Ending Homelessness Today
The official blog of the National Alliance to End Homelessness
Friday News Roundup: The Components of Homelessness
March 04, 2011
This week the news media has focused on the essentials of our field: housing, data, populations, and public policy.
Let’s start right in the District. In her column, Michelle Singletary cited our own report to discuss people spending more than 50 percent of their monthly income on rent - what is called a "severe housing cost burden" - a situation that can put people at risk of homelessness.
From Tiffin, OH, the Advertiser-Tribune discussed a sticky situation concerning data collection, showing that data collection methodology should be examined as it affects count accuracy. Perhaps a dry topic for a news article, but methodology is a central component of learning about homelessness, especially at the community level.
Then there was a flurry of reports about different populations experiencing homelessness.
Both the Sacramento Bee and CNN covered veteran homelessness. The Bee zoomed in the challenges specific to women returning from combat and CNN took their turn examining the potential ramifications of federal budget cuts to vulnerable veterans (stay tuned). The Medill News Service also took a crack at state budgets and the potential impact reductions will have on homeless youth. (They’re projecting pronounced increases). And New America Media traveled to the other end of the spectrum writing about elderly people living in poverty, at risk of homelessness, while raising their own grandchildren. (Which comes as no surprise.)
Predictably, there were scant few articles about solutions but there does seem to be good buzz from community leaders about the awareness of and dedication to the issue. An editorial from Maine shared some good notes about HPRP, the Associated Press reported that RI will reconvene the state’s Interagency Council on Homelessness to address the issue, and MA Governor Deval Patrick said he’ll commit nearly $40 million to overhaul the state’s emergency homeless assistance program.
Not a bad week, all things considered. Did we miss anything in your town?... Read More »
DC to conduct count of homeless youth
March 03, 2011
Yesterday, we talked about how help is long overdue for homeless youth. We’ve said it once and we’ll say it again: there is not enough information about this very vulnerable, often overlooked population.
In fact, there isn’t even a baseline count; that is, we don’t even really know how many homeless youth there are in the country.
This is why the Alliance is urging communities to include youth in their annual point-in-time counts. All communities are required to regularly conduct counts of their local homeless populations (required by the Department of Housing and Urban Development) and while “youth” is a line item, hardly any communities report youth numbers.
But we need to start counting.
Our own district is starting this year. The DC Alliance of Youth Advocates is conducting a homeless youth survey in mid-March in concert with the George Washington University and the Interagency Council on Homelessness. The effort is meant to gauge how many youth are experiencing homelessness in the District, how youth in the District become homeless, and what the community can provide with services and programs to assist youth out of homelessness and into stable housing conditions.
DC is taking an essential step forward. In order to solve a problem, we must first fully understand it – and conducting this kind of count can increase our knowledge on this important social problem.
How does the youth homelessness situation look like in your community? What steps ar... Read More »
Help Long Overdue for Homeless Youth
March 02, 2011
Today's guest post comes to us from Alliance Program and Policy Analyst Andre Wade.
Last week I met three extraordinary young mothers during a tour of The Night Ministry’s Response-Ability Pregnant and Parenting Program in Chicago. All three described growing up without much support from their families, all three slept in parks, trains, and couch surfed to get by.
One of these women shared with me that while she was focusing on just making it day-to-day, it didn’t quite hit her that she was, in fact, experiencing homelessness until she was confronted with the question at a social service office.
Are you homeless?
She then realized the truth: yes, I am homeless.
All three of these women told me they are determined that their struggles not limit their futures.
In their program, they learn about life skills, budgeting, job training, and education. The 8-bed, 8-crib shelter dedicated to homeless pregnant and parenting teens offers the supportive services these vulnerable young people need in order to advance themselves and their families.
These young women are hardly the only ones experiencing the plight of homelessness alone with their children. And still, their stories are often sidestepped as policies and programs aim to deal with their adult counterparts.
But if these young women showed me anything at all, it’s that the right interventions can end youth homelessness – and the time to address this critical sector of the homeless population is long ove... Read More »
2011 PIT Counts Media Map
March 01, 2011
Today's post comes to us from Alliance research associate Pete Witte.
