 non-chronically homeless single adults—making up more than half of the total homeless population. The size of the sub-population may be surprising, but it’s actually not that different than what we have seen in previous years. Every year since we began using Point-in-Time Counts to track the numbers of people experiencing homelessness, non-chronically homeless single adults have made up the majority of the homeless population.
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Here are 4 Great Videos that Played at our 2014 National Conference
August 04, 2014
Yep. That just happened. The First Lady spoke at our 2014 National Conference on Ending Homelessness. Wow.
Here at the Alliance, we’re all still recovering from the Conference. Every year we mount two conferences, and each one is a mammoth undertaking for our staff and requires the involvement of a small army of volunteers, speakers, and interns and temporary staff, without whose contributions we simply would be unable to manage it. And we’re always extremely grateful for the help. This time around was no different.
Last week’s conference was by far the largest and most complicated event we’ve ever pulled off. We’d like to extend a big thank you to everyone who was involved, including, of course, our eminent keynote speakers: Senator Cory Booker, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, and of course the First Lady herself.
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National Conference: Day 1
July 29, 2014
It’s finally here! Today marks the official start of the 2014 National Conference on Ending Homelessness. We’re all set for an exciting day here in D.C. As we continue to register participants and prepare for the first set of workshops, here are a few examples of all that we have planned for today:
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The Conference is Almost Upon Us! #NAEH14
July 28, 2014
Everyone here at the Alliance is #soexcited for the 2014 National Conference on Ending Homelessness. As usual, we’ll be posting regular updates online throughout the conference so that both attendees and our friends who are farther away can stay informed on everything that’s going on.
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Here’s What We Can Do to Help End Chronic Homelessness
July 23, 2014
As many of you are already aware, the Obama administration’s plan to end homelessness, Opening Doors, calls for ending veteran homelessness by the end of 2015, ending chronic homelessness by 2016, and ending family and youth homelessness by 2020.
These are audacious goals, to be sure, but the Administration has already shown that it’s serious about reaching them. Since Opening Doors was enacted, the Administration’s budget has built up funding for housing for homeless veterans; the Departments of Veterans Affairs (VA) and Housing and Urban Development (HUD) have put campaigns in place to help communities implement effective practices; and the First Lady has assumed a prominent role as public advocate for ending homelessness.
Now, believe it or not, we have the funding we need to end veteran homelessness, and we may soon have a chance to secure the funding we need to end chronic homelessness. According to the Alliance’s analysis, in order to end chronical homelessness we will need new, dedicated funding for 35,000 to 40,000 rent subsidies, targeted to the chronically homeless population.
The Administration’s budget request asks for a $300 million increase in HUD’s homeless assistance for just that purpose. Congress’s initial response has not included it, but we believe they can be made to come around. And this is the year to do it – funding that is included for rent subsidies in the FY 2015 Continuum of Care is the last funding that will be on the streets in time to house people before the end of 2016.
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Here are the Cities where Mayors have Committed to Ending Veteran Homelessness
July 22, 2014
“The percentage of veterans who are homeless today is actually just 0.3 percent of the total veteran population. But even one homeless veteran is a shame and the fact that we have 58,000 is a moral outrage.” These were the words of first lady Michelle Obama as she launched the Mayor’s Challenge last month. The intiative is meant to eliminate veteran homelessness by asking mayors in cities across the U.S. take the lead in their communities.
At the start of this initiative 77 mayors, four county officials, and four governors committed to end veteran homelessness in 2015. Some individual mayors have taken the challenge even further by setting individual goals to end veteran homelessness before the 2015 deadline. And on June 16, the first lady spoke about veteran homelessness in Los Angeles, with Mayor Eric Garcetti joining the challenge and committing to end veteran homelessness in 2015 in L.A., the city with the largest homeless veteran population in the country.
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Are you ready the FY 2014 CoC Competition?
July 17, 2014
Yesterday, Ann Oliva, Director of HUD’s Office of Special Needs Assistance Programs (SNAPS), sent a letter indicating HUD would open registration for the FY 2014 portion of the FY 2013 - FY 2014 CoC Program Competition shortly. The NOFA released in November 2013 covers two years, 2013 and 2014, so CoCs will not need to complete a full application, but they will need to submit new project priorities and project applications soon.
While Oliva’s letter did not include anything we haven’t heard before, it is a helpful reminder of HUD’s priorities and how communities should prepare for the next competition. I’ve highlighted three things below that your community should be working on now to prepare.
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Homelessness Research: What We Know and What We Need to Know
July 15, 2014
In preparation for writing about the Alliance’s recently released Research Agenda for Ending Homelessness today, I thought about the data and research we have on homelessness available to us today in comparison to the data and research that was available only a decade ago, much of which is still some of the most influential research to date.
