Ending Homelessness Today
The official blog of the National Alliance to End Homelessness
The Year Ahead in Veteran Homelessness
January 05, 2015
Fast forward to December 31, 2015, to a the White House Press Room where President Obama is holding a press conference announcing that we have effectively ended homelessness among veterans in our country. This may seem improbable – it is in fact only 360 days away – but we learned in 2014 that it is completely possible.
2015 will be a “nose to the grindstone” year for ending veteran homelessness. There is so much money and so much know-how out in the field right now; we know what works to get veterans permanently housed, and the Department of Veterans Affairs has provided (and will continue to provide) ample funds to make it happen. There are communities that have already accomplished the goal of ending homelessness among chronic veterans – Houston and Phoenix to name a couple – and as communities across the country fan out for their annual Point-in-Time Counts, I have no doubt that we will be hearing from many, many more.
But we’ll also begin hearing from communities that have effectively ended veteran homelessness. Binghamton, NY has already made the announcement, and New Orleans is queued up to announce it this week (much more on that later in a few days).
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Top 3 of 2014: 3 Things Everyone Should Know About Homelessness Now
December 30, 2014
As we head into the New Year, we're highlighting some of our most popular blog content by rerunning three of our most read blog posts. This post was originally published on Oct. 20, 2014. It's our most read post of 2014. It should be noted that as of Tuesday, Dec. 16, when President Obama signed a $1.1 trillion spanding bill for Fiscal Year 2015, the third bullet of this post it out of date. For the most recent update on funding for homeless assistance, see this post: What Does the $1.1 Trillion Spending Bill Mean for Homeless Assistance in 2015?
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 "The 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.
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Top 3 of 2014: 3 Criticisms of Rapid Re-housing that Sound Valid, but Aren’t
December 29, 2014
As we head into the New Year, we're highlighting some of our most popular blog content by rerunning three of our most read blog posts. This post was originally published on May 6, 2014. It's our second most read post of 2014.
As rapid re-housing increases in popularity as a strategy to address homelessness, not surprisingly, it is coming under closer scrutiny. Rapid re-housing is designed to help families experiencing homelessness by providing them with the financial assistance and services they need in order to return to permanent housing. It has been proven to be incredibly successful at doing that, but like any new idea, it has its detractors. Naturally, some people who have worked in the homeless assistance field for years, relying on strategies they are more familiar with, might be skeptical. With today’s blog post, I’d like to take a look at three of the most common criticisms of rapid re-housing that I’ve heard, and discuss why these criticisms aren’t valid.</
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Top 3 of 2014: Homelessness Doesn’t Discriminate
December 23, 2014
As we head into the New Year, we're highlighting some of our most popular blog content by rerunning three of our most read blog posts. This post was originally published on August 21, 2014. It's the third most read post of 2014.
Have you seen this video yet? I wouldn’t be surprised if you have. It went viral not long ago. As of this writing it has almost three million views. So lots of people have seen it, shared it, and, I would venture, watched it multiple times. I know I have.
The video, a promotional tool for the “Rethink Homelessness” campaign, depicts actual homeless people holding cardboard signs bearing startling facts about their lives. And while it’s tempting to criticize the video because it perpetuates a stereotype, the video also forces its viewers to acknowledge the humanity of the people many choose to regard merely as a disquieting fixture of urban life.
About 580,000 people experience homelessness on a given day in this country, and no, most of them are not standing on sidewalks holding cardboard signs, panhandling. Many are in shelters; many are living in their cars; many are depleting the savings they amassed while not homeless; and many more are subsisting on homeless services while working hard to lift themselves out of homelessness.
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5 Things Communities Must Do to End Chronic Homelessness
December 22, 2014
Since the Bush administration first announced the goal of ending chronic homelessness in 2005, we have seen incredible focus on the problem at the national and local levels. We have made significant progress as a result. The number of individuals experiencing chronic homelessness on a given night has declined by 21 percent.
But we aren’t there yet (in January, volunteers conducting the homeless census counted more than 84,000 chronically homeless people), and we have just 24 months to go before we hit the 2016 deadline that the administration set. Fortunately, we already know how to do it: permanent supportive housing (PSH). The net public cost of providing PSH is less than the cost of allowing chronically homeless people to remain homeless.
Can we end chronic homelessness in two years? The federal government has already moved the finish line back a year from 2015. And just last week, President Obama signed a $1.1 trillion spending bill for Fiscal Year 2015 that provides $271 million less for the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants than his administration had requested and that organizations like ours had been advocating for. Additional McKinney funding would have helped us secure 37,000 rent subsidies.