Earlier this year I wrote here about the annual point-in-time (PIT) counts being conducted across the country, and explained why the PIT counts are so important for helping us to understand homelessness and measure progress we’re making toward ending the problem.
Well, it’s that time of year again when local media stories announcing the results of their January point-in-time (PIT) slowly begin to sprout up in daily clips.
The Alliance is collecting and mapping these media accounts or, when available, the Continuum of Care (CoC) reports in order to provide a sense of the changing homeless situation in communities across the country. These reports are the basis of our new and—considering federal budget conversations where homeless programs are at-risk of being cut—timely, interactive 2011 Counts Media Map, which tracks reports on changes in overall homelessness (increases are noted by a red-colored placemarker and decreases are in green).
Amid current economic and budgetary conversations, providing a sense about the change in homeless counts across the country is important and timely, especially considering how homeless, health care, employment, and other aid programs are increasingly at-risk of being cut.
Tracking the 2011 PIT counts also provides an opportunity to get a sense on how much progress is being made at ending homelessness at the federal level, since the 2011 PIT counts will be the first count where both HPRP and Opening Doors h... Read More »
How Health Care Reform Will Affect Homeless or At-Risk Populations
February 28, 2011
If you are not sure how the new health care law will help end homelessness, you are not alone.
Only time will tell – and it may be a long time. That’s because some of the biggest changes do not take effect until 2014. And even then, so much depends on decisions to be made in Washington, DC and in each state – before and after 2014.
In the meantime, advocates and housing providers can help shape the Affordable Care Act (ACA) as a strong part of housing strategies – especially for chronically homeless individuals. As the ACA is implemented, the Alliance will offer tools, suggestions, and information for communities to make the most of new opportunities. We will also host webinars, post issue briefs, write fact sheets, and ask you what’s happening in your neck of the woods, and – more importantly - what you need to bridge access to housing with access to health care.
For starters, consider these two factoids:
the ACA will extend Medicaid to an additional 16 million people nationwide;
the ACA encourages states to increase access to services and supports, promoting independent living in communities.
If you begin to view your housing strategies in light of these two touchstones of health reform, you are on your way to joining implementation efforts in your state. Next, organize your resources to get in the conversations about the ACA – provide a unique housing-oriented perspective, and ensure access to specific information about implementation in your state... Read More »
Friday News Roundup: State budgets, foster care, families conference
February 25, 2011
In the news this week:
The difficult decisions for states leaders persist and more and more state-level policymakers work to keep their budgets in the black. This week, NPR ran a story about just these decisions – focusing on examples from Michigan, Detroit, and New Jersey. Minnesota, on their NPR-affiliate station, ran a similar story about their local efforts.
We blogged about social media and it’s role in creating social change – something we’ve been thinking about is foreign policy and communications analysts alike have been discussing the role of these new media tools in what seems to be a growing international revolution. How, we ask ourselves, can these tools help us solve our own pressing, national problems?
We’re not the only ones posing the question. Both the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times are giving the idea some digital ink; in fact, the LAT story is a bout a good friend of ours, Mark Horvath, a veritable one-man, homeless-advocate, communications machine who has long touted the utility of social media tools in raising awareness about homelessness.
And while we’re on the subject of big ideas, here’s another one from the New York Times earlier this week. In an opinion piece, writer David Bornstein discusses the idea of "A families-first approach to foster care”. Instead of taking a child away from a family, he suggests, a social worker can work with the family to provide the right tools... Read More »
Conference presentations are up!
February 24, 2011
They’re finally ready! (Some of them, at least…)
We’ve started to put up conference presentations from the National Conference on Ending Family Homelessness that took place from February 10 – 11, 2011 in Oakland, California.
Now those of you who weren’t able to come – or who weren’t able to fit as many workshops as you might’ve liked – can access presentations and worksheets offered during many of the conference sessions.
For conference presentations from other Alliance conferences, please check out our slideshare account.
Please note that we will be posting conference presentations as we receive them – and we have yet to receive all of them. Please check the conference presentation main page for updates.
