Ending Homelessness Today
The official blog of the National Alliance to End Homelessness
The Post-Election Update
November 13, 2012
President Obama won the election; the Republican Party maintained its majority in the House of Representatives; and the Democrats kept their majority in the Senate. It may look as though little has changed, but looks can be deceiving. Elections always mean change.
In Congress, both the House and Senate have a host of new members, while some long-term incumbents (and some new ones) have retired, resigned, or otherwise moved positions, paving the way for congressional committee reassignments and possible leadership changes. Many districts have been redrawn thanks to the decennial redistricting resulting from the Census, and that has left many constituents with new Representatives.
While the resident of the White House isn’t going anywhere, the 15 Executive Cabinet Members can (and often do) go elsewhere between terms. The same is true for a host of lower-level positions. No announcements on that front, so far, though.
Read More »
Celebrating Service and Sacrifice
November 12, 2012
On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of the year 1919, the guns stopped firing and the Great War ended. On that day, the First Armistice Day, the Allies and the Germans signed the armistice that ended “the war to end all wars.”
It wasn’t until the second global war that we started assigning numbers to them, and “the war to end all wars” became “World War I,” the first of two. Today we call that first Armistice Day “Veterans Day” (in other parts of the world, it’s “Remembrance Day”). The purpose of this day is not to celebrate war; it’s to honor all those who have served bravely in our armed forces.
Read More »
Counting an Invisible Population
November 09, 2012
The Alliance estimates that each year 1.7 million children have a runaway or homeless episode, with 400,000 remaining homeless longer than a week. This coming January, communities across the country are making a concerted effort to include youth in the biennial Point-In-Time Counts. In recognition of National Homeless Youth Awareness Month, we at the Alliance are highlighting the issue of youth homelessness in our blog.
For this blog entry, I asked the Alliance’s Director for Families and Youth, Sharon McDonald, and our Policy and Program Analyst on youth and child welfare, André C. Wade, some basic questions about youth homelessness and what we hope to accomplish with this January’s Point-In-Time Count.
Read More »
Field Notes: How to Provide Supportive Services in Rapid Re-Housing
November 07, 2012
Today we’ve released the fourth in a five-part training series on rapid re-housing. This short video training focuses on providing supportive services as a part of a rapid re-housing model, and is conducted by Kay Moshier McDivitt. (Before watching this module, I recommend watching the three previous modules on Housing Barriers Assessment, Housing Search and Location/Developing Relationships with Landlords, and Designing Subsidies.)
The rapid re-housing approach includes a different method of providing services than you may be familiar with. Before a person is housed through rapid re-housing, services focus on any barriers they may have to obtaining housing. Once they move in, services focus on addressing the barriers that may prevent someone from maintaining housing. Additionally, services in rapid re-housing are voluntary.
Read More »
How the Alliance Spent its 2011
November 06, 2012
Each year, the Alliance provides our partners and supporters with a snapshot of our activities, progress and financial position in our annual report. Annual reports may not always be the most exciting things to read, but we at the Alliance are proud and enthusiastic about our accomplishments.
The Alliance did a lot in 2011. We hosted national conferences that drew nearly 2,000 practitioners, advocates and other leaders in the homeless assistance field. We worked with Virginia and the Freddie Mac Foundation to launch a statewide homelessness assistance project. We organized 270 visits by advocates and practitioners to their congressional offices.
Read More »
Need funding to help veterans? Check this out.
November 05, 2012
As we notified our networks last week, there is an amazing opportunity going on right now. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has put out a Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA).
This NOFA is for $300 million for the 2013 Supportive Service for Veteran Families (SSVF) grant, over half of which will go to organizations that have not had this grant before.
The name of the grant program is a little confusing: a more accurate name might be the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program (HPRP) for veterans, because that’s basically what it’s for: rapid re-housing and prevention for veterans.
Read More »
Ending Long-Term Homelessness
November 02, 2012
Alliance and CEO Nan Roman delivered the following remarks at the Common Ground Alliance/Council of Homeless Persons Pre-conference Convening on in Melbourne, Australia on Wednesday, September 5, 2012. (For our American readers, in Australia permanent supportive housing is referred to as "common ground housing.")
Ending Long Term Homelessness: Taking Permanent Supportive Housing to Scale
Thank you to the Common Ground Alliance and Felicity Reynolds and the Council of Homeless Persons and Jenny Smith for holding this forum and for inviting me to join you today. When I first came to Australia in 2007, permanent supportive housing and Common Ground housing were quite a new idea, at least by those names. Certainly there were people like Bryan Lippman at Wintringham here in Melbourne who were already doing it – combining housing and services. But it wasn’t the norm; it was not a well-established intervention. Now, as heard this morning, there are quite a few models. That is good, as a variety of models are needed.
