Ending Homelessness Today
The official blog of the National Alliance to End Homelessness
Hunger and Homelessness Often Go Hand-in-Hand
November 26, 2014
Tomorrow millions of Americans will share a Thanksgiving meal with friends and family. But for many Americans—including many homeless Americans—food will be scarce, as it is every day. In recognition of this week’s Thanksgiving holiday and last week’s National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week, this post is devoted to the impact of hunger on the homeless population.
In 2013, 5 percent of households served by Feeding America programs, the nation’s leading domestic hunger-relief organization, were homeless, and 27 percent of households served by Feeding America’s meal programs—such as kitchens and shelters—were homeless. The same year, The United States Conference of Mayors’ Hunger and Homelessness Survey found that 9 percent of all people who accessed food assistance in 25 cities across the country were homeless.
These figures might give you the impression that not very many homeless people receive food assistance, but consider this: less than 1 percent (0.19 percent to be precise) of all people in America is homeless, according to the 2014 Point-in-Time-Count. That means that the homeless population is drastically overrepresented among people who access food assistance.
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How Many Homeless Veterans Will be Affected by VA’s Changes to Eligibility Requirements?
November 19, 2014
We have discussed on this blog again and again the fantastic progress we’ve made in addressing veteran homelessness and the long road we have ahead us to get the job done. Of course, we won’t be able to get there without the thousands of homeless advocates like you who are working at the local level, serving homeless veterans and their families directly. We are so appreciative of your efforts.
Last week I attended the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans’ Veterans Access to Housing Summit in New Orleans, where I met many great people and learned a lot about what is going on at the national level in the fight to end veteran homelessness. So with today’s blog post, I would like to give you a talk about one of the major focuses of the event. At the Summit the major topics of discussion included:
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Measuring Homelessness: How Do Veterans Compare?
November 18, 2014
Every year, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) requires communities across the country do a one-night count of its sheltered homeless population, and every other year requires that communities conduct a count of the unsheltered population.
The idea is to figure out where homelessness is going up and where it’s going down. This gives us a sense which communities are most effective in fighting homelessness, as well as where we should target our resources in order to make the biggest impact. The count includes data on a variety of subpopulations, including adults, youth, families, and veterans. For today’s blog post, in honor of Military Family Month, we’re talking about one of them in particular: veterans.
(By the way, the count takes place in January, so the 2015 PIT Count is coming up soon. If you’re interested in helping, please reach out to homeless assistance providers in your area. Communities always need dedicated volunteers.)
Here’s a quick a look at what the recently released 2014 PIT Count data say about trends in veteran homelessness.
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Here’s How Las Vegas Got a More Accurate Count of their Homeless Youth
November 17, 2014
This January, communities across the country will make an effort to count every homeless person, both staying in their shelters and living on their streets. Congress requires that communities conduct these Point-In-Time (PIT) Counts every other year, but these days many communities are conducting them every year.
PIT Counts aren’t definitive, but they do provide a good single-night “snapshot” and a consistent methodology that allow communities to see the year-over-year progress they are making in ending homelessness. Historically, one of the shortcomings of PIT counts has been their exclusion of homeless youth populations.
Homeless youth are hard to count for a variety of reasons, but if we want to craft targeted and cost-effective solutions, it’s vitally important that they’re included. Homeless advocates and experts have devised several strategies for including them in counts.
In the homeless assistance field, there is widespread recognition that we need to do a better job counting homeless youth. Many communities have made a concerted effort to do just that. One of them is Las Vegas/Clark County. Here’s how they did it.
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Study: Homeless Veterans Served by SSVF Program Far Less Likely to Return to Homelessness
November 13, 2014
A couple weeks ago the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) released an intriguing research brief looking at their Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) Program, its homelessness prevention and rapid re-housing initiative for homeless veterans and their families. The study was conducted by the National Center on Homelessness Among Veterans.
The study tracked 36,363 veterans served by the SSVF program during 2012 and 2013 to see how many of them fell back into homelessness after exiting (and were no longer receiving subsidies to pay for housing). They followed these households until January 1, 2014, which means some households were tracked for as long as 27 months, but most were followed for shorter periods. The findings were encouraging.