If you are a speaker to owes us a presentation for the website, please do send in your materials as quickly as possible. You can find email addresses for Alliance staff on the staff contact page of our website.
We sincerely hope you find these documents useful – please let us know if you have any trouble!... Read More »
We're online: Thoughts from a luddite-in-disguise
February 23, 2011
So Anna and I just got off a webinar about the new Facebook pages offered by Andrew Cohen, managing editor at Forum One. (Disclaimer: Forum One is our internet strategy/website development/all things geeky consultant. But they do offer some good notes about Facebook for new users!).
Yesterday, Anna sat in on a call hosted by Network for Good on ways to improve web writing and compose better micro-content for social networks (specifically, fundraising on social networks).
And just this morning, I got a call from an eager outreach officer asking me to embed some video on our social networks to support a homelessness radio marathon streaming live from Kansas City, MO.
And so I find myself again at that juncture between social change and social media.
At the Alliance, we continue our struggle to find the right balance between traditional and social media outreach. We work hard to assess and re-assess the value and return of our Facebook page, our Twitter account, our blog. And based on the community online, based on the emails I receive, and based on the chatter around the office, I know that we’re not the only ones to struggle with these not-really-new-anymore mediums.
Me – I’m a luddite-in-disguise (and it’s not a great disguise either). As much as I like the new and shiny tools online, I’d really rather not have to learn a whole new thing – especially if it’s going to tak... Read More »
Community Progress: Fairfax County
February 22, 2011
Fairfax County, Virginia is a populous (13.5% of Virginia's population) and affluent county outside of Washington, DC.
We know it well; the Alliance has been working in Fairfax County through a grant from the Freddie Mac Foundation for a little over two years. Fairfax has great schools, low unemployment and - most importantly - is doing a great job of ending homelessness.
Ready to move yet?
The key to their success has been a ten year plan to end homelessness that fully embraces a trifecta of strategies proven to work: permanent housing, rapid re-housing, and prevention.
Earlier this month the Chairman of the Governing Board for the Fairfax-Falls Church Community Partnership to Prevent and End Homelessness, Mike O’Reilly, released the results of this strategy in Snapshot 2010, the first in an annual series of reports on the progress made towards their ten year plan to end homelessness.
The results speak for themselves:
Overall homelessness decreased by 14% from 2007 to 2010
Chronic homelessness decreased by almost 35% from 2007 to 2010
From 2009 to 2010 alone, the number of families experiencing homelessness decreased 16%
Chairman O’Reilly points out that despite being a very wealthy area, a family earning minimum wage could not afford housing in Fairfax - even if they worked 24 hours a day. To combat this shortage of affordable housing, Fairfax has undertaken aggressive landlord outreach, development of targeted housing options and set the goal of creating 2,650 new affordable housing units.
Download the full report. ... Read More »
Friday News Roundup: Federal Budget(s)
February 18, 2011
News this week has been squarely focused on one issue: money.
The Administration released its FY 2012 Budget Proposal on Monday which, despite trends towards fiscal austerity, increased funding for some programs related to homelessness, including $2.372 billion for HUD's McKinney-Vento program, 10,000 new HUD-VASH vouchers and $121 million for Runaway and Homeless Youth Act programs. (We held a webinar to discuss what this proposal means for housing and homelessness assistance programs, if you are interested in learning more.) There were a number of stories related to major cuts to the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, in particular.
A word of warning: this may get confusing.
Congress has still not finished work on the budget for the current fiscal year. So last Friday the House Appropriations Committee released its funding proposal for the remainder of this fiscal year - FY 2011. The proposal included $100 billion in cuts across the federal budget, and included largely flat funding for many homeless assistance programs.
I find it interesting to note that the US is not alone in its budget woes: amidst huge government cuts, charities in the UK say they expect to lose 30% of their funding in April.
