Ending Homelessness Today
The official blog of the National Alliance to End Homelessness
Remembering Sister Mary Ann Luby
December 01, 2010
This week, the homeless assistance community lost one our truest and most steadfast advocates for ending homelessness: Sister Mary Ann Luby.
Her influence in the field and passion for the cause was second to none – and all of the existing champions for ending homelessness stand on her shoulders. For 27 years Sister Mary Ann worked to increase awareness about the issue and advocate for solutions right on the front lines.
As the director of Rachael’s Women’s Center and an outreach worker at the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless since the clinic’s very inception, Sister Mary Ann was a D.C. institution.
Patty Mullahy Fugere, Executive Director of the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless, rightly calls on us to honor her legacy by fulfilling her mission: "At every turn, she has challenged us to be faithful to the people whom we serve. To honor all that she was and all that she taught us, we must redouble our efforts in these challenging days and continue to push forward toward building a just and inclusive community."
Sister Mary Ann succumbed to a battle with cancer and passed in her home on Monday, Nov. 29.
A more detailed notice of her passing in available in the Washington Post.... Read More »
Check out the Alliance's Columbus Model
November 30, 2010
The Alliance just put out a huge (seriously, it’s hefty) toolkit – what we’re calling the Columbus Model.
So here's the thing: Columbus, OH is really good at ending homelessness. Really, they've done all the right things: focused on prevention, implemented rapid re-housing techniques, encouraged excellent data collecting - all the things that make a program measurably successful. They're so good, in fact, that we published a community snapshot on their 46 percent decrease in homelessness a few years ago.
And they're still at it! With laser-focus on performance measurement and performance evaluation of both their community-wide homeless assistance system and their individual programs, Columbus has managed to really focus on improving assistance and reducing homelessness.
Lucky for you, we've distilled the lessons learned in this community and we're sharing them with you so that you can implement them in yours! Our four-part profile of the Columbus Model includes:
Becoming a Data Driven System,
Performance Measurement and Evaluation,
Quality Improvment, and
We've also included tools and samples that you can download and adapt for your own community.
Why do you care? You care because next year, the Department of Housing and Urban Development is going to get serious about the outcomes laid out in the HEARTH Act (that's the reauthorization of the McKinney Vento Grants) - and communities everywhere are going to have to shape up to meet those outcomes. One of the great things about the Columbus Model... Read More »
Where are the great youth homelessness programs?
November 29, 2010
This morning, while compiling the weekend’s clips, I noticed a number of news stories about homeless youth.
Niche topics in this field all have their time: In January, it’s about community counts, in February it can be about the cold and shelters; you can count on a slew of stories about veterans in November and stories urging charity and philanthropy once the holidays roll around. But the last few weeks have been unusual – stories from North Carolina and Wisconsin and Virginia and Ohio about homeless young people.
And it’s about time.
We’ve talked about it before (well, Jeremy has.) Youth homelessness is an issue that’s often overlooked and under-examined. Youth, in that no man’s land between child and adult, can baffle homeless assistance providers who often deal with single adults or families. Unaccompanied youth – sometimes youth who age out of the foster care system or exit the juvenile justice system or run away from home – can be faced with an overwhelming dearth of services available to them once they find themselves homeless.
And it’s the perfect time to address such a problem.
The Alliance has kicked off an effort encouraging communities to include youth in next January’s point-in-time counts – and we’re also smack in the middle of a site visit campaign, encouraging local service providers to invite their Members of Congress to drop by and observe their assistance programs. Making the issue real – by collectin... Read More »
Brighten Black Friday with the perfect gift
November 25, 2010
Today’s guest blogger is the Alliance’s own development officer, Elizabeth Doherty.
Today, all our inner shopaholics come out as we hasten to get a jump on holiday shopping. And while stores of all stripes are pitching their ideas of the perfect holiday gift, I would like to share an alternative idea with you.