When researchers crunched the numbers, they found that only 9.4 percent of the veteran families who exited the program had returned to homelessness one year later. The number had increased to the 15.5 percent mark two years later. The success rate among single veterans was slightly lower, with 16 percent returning to homelessness one year later and 26.6 percent returning within two years.
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Happy Veterans Day from the Alliance!
November 11, 2014
On this Veterans Day, it’s a good time to take a moment to consider how far we have come and how far we still have to go in our efforts to end veteran homelessness. Since 2011, we have reduced veteran homelessness by 33 percent. Since January 2013, we have reduced it by 11 percent.
Make no mistake about it, we are proud of those numbers going down, but the goal is still to reach zero. How will we do it? This month we honored two cities, New York and New Orleans, who have achieved reductions in veteran homelessness by more than 60 percent. They’re doing something (actually, a lot of things) right. We took a look at their homeless systems, and here’s what we found.
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What Do the Election Results Mean for the Fight to End Homelessness?
November 10, 2014
Divided government is part of what America does. The idea that neither Congress nor the president should be able to accomplish much by themselves is written right into the Constitution. Looking back over the past 20-plus years, it appears Americans think that’s not enough, that it’s important that neither party controls both branches.
One result of last Tuesday’s election is that, for the third time in a row, a president who began his administration with both houses of Congress in the hands of his party will end his Presidency with both houses of Congress in the hands of the other party, even though he was elected to a second term. Americans are showing, maybe, that they don’t want the federal government to move forward unless Congress and the president can reach a consensus, agreed on by both major political parties.
History shows us that the goal of ending homelessness is one place where that kind of consensus can exist. Just look at the last two years of the Clinton administration and the last two years of the Bush administration: during each period the president worked with a Congress controlled by the party that opposed him; we still made real progress.
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This Could be Our Last Chance to Advocate for Increased Homeless Assistance Funding in FY 2015
November 07, 2014
With the mid-term elections now behind us, members of the 113th Congress are set to return to Washington, DC next Wednesday, Nov.12 to begin their lame-duck session. During this legislative session, this class of Congress, which is on track to be the least productive in modern history, will have many unresolved issues left to address.
One looming item on their agenda will be finalizing a fiscal year (FY) 2015 funding bill to fund the government past Dec. 11, the date our current continuing resolution, or stopgap funding measure, will run out. If you are an advocate for ending homelessness, here’s why you should care about this bill: our ability to end chronic homelessness by the end of 2016, and make significant reductions among other homeless populations, depends on Congress including a $301 million increase (to $2.406 billion) to the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants program.
The increase, which President Obama requested in his budget proposal, would fund $37,000 units of permanent supportive housing for people experiencing chronic homelessness and put us on track to end chronic homelessness by the end of 2016. If you care about reaching that goal and changing the lives of thousands of vulnerable and disabled people (and if you’re reading this, we’re hoping you do), Congress needs to hear from you that this increase must be included in the final FY 2015 funding bill.
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Conducting Unsheltered PIT Counts: What the Experts Say
November 04, 2014
In just two months, communities across the country will begin conducting their annual Point-in-Time (PIT) counts. PIT Counts measure both the number of homeless people in shelters and the number of homeless people who are unsheltered—i.e., people who are sleeping any place unfit for human habitation, such as the street, a car, or an abandoned building.
These counts are critical for homelessness providers, researchers, funders, and advocates, as they are the only source of national data on the homeless population. It is therefore vitally important that both the sheltered and unsheltered counts are as accurate as possible. As you can imagine, conducting an unsheltered count is an extremely difficult task, as unsheltered homeless individuals could be living almost anywhere. For this reason, we invited some experts on unsheltered counts to provide their thoughts and recommendations on how to conduct the most accurate and reliable counts possible.
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New York City, New Orleans Reduce Veteran Homelessness by more than 50 Percent in Three Years
November 03, 2014
In the last three years, communities across the country, among them New York City and New Orleans, have cut their numbers of veterans experiencing homelessness by more than 50 percent. Now, as part of our Never Another Homeless Veteran campaign, we’re spotlighting these communities that are leading the fight to end veteran homelessness in America.