Also of note: The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities released a paper on states’ use of the (now defunct) TANF Emergency Fund to create subsidized jobs. A key quote:
"The TANF Emergency Fund has ended, but the need for jobs remains. The fund’s accomplishments — most fundamentally, in showing that u... Read More »
Wrapping Up Our 2011 National Conference on Ending Family Homelessness
February 17, 2011
It’s the end of February, and as the Alliance’s Meeting and Event Planner, a time to reflect on the past six months of intense planning that went into our February conference.
It’s always difficult to grasp that the months of hard work it takes to ensure a successful conference lead up to an event that within a couple of short days is over! Although the National Conference on Ending Family Homelessness ended on February 11, I know the 600+ attendees have since returned home and as we speak, are implementing the strategies they learned into their communities, in efforts to make a difference nationwide.
Here are my “Five Favorite” moments of the 2011 National Conference on Ending Family Homelessness:
5) Breakout Space
As a Planner it’s wonderful to be in a venue where the breakout space is within close proximity, as it ensures easy flow from workshop to workshop.
4) Delicious Cuisine
It isn't easy to please 600+ people, so I was pleased to receive great feedback about the food; specifically the vegetarian fare. The Chef was very involved in the planning and execution of the event, and thrilled to receive positive feedback.
This year’s conference had the highest attendance since Seattle, WA (our largest ever) three years ago! It’s truly refreshing to see 650 people come together to make a difference.
Once again, we were fortunate to have 35 eager, willing, and helpful volunteers – thank you again to everyone who volunteered!
... Read More »
Demographics in the State of Homelessness
February 16, 2011
Have you ever heard the saying, “Homelessness can happen to anyone, it can even happen to you!”? Well, I have, and it seems a bit unhelpful and vague. Can homelessness really happen to a guy like Donald Trump? Probably, the answer is no.
To me, the way to bring the discussion down to earth—from “homelessness can happen to anyone”—is by analyzing the at-risk populations with a bit of data. By doing so, we know that some people are at increased risk.
As an American, your odds of experiencing homelessness in the course of a year are 1 in 200. But if you are an individual who is poor, you are at an increased risk, with odds at 1 in 25. These odds are alarming. And to me, these odds also helpfully demonstrate the very reality that homelessness is largely a problem explained by economics.
While the relationship between economics and homelessness exist (and it’s something we have discussed before), it is important to note that there are also people who are at increased risk of experiencing homelessness based on other demographic factors.
People who are at increased risk are those who are living with friends or family for economic reasons, or doubled up people (odds of 1 in 10), people discharged from prison (1 in 11), and people who have aged out of foster care (1 in 6).
When the odds of experiencing homelessness increase so dramatically based on these demographic factors, you can see why we paid particul... Read More »
Act Now to Prevent 161,000 From Becoming Homeless
February 15, 2011
Know that pang of guilt when you pass a person you think may not have a place to sleep tonight bundled on some frigid winter day? You may try to quickly distract yourself with groceries lists, weekend plans or by quickly dismissing the situation as something over which you have no control.
We are here to tell you that you can help.
The economic recession is technically over and the stock market is rebounding remarkably; but high unemployment and foreclosures remind us that not everyone has recovered. In response to these persistent signs of economic turmoil and the cries of a beleaguered nation, Congress campaigned on promises to cut the federal budget and reduce the federal deficit.
The House Appropriations Committee made good on that promise last Friday when it announced $100 billion in cuts to the federal budget for the remainder of fiscal year (FY) 2011. Compared to many programs, homeless assistance programs fared decently, with many receiving level funding from FY 2010. Other programs, largely those targeted toward low-income families, households, and jobseekers received deep cuts.
By cutting many of these programs, we are taking away necessary resources from the people who need it most: youth, veterans, and families. Programs like HUD-VASH and McKinney-Vento homeless assistance grants have been proven as cost-effective solutions to ending homelessness. The moral and financial cost of allowing our neighbors to become and remain homeless is too great for us not to act.
Here is where you ... Read More »
Friday News Roundup: Local counts, SPENT, and the Alliance conference
February 11, 2011
So this week, we saw a lot of articles about community point-in-time counts - and the increases and decreases that officials found. It also lead to some discussion about what localities are going to do about homelessness in their neighborhoods. Both Kansas City and Seattle are dealing with homeless camps, Northern California suburb San Ramon is considering creating a housing authority, and Gov. Lincoln Chafee (R – RI) has announced his intent to reactivate the state’s Interagency Council on Homelessness.