This year, give your loved ones a meaningful gift through the Alliance's holiday giving program. Donations made between now and the end of the year can be designated on behalf of a special relative or friend. These gifts will honor your loved one while also supporting vital work to prevent and end homelessness.
The individual or individuals honored by your gift will receive a personalized holiday card notifying them of your generosity.
Unfortunately, during these times of continued economic uncertainty, many people find themselves without a place of their own. By supporting our work today, you can ensure our efforts to house these individuals continues.
Our sincerest thanks for your support!... Read More »
Our Reasons to be Thankful
November 24, 2010
‘Tis the season to be thankful. And instead of launching into a lecture about how we should all take notice of those less fortunate and give back to our communities (and we should on both counts), we thought we’d be slightly more introspective this Thanksgiving.
So below is a list of the things that the Alliance is thankful for this year. We’re all too aware that we can’t end homelessness alone and we thought we’d take this opportunity to show our gratitude.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone – our warmest wishes to you and yours.
Local partners and advocates.
Like news and politics, homelessness is local. The on-the-ground direct service providers, the community leaders, the local organizations implementing solutions and plans, the individual advocates that take this issue up with their neighborhoods and cities – these are the champions of our cause. Thank you so much for your courageous, ceaseless efforts!
We know that you have the freedom to choose how and to whom to give and we’re so grateful to the individual donors who have chosen to give to the Alliance. Your contribution makes our work possible.
Board of Directors.
Great, supportive leadership is hard to come by and the Alliance is lucky to have a Board of Directors that has always been the backbone of our organization. Our warmest thanks to you all this Thanksgiving!
Senators Kit Bond and Chris Dodd.
These two retiring senators have been our l... Read More »
Ending Youth Homelessness with the Alliance Site Visit Campaign
November 23, 2010
Today’s guest post comes to us from Alliance Advocacy intern Jeremy Nichols.
As you already know (because we wrote about it last month), The Alliance’s Advocacy team has been asking you guys to get involved in the Youth Site Visit Campaign.
And thanks to you, we’re rolling right along! So far, 16 communities have committed to conducting site visits, from places like Maryland, Illinois, California, and Pennsylvania. The amount of time and dedication put in by our partners in the field has been amazing and it’s been a real pleasure to be a part of the campaign!
In case you forgot what the Youth Site Visit Campaign was all about, here’s a little refresher: over the holiday season, homelessness assistance providers have asked Members of Congress to come out and get a first-hand look at all of the good their programs are doing for at-risk youth in the community
Often just outside the scope of media attention, youth homelessness is a serious problem in the United States, with an estimate of 50,000 youth living on the streets.
What can we do to fix this? First, we need to increase awareness and get key decision-makers to understand that this a much larger issue than many people initially think. And that’s where you come in.
With the Youth Site Visit Campaign, we hope to:Raise awareness among Members of Congress about the issue of youth homelessnessStrengthen local relationships with Member... Read More »
Monday News Roundup: Special Edition
November 22, 2010
So, we know it’s not Friday but we’ve got big surprises headed your way this Thanksgiving week so we’ve decide to do a Monday News Roundup (I know – we’re living right on the edge!)
In honor of the holidays quickly approaching, we thought we’d do a quick recap of the efforts being made across the country to provide homeless assistance services to our friends and neighbors in need – and summarize how great the need has become during these troubled economic times.
Topping the news of the season is the city of Los Angeles. I know we’ve talked about it before, but it’s worth a second note that the city, which has long struggled with its homeless population, released an ambitious plan to end chronic homelessness. The plan, supported by business leaders in the area, has the potential to permanently house some of the most vulnerable homeless people and measurably reduce homelessness in a city that has been called that “homeless capital of the nation.”