According to numbers released last week by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the number of veterans experiencing homelessness on a given night in America has declined by 11 percent since 2013, and 33 percent since 2009. During the January 2014 Point-in-Time Count, volunteers counted 49,933 veterans out of a total of 578,424 people experiencing homelessness (or 9 percent).
We at the Alliance want to highlight this progress because it shows what communities can do. (Imagine how many changesd lives those numbers represent!) That’s why this week at our 2014 Awards Ceremony we’re honoring 14 of the 67 communities that have achieved a more than 50 percent reduction in veteran homelessness, with especial recognition for two of them: New Orleans and New York City.
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New Data Show Homelessness has Declined 11 Percent since 2007
October 31, 2014
Required by Congress, HUD’s PIT Count is the only national survey that counts everyone who is staying in a shelter or other homeless programs, as well as people who are unsheltered. Its methodology is fairly consistent over time, allowing an assessment of whether the number of homeless people is growing or shrinking each year. Though it does not count every single homeless person, nor does it assess the number of people who are at high risk of homelessness because they have unstable or unacceptable housing, it is the only way that we can determine approximately how many people are homeless, the characteristics of our homeless population, and how homeless Americans are using shelters.
The 2014 PIT Count data show that numbers of homeless people is moving in the right direction.
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What Can Providers Do to Serve Homeless Youth Better?
October 28, 2014
With as many as half a million youth experiencing homelessness each year, it is surprising and frustrating, for those of us who are working to end youth homelessness, that so little research on this population exists. We want to understand the scope of the problem and its causes, as this will help us understand how to fund and design the most effective services to help as many youth as possible.
Recently, the Family and Youth Services Bureau (FYSB) of the Department of Health and Human Services released a report that gets at this last question—at least part of it. From March 2013 through September 2013, FYSB interviewed 656 young people from their street outreach programs in 11 U.S. cities between the ages of 14 and 21 who were experiencing homelessness to get an idea of what kinds of services they need. For a detailed look at their findings, check out the report’s executive summary.
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Here are 5 Steps for Raising the Issue of Homelessness at a Public Campaign Event
October 27, 2014
As loyal readers of our blog are already well-aware, members of Congress are home for recess until about a week after the November 4 election. At the Alliance, we’ve been urging homeless advocates to use this time to engage directly with members of Congress about the issue of homelessness by giving tours of their local homeless assistance programs or setting up meetings with their members of Congress.
But here’s another way you can take advantage of the election season: attend a public campaign event. You can expect that many of the members of Congress who are up for re-election will be making public appearances at campaign events this week. These events can take a variety of forms, from town hall meetings, to informal neighborhood gatherings, to candidate forums or debates. If you want your member of Congress to do something about homelessness, be there, and be prepared.
Here are five steps for engaging members of Congress at public events.
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Here are 5 Steps for Organizing a Congressional Meeting this Fall
October 24, 2014
Now that members of Congress are home in their districts and states for the congressional recess, homeless advocates across the country are using this time to engage directly with them. How can you get involved? We’ve already discussed the most effective way: giving members of Congress a tour of your local homeless assistance program (see this blog post for five tips), but there’s another way to reach Congress this fall. It’s simple: set up a meeting with your member of Congress (or their staff) in their state or district office. Meetings like these set a less formal tone than meetings held in members of Congress’ DC offices and are a great way to build a strong relationship.
Here are five steps for organizing a successful congressional meeting this fall.
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Alliance to Honor Communities for Reducing Veteran Homelessness
October 23, 2014
On November 5, the Alliance will celebrate the progress we have made in the fight to end homelessness with our 2014 Annual Awards Ceremony, “Communities to Watch: Ending Veteran Homelessness.” This year marks the second year in our Never Another Homeless Veteran Campaign. As such, we will be honoring 20 communities that have decreased veteran homelessness by 50 percent or more in the past three years.
In 2009, President Obama announced the federal government's goal of ending veteran homelessness by the end of 2015. Since then, stakeholders on the national and local levels have been pushing hard to reach this ambitious goal. With the bipartisan support of Congress, communities across the country have implemented and expanded programs that provide homeless veterans and their families with crucial interventions like rental assistance and intensive case management.
