Ending Homelessness Today
The official blog of the National Alliance to End Homelessness
3 Things Everyone Should Know About Homelessness Now
October 20, 2014
Here at the Alliance, we’re frequently contacted by people working on creative projects designed to raise awareness of homelessness. On an almost daily basis, we receive emails from people who have written songs, recorded videos, made movies, even designed videogames.
While the final product will vary wildly from one project to another in terms of quality and message, the artist’s intentions, invariably, are good. They feel strongly that we should do something about homelessness. We do too.
While we occasionally partner with filmmakers for the promotion of a film (e.g. we’re screening the youth homelessness documentary Homestretch at our next conference; check out the trailer above), the number of inquiries we receive is too large for us to respond to all of them.
Recently we were contacted by a filmmaker who had made a film about homelessness. She was preparing to promote her film and wanted to know if we could provide her with three simple talking points that she could use during interviews with journalists.
As the press person for the Alliance, it’s my job to handle these inquiries. So here’s what I threw together. These aren’t the Alliance’s recommended talking points; they’re mine. I based two of them on popular misconceptions that I’ve seen repeated again and again in popular media.
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Rapid Re-Housing is not an Anti-Poverty Program
October 17, 2014
When I travel around the country talking about or training on rapid re-housing, one of the statements I make that gets the most reaction is this: rapid re-housing isn’t an anti-poverty program, it is an anti-homelessness program. Without fail, several folks in the room will sit back and consider this statement, seemingly for the first time, even though it should be obvious. Although, as someone who has spent the better part of 25 years working on economic and social justice, I get why this statement can cause a few eyebrows in the room to go up.
Let’s face it; a lot of us get into this line of work because we can’t see abject poverty in our society and simply walk on by. And you can’t hit bottom worse than being poor and homeless. But when I talk about rapid re-housing as a solution to homelessness, a lot of folks raise questions about how a family is going to survive after the support ends. They worry that helping a family or individual into an apartment will set them up to ultimate failure. Many ask, “Wouldn’t they be better off with a housing voucher?” My answer is always the same.
Of course they would. But the reality is that there are not nearly enough housing vouchers to meet the need. However, when that family or individual is living on the street, what they need right away is a home.
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2 Steps We Must Take to End Youth Homelessness
October 15, 2014
So how do we end youth homelessness? That’s a big question, and there remains a lot of debate as to its answer. However, the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) has identified two key priority areas that we must address if we are to set the nation’s course toward ending youth homelessness.
One: We must gather more accurate information on the number of young people who experience homelessness each year. To solve a problem you must know its scope, and right now, in spite of efforts by organization across the country during the last Point-In-Time to get a youth-inclusive count, we still don’t know how many homeless youth are out there.
We do know that about half of the homeless young people counted were unsheltered. That means that in communities across the country, unaccompanied homeless youth were spending the night in places unfit for human habitation: street corners, parks, subway stations, or in abandoned buildings.
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Homeless Youth and Crime: What Does the Research Say?
October 14, 2014
In order to survive the harsh realities of living on the streets, homeless youth may commit crimes. Research has shown that homeless youth are disproportionately involved in illegal activities as compared to housed youth, but few studies have explored the risk factors that may lead these youths to the criminal justice system.
The Family and Youth Services Bureau, a division of the department of Health and Human Services, recently compiled several studies that aim to determine why homeless youth may engage in criminal behaviors. What they found paints a much richer picture of the reasons that many homeless youth commit crimes.
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We Have the Funding to End Veteran Homelessness. Now What?
October 09, 2014
Last week, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced it was releasing an additional $207 million in “surge funding” for the Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) program. Later in the week, HUD announced that it was issuing 9,000 new HUD-VA supportive housing (HUD-VASH) vouchers to house chronically homeless veterans.
Clearly, there are a lot of resources coming down the line to help address veteran homelessness. These new resources are meant to help communities find and house every homeless veteran in time to meet our goal of ending veteran homelessness by the end of 2015. This year, VA has released more than $500 million in SSVF grants to nonprofits in every state covering nearly every locality. The money is there (and there might even be more coming soon), so as we’ve discussed in this blog before, the responsibility is now on communities, local VA Medical Centers (VAMCs), and services providers to get the job done.