Youth homelessness seems to have hit a stride in the news cycle. While a few stories have percolated over the year, the issue seems to have reached the top of the collective media consciousness in recent weeks: on Monday alone, there were at least five stories on the subject across the county. While the issue of youth homelessness still requires research study, the gravity of the situation needs an equal amount of atten... Read More »
Friday News Roundup: National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week
November 19, 2010
This week was National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week and the news was filled with fantastic events across the country. In scanning the headlines I discovered a reoccurring theme: college students have been some of the main movers and shakers. As a (somewhat) recent grad myself, it is great to see students making a difference in their communities.
"Sometimes it is easy to get caught up in a world where you think your tests and papers are the biggest problems going on,” says a senior at the University of Colorado who was helping organize a “Hunger Banquet.” How true.
Students at Coastal Carolina University, the University of Iowa, and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas all made headlines with “sleep out” events coupled with food or volunteer drives. Indian University students raised funds and awareness in a manner befitting a college town like Bloomington: with an indie-rock concert.
I hope during these events the students paused to consider if any of their classmates had previously or were currently experiencing homelessness. As education costs continue to rise we hear increasingly about financially-strapped college student struggling to meet the most basic needs – including food and housing.
A number of these events across the country did a great job of focusing on the most vital question: how do we end homelessness? In Rock Hill, SC the hot topic was the need for housing for people living with HIV. "I've heard it many times,” says Anita Case, ... Read More »
Giving Season at the Alliance!
November 16, 2010
As my friends in the development world would say, it’s giving season. Which is a really a euphemistic way of saying this is the time of year when nonprofits amp up their donor appeals and people get into the holiday spirit by contributing to the lives and livelihoods of those less fortunate.
Here at the Alliance, we’re lucky to have the opportunity to work with a range of people interested in ending homelessness in their own unique ways. We learn about movies and documentaries on homelessness, hear about bike rides across the country to raise awareness about homelessness, work with nonprofits and private companies alike interested in engaging the public about homelessness, and we correspond with writers who want to publicize their books on the issue.
Latest in that last category is Jay Levy, an LICSW who has spent the last two decades working with individuals experiencing homelessness. He’s been a key contributor to homeless assistance efforts in Massachusetts and is currently working with Eliot CHS-Homeless Services as a regional manager.
His book, Homeless Narratives & Pretreatment Pathways, is based on his years in the field and shares the stories of not only Jay’s experiences, but those of the people he’s assisted. Find out more about book on his website. Massachusetts fans can also attend a reading this Thursday, Nov. 18 at Boswell Books in Shelburne Falls. (A note of disclosure: Jay is donating 15 percent of the book’... Read More »
Not Smart and Not Bigger, Better
November 15, 2010
Today's post comes to us from Pete Witte, research assistant at the Alliance.
When I was a child, I loved Shel Silverstein’s poem, “Smart,” about a boy who took his father’s one dollar bill and - through a series of misguided trades - he wound up with five pennies.
Besides offering poetic charm, “Smart” also teaches a nice lesson: bigger (numbers of coin) doesn’t equal better (value).
The poem’s logic could apply to the national conception of growth and development as it relates to gross domestic product (GDP).
Here’s a new idea: Instead of simply aiming to grow GDP bigger—which can have the effect of leaving behind our least fortunate, such as people experiencing homelessness, but instead should seek to become better—developing and improving the well-being and access to opportunity for all Americans.
In short: America needs to consider other measures to conceptualize human development.
A recently released report, The Measure of America 2010-2011: Mapping Risks and Resilience, offers an alternative with the American Human Development (HD) Index.
The HD Index measures health, education, and income. Released by the American Human Development Project of the Social Science Research Council, the report presents easy-to-understand and compelling data broken down by geography at the national, state, and congressional district levels, as well as data by groupings of people (i.e. women and men, ethnic groups, etc.).
Some of the data findings paint a stark picture of disparities betwee... Read More »
Friday News Roundup: Holiday compassion and veteran homelessness
November 12, 2010
This week we conversations across the country turned to a topic we all too often neglect: the folks who have served our country. When we paused to take stock of the state of our veterans this past week, we realized just how much more we owed our nation’s heroes.
