Ending Homelessness Today
The official blog of the National Alliance to End Homelessness
Home. Means. Safety.
October 11, 2012
Today’s guest blog was contributed by Peg Hacskaylo, the Executive Director of the District Alliance for Safe Housing, Inc. (DASH), the largest dedicated housing provider for victims of domestic and sexual violence in the District of Columbia. For more information about DASH, visit www.dashdc.org.
Trudy had been living in an apartment with her boyfriend and their son for about 2 years when the abuse from her boyfriend became more frequent and more intense. She wanted to move out but couldn’t afford to live on her income from her job as a cashier at a local retail store. One night, when her boyfriend had another violent outburst, Trudy called the police. When they arrived, an advocate was with them to help her determine what services she needed. She said she couldn’t stay in their home because, if her boyfriend went to jail, she couldn’t afford the rent and, if her boyfriend was released, she wouldn’t feel safe there. So the advocate placed her and her son in a hotel paid for by compensation available to crime victims. She could stay at the hotel for up to 30 days while she tried to figure out what she would do.
By her second week in the hotel, Trudy had called every resource given to her to find another place to live, to no avail. She finally went to the city’s intake center for homeless families but they told her that she wasn’t considered homeless because she wasn’t living in a shelter or on the streets. By the end of the month, Trudy went back to live with her boyfriend, who had been released from jail, because she had run out of time and had nowhere else to go.
But when her boyfriend’s abuse continued, Trudy again began searching for another place to live. She reached out to the local battered women’s shelters and was eventually able to get space for herself and her son for up to 90 days. When her time there was about to run out, she again went to the central intake center, only to be told that she was still ineligible for housing because the shelter she was living in wasn’t part of the city’s homeless housing system. Trudy left the shelter to live in a friend’s basement until she could figure out her next step.
Stories like Trudy’s are all too common in the District of Columbia and throughout the U.S. Women are one of the fastest growing groups of homeless people in the country (Goodman, Fels, & Glen, 2011), and domestic violence is a leading cause of homelessness among single women and women with children (National Coalition for the Homeless, 2005). In one large-scale study, 92 percent of homeless mothers reported experiencing sexual or physical abuse in their lifetimes (Browne & Bassuk, 1997). The limited availability of safe and affordable housing options frequently results in women falling into homelessness after exiting abusive situations (National Institute of Justice, 2008), and homelessness dramatically increases their risk of suffering episodes of sexual assault and other kinds of abuse (Goodman, Fels, & Glen, 2011).
When we founded the District Alliance for Safe Housing (DASH) in 2006, our initial plan was to create a safe emergency-to-transitional housing facility for survivors of domestic violence. At the time, the demand for housing for victims displaced from their homes was overwhelming... Read More »
Webinar: “Youth Targeted Point-In-Time Counts: What You Need to Know!”
October 10, 2012
Last week the Alliance and co-sponsors held a webinar on counting youth experiencing homelessness during the HUD mandated point-in-time counts that will be held in January 2013.
The webinar explored what three communities — San Jose, D.C., and southern Nevada — have done to effectively count youth experiencing homelessness. We had a fantastic turnout and received great feedback.
The Alliance would like to thank our partners who contributed to the webinar: the John Burton Foundation for Children without Homes (JBF), National Network for Youth (NN4Y), and the DC Alliance of Youth Advocates (DCAYA).
To build on this momentum, the Alliance is producing yet another webinar (with co-sponsors the NN4Y and DCAYA) titled “Youth Targeted Point-In-Time Counts: What You Need to Know!” This time the webinar will feature Peter Connery of Applied Survey Research and will focus on:
Developing Key Partnerships;
Safety and Privacy Concerns;
Deployment of Teams to Conduct the Counts;
The Survey Process;
Rural Communities; and
Per usual, we will have time for a robust Q&A session to answer as many questions as possible.
Please join us on Thursday, October 18, at 1:30 P.M. EST by registering for this important webinar.