We have seen great progress so far, but there are still nearly 50,000 veterans without a place to call home. If you are a provider in one of the communities that received surge funding (check here), get involved to ensure these funds are used as efficiently and effectively as possible. Here are some important things you should be doing.
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Why Don’t We Have Enough Beds for Homeless Youth?
October 08, 2014
There are not enough beds for the number of homeless youth in this country. I’d like that statement to stand on its own for a moment: there are not enough beds for homeless youth in this country.
If they are lucky, a homeless youth gets a shelter bed or sleeps on a friend or family member’s couch. If they are unlucky, they sleep on the streets, in cars, in abandoned buildings; they may ride public transit all night; or they may barter sex for a place to stay. The important point here is: every night, homeless youth are turned away from shelter and housing programs because of a lack of capacity.
There are a couple of ways to solve this problem—or at least begin to address it. The obvious one is more beds. That means more money and other resources pumped into an overwhelmed shelter system. Unfortunately, government funding appears to be going the opposite direction.
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Here are 5 Tips for Site Visits with Congress Members this Fall
October 06, 2014
Right now Congress is on recess, which means members of Congress are in their districts and states until November 12, about a week after the election takes place. During that time, homeless advocates like you can take advantage of the election season to engage directly with members of Congress. How can you do that?
One of the most effective ways is by conducting a site visit. Homeless assistance programs depend on their votes, so giving members of Congress a tour of your local homeless assistance program is a great way to show them the impact their vote makes in the lives of their constituents. Here are five quick tips for organizing your next site visit.
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The True Colors Forty to None Summit Rocked!
October 02, 2014
Youth who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) make up just 4 to 10 percent of the youth in the U.S. Yet LGBTQ youth are still overrepresented among the homeless youth population, according to a recent brief by the Urban Institute. In New York City, LGBTQ homeless youth make up 43 percent of the homeless youth population.
And homeless LGBTQ youth are especially vulnerable. They experience higher rates of physical and sexual assault and higher incidences of mental health problems and unsafe sexual behaviors than their heterosexual counterparts. They experience higher rates of physical and sexual assault and higher incidences of mental health problems and unsafe sexual behaviors than their heterosexual counterparts.
Because of the lack of resources available for homeless youth, most LGBTQ homeless youth are unable to access housing and supportive services. And they often must rely on mainstream homeless youth services, rather than LGBT-specific services. Forty to None found that 76 percent of LGBTQ youth received services from mainstream providers.
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Congress Went Home. Now’s Your Chance to Talk to Them About Homelessness!
October 01, 2014
For homeless advocates, election season isn’t just about political ads, lawn signs, and round-the-clock news coverage. It’s also a fantastic opportunity to engage directly with members of Congress while they are home in their districts or states for the congressional recess.
Congress will remain on recess until November 12, about a week after the election takes place. Considering that FY 2015 funding is not yet finalized, this upcoming month or so is the perfect time for advocates to give their members of Congress a tour of a local homeless assistance program, set up a congressional meeting, or engage with them at one of their election campaign events.
We want to make sure members of Congress see increasing funding for the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants program as a high enough priority that they are willing to do something about it.
It’s true that Congress has already passed a continuing resolution, or stopgap funding measure, funding the government at FY 2014 levels through December 11, but members of Congress will need to finalize FY 2015 funding at some point. (We’re hopeful Congress will get to that soon after the election).
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Including Youth in the 2014 PIT Count: Some Thoughts from the Experts
September 30, 2014
January is just three months away, which means that many communities are already planning their methodologies for the upcoming 2015 Point-in-Time (PIT) Count. Unless we know whether the numbers of homeless people are going up or down, we can’t know whether our interventions to help them are working, or whether the resources we’re targeting at them are actually helping.
Counting unsheltered homeless persons is always a challenge, but counting unsheltered youth can be even harder. Youth tend to have different social habits than adults, and they congregate in different places and at different times of day. So strategies that communities use to count unsheltered adults may not be as effective. That’s why, earlier this month, the Alliance brought together several experts to discuss their strategies for counting homeless youth.