The Center for American Progress (CAP), for example, posted a by-the-numbers roundup that sheds light on the myriad difficulties facing our service members.
107,000 veterans are homeless on any given night, according to 2009 estimates from the Veterans Administration.
About one-third of homeless adult Americans are veterans, even though only about one-tenth of all adults are veterans.
Foreclosure rates in military towns increased at four times the national average in 2008.
The stress that our veterans are under financially no doubt adds to their staggering rate of suicide. As CAP reports, “data from the Department of Veterans Affairs shows that each month there are an average of 950 suicide attempts by veterans under the care of the VA.” NPR also shed light on this tragic trend, citing the more than 120 U.S. Army troops who have killed themselves this year.
Although these statistics are truly appalling, it is important to remember that solutions to veteran homelessness exist. Which is exactly what our President, Nan Roman, pointed out on the Huffington Post yesterday.
Between the Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness and Secretary Shinseki’s pledge to end veteran homelessness in five years, we... Read More »
On This Veterans Day, Correcting the Mistakes of the Past
November 11, 2010
Today's guest blog comes from Steve Berg, Vice President of Programs and Policy at the Alliance.
Since the early 1980s, America has been turning away from homeless veterans. When widespread homelessness emerged, veterans who had served in Vietnam or in the years after were already overrepresented among homeless people. Instead of an outcry and demand for an immediate solution, however, there was hand wringing, a few programs, but mostly no response.
As a boy, I grew up watching the Vietnam war and public reaction to the war on TV. I was 18 when the last ten Marines were helicoptered off the roof of the embassy in Saigon in early 1975.
What I remember most is the anger and hatred between Americans, and especially toward the young men a few years older than me - men I admired and looked up to growing up and entering adulthood, every one of whom had to make a hard decision about how to deal with the war.
Some young men went to Vietnam and did everything they could to keep their colleagues safe from harm, risking their own lives on a daily basis. Many more went and did their jobs more or less efficiently, with enthusiasm or indifference or loathing. Some went and thought only about staying out of harm’s way.
Regardless of their actions, what all of them faced upon returning was something we all know and regret now: protests and criticism and disapproval f... Read More »
Alliance welcomes Lisa Stand and Andre Wade
November 10, 2010
Special thanks to Rachel Costas, Alliance intern, for her help with today’s blogpost.
The Alliance is delighted and lucky to announce two new members of our staff! André Wade joins us to serve as point person on youth policy; Lisa Stand offers her expertise on health care policy.
Throughout his career, André worked with children/families who experienced homelessness at some point in their lives and learned that children exiting foster care children often experiencing homelessness as young adults.
Upon arriving at the Alliance and examining homelessness and homelessness policy, he (like most of us) was surprised by the lack of data on homeless youth and dearth of policy around the issue. He also observed much more closely that homelessness is, in fact, a problem that exists “literally everywhere.” Luckily, Andre is eager and ready to join the mission and work on LGBTQ homeless youth issues and youth and child welfare issues as they relate to homelessness.
Our new youth programs and policy analyst is a Las Vegas native with a fondness for white chocolate chip cookies.
Our new senior policy analyst, Lisa Stand, comes to us with a strong background in health care policy and an enthusiasm for the new health care reform policies. She especially interested in health care reform as it could aid people who need it most – namely, people experiencing homelessness.
Our new analyst has worked in health policy for her entire career; her most recent po... Read More »
How You Can Help End Homelessness
November 09, 2010
We know you.
Seriously, we do. You’re a thoughtful, fair-minded, well-intentioned supporter of the National Alliance to End Homelessness. You’ve read our reports, tried our online interactive tools, casually visit this blog, and haven’t yet filtered out our Facebook updates (we’re trying to moderate them – promise).
We know you. We knew you get it. Homelessness is a problem that persists in the United States but together, you know we can end it. You know it’s about housing, you know it’s about services, you know it’s about systems-level change. You don’t need the speech – you can recite it yourself.