... Read More »
Field Notes: the Retooling Process
October 10, 2012
The HEARTH Act has kept our homeless assistance community abuzz for some time now. One of the things that we have heard a lot of “buzzing” about is the role that transitional housing programs will play in local Continuums of Care (CoCs).
While we know that transitional housing is an eligible activity with the recent release of the interim CoC rules, we also know that many programs and communities are exploring how to best use transitional housing resources to retool their homeless system to meet the HEARTH Act’s key performance measures.
Last week, we held a webinar about retooling transitional housing. We know that many organizations are in very different stages of retooling. Some of you are just beginning to think about retooling and are looking for additional information; some of you are ready to do something, but are not sure where to start; and a number of you have already started the process and are looking for additional direction and assistance in the details. During the webinar, we talked about reasons for retooling, options to consider with a focus on rapid re-housing models, and the process that organizations ready to take the plunge into retooling can use.
We hope the recorded version of the webinar will help everyone, no matter where you are in the process of retooling. We will continue to provide resources on retooling transitional housing over the next several... Read More »
Preventing the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children and Youth
October 09, 2012
The following article originally appeared in the Missing and Exploited Children’s Program Newsletter, October 1, 2012.
Although current data on the extent of youth homelessness are limited, previous studies have estimated that approximately 1.7 million youth under the age of 18 have run away or are homeless in the United States each year. Several factors contribute to young people leaving home. One of the primary factors is intense family conflict, which can take the form of physical abuse, sexual abuse, or non-acceptance of a youth’s sexual orientation and/or gender identity.
When young people are out of the home unaccompanied and trying to navigate life on the streets, they become susceptible to many horrors, including commercial sexual exploitation (CSE) and trafficking. Estimates are that some 2.2 percent of children under the age of 18 who have a runaway or homeless episode — approximately 39,000 children annually — are sexually assaulted or become victims of CSE.
The relationship between youth homelessness and CSE and/or trafficking arguably begins as soon as a youth leaves home. The Dallas Police Department has found that the more times a youth runs away from home, the more likely that youth is to be victimized. Unaccompanied youth living on the street are particularly vulnerable to such victimization because they are not in a position to meet their immediate needs for food, shelter and safety. This makes them a target for people who may exploit them. A study of shelter... Read More »
National Homeless and Low-Income Voter Registration Week
October 04, 2012
“You don’t need a home to vote, ” as the National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH) reminds us on the cover of its 2012 Voting Rights Manual. The NCH and its national partners are wrapping up National Homeless and Low-Income Voter Registration Week, which runs from September 30 to October 6. Voter registration deadlines for the upcoming November elections in the majority of states are fast approaching, but registration will be open in more than a dozen states for at least another week. You can find out the registration deadline in your state from the NCH manual, or look for this information on the website of your state elections office. The U.S. Election Assistance Commission has a list of state links for state-specific information and registration tools.
The NCH manual offers general tips about registering homeless voters. If there is still time to help homeless citizens register in your state, here are some key points you should keep in mind.
Read More »
Field Notes: Retooling Transitional Housing, a Community Example
October 03, 2012
At our conference this summer, I had the privilege of moderating a session on “Retooling Your Transitional Housing.” One of our speakers for the session was Vera Beech, Executive Director of Community Rebuilders in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The title of her presentation was “Families in Transition – a Successful Precedent for the Re-Design of Transitional Housing Programs.”
Vera shared with the participants the journey that Community Rebuilders took in 2007 to retool their scattered site traditional transitional housing program into a rapid re-housing approach. The program shift involved amending a HUD Supportive Housing Program-Transitional Housing (SHP-TH) grant, reallocating a $300,000 supportive service line item to the leasing budget. As a result of the shift, the renamed “Transitional Assistance” program is serving more households than before and achieving better housing outcomes, including reduced length of program stay and increased cost-effectiveness.
The retooled Transitional Assistance model is scattered site and uses private market rentals with the lease in the consumer’s name. The program uses a rapid re-housing approach with the length of program assistance, including rental assistance, averaging eight months. Significant changes included adopting a consumer centered and strength based approach, making service participation voluntary, emphasizing consumer housing choice, and all leases being in the consumer’s name where consumers can stay after program involvement ends. These changes increased stability for families and encouraged connections to their community.