But the next step, as the title of this session indicates, is going to scale – moving from the occasional permanent supportive housing program to an adequate supply of permanent supportive housing to meet the need and end homelessness among people with chronic disabilities.
Read More »
A Senator Stops By
November 01, 2012
Today's guest blog post was contributed by Erin Bock, assistant director of the Metro Area Continuum of Care for the Homeless of Omaha, Neb.
At my most recent visit to Nebraska Senator Mike Johanns’ Office on Capitol Hill Day, I was gearing up to make a request. Over the last couple of years, I hadn’t had much luck. So you can imagine my surprise when he said “yes” to my request that he come and see the great work being done at a homeless service provider within the Continuum of Care (CoC) in Omaha, Neb.
From there, it was easy. Senator Johanns had signed into law significant behavioral health reforms while he was governor in 2004. Our CoC, also known as Metro Area Continuum of Care for the Homeless, or MACCH, had many success stories that linked with those reforms, especially our local 100,000 Homes Campaign.
The Senator and his staff arrived at Omaha’s Community Alliance on a Tuesday afternoon in August. We met in roundtable fashion, the discussion being led by the leadership from MACCH’s interagency housing team. Not only did local homeless service providers showcase MACCH’s collective success in serving the community’s most vulnerable, but we were able to show how federal funding streams make this kind of work possible.
Read More »
Field Notes: Letting Survivors Lead the Way
October 31, 2012
Last month I had the opportunity to attend a training workshop on rapidly re-housing survivors of domestic violence. The workshop was conducted by Kris Billhardt, Director of Volunteers of America, Oregon’s Home Free program, who is a longtime advocate and has worked in the movement against domestic violence for nearly three decades. Her program has achieved some impressive results. From 2010 to 2011, 90 percent of the survivors who received Housing First services from Home Free attained safe, permanent housing, and 80 percent remain safely housed 12 months after exiting the program.
If you want to learn more about Home Free, you can read this best practice paper on Home Free, check out our domestic violence toolkit, or contact Kris about conducting a training workshop in your community.
Read More »
Safe and Dry
October 31, 2012
We at the Alliance are grateful to be safe and dry once again. Like the federal government, we too closed for two days because of the storm. Alliance staff have now returned to our DC office, where we are busily working to catch up on unanswered emails, unreturned phone calls, unfinished reports and all the other unfinished business that we had to set aside when Sandy shut down DC. On behalf of the Alliance, I’d like to extend our deepest thanks to the emergency personnel who have responded to this crisis, and say that our thoughts and hearts go out to all those who are still feeling its effects.... Read More »
Setting Aside Differences to End Veteran Homelessness
October 26, 2012
In mid-2011, when I was still relatively new to the Alliance and DC, I started reaching out to partner agencies in an effort to form a group that would work behind the scenes, advocating policies to end veteran homelessness. It took a bit of cajoling to get people to join, as there is a perception out there that groups like these can be ineffective or too political for their own good.
Being a wide-eyed newbie to the national advocacy scene, I was, of course, undeterred.
This week marks the one year anniversary of that group, the Homeless Veterans National Advocacy Working Group* (HVNAWG). Happy one year anniversary HVNAWG! It is a long name for a really cool group. (A little disclaimer here – for a variety of political and bureaucratic reason, we remain an “unofficial” group.)
We began relatively small, just seven core representatives from veteran service organizations, national advocacy groups, and a local organization active in national advocacy, but over the last 12 months we have expanded the reach and membership and accomplished a lot. One of our proudest achievements was a well-attended and highly informative congressional briefing we put together several months back.
The value of this working group cannot be overstated. It allows national leaders on ending veteran homelessness to work together and share the expertise of their respective organizations. The diversity of the members’ perspectives, which overlap and complement each other,... Read More »
Domestic Violence and the Housing First model
October 25, 2012
Today’s guest blog post was contributed by the Ankita Patel of the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
I’ve been working on Domestic Violence Housing First for a couple of years now. But I also have a lot of experience working with immigrants. In general, I’ve found that trying to address the needs of immigrant survivors by just tweaking a mainstream system isn’t enough. One of my favorite things about Domestic Violence Housing First is that the flexibility of the housing first model allows individually tailored services that encompass a person’s culture as well as their unique needs and situation.
For example, one of the pillars of our work in Domestic Violence Housing First has been tailored, mobile advocacy. This approach involves an advocate visiting a survivor’s home rather than requiring the survivor to visit an advocate’s office. So we were caught off-guard when an advocate from another provider serving immigrants told us that her version of tailored, mobile advocacy sometimes meant inviting survivors to her office. Initially, that didn’t make sense to me.