But this year, we’re asking you do to a little tiny bit more. You don’t need us to tell you that this year has been particularly tough on the economically vulnerable. The children, families, veterans, and individuals who are currently experiencing homelessness need every friend they have.
And we’re hoping we can count you among them.
And while we would sincerely appreciate any contribution you could spare, you can support the cause in a number of other ways:
Sign up for the newsletter and stay up-to-date with all the Alliance news.
Keep up with the Alliance on our social networks (you can find links to them on our homepage. They’re you’re first stop for breaking news relating to homelessness and housing.
Join our advocacy networks and give of your time and passion. The Allianc... Read More »
But what about the children?
November 08, 2010
Okay, so I really mean what about the youth.
Today, we hosted our first in a series of webinars about youth homelessness.
Here's the thing about youth homelessness: we know just enough to know that we hardly know anything at all.
We know a little: RHYA shows us that there are young people out there looking for help. Data from the juvenile justice and the foster care systems show us that young people are exiting those systems and ending up homeless. Research from institutions like Chapin Hall outline the relationship between youth homelessness and child welfare.
We know that there's a problem.
But we're grappling with pieces of the puzzle. And if we at the Alliance have learned anything at all, it's that we must fully understand a problem in order to really get serious about solving it.
So we're asking you guys to start with the data. On our webinar today, Barbara Poppe from the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness and Nan Roman, the Alliance's own president, emphasized the importance of including youth in the 2011 community point-in-time counts. The first step to solving a problem, we've concluded, is to determine the scope of the problem.
As a critical observer in the field, I can testify that I've been hearing stories from advocates and reporters alike asking if there's any evidence to back up anecdotal data about an increase in homeless youth and specifically about the vulnerability of those... Read More »
Friday News Roundup: Are we really okay with that? Edition
November 05, 2010
News stories from across the country this week seemed to point to a growing epidemic of youth homelessness.
In New Hampshire a letter to the editor (aptly) titled “In Claremont, 1 in 10 kids is homeless - Is New Hampshire really okay with that?” called for more funding for youth programs. Headed out west, in Green Bay, WI another piece reports a 20 percent increase over last year in the number of school-aged kids experiencing homelessness.
How can we let this happen? I think most people agree that youth homelessness is a problem that just plain shouldn’t exist.
It’s time to take action. Unfortunately, there is just not enough data on youth homelessness - and we can’t solve a problem unless we fully understand it.
Luckily (!) we’re here to help! The Alliance president, Nan Roman, along with executive director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness will hold a webinar on Monday, November 8 at 2 p.m. ET going over strategies to acquire an accurate homeless youth count. We know they’re out there, we know we can help, and now it’s time to figure out how. Join us for our webinar on Monday – register here.
Another buzz topic this week was the prevalence of homelessness in rural areas. Folks in rural North Carolina and North Dakota are proclaiming “Homelessness is here.” The prevalence of rural homelessness can come as a surprise, even to those in the communities themselves. Homelessn... Read More »
How to Count Homeless Youth - Find out With Nan Roman and Barbra Poppe!
November 04, 2010
We know they’re out there.
Young people who are living on the streets alone. Runaway and Homeless Youth Act (RHYA) program counts show us that there are young people seeking assistance in communities across the country. The National Extranet Optimized Runaway and Homeless Youth Management Information System (NEO-RHYMIS) shows us that there are thousands of young people seeking basic services and beds.
We know they’re out there – but that’s about all we know.
Lost in the mix of seasons greetings and veterans remembrance is a noteworthy event that doesn’t hit the radar for most Americans this month: it’s National Homeless Youth Awareness Month.
It’s a really important month. Despite the fact that everyone will agree that youth homelessness is an existing problem, there’s nothing else to agree on: we have no reliable or regular source of data on this vulnerable subpopulation. We know they’re there, we know they’re young, we know they need our help. But we don’t know how many there are, we don’t know much about the characteristics of this group, we don’t know how they enter or exit homelessness, we don’t know how they survive while experiencing homelessness, we don’t know how long they’re homeless, where, or how.