Two key focuses that steered the retooling... Read More »
Moving Forward, One Word at a Time
October 02, 2012
Today’s guest blog post was written by Kristin Pazulski, Development Director and Managing Editor for the Denver VOICE. It includes an excerpt from the 2012 issue of the Denver VOICE, written by Raelene Johnson.
Raelene Johnson spent years living on the streets of Boulder. The shady space under a bridge was her home. She scraped by on the money earned the typical way on the street, her drug habit keeping her in a cycle of poverty and homelessness.
In 2008 Johnson discovered the Denver VOICE, a street paper in Colorado. As soon she walked through the vendor office door, she was given the opportunity to work. She received one hour of training and a badge with 10 free papers in exchange for the promise to conduct herself professionally while selling the VOICE.
Grabbing her first paper and ducking into the lanyard that held a tag with her face, name and vendor number, Johnson had no idea she was embarking on a journey very different from the one she’d been on.
There are 122 street papers around the world, more than 30 in North America. These papers are connected through two large networks—the International Network of Street Papers and the North American Street Newspaper Association.
Some are volunteer-based, while others have large staffs and monthly circulations exceeding 100,000. A wire service similar to the Associated Press allows street papers around the world to share their stories. Thanks to this service,... Read More »
The Alliance Recognizes Domestic Violence Awareness Month
October 01, 2012
October is domestic violence awareness month, which presents us with an opportunity to reflect on how domestic violence impacts the lives of people we serve. Many people enter the homeless service system fleeing domestic violence, and many more have experienced domestic violence in their past. As we work to improve our local homeless service system, we need to ensure that it is responsive to the needs of these survivors.
HUD is now requiring communities to establish a coordinated entry and assessment process for homeless services. As communities begin this important work, it is critical that the needs of survivors of domestic violence are not overlooked. Homeless system planners should consult with domestic violence experts as they develop coordinated assessment procedures. Ideally, local domestic violence partners should be involved in the day-to-day work of establishing a coordinated assessment process and ensuring that the safety, confidentiality, and well-being of survivors are protected.
We at the National Alliance to End Homelessness invite you to review resources which are already available on our website about preventing and ending homelessness for domestic violence survivors. Checklist: Incorporating Domestic Violence Providers into a Coordinated Assessment Process and Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing for Survivors of Domestic Violence may be of particular value as planners begin to develop a coordinated assessment process.
More resources, including webinarson on Homelessness Prevention for Survivors of Domestic Violence and Successful Partnerships to Serve Survivors of Domestic Violence are available on... Read More »
A New Toolkit for Public Housing agencies and their partners
September 27, 2012
Today’s guest post was written by Jordan Press, Director of Federal Policy at the Corporation for Supportive Housing.
As the federal budget tightens and the growth of programs targeted for the homeless slows, it is more important than ever for homeless advocates and service providers to engage in a more meaningful way with Public Housing Agencies (PHAs). After all, these agencies administer billions of dollars nationally in rental and other housing assistance and, in many communities, are on the front lines of preventing and ending homelessness.
Over the past two years, we at the Corporation for Supportive Housing(CSH) have focused more of our resources and advocacy efforts on programs integral to the success of PHAs, such as Section 8 rental assistance, Section 8 administrative fees and Public Housing operating funds. We’ve also looked closely at the work of PHAs to identify issues preventing PHAs from doing more to end homelessness. It has become clear to us that non-profit organizations like CSH and the Alliance, as well as government agencies such as HUD and the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, need to do more work to build capacity and know-how among PHAs, to debunk myths about restrictions on who can be housed in federally-assisted housing, and to help share best practices from successful communities.
We also have seen that PHAs and homeless service providers can have a complementary relationship, with PHAs and providers helping each other achieve... Read More »
Planning, planning and more planning
September 26, 2012
Hello Alliance supporters and conference-goers!
As the Alliance’s Director of Meetings and Events I am excited to be in the midst of planning the 2013 National Conference on Ending Family and Youth Homelessness. I’m thrilled that we are returning to Seattle, WA for this event.