Turns out, one immigrant she works with prefers to meet at her office, and with Domestic Violence Housing First money, the advocate can cover her transportation costs to get there.
This advocate shared that in the immigrant survivor’s culture, it would be considered rude for the survivor not... Read More »
Field Notes: the Performance Improvement Calculator
October 24, 2012
Community planners now have a great new tool to evaluate changes to their communities’ homelessness assistance system. With the newly released Performance Improvement Calculator, developed by Focus Strategies, you can use your community’s HMIS and budget data to see the impact a proposed change has on the rate of permanent housing exits and average costs.
It is easy to experiment with the Calculator because it comes preloaded with sample data, although you’ll get the best results if you complete the Calculator with your own communities’ data. I wanted to see, for example, what the impact would be if I reduced the average length of time adults and families stay in transitional housing programs by 30 days. I reduced the length of stay, and then checked the summary tab to see what the effect would be. The charts on the left of this post show my result – I’ve increased my permanent housing exits by three percent and cut the average cost per permanent housing exit by six percent.
Other things you can experiment with, either independently or all together, include:
Changing the average permanent housing placement rates for different kinds of programs (typically shelter, transitional housing, rapid re-housing, and permanent supportive housing),
Changing the rate at which people return to the homeless system after being housed,
Moving funding from one type of intervention to another, and
As I did above, changing the average... Read More »
Why Transitional Jobs are Good for Providers, Communities
October 23, 2012
When it comes to housing stability, stable employment is often a crucial component. While many people experiencing homelessness are employed in some capacity, many individuals within the homeless population face significant barriers to employment. These include lack of experience, physical or mental health issues, challenges related to re-entry from incarceration or hospitalization, and homelessness itself. Fortunately, practical tools are available to help individuals overcome these barriers.
For example, the National Transitional Jobs Network launched its Working to End Homelessness Initiative in 2011 “to shine a spotlight on the important role of employment solutions in addressing homelessness and to identify and disseminate promising employment practices.” The organization uses transitional jobs strategies to help employ people who face the greatest barriers to employment. The National Transitional Jobs Network has identified four reasons why transitional jobs are good for homeless assistance providers and communities:
Transitional jobs help low-income people with barriers to employment enter the workforce, avoid re-incarceration, and reduce their reliance on public benefits;
Transitional jobs programs strengthen communities through investments in workers;
Transitional jobs programs help employers meet their goals; and
Transitional jobs programs can yield significant cost savings for states.
While transitional jobs can reintegrate people experiencing homelessness back into the workforce, they are just one component of a larger strategy. Transitional jobs are short-term in nature, so the relationship between a homeless assistance provider and their clients should be long-term. In fact, for most clients, the relationship with... Read More »
Homeless Does not Mean Voteless
October 19, 2012
Today’s guest blog post was contributed by Hannah Gisness, a student at George Washington University, and Michael Stoops, Director of Community Organizing for the National Coalition for the Homeless.
October is here with elections just around the corner! Last week I had the opportunity to participate in National Homeless and Low-Income Voter Registration Week. I worked alongside students from The George Washington University and advocates for The National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH). We successfully registered 137 individuals to vote.
For three days, we manned a table at the Martin Luther King Library in D.C and visited local parks to encourage and assist people in the voting and registration process. We were equipped with NCH’s 2012 Voting Manual, paper applications, pens, stickers, pamphlets from the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics, and registration and voting materials.
Read More »
The Link Between Homelessnees and Domestic Violence
October 18, 2012
Today’s guest blog post was contributed by Caroline Jones, Executive Director for Doorways for Women and Families.
Many of us know of October as Breast Cancer Awareness Month. We have become accustomed to seeing pink everywhere and hearing the public services announcements in the Fall. Fewer people are aware that October is also Domestic Violence Awareness Month. I often lament the fact that these two critical women’s issues have to share just one month of the year, as both deserve our full attention 365 days a year.
The extensive reach of domestic violence is shocking. Today, one in four women and girls will experience domestic violence at some point in their life. Yet this epidemic rarely makes the local or national news unless it affects a celebrity or public figure. We hear their voices, but we don’t hear the voices of the millions of women – and men – who suffer daily with sexual, emotional, psychological, financial and physical abuse. What if the only place you had to call home was where someone was causing you and your children harm? Domestic violence is the leading cause of homelessness among women because victims are often left with a difficult choice: either stay with the abuser or become homeless.