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Here are 3 Ways We Can Improve Counts of Homeless Youth
September 23, 2014
Every other year, on a single night in January, communities around the country are required to count all homeless individuals—even those who are not in a shelter. As you can imagine, this is a fairly daunting task: many unsheltered homeless do not want to be found. They may fear for their safety, or they may be worried about coming into contact with law enforcement. Counting unsheltered persons often is even harder with LGBTQ youth, who tend to be more wary of strangers. They may go to great lengths to stay hidden, which means that communities will be unable to get an accurate representation of this population.
As communities begin planning for the January 2015 count, they may be considering improvements to counting homeless LGBTQ youth. Even by conservative estimates, they are overrepresented in the homeless population but underrepresented in counts. This trend is likely to continue, as recent years have seen an increase in homeless LGBTQ youth. As this population continues to rise, it is critical that we find effective strategies for counting these youths.
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A Senate Committee Passed a Bill to Help Homeless Youth. Now it’s Congress’s Turn!
September 22, 2014
Last Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed a bill by a 15-3 vote with bipartisan support that would reauthorize the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act (RHYA), which had expired on September 30, 2013. Now it’s the full Senate’s turn to vote on this extremely important piece of legislation, which not only reauthorizes the previous version, but includes several improvements on it.
Ever since it was signed into law in 1974, RHYA has been the only federal law exclusively dedicated to homeless youth, ensuring essential services like street outreach, basic shelter, and transitional living programs. The new reauthorization bill, “Runaway and Homeless Youth and Trafficking Prevention Act,” goes even further by increasing protection for youth are victims of human trafficking and sexual exploitation, increasing support for family intervention, and prohibiting discrimination against homeless youth based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
It should come as no surprise that we at the Alliance strongly support the bill.
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225 Mayors Have Signed on to End Veteran Homelessness. Has Yours?
September 18, 2014
We are going to end veteran homelessness by the end of 2015. We have the know-how, the funds, and the political will across the country to make this happen – of this I have little doubt.
A big part of building political will has been the Mayor’s Challenge – a movement that began with the work of the departments of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Veterans Affairs (VA), and the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) and some national nonprofit partners. Mayors across the country (around 225 and growing daily) have committed their communities to end veteran homelessness by the end of 2015.
The public commitment to such a goal is the first step in a long process of getting the job done, but it’s an extremely important one. Prior to the Challenge, just a few federal departments and housing assistance providers scattered across the country shared the goal of ending veteran homelessness (and the hard work to reach it). Now that so many mayors and other elected officials have a stake in reaching the goal, they too are developing plans and taking action to make an impact, and in many cases they’re lending resources and expertise to the fight.
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The NOFA is out! (And includes a PSH Bonus!)
September 17, 2014
Yesterday, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) released the 2014 Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) for the Continuum of Care (CoC) program. An interesting development in this NOFA is the inclusion of a Permanent Supportive Housing Bonus project. To help communities reach the federal goal of ending chronic homelessness by 2016 (the goal was originally 2015, but was extended a year), HUD is setting aside approximately $40 million for a Permanent Supportive Housing Bonus project competition. There are five basic things you need to know about the bonus project.
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Poverty Declined by 0.5 Percent, so…
September 16, 2014
Poverty in the U.S. has declined for the first time since 2006, the year before the Great Recession. That’s the big takeaway from the Census Bureau’s report released today, “Income and Poverty in the United States: 2013,” which shows that the official poverty rate has decreased from 15 percent in 2012 to 14.5 percent in 2013. This decrease in the poverty rate is very welcome news, but it’s important we keep in mind that the 2013 poverty rate remains higher than the 2006 poverty rate of 12.3 percent.
The recession may be over, but people are still hurting. From 2012 to 2013, the total number of people in poverty, more than 45 million, did not significantly change. This is true across almost all subgroups, but for the one notable exception of children. (The number of impoverished children declined by nearly two million.) That could be why increasing numbers of people are sharing households, or “doubling up.” Since 2007, the number of adults in shared households has increased by 12 million, 1.8 million of whom doubled-up in the past year alone.
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Call Congress to End Homelessness: There’s Still Time!