The Alliance’s first Seattle conference took place in 2007, and it had the largest turnout of any of our west coast conferences. We hope to surpass that turnout in 2013, and we look forward to meeting more passionate folks who are working diligently year-round to ensure that there will one day be an end to homelessness in America.
For those of you who attend the conference, it’s a two-day affair (not counting your roundtrip travel). For Alliance staff though, conference planning begins more than a year before the event. Here’s a look at our planning process:
We like to finalize a location more than a year prior to the conference. For example, for our upcoming conference we secured a location in November of 2011. We choose the geographic location based upon what cities are doing to end homelessness in that area.
Choosing the location is just the beginning, though. Once that’s done, we have to research hotels in the area to determine which are large enough and have the proper layout for our conference, then we send requests for proposals to the prospective hotels. Once... Read More »
Webinar: “It’s a Data Driven World: Making the Most of the 2013 Youth Inclusive PIT Count.”
September 25, 2012
This January communities will feverishly conduct Point-in-Time counts of people experiencing homelessness. And guess what – for the first time youth ages 18-24 will be included as a specific population that will be counted and reported to HUD. This means that Continuum of Cares (CoCs) will need to develop key partnerships with youth providers and youth stakeholders to ensure a successful count. This also means that communities will need to know what methodologies have been proven to work. So, to help communities with the planning process, the Alliance is co-hosting a webinar titled, “It’s a Data Driven World: Making the Most of the 2013 Youth Inclusive PIT Count.”
The webinar will highlight three communities (San Jose, So. Nevada, and D.C.) that have successfully performed targeted youth counts. The webinar will discuss:
How to partner with Continuum of Care (CoC) bodies to ensure a successful count;
Concrete strategies for Coc’s regarding promising practices, methodologies, and lessons learned;
How to incorporate these strategies into the youth inclusive Point in Time count in 2013;
Guidance on how to incorporate school data into point-in-time counts; and
Effective strategies for counting youth in rural communities.
Please join us on Thursday, October 4, at 1:30 P.M. EST by registering for this important webinar.
... Read More »
OMB Report: sequestration would cut Homeless Assistance by $156 million
September 21, 2012
For some time now, we have been telling you about big federal budgetary issues, and how these issues could affect efforts to end homelessness. A recent report to Congress by the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), requested by Congress in the Sequestration Transparency Act of 2012, is a reminder of the impact these issues can have.
We’ve already told you about “sequestration,” the across-the-board spending cuts scheduled to take effect in three and a half months under the Budget Control Act that Congress passed and the President signed into law in early 2011.
Now, a recent report to Congress by the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), has spelled out, for the first time, which programs in the federal budget will be exempt from sequestration, and how much funding each nonexempt program will lose in January.
According to the report, sequestration would cut the HUD Homeless Assistance line by $156 million, with HUD deciding how much of this cut would come from the Emergency Solutions Grants, and how much from the Continuum of Care. Either way, existing programs would need to be scaled back or shut down.
Read More »
Field Notes: Putting Coordinated Assessment in a new context
September 19, 2012
The HEARTH Act has kept our homeless assistance community abuzz for some time now – over three years, in fact! With the release of the Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG) regulations, and, more recently, the interim Continuum of Care (CoC) ones, all of the concepts in the HEARTH Act are getting a lot of attention. Coordinated assessment is one of these concepts, so we’re doing all we can to keep up the interest level by talking to communities, studying different models, and pushing out materials.
Last week, we produced a webinar to help people put coordinated assessment into the context of all these regulations and changes. We talked about what coordinated assessment is and its six key aspects (access, assessment, data, referral, intake, and system change); what the regulations say about coordinated assessment (the key things being that it’s mandatory, should include ESG and CoC providers, and should be designed locally), recommendations for implementing it well (work together!), and basic next steps each community can take to get the process started. We also had a lot of great audience questions that allowed us to tackle issues like funding and getting buy-in from non-HUD providers.