As a nation, we have made incredible progress. Since 2011, we have reduced the number of veterans who experience homelessness on a given night by 26 percent. During the same period, the largest metropolitan area in the U.S., New York City, reduced veteran homelessness by almost 65 percent. (That’s more than 3,000 fewer homeless veterans.) And New Orleans achieved an astonishing 76.5 percent decrease in veteran homeless.
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Attention Researchers: Here’s How to Improve Samples of Homeless Youth
October 21, 2014
Conducting reliable research on homeless youth is exceedingly difficult: how do you locate a transient group that often wants to be invisible? Though the most easily located youths tend to be those in shelters and/or drop-in centers, basing your research on just these populations can lead to biased data. Not only is this a problem for researchers, but it also is a problem for service providers, policymakers, and advocates working to provide programs and policies that are based on strong evidence.
Researchers started tackling these issues in a study released last month. The study’s sampling frame included 41 sites from three different types of locations in Los Angeles County.
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3 Things Everyone Should Know About Homelessness Now
October 20, 2014
Here at the Alliance, we’re frequently contacted by people working on creative projects designed to raise awareness of homelessness. On an almost daily basis, we receive emails from people who have written songs, recorded videos, made movies, even designed videogames.
While the final product will vary wildly from one project to another in terms of quality and message, the artist’s intentions, invariably, are good. They feel strongly that we should do something about homelessness. We do too.
While we occasionally partner with filmmakers for the promotion of a film (e.g. we’re screening the youth homelessness documentary Homestretch at our next conference; check out the trailer above), the number of inquiries we receive is too large for us to respond to all of them.
Recently we were contacted by a filmmaker who had made a film about homelessness. She was preparing to promote her film and wanted to know if we could provide her with three simple talking points that she could use during interviews with journalists.
As the press person for the Alliance, it’s my job to handle these inquiries. So here’s what I threw together. These aren’t the Alliance’s recommended talking points; they’re mine. I based two of them on popular misconceptions that I’ve seen repeated again and again in popular media.
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Rapid Re-Housing is not an Anti-Poverty Program
October 17, 2014
When I travel around the country talking about or training on rapid re-housing, one of the statements I make that gets the most reaction is this: rapid re-housing isn’t an anti-poverty program, it is an anti-homelessness program. Without fail, several folks in the room will sit back and consider this statement, seemingly for the first time, even though it should be obvious. Although, as someone who has spent the better part of 25 years working on economic and social justice, I get why this statement can cause a few eyebrows in the room to go up.
Let’s face it; a lot of us get into this line of work because we can’t see abject poverty in our society and simply walk on by. And you can’t hit bottom worse than being poor and homeless. But when I talk about rapid re-housing as a solution to homelessness, a lot of folks raise questions about how a family is going to survive after the support ends. They worry that helping a family or individual into an apartment will set them up to ultimate failure. Many ask, “Wouldn’t they be better off with a housing voucher?” My answer is always the same.
Of course they would. But the reality is that there are not nearly enough housing vouchers to meet the need. However, when that family or individual is living on the street, what they need right away is a home.
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2 Steps We Must Take to End Youth Homelessness
October 15, 2014
So how do we end youth homelessness? That’s a big question, and there remains a lot of debate as to its answer. However, the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) has identified two key priority areas that we must address if we are to set the nation’s course toward ending youth homelessness.
One: We must gather more accurate information on the number of young people who experience homelessness each year. To solve a problem you must know its scope, and right now, in spite of efforts by organization across the country during the last Point-In-Time to get a youth-inclusive count, we still don’t know how many homeless youth are out there.
We do know that about half of the homeless young people counted were unsheltered. That means that in communities across the country, unaccompanied homeless youth were spending the night in places unfit for human habitation: street corners, parks, subway stations, or in abandoned buildings.
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Homeless Youth and Crime: What Does the Research Say?
October 14, 2014
In order to survive the harsh realities of living on the streets, homeless youth may commit crimes. Research has shown that homeless youth are disproportionately involved in illegal activities as compared to housed youth, but few studies have explored the risk factors that may lead these youths to the criminal justice system.
The Family and Youth Services Bureau, a division of the department of Health and Human Services, recently compiled several studies that aim to determine why homeless youth may engage in criminal behaviors. What they found paints a much richer picture of the reasons that many homeless youth commit crimes.
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