September 15, 2014
Last week, the Alliance hosted a National Call In Week and encouraged homeless advocates and anyone else who cares about ending homelessness to call their members of Congress. If you didn’t get a chance to call, you still have time! We are extending our call in period through this Wednesday, September 17. This is a fantastic opportunity to do something that will take only a few minutes of your time and has the potential to affect the lives of thousands of people.
We need your help convincing Congress to grant the Obama administration’s requested $2.406 billion funding level for the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants program in the final fiscal year (FY) 2015 funding legislation. While Congress is likely to pass the final FY 2015 funding legislation later this year, key appropriators are currently doing preliminary work on it before many of them return home to campaign for the November elections. With further negotiation ahead of them before funding levels are finalized, now is a great time to influence the funding process!
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Today We Remember
September 11, 2014
Today, on the anniversary of 9/11 and the day after the President announced continued military action in the Middle East, it is appropriate that we reflect upon those who serve in our military and the sacrifices they make to keep us safe. During the conflicts that followed that national tragedy and those that came before, they have paid the price for our safety and, for what they have done to protect America, we owe them.
That debt has come due. Veteran homelessness is down by 33 percent since 2010, but this September 11 nearly 50,000 of our nation’s veterans will be homeless. Not long ago many more veterans than that were homeless, and we have made progress. Nevertheless, we still have a lot of work ahead of us. The Obama Administration and the Department of Veterans Affairs have committed to ending veteran homelessness by the end of 2015. It will take all of us working together to reach that ambitious goal. But we can do it, and when we do, we will show that it is possible to end homelessness in America for everyone.
If you believe, as we do, in a future where there is Never Another Homeless Veteran, here are a few small steps you can take to support the mission.
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Dear Advocates: Here is How You Can Make a Difference This November
September 10, 2014
The midterm elections are almost here, and that means you and every other U.S. citizen will soon have a chance to vote not only for your interests, but for the interests of the less fortunate. If you care about homelessness, if you care about availability of affordable housing, if you care about income equality, then you should care about who fills the 435 seats in the House, 36 seats in the Senate, and the countless state and local positions that are up for grabs this Election Day, Tuesday, November 4.
For advocates of people experiencing homelessness and other low-income advocates like you, a great deal is at stake. Programs that serve homeless and low-income people cannot succeed without the support of lawmakers. So it is crucial that we back lawmakers who we know are likely to build bipartisan political will for programs that serve the most vulnerable people in America. That will mean the difference between thousands of people being housed, or thousands living on the streets.
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What Does America’s Aging Population Mean for Homelessness?
September 09, 2014
The growth of America’s older adult population is expected to out-pace the supply of accessible, affordable housing, which could force many older adults into homelessness. That’s according to a report released last week by the Joint Center for Housing Studies (JCHS) of Harvard University. With a longer lifespan resulting from medical advances and the aging of the Baby Boom generation, the elderly population is growing quickly. In fact, between now and 2040, we will see more growth in the older segments of the American population than in the younger ones. Though currently 14 percent of Americans are over age 65, this figure is projected to rise to 20 percent by 2030.
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Youth Homelessness is More Than ‘Adult Homelessness, Junior’
September 08, 2014
Here is how a 20-year-old described his vision for a Housing First approach to helping homeless youth in Canada. This description comes from Conor, a member of the Youth Leader’s Committee of The Street Youth Planning Collaborative in Ontario. You should be pleased to learn that it accurately describes what is already happening in the best homeless youth provider programs across the United States.
“Some people are more independent than others, some have different issues and things like that. It’s a really great idea because it will give people a chance – a fighting chance. The way I would imagine it is like if there is some young person who is at risk of being homeless, they would have an interview with someone who would assess their needs, their strengths and weaknesses and build their plan of care around that.” – "A Safe and Decent Place to Live: Towards a Housing First Framework for Youth."
The Housing First approach prioritizes getting homeless people into housing immediately, without forcing them to meet preconditions, then providing them with the services they may need in order to remain stably housed. Over the years, this approach has led to significant declines in homelessness among veterans, families, and the chronically homeless. Yet an important component of the strategy, rapid re-housing, has yet to be applied to the problem of homeless youth on a national scale. If it can work for everyone else, why can’t it work for homeless youth?
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