We hope the recorded version of the webinar will help everyone, no matter where they are with coordinated assessment, and we hope it will help everyone move forward with confidence that they can implement it well, and, by doing so, reduce and shorten... Read More »
Moving forward on Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF)
September 18, 2012
Today's blog was written by Alliance Capacity Building Associate Alliance Kay Moshier McDivitt, with assistance from Alliance Program and Policy Analyst Ian Lisman.
Last month the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) issued the announcement for letters of intent for the next round of the Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) grant funding with a focus of expanding the SSVF program to all communities.
The day following that announcement, I had the privilege of giving a presentation with Vince Kane and John Kuhn of the VA National Center on Homelessness Among Veterans, sponsored by the Lebanon PA VA Medical Center. As I listened to both Vince and John speak to the attendees about VA and the SSVF program, I was struck by the common thread in our presentations: to end homelessness, we need to rapidly re-house families that become homeless and target our prevention resources to those most at risk of homelessness.
VA is looking for SSVF applicants that can show that they have the experience and capacity to deliver targeted prevention and rapid re-housing for veteran families. Vince and John emphasized that in this competitive world, applicants need to do their research and adopt best practices/strategies in implementing the SSVF program.
At the Alliance, we have been working with communities to strengthen and expand rapid re-housing programs. This opportunity, provided by SSVF funding, is a great way that communities can expand rapid re-housing for veteran families experiencing homelessness.
... Read More »
USICH’s Amendment to Opening Doors Focuses on Young People
September 17, 2012
The U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) recently released an amendment to Opening Doors, the federal strategic plan to prevent and end homelessness. The amendment, which USICH officials developed with its federal partners, addresses the education needs of children experiencing homelessness and provides strategies to solve the problem of homelessness amongst youth.
The amendment, which calls for data, more research, more resources, systems-level thinking, and true collaborations across systems and disciplines, adds depth and context to the administration’s current thinking on what’s needed to address these issues.
This new perspective comes from two models included in the amendment, one that outlines a new strategy for obtaining more accurate data on youth, and another, which shows the administration’s framework for ending youth homelessness, which was released in conjunction with USICH’s June 2012 council meeting.
The new amendment:
Adds robust language on obtaining a more comprehensive understanding of the scope of youth homelessness;
Outlines new strategies for increasing access to education for unaccompanied youth and improving their educational outcomes;
Adds a new emphasis on increasing access for unaccompanied youth to early childhood education programs;
Adds a new focus on awareness among practitioners of the importance of child and youth development;
Outlines new strategies to support healthy child and youth development within housing programs;and
Adds a new focus on advancing the health and housing stability for youth experiencing homelessness and youth exiting the foster... Read More »
Reminder: Combined Federal Campaign
September 17, 2012
It’s that time of year again, the Combined Federal Campaign starts soon and we just wanted to remind you that The National Alliance to End Homelessness will be participating again this year! All federal employees have the opportunity to participate in the world’s largest giving program.
Last year federal workers pledged $69,314.52 toward our goal of ending homelessness. To those of you who helped us reach this incredible number, thank you! This year we need your help again. Remember to look for us under “Homelessness, National Alliance to End,” #10022 in your CFC pledge book and on your local campaign website. You may also see some of us at your upcoming CFC Fair.
If you’re not a federal employee you can still give! Many companies have their own matching campaigns that allow you to double your own person contribution. You can also remind friends and family who are federal employees to remember us when filling out their card.
For more information about giving to the Alliance or to make a donation, visit our giving webpages.
... Read More »
Children in Poverty: A Census Update
September 13, 2012
Yesterday the U.S. Census released data on income, poverty, and health insurance coverage in 2011. By now you’ve seen the headlines: the poverty rate has leveled off at 15 percent after three years of increasing and remains at the highest level since 1993, while median income has declined by 1.5 percent, which means that the middle class continues to feel the strain of the bad economy. More people are covered by health insurance (1.4 million more than in 2010), which is certainly welcome news, since the number of people with health insurance has been going down for the last 10 years. But while poverty has leveled off, it remains at historically high levels, and children continue to be disproportionately impacted. We could be doing a lot more.