And we can’t solve a problem without fully understanding it.
So that’s where we need to start: with data.
We at the Alliance are encouraging our local ... Read More »
What Does It Mean To Improve Our Communities?
November 03, 2010
Today’s guest post comes from Alliance research associate Pete Witte: homelessness researcher, urban planner, and brand new dad.
Last week I attended a meeting with the local D.C. chapter of the American Planning Association. Xavier Briggs - urban planner, academic, and current Associate Director at the Office of Management and Budget - spoke to the group.
Briggs is most acclaimed for his work on the concept of “geography of opportunity,” the idea that race and class segregation affects the well-being and life potential of people with fewer means. As a former urban planner turned homelessness researcher, Briggs caught my attention when he dropped the h-word into the conversation:
“…and planning for low-income housing and for those who are homeless.”
One of the things that I quickly learned in my post at the Alliance is that there is plenty of overlap between my former role as an urban planner and my current role as a homelessness researcher. Namely, I still spend my time asking one central question: what does it mean to improve our communities?
As an urban planner, that meant considering the best way to incentivize “green space,” or deciphering what the zoning code had to say about “FAR,” pondering what it meant to “rethink the auto” and encourage “TOD.”
As a homelessness researcher, it means new and different things.
I’ve learned that one way to improve communities would be to increase the amount of permanent supportive housing options for persons w... Read More »
It's Election Day - Go Vote!
November 02, 2010
It’s election day, people.
When Congress comes back – whatever the election results – the men and women we elect will be facing appropriations season; they’ll be trying to determine how much money to spend on which programs. Ask any staffer on the Hill and they can tell you it’s always a rigorous and deliberate process – and passing a budget is one of the most important things that Congress does all year.
And that’s not all. We at the Alliance set policy priorities every year that we work toward with Congress and the Administration.
Right this very second, we're working hard on the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act and - as always - the McKinney-Vento. But this year, we also aim to:
Increase access to permanent, affordable housing for extremely low-income families by funding new Section 8 Housing Choice vouchers and supporting the capitalization of the National Housing Trust Fund.
Increase the capacity of the VA and HUD to prevent and end veterans homelessness by enacting S. 1547, the Zero Tolerance for Homeless Veterans Act and supporting funding for additional HUD-VASH vouchers.
End youth homelessness through supportive housing, rental assistance, and services specific to unaccompanied youth by supporting a baseline youth count in 2011 community homeless counts and increasing funding of the Family Unification Program
And really, that’s not all. Remember the whole federal plan to end homelessness that the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness released last June? Remember the youth homel... Read More »
Join the Alliance and Great Nonprofits!
November 01, 2010
The deeply discounted Halloween candy sitting on my desk is a sure sign that the holiday season is already upon us.
And to celebrate this season of good will toward men, the National Alliance to End Homelessness has partnered with Great Nonprofits for their 2010 Food and Shelter campaign.
For the month of November, Great Nonprofits will encourage supporters and reviewers to pay special recognition to organizations that work on homelessness and hunger issues. GuideStar, the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth, HomeAid, Covenant House, We Are Visible, and GOOD have all joined in to lend their support!
Whether you are a part of a nonprofit organization, a volunteer, a board member, a client served or a donor, we invite you to participate in the 2010 Food and Shelter campaign.
Here’s what you do: Tell us about YOUR experience – about the Alliance or your own local homeless assistance program or nonprofit. How are we having an impact? How are we affecting your local/the national community? How can we do better? Take this opportunity to share your stories about how nonprofits serve our community. Visit the website to get started.
But regardless of whether or not you choose to review us, we do encourage you to see this as an opportunity to share your experiences with nonprofit organizations working to make a difference in your community. Just five minutes – five short minutes! – to give feedback about the work we... Read More »