Take Part blogged about that great game we’ve been promoting all week, SPENT. The interactive tool (that we wrote about earlier this week) is a great way to learn about the decisions that low-income and people at-risk of homelessness face.
And of course, this was the week of our National Conference on Ending Family Homelessness. We were so excited for all the great speakers, workshops, and events - and we’re proud to report that we weren’t the only ones! The Oakland Tribune and the local NPR affiliate, KQED also took notice of the great work all of you guys are doing to end family homelessness.
... Read More »
New Report on Veteran Homelessness
February 10, 2011
We have more information about veteran homelessness than we have ever had thanks to a report released today by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) – “Veteran Homelessness: A Supplement to the 2009 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress.”'
First, some major findings from the report:
An estimated 136,334 veterans spent at least one night in an emergency shelter or transitional housing program between October 1, 2008 and September 30, 2009; or 1 of every 168 veterans.
Veterans are overrepresented among the homeless population. Approximately 10 percent of all people who experienced homelessness over the year identified themselves as veterans.
Minorities are over represented among homeless veterans. Rates of homelessness among veterans living in poverty are particularly high for veterans identifying as Hispanic/Latino (1 in 4) or African American (1 in 4).
One-half of homeless veterans on a single night are located in just four states: California (26 percent), Florida (9 percent), New York (8 percent), and Texas (7 percent).
I was very interested to see how much the risk for becoming homeless varied among sub-populations. Veterans, the report noted, have higher median incomes than the U.S. average. But once a veteran slips into poverty, they are more likely to become homeless. Although there are a small number of female veterans, they are even more at risk than male veterans. They are actually twice as likely to experience homelessness than not.
The report also shows that young veterans – those most likely to be disc... Read More »
SPENT: Can you stay out of homelessness?
February 09, 2011
I waitressed my way through college and hostessed my way through my first few jobs in D.C. so I picked restaurant server as my job. And while I made it through the month – with a toothache – I attribute my decision-making abilities to the scrappiness I developed as a kid.
What am I talking about? This really awesome new game called SPENT, developed by Urban Ministries of Durham and the aptly-named advertising agency, McKinney. (Why’s the ad agency aptly named? Because the largest federal investment in homelessness assistance is called the < a href=http://www.endhomelessness.org/section/policy/legislative_updates/mckinney>McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance programs. Cool, right?)
The game asks you to slip on the shoes of a low-income person who has to find a job, take care of a kid, and make the day-to-day economic decisions to ensure that your family stays out of homelessness. Not that it sounds easy – but let me assure you that the decisions are hard. On top of it all – they game throws a few roadblocks along the way: job loss, an unexpected bill, family mishaps. The aim? To make it through to the end of the month without running out of money – and then to do it all over again.
It’s a great experience – especially because it really brings the reality of an at-risk person much closer to home. If you flipped through our latest report, you know that we found that not ... Read More »
Take 2: The Rapid Re-Housing Clinic at the Oakland Conference
February 08, 2011
Today, we're reviewing Kim Walker's post about the day-long Rapid Re-Housing Clinic because - drumroll! - it's tomorrow! Our Center for Capacity Building will be hosting the training to educate advocates, providers, and consumers about this excellent strategy to end homelessness.
It’s that time again! It’s T – five weeks (!) until the Alliance’s National Conference on Ending Family Homelessness, set this year in Oakland, Calif.
For you veterans out there, you know that the Alliance strives to make the conference as informative, interesting, and useful as possible, chock full of workshops, meetings, plenary sessions, and group discussions. (Seriously – check out this year’s agenda.)
And we’re not planning on disappointing in February! In fact, the Alliance’s Center for Capacity Building is taking it up a notch and offering a day-long Rapid Re-Housing for Families clinic at the February conference.