16.1 million children in the U.S. lived in poverty in 2011—that’s more than one in five children.
Young children in families headed by a single mother were hardest hit: 57.6 percent of children under the age of 6 in families headed by a single mother live in poverty.
Over 7 million children live in deep poverty, subsisting on less than $1,000 a month for a family of four ($11,511 annually) – that’s 9.8 percent of all children in the U.S.
And deep poverty is much more prevalent among very young children, with 11.8 percent of all children under the age of 6 living in families with incomes below half the poverty level.
We know social benefits can... Read More »
Tell HUD what you think!
September 12, 2012
As the Alliance’s Policy Outreach Coordinator, I spend a lot of time working with many of you to help you build and strengthen relationships with your Members of Congress in order to ensure preventing and ending homelessness is a federal priority. But there’s another aspect to this that goes beyond Capitol Hill – working with the Administration.
Of course, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) holds authority over many homeless assistance and housing programs. Now you have an opportunity to tell them what you think! In July, HUD released the interim rule for the Continuum of Care (CoC) program within the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants program. The interim rule went into effect on August 30, but the public has until Monday, October 1 to comment on the rule. HUD will process the comments and eventually release a final rule. Basically, although your comments won’t immediately affect the program, they’ll have a significant impact in the way the program is ultimately designed over the long run.
If your community has any concerns, or if you particularly like something and want to make sure it stays in the final rule – now is your chance to let HUD know!
To help get you started, we’ve released a draft of our own comments. You are welcome to use our comments to help craft your own, but we’re also releasing them to... Read More »
So, what does homelessness have to do with 9/11?
September 11, 2012
Today’s guest post is from Geoff Millard, director of special projects at the Community Council for the Homeless at Friendship Place, a service provider based in D.C. Millard spent 9 years in the U.S. military, including 13 months in Iraq.
September 11, 2001, is a day that will “live in infamy” for my generation, just as Pearl Harbor does for the generation who lived through World War II. This is especially true for those of us who were serving in the military at the time. As most Americans watched with shock and horror as the second plane hit the twin towers, I was driving towards my unit in the New York Army National Guard, already knowing that I was activated.
As the rest of the military readied itself for war in the days following 9/11, I helped secure what became known as “ground zero”. I would soon be readying myself for war too. And war…well, that’s exactly what we got for the next 11-plus years.
The wars Iraq and Afghanistan permanently changed an entire generation of veterans. More than 2.5 million served in combat zones, and more have served at bases across the globe. This generation of service members is now being discharged and becoming veterans. An influx of 2.5 million people would stress any system, let alone one as severely underfunded as the Department of Veterans Affairs historically has been.
Still,... Read More »
Report: Hundreds Participated in Capitol Hill Day
September 10, 2012
Last month, nearly 1,500 people traveled from all over the country to Washington, D.C. for the Alliance’s National Conference on Ending Homelessness. Almost a quarter of those people participated in Capitol Hill Day, and visited their Members of Congress on Capitol Hill to update them on local progress in ending homelessness and to urge them to make ending homelessness a federal priority.
Based on our State Captains’ “report backs” from more than 289 meetings, we’ve compiled a 2012 Capitol Hill Day Report and Summary. The report highlights the major successes of this year’s Capitol Hill Day. For starters, more than 360 participants went on more than 289 meetings. Five states, including Arkansas, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Dakota, had a 100 percent participation rate, meaning that every person from the state who registered for our conference participated in Capitol Hill Day.
In the 289 congressional meetings, more than 75 of which involved a member of Congress (another record broken over last year), advocates made the case for the following Hill Day Policy Priorities:
Provide $2.23 billion in FY 2013 for HUD’s Homeless Assistance Grants Program;
Provide $127 million in FY 2013 for Runaway and Homeless Youth Act (RHYA) Programs;
Provide $1.35 billion for VA’s targeted homeless veteran programs, including $300 million for the Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) program;
Provide $100 million for SAMHSA Homeless Services Programs in FY 2013;
Renew all existing Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers in FY 2013, and provide $75... Read More »