Without the funding increase, the prospect of meeting the 2016 deadline is far less certain. But regardless of the exact date of the goal, what matters most is that we stick to it. The real question is not whether we can end chronic homelessness by the end of 2016, but whether we can end chronic homelessness at all. The answer to that question is an emphatic yes. We already have the experience, the tools, and the knowledge. Now we just need the resources.
If we are to end chronic homelessness by 2016, here are five steps communities will need to take.
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This Sunday We Remember the Lives Lost to Homelessness
December 18, 2014
This might not have occurred to you this morning when you walked by that person with a cardboard sign on your way to work, but that person you just walked past is in mortal danger.
Nobody wants to be homeless, especially in the winter. It’s not just unpleasant, boring, and scary, homeless people face constant exposure to the elements, vulnerability to harassment, sleep deprivation, dehydration, and starvation. For an able-bodied man or woman these conditions are hazardous; for someone with poor health, they can be deadly.
Unfortunately, that’s the position many chronically homeless people find themselves in. For many, it is their own disabilities that have led them to become homeless, rendering them unfit to maintain employment and housing stability. For others, it is their struggle with crippling addictions that has led to life on the streets, a precarious existence that itself often produces its own debilitating physical ailments.
This Sunday, Dec. 21, people in communities around the country will gather at public events for National Homeless Persons' Memorial Day to remember and honor their homeless neighbors who have succumbed to life on the street, or their own poor health conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease, which are found at high rates among the homeless.
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5 Reasons Why Housing Providers Should Be Using Medicaid for Supportive Services
December 17, 2014
The clock is ticking. With the federal goal to end chronic homelessness by 2016 fast approaching, communities need to pull together funding for housing and supportive services quickly and with sustainability in mind. That’s why many communities are exploring how they can take advantage of Medicaid to cover the cost of supportive services in permanent supportive housing.
Health care reform has provided an opportunity for states to re-evaluate their Medicaid programs and determine whether they want to expand Medicaid and include coverage for additional services. Additional coverage and re-evaluation of Medicaid programs means states can explore adding services to their Medicaid State Plans to help with efforts to end chronic homelessness.
There are several benefits to using Medicaid pay for supportive services.
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What Does the $1.1 Trillion Spending Bill Mean for Homeless Assistance in 2015?
December 16, 2014
It has been an interesting few weeks here in DC, as negotiations over another spending bill dragged on just ahead of yet another government shutdown. In the midst of negotiations, Democrats and Republicans alike expressed their approval over some parts of the bill and dismay over others. But just last week, both houses of Congress passed the $1.1 trillion spending bill for federal programs for fiscal year 2015. President Obama is expected to sign it into law soon.
The good news is that we won’t have another government shutdown, and that important Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) programs held on to the increases in funding they got last year. To do that, the spending bill provides $2.135 billion for the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants program. The bad news is that’s $271 million less than President Obama requested and that organizations like ours had been advocating for. Funding McKinney at the higher level would have helped us secure 37,000 rent subsidies necessary to meet the goal of ending chronic homelessness by the end of 2016.
That didn’t happen. In this post, I want to focus on the impact that I believe we can expect the passage of this spending bill will have on funding for programs that serve people experiencing homelessness, specifically those under HUD’s Continuum of Care (CoC) and Emergency Solution Grants (ESG) programs, as well as for the Section 8 voucher program.
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The Year in Review: Youth Homelessness
December 15, 2014
If you know anything about youth homelessness, you know that we’re still a long way from ending it. But looking back on 2014, you can also see that we have advanced, slowly but surely, in the right direction. While communities around the country still struggle with mounting a youth-inclusive Point-in-Time Count, we’ve seen more commitment at the federal level, from both legislators and agencies. Though the slow pace can be frustrating, momentum is building, and we’ve got many reasons to be hopeful for the future.
One of the persistent obstacles to developing solutions to youth homelessness is the difficulty in obtaining an accurate count of homeless youth. In 2013, communities finally included unaccompanied youth in their Point-in-Time (PIT) counts, which meant we were finally able to include homeless youth in our 2014 State of Homelessness report. The 2014 PIT Count was not perfect, but some communities did a fantastic job. The Alliance recently hosted several webinars that highlighted communities in Nevada and California that are setting the standard for a youth-inclusive count.
