Ending Homelessness Today
The official blog of the National Alliance to End Homelessness
How Medicaid Can Help Homeless and At-Risk Individuals
April 29, 2013
At least three vulnerable groups could benefit from the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in ways that could reduce homelessness and risks of homelessness: chronically homeless individuals; young people aging out of foster care; and ex-offenders, also known as homecomers.
Medicaid expansion, which is optional for states, could potentially cover all uninsured men with incomes under $15,000 – meaning most chronically homeless people and homecomers would have better access to medical and behavioral health care. Under the ACA states also must extend coverage to former foster youth until age 26, which will give these young people additional time to receive ongoing treatments and services. And under the ACA signing up for Medicaid will be easier across the country, as states must remove barriers to enrollment.
The ACA will not end homelessness! Housing is the primary intervention to solve homelessness. However, vulnerable people also need supports and services to be stable in housing. Medicaid can help individuals, and covering them will help strained communities by adding resources for services that accompany housing assistance. The proof will be in implementation, starting next year.
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Field Notes: How to Plan a Learning Collaborative – Step Two
April 24, 2013
This blog post is the second in a series from the Alliance on designing a Learning Collaborative for your community. (You can read the first post in the series here.)
A Learning Collaborative is a great way to provide the support and expertise that organizations may need in order to make the changes necessary to adopt rapid re-housing. Last month the Alliance launched seven Learning Collaboratives to help 31 organizations in Virginian bridge the gap between their understanding of rapid re-housing and the practices and policies of their organizations.
I am currently organizing these Learning Collaboratives and today I would like to share with you share a resource we developed that can help you plan a similar initiative in your community. It's stock application based on the Alliance’s own application.
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The State of Homelessness in America 2013: Chapter 3
April 23, 2013
All this month, we’ve been doing weekly posts about our recently released report The State of Homelessness in America 2013. This week we’ll be taking a look at Chapter 3 of the report. Chapter 3 includes an examination of demographic and household factors among groups that are particularly at risk of homelessness: poor households living doubled up, poor single individuals, poor families headed by a single adult, and poor adults accessing safety net benefits.
“Doubling-up” refers to when a family or individual is living in another family member or friend’s house for economic reasons. It is the most often cited previous living situation for individuals and families entering the homelessness system. Nationally, the number of doubled up poor households increased by almost 10 percent. This increase is part of a trend over the last several years, increasing from 4.6 million in 2007 to 7.4 million in 2011.
Additionally, the majority of the homeless population is made up of single unaccompanied adults, and the majority of homeless families are headed by a single adult—usually female. The populations of poor individuals and poor families headed by a single person both increased and, like “doubled up” households, the size of these at-risk populations have been steadily growing over the last 5 years.
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What Happened with Sequestration?
April 22, 2013
Lately, we’ve been talking a lot about the federal budget. We wrapped up fiscal year (FY) 2013 in mid-March with some good news for HUD’s McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants: the program received a post-sequestration increase! Shortly after, we released our State of Homelessness in America 2013, and the Administration released its FY 2014 Budget Proposal. In other words, it seems like we’ve moved past all the talk of the fiscal cliff and sequestration. But have we?
The President’s Budget Proposal had some great news for HUD – proposing increases to a variety of programs, including, once again, the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants. All the funding levels proposed by the President for all federal programs include an important caveat – they assume sequestration will be reversed. Well, OK, but where is that assumption coming from? Can we assume that sequestration was just a blip that’s probably going to go away?
The answer, of course, like so many other things related to federal policymaking lately, is that we don’t quite know. No one on either side of the aisle will argue that sequestration is good policy. Indiscriminate cuts to virtually all federal programs won’t make much of a dent in the federal deficit, and they will most certainly have a negative impact on the operation of many federal programs. But unfortunately, sequestration is a done deal. It went into effect on March 1 and while some programs haven’t yet felt the pinch of the 5 percent cut, they no doubt will, with many of those negative impacts being felt as the summer approaches.
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Veteran Homelessness Funding in the President’s Budget
April 18, 2013
As you may have heard, the Administration has requested another historic increase in funding for homelessness assistance programs under the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). In the Administration’s FY2014 budget request the president’s budget proposal calls for 1.4 billion. This is a 3 percent increase over last year’s historic 33 percent funding increase. So what does this mean?