I was reminded of the well-worn cliché, “In my day, we wore newspapers on our feet and walked up hill both directions to school.” And it occurred to me that that cliché could easily serve as an accurate metaphor for what research in homelessness field looked like not even 15 years ago.
In 1999, Homelessness: Programs and the People They Serve was released. This groundbreaking report was based on the 1996 National Survey of Homeless Assistance Providers and Clients, the first national study conducted on homelessness since a study by Urban Institute in 1987.
Contrast that with the state of homeless research today, when each year the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) releases the Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR) to Congress in two volumes, with one volume covering national trends and Point-in-Time Counts for every Continuum of Care (CoC), and the other volume providing detailed demographic data on the sheltered population.
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Here’s What You Can Expect from the Veterans Track of Our DC Conference
July 10, 2014
Our increasingly popular National Conference on Ending Homelessness is coming up in a few weeks, and this year we’re including some fantastic content on addressing veteran homelessness. The veterans workshop track (see the conference agenda here) will cover a variety of topics, from working with your local VA Medical Centers, utilizing HUD-VASH, making the most of your SSVF grants, and of course, how we are going to end veteran homelessness by the end of 2015.
There are numerous initiatives taking place around veteran homelessness, including the 25 Cities initiative, the Mayors Challenge, and others. At the Conference, our workshops and discussions will focus on how you can make the most of these initiatives in your communities, but we’ll also be discussing how to move the needle on veteran homelessness even if your community isn’t involved in these initiatives.
In fact, in addition to our workshop content, we’ll be holding a BYOB (Bring Your Own Breakfast, of course) discussion around what your community should be doing to address veteran homelessness and bring the number down to zero. The discussion with Alliance and VA staff will be a casual “rap session” on some concrete steps you can take when you get home and what opportunities are coming up to take advantage of federal funds.
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We’re Screening a Documentary about Skid Row
July 09, 2014
Chances are when you hear the words “Skid Row,” you immediately associate them with poverty and homelessness. And for good reason: over the last few decades, the 50 blocks in downtown Los Angeles that make up Skid Row have become infamous for their huge concentration of impoverished and transient populations.
In a very real sense, Skid Row is a home for chronically homeless individuals, many of whom live lives under desperate circumstances, marked by drug addiction, mental illness, and poverty. If you’re attending our 2014 National Conference on Ending Homelessness this month, you will have a chance to hear their stories during our screening of the documentary, “Lost Angels: Skid Row Is My Home.”
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Study: Permanent Supportive Housing Reduces Homelessness
July 08, 2014
Over the past decade, federal permanent supportive housing programs (PSH) have grown pretty consistently. From 2007 to 2013 alone, the number of PSH beds has increased 50.7 percent from about 190,000 beds in 2007 to about 280,000 beds in 2013. At the same time, chronic homelessness decreased by 25.2 percent. While there have been a variety of studies looking at the effectiveness of PSH in ending an individual person’s homelessness there is limited research into the impact PSH has on homelessness in the overall community.
In a recent longitudinal study looking at the time between 2007 and 2012, researchers found that increased investment in PSH decreased the rate of chronic homelessness by 35 percent. The study used a variety of statistical models controlling for a number of community and individual factors to isolate the impact that PSH had in a community.
Overall, the longitudinal study saw decreases in the number of chronically homeless individuals in communities that had more PSH units. A community that adds one PSH unit per 10,000 individuals would have seen a reduction in the rate of chronic homelessness of one percent.
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What Can Welfare Agencies Do to Help Us End Homelessness?
July 03, 2014
Mary and her two children became homeless not long after Mary lost her job and they were evicted from her home. She stayed with her sister for a few weeks, but that arrangement didn’t last, and she was forced to look for shelter.
After two months, escaping homelessness seemed insurmountable to Mary. First, she would have to find a job, and then she would have to save up the money needed for a security deposit and first month’s rent. Once she did that, she would have to find a decent, safe place to live and a landlord who would be willing to overlook her previous eviction. She would have to do all of that while living in the chaotic environment of an overcrowded shelter program alongside many other families trying to do the exact same thing.
While she was living in the emergency shelter, Mary lost the cash assistance she began receiving from the welfare agency after losing her job. She found it too difficult to meet the rules of the program which were intended to help her achieve greater self-sufficiency. Life in the shelter made it challenging to participate in 20 hours of work activity each week that the welfare agency required. When she could, when she had someone reliable to watch her children, she continued her hunt for work, but the process was slow and even more challenging than when she was able to stay with her sister.
What if it were different?
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