In a perfect world, a survivor of domestic violence would be able to continue living safely in her home and her abuser would be made to leave. ... Read More »
When Homelessness Causes PTSD
October 17, 2012
Today’s post was written by Edward J. SanFilippo, Economic Development Policy Fellow for the Alliance.
Mention post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as it relates to homelessness, and most people will probably think of military veterans, but other homeless populations struggle with PTSD. Indeed, the experience of homelessness itself is a trauma that can lead to PTSD.
PTSD is an anxiety disorder that can occur after an individual has experienced a traumatic event, particularly one that involves the threat of injury or death. It is still unclear why a particular trauma may lead to PTSD for some individuals but not for others, or why some individuals are traumatized by a particular event when others are not.
We do know that:
PTSD changes the body’s response to stress;
An individual with a history of trauma may be more susceptible to experiencing PTSD from a future traumatic event; and
Symptoms of PTSD may not appear for weeks or even months after the triggering traumatic event.
There are a number of ways in which the traumatic experience of homelessness can lead to PTSD:
The actual event of becoming homeless can lead to trauma through the loss of stable shelter, family connections, and accustomed social roles and routines;
The ongoing condition of homelessness creates stressors that include the uncertainty of where to find food and safe shelter and the potential for experiencing violence and victimization, which can erode a person’s... Read More »
How you can help: The exciting reality of ending veteran homelessness
October 16, 2012
As we reach the halfway point in the Department of Veterans Affairs five-year plan to end homelessness among veterans, there is a great excitement in communities across the nation. This is a historic process. Never before have we seen so many people working together to end veteran homelessness. Never before have there been so many resources available to communities wishing to solve this problem.
But what can you as an individual do to contribute to the vital mission of ending veteran homelessness? Besides making a donation to organizations like the Alliance that are working hard on the problem, you can contribute to the effort in a variety of ways. Last week, I discussed the ways individuals can contribute in a webinar hosted by the Points of Light foundation.
The webinar, titled “Finding Community Solutions to Serving the Military Community Part 1: Housing,” was aimed at people who were participating the Martin Luther King Day of Service initiative, as well as other members of communities who were looking to broaden their understanding of the issue and looking for ways to donate their time to serve this cause. A recording of the webinar is available online.
Participating with the local Point in Time (PIT) Count is one way almost anyone can make a huge difference. This annual event is coming up in mid- January, right around the time of the MLK day of service, so it is a natural... Read More »
Conference Registration is Open!
October 15, 2012
The Alliance is excited to announce the website for the 2013 National Conference on Ending Family and Youth Homelessness is now live, and registration is open!
The conference will take place this February at the Sheraton Seattle Hotel in Seattle, Wash., where 800 to 900 attendees are expected to convene to share and learn about the latest tools and the most effective solutions going in the homeless assistance field today. We are in the midst of the planning process, and working hard to make sure you get the most out of the experience.
Although the conference website is always being updated, you can always find important details about the conference, including the conference agenda, registration rates, hotel information, travel information, as well as important information about scholarship and volunteer opportunities. We will be posting more information as it becomes available.
We encourage you register early to take advantage of the early rate for substantial savings. The deadline for early registration is 3 p.m. ET, Monday, Dec. 17. If you are registering by mail, your form must be postmarked on or before Monday, December 17.
For organizations sending three or more individuals to the conference, the early registration cost for the first two registrants to attend the conference is $425 per person. For each additional individual, the fee is $375.
For more information about deadlines and fees for other registration rates, please see the conference website registration rates page. You can also keep up with Alliance news on... Read More »
The Challenges of Ending Homelessness in Rural America
October 12, 2012
Earlier this week I had the honor of attending a planning session in Bloomsburg, Pa., sponsored by the Pennsylvania Housing Alliance and Bloomsburg University. The session kicked off planning in the two rural counties around Bloomsburg. It was an opportunity to review some of what we know about homelessness and how to approach it in rural and small-town America.
For years, the Alliance has done deliberate work to focus on rural communities. Homelessness is often thought of as an urban problem, and of course most homeless people are in cities. But homelessness definitely exists in rural areas as well. The impacts of rural homelessness are just as devastating to those experiencing it, while rural areas are less likely than cities to have programs specifically designed to help homeless people.
Rural communities seeking to end homelessness need the same broad categories of change as cities, although they will take different forms. Rural communities need a clear consensus on the goal, as well as commitment from the entire community and a sense of urgency about solving the problem. Rural communities also need a way to monitor progress and effectiveness in addressing the issue, and enough resources to get the job done.
That being said, there are a number of challenges that are unique to rural areas:
The scale of the problem of homelessness in rural areas is limited, compared to urban areas, which means that extensive programs specific to homeless people are... Read More »