This budget reflects a strong, ongoing commitment to the goal of ending veteran homelessness by 2015. It continues Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) program funding at a scale necessary on both ending veteran homelessness in this timeframe and preventing future veteran homelessness. This budget also calls for an additional 10,000 HUD-Veteran Assistance Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) program housing vouchers and a modest increase in VA’s Homeless Providers Grant and Per Diem program.
This is what a fully funded system looks like: a full spectrum of programs and interventions to address the housing needs of homeless and at-risk veterans and their families. It would ensure permanent housing for more chronically homeless veterans, put transitional housing programs in place, and expand the rapid re-housing and prevention system.
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Field Notes: Mastering the Retooling Dance
April 17, 2013
To improve homeless assistance, many providers and community leaders are exploring options for retooling transitional housing programs to models that help people move more quickly into permanent housing, while providing the support they need to remain stably housed. This process can be at times arduous and overwhelming, especially for programs with a long history in a particular transitional housing model.
Perhaps, if we start to think about the planning and implementation of a new model as taking “dance lessons,” it may reframe the retooling journey as an opportunity to learn a new dance with some great new steps for a successful retooling process. Those of use with two left feet take dance lessons to learn from others with experience and skill, and we realize that it takes determination, some stumbling, lots of practice, and following the direction of others who have mastered the art of dance.
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The State of Homelessness in America 2013: Chapter 2
April 16, 2013
This month we released The State of Homelessness in America 2013. Each week in April we will be providing a short summary of each chapter of the report through our blog. Last week, we covered Chapter 1 which examined trends in homelessness from 2011 to 2012.
Last week, we covered Chapter 1 which examined trends in homelessness from 2011 to 2012. What we found were mixed results: chronic and veteran homelessness decreased significantly, while family homelessness increased slightly. These mixed findings are most likely related to changes in policy, such as investment in permanent supportive housing and veteran specific programs, as well as the economic and housing environments in which homelessness occurs.
We know that, on its most basic level, homelessness is caused by an individual or family being unable to afford housing. Chapter 2 examined both economic and housing factors that impact the ability of a household to afford housing: unemployment, poverty, median income, fair market rent, and vacancy rate were all examined.
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Spending for Homeless Youth Cut by almost $6 million
April 15, 2013
For a number of years, homeless assistance programs under the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act (RHYA) have been flat funded at $115 million annually. Those funds support the hard work of people on the frontlines of city, suburban, and rural homeless assistance programs, people working directly with homeless and at-risk youth
These programs cannot afford the approximately 5 percent across-the-board cuts to discretionary programs required under sequestration. Across the nation, frontline service providers already regularly decline shelter and safety to young people because they simply lack capacity to serve them.
Sequestration took effect on Friday. March 1. For FY 2013, the current budget year, the already underfunded Administration for Children and Families will be funded at around $109.25 million, about $5.75 million less than the previous year.
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The State of Homelessness in America 2013: Chapter 1
April 12, 2013
This has been a busy week at the Alliance. The Homelessness Research Institute released The State of Homelessness in America 2013. This is the third installment in a series of reports that examines trends in homelessness and the economic and housing context in which those trends occur.
Today we are going to take a quick look at Chapter 1, which examines national and state level trends in homelessness. The data presented in Chapter 1 comes from Point-In-Time estimates for January 2011 and January 2012 reported to the Department of Housing and Urban Development by communities across the U.S.
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How Would the President Fund Homeless Assistance in 2014?
April 11, 2013
The President’s budget proposal, released Wednesday, provides a detailed look at this Administration’s spending priorities for the next year and beyond. Right now you can find all kinds of commentary on the proposed budget, in terms of both policy and politics, about the big picture and larger items like tax and spending policies aimed at reducing the long-term federal deficit, as well as concessions by the President to Republicans in the form of proposals to reduce spending on middle-class benefit programs.
Today, however, I want to go over a few specific items, much smaller in scale, that would have an impact on homelessness.
One important piece of background information that’s important to keep in mind: This budget proposal is based on certain assumptions about how much money overall will be available for HUD programs. While those assumptions are certainly reasonable, not all members of Congress agree on them. The President’s budget is always “just a proposal.” This year there is more uncertainty than usual, but there is a greater need for Congress to enact it.