This year also marked the 40th anniversary of the 1974 Runaway and Homeless Youth Act (RHYA), the only piece of federal legislation devoted exclusively to youth homelessness. The Act expired in September 2013, but this year ens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) wrote legislation that would not just reauthorize it, but improve upon it. The Senate Judiciary Committee passed the bill, but reauthorization is unlikely to happen this congressional session. You can be sure that in the New Year, the Alliance will join forces with our fellow advocates and our grassroots network to support it.
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Preparing for the 2015 Point-in-Time Count—Time’s Almost Up!
December 11, 2014
As 2014 winds down and we begin to look toward the New Year, communities across the country also will be looking toward the upcoming point-in-time (PIT) counts. These counts are mandated by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and they are conducted yearly on a single night in January, in accordance with HUD’s Methodology Guide.
Every community is required to do an annual survey of the number of homeless people in shelter, and a bi-annual survey of the number of homeless people who are unsheltered (i.e., are living in a place unfit for human habitation, such as in a park or in an abandoned building). It may be helpful for communities to review HUD’s survey tools, which can be employed for sheltered counts and either observation-based or interview-based unsheltered counts.
Unsheltered counts are difficult for many communities, as it may be hard to know where to look to find members of the homeless population. To help communities think about new and different strategies for conducting these counts, the Alliance has conducted webinars this fall on unsheltered counts.
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The Alliance Kicks Rapid Re-Housing Up a Notch
December 10, 2014
There is a lot going on at the Alliance these days as we work to raise the visibility and understanding of rapid re-housing, which is an essential component of every community’s overall strategy to end homelessness.
We have a couple developments this week that I’m excited to share with you. First, we are announcing a new, monthly newsletter that will start in January 2015. This newsletter will be your go-to source for any new reports, briefs, and studies on rapid re-housing, as well as details on upcoming or recent webinars and a heads-up on Alliance activities and events. If you are signed up for the Alliance’s regular newsletter, you probably received an announcement today on how to sign up for this one.
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The Year in Review: Family Homelessness
December 09, 2014
It’s almost 2015, and here at the Alliance we are reflecting back on what we as a nation have accomplished in 2014 in the fight to end homelessness. We will have a lot to be grateful for in the New Year, but we will also have a lot of work still ahead of us, particularly when it comes to ending family homelessness.
Here are some startling statistics: On a single night in January 2014, more than 200,000 people in families were either staying in a homeless service program or in a place not intended for human habitation, according to the most recent Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress. That number represents a 3 percent decline (or 6,000 people) since 2013, a significantly smaller decline than the one we saw among veterans (11 percent).
In recent years, policymakers and homeless service providers have made a sustained effort to improve our response to family homelessness. They developed new tools and resources, and they increased investment in rapid re-housing, an intervention that provides temporary financial assistance to homeless families to help them return to permanent housing. (Between 2013 and 2014 rapid re-housing capacity nearly doubled.)
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This #GivingTuesday, Give A Gift to End Homelessness
December 02, 2014
As you probably know by now, today is Giving Tuesday. Everyone has heard of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but now we have a new day meant to transform how people think about, talk about, and participate in the giving season. After running around on Black Friday and taking advantage of the Cyber Monday deals, Giving Tuesday provides a chance to give back.
For the last two years, Giving Tuesday has challenged individuals and communities to make the world a better place through generosity. By using the Giving Tuesday hashtag #GivingTuesday, organizations across the country are spreading their message and raising funds for their programs.
Today we ask you to join the movement and take a second to ask yourself, "How can I make the world a better place?" Want to support our work? This year, our board has shown their support by matching all donations made today. Any size gift helps and, today only, you can double your impact!
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Happy Thanksgiving from the Alliance
November 27, 2014
Today is Thanksgiving, and it is time to spend the day with our families and loved ones, a time for giving thanks for all that we have. It has been a busy year for us, and here at the Alliance we are incredibly thankful for the thousands of partners across the country who are working with us to end homelessness in America.
We are thankful for the thousands of practitioners and volunteers who are working on the front lines in homeless programs, homeless shelters, and housing providers to end and prevent homelessness, people who are providing services directly to homeless people. And we are thankful to our staff members and others working at the national level on developing innovative solutions.
We are thankful for the great progress that communities around the country have made toward ending homelessness, particularly among veterans, which has declined nationally by 10.5 percent since 2013. And we are inspired by the progress of cities like New York and New Orleans, which have achieved reductions of more than 50 percent in veteran homelessness since 2011.
We hope you have the opportunity to spend time with your families this Thanksgiving, and we urge you to keep in your hearts the plight of the most vulnerable of among us, the 580,000 youth, veterans, families, and individuals who will spend the holiday, either alone or with their families, in a shelter or on the street.
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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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