Rapid re-housing is a strategy focused on returning people experiencing homelessness to permanent housing as quickly as possible by eliminating their barriers to obtaining and retaining permanent housing. Doing this effectively requires the careful implementation of a number of strategies, including effective housing search and location, landlord engagement, and home-based case management.
Needless to say, it’s not always easy – and that’s where we want to help. Our clinic will review the nuts and bolts of rapid re-housing and include interactive activities and discussions to ensure participants leave with a clear idea of how to make their rapid re-housin... Read More »
The countdown to the National Conference on Ending Family Homelessness!
February 07, 2011
The National Conference on Ending Family Homelessness is just around the corner! We can’t wait to meet all of you in Oakland, Calif. – and we hope that you all are looking forward to it just as much as we are!
In anticipation of the big event, I thought I’d highlight just a few extra special features of this year’s conference. You can count on the same great workshops and plenary sessions that we have at every conference but we’ve thrown in a couple new events to keep things fresh!
The rapid re-housing clinic
On Wednesday, Jan. 9, the Alliance’s Center for Capacity Building will host a day-long clinic on rapid re-housing techniques and strategies. This intimate training (capped at the first 100 registrants) will go over the definition and core components of rapid re-housing, housing search and location strategies, service provision strategies, and keys to good program design and implementation. The clinic is only open to conference attendees. For more information about the rapid re-housing clinic, please contact us.
Classic Cable Car Sightseeing Tour
What’s more perfect than touring the beautiful city by the bay in a classic cable car with your conference friends and colleagues? The Alliance is offering a tour at the end of the first day of the conference for an additional $35. For more information about the Classic Cable Car Sightseeing Tour, please contact the Alliance.
Mayors Jean Quan and Tom Bates
The newly elected... Read More »
Friday News Roundup: Unemployment, TANF cuts, and the ACA
February 04, 2011
So the biggest news today was the new unemployment figures. News media shouted from the rooftops: unemployment fell to 9 percent but the economy only added 36,000 jobs (actually, the AP put out a nice little video announcement - below!). And while this may seem like good news to many, The Atlantic suggests that it may have more to do with people giving up looking for work than the number of unemployed people actually dropping.
The news that really caught my eye were the local news stories about cuts to social services. You might’ve caught our post a couple days ago about Washington state’s decision to kick 5,000 families off their TANF program. Like we forecasted, it’s not just Washington - just this morning, we saw news from Hawaii, California, and South Dakota about cuts to state and local social services. And while concerns about state budgets and burgeoning deficits should be considered, I [personally] have concerns about the families being kicked off welfare programs. I'm pretty sure that withholding assistance isn’t going to solve the economic problems of these families – and I'm pretty sure that the chances they might experience homelessness and other misfortunes is high. (What do you think?)
And you might have stumbled across stories about the Affordable Care Act (along with stories about Egypt, Mark Kelly, and the Superbowl). Here at the Alliance, we’re working to clarify the ways that the ACA will impact people expe... Read More »
Homeless youth featured on 20/20
February 03, 2011
Today's post comes from André C. Wade, program and policy analyst at the Alliance.
As many of you may have seen last week, 20/20 recently aired a segment on homeless youth.
This important episode looked into the lives of four teenagers:
- George, who was “thrown away” by his mother,
- Rebecca who “couch surfed,”
- June, a transgender male to female youth who ran away from a home where she didn’t feel safe with her brothers,
- and Dakota, who “doubled up” with a friend before she became emancipated from her biological mother and obtained housing on her own.
Unfortunately, these stories are all too real.
Most children who experience homelessness return home and require family preservation services, but some youth do not return home; instead they seek shelter and are often placed into transitional living programs. Still other youth remain on the street and are continuously at risk of being exploited (research has shown that youth experiencing homelessness are at higher risk of experiencing violence, abuse, and exploitation than their adult counterparts.) A small number of youth, like Dakota, are able to obtain stable housing through the help of federal, state and or local housing subsidy programs.
Youth homelessness is a nationally overlooked phenomenon that affects too many of our country’s young people. And as a result, many communities face a dearth of information and services targeted at young people.
This year, the Alliance is committed to increasing aware... Read More »