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Get Your U.S. Rep to Support Homeless Assistance Funding! Here’s How.
April 05, 2013
After what can only be called an epic journey, fiscal year (FY) 2013 is over and Congress has moved full steam ahead into FY 2014. After the release of their Budget Resolutions (non-binding outlines of how the federal budget should look this year and in the near future – both the House and Senate came out with very different visions), the House and Senate are now working on the specifics of funding programs for various programs, including HUD’s McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants.
As such, Members of Congress are currently circulating Dear Colleague letters. Dear Colleague letters, also known as “sign-on letters,” are usually sponsored by one to three Members of Congress and contain a message for specific people in Congress – in this case, the Chair and Ranking Member of the Appropriations Committee or an Appropriations Subcommittee. The message usually refers to increasing or maintaining funding levels for specific programs for the upcoming fiscal year. The sponsors circulate the letter among their colleagues in either the House or Senate (in this case, both letters are in the House) to gather signatures.
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We’re Screening a Movie at our DC Conference
April 04, 2013
This is turning out to be quite a busy week at the Alliance. We’re currently preparing for the release of our State of Homelessness 2013 report this Tuesday, April 9, which will involve a press conference that morning and webinar that afternoon for advocates and stakeholders. You should register, if you’d like to hear about the data in the report as well as ways to act on the information through media engagement and advocacy efforts.
But we’re also putting together our next National Conference on Ending Homelessness. It’s happening on Monday July 22 through Wednesday July 24 at The Renaissance Washington DC Hotel in Washington, DC. Already, we’re at work on roughly 80 workshops covering veteran homelessness, youth homelessness, chronic homelessness, homelessness advocacy, Continuums of Care, rapid re-housing, and more.
This February, we had to close registration early for our Family and Youth conference because so many people registered for it so quickly, and we had to set up a wait-list for those who weren’t able to register in time. Obviously, we’re pleased with the huge response, and we want everyone who wants to attend to be able to, but we can only accommodate so many people.
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Field Notes: Implementing the CoC Regulations
April 03, 2013
Though the rule is out and Continuum of Care (CoC) competition season has passed – well, almost –there’s still some work left to do regarding the Continuum of Care regulations.
Around the time the regulations were released, we released several documents offering guidance on them, including a copy of our comments and a summary document. Last week, we released a brief on the next step: namely, how to implement the CoC rule and take advantage of the opportunities in it to promote best practices in your community. Here are some of the issues we address.
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Sneak Preview: The State of Homelessness in America 2013
April 02, 2013
I’m excited to announce that, on next Tuesday, April 9, the Alliance’s Homelessness Research Institute will release The State of Homelessness in America 2013. This report is the third in a series that examines trends in homelessness as well as trends in the economic, housing, and demographic context in which homelessness exists. The reports from previous years are available here and here.
The Alliance is hosting a press conference to present the report on the morning of April 9. The press conference will feature Congressman Cleaver (D-MO) and Alliance president and CEO Nan Roman who will discuss the major findings of the report and the implications of those findings on ending homelessness in the U.S.
Additionally, the Alliance will be hosting a webinar at 3 p.m. on April 9 to provide more details on the findings for our partners throughout the country. The webinar will also provide information for how you can get involved in media engagement and advocacy efforts using this report.
The report is not available until next Tuesday, but here is a sneak peak at some of the findings.
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No HPRP? What now?
April 01, 2013
Some innovative communities have already shown how much we can accomplish when homeless service providers partner up with state agencies administering the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. This Thursday, the National Alliance to End Homelessness hosted a webinar, Partnering with TANF Agencies to End Family Homelessness: Idaho, that examined how one local provider did just that.
The webinar which was recorded on March 28 features representatives from the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare and the Charitable Assistance for The Community’s Homeless (CATCH, Inc.) who share how the public-private partnership evolved. Check out the embedded video of the webinar to see how.
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Field Notes: How to Plan a Learning Collaborative – Step One
March 28, 2013
There is a deep gulf between what we know we should do, and what we actually do. We can see across it, we can even describe what the other side looks like, but we are not sure how to actually cross it. This is where some homeless service providers find themselves in their efforts to move toward rapid re-housing.
Last year the Alliance trained 172 organizations in Virginia on rapid re-housing. We also brought in Kris Billhardt, Director of Volunteers of America, Oregon’s Home Free program, to conduct trainings on rapid re-housing for survivors of domestic violence. The next step in helping service providers in Virginia adopt rapid re-housing was to help them bridge the gap between what they now knew about rapid re-housing, and the practices and policies of their organizations.
To accomplish this, the Alliance launched seven Learning Collaboratives. A Learning Collaborative is an opportunity for organizations to make changes in the way they operate, while being supported by their peers and experts in rapid re-housing. Here is how it works.
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Homeless Assistance Grants Receive Funding INCREASE!
March 27, 2013
Last week, the House and Senate finalized a final fiscal year (FY) 2013 funding bill for all federal discretionary spending. As we read through the list of anomalies (the handful of programs that received funding increases, as opposed to the vast majority of programs that received flat funding from FY 2012), we felt mixed emotions. We were relieved and excited to see an increase for HUD’s McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants and beyond thrilled at the 33 percent increase homeless assistance programs within the Department of Veterans Affairs received. On the other hand, we were shocked and disappointed to see that following sequestration, many programs serving low-income populations would be taking a tremendous hit.
After a tumultuous (to say the least) year, well, 16 months, focusing on FY 2013 funding, here’s our assessment on the final funding levels and what they mean.
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One-stop-shop for homeless vets coming soon to a community near you?
March 25, 2013
Over the last year or so, the Department of Veterans Affairs has been implementing a new model, the Community Resource and Referral Center or “CRRC.” Basically, it’s a one-stop-shop for homeless and at-risk veterans, and it’s being tested in 17 urban sites across the nation. Most of these initial test sites are currently operating and more are planned for the future. So, what exactly is this new model and how does it work?
The CRRC is VA’s attempt to develop a centralized assessment of homeless veterans at the community level. The goal is to get vets connected to stable housing and supportive services. These centers assess veterans for programs and services, both within VA and community-based organizations. Besides offering housing assistance through VASH Referrals, SSVF interventions and other housing services, CRRCs also offer medical services, employment and training services, hygiene and laundry services, benefit assessment (both VA and non-VA) and much more.
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Poor People Can’t Afford Housing. How Can We Fix That?
March 21, 2013
We over at the National Low Income Housing Coalition spend most of our time focused on solving one specific problem: the acute shortage of housing that is affordable and available to extremely low income (ELI) households. This shortage is a primary driver of homelessness, and closing the gap between the number of affordable housing units and ELI households will make a big difference in the ongoing effort to prevent and end homelessness.
Our latest numbers show that, for every 100 ELI households, there are just 30 affordable and available units. This number grows every year. In our annual report Out of Reach (released this month), the authors reveal that nationwide, a household must earn $18.79 an hour (working 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year) in order to afford a decent two bedroom rental home. This number, which we call the “housing wage,” is even higher in many parts of the country. (You can get data on your own community at the NLIHC website.)
While federal programs exist to help make housing more affordable for ELI households, these programs are oversubscribed, and many eligible households go unassisted, even if they otherwise qualify. Low income households desperately in need of housing find themselves on years-long waiting lists, or find that waiting lists for affordable housing in their area are closed entirely. Households on waiting lists for housing assistance have an average wait time of two years.
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Field Notes: What if your program’s leadership doesn’t support retooling?
March 19, 2013
Continuing our series of answering frequently asked questions, today’s vlog answers a question on the topic of retooling transitional housing programs: “What if our organization’s executive director/leadership does not support the retooling our transitional housing program, but the local Continuum of Care is moving in that direction?”
This is a question I received during our Performance Improvement Clinics, where we often discuss retooling transitional housing as a possible change strategy. In these discussions, we have learned that reluctant leadership can be a struggle, particularly for organizations that have operated a transitional housing program for many years under the same board of directors or executive director.
In this video I share information and ideas from providers who have retooled their programs as well as ideas from my own experience in retooling a transitional housing program prior to my work here at the Alliance. The key to engaging organizational leadership is through education and lots of dialogue, both at the organizational and the community levels.
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