Ending Homelessness Today
The official blog of the National Alliance to End Homelessness
What Happened to the Tax Extenders Bill?
June 29, 2010
The Alliance blog has talked before about what is formally known as the American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act (HR 4213), but is often called the “tax extenders bill”.
The bill would include funding for a number of programs, but there are two that interest us: the TANF Emergency Contingency Fund (ECF) and the National Housing Trust Fund (NHTF).
The TANF ECF is this extra pool of money helped TANF support more families during the recession and we were looking to have it renewed so that more support would be available. For more information about the TANF ECF (and family homelessness!) check out yesterday’s blogpost.
The second is the NHTF, a program created under President Bush to create affordable housing. Unfortunately, when the program was created, no money was allocated to it (it’s pretty hard to develop affordable housing with no money, FYI). The tax extenders bill would fund (we call that “capitalize”) NHTF – and more affordable housing means fewer people experiencing homelessness.
Unfortunately, last Thursday, June 24th, the House-approved bill was shut down in the Senate, with a 57 to 41 vote (60 votes were needed to pass it). Republicans and some others claimed to have withheld support because portions of the bill remained unfunded. No timeline was set as to when the tax extenders bill would be picked back up.
All in all, this means that we don’t know if the programs we mentioned will be receiving funding or if these program that help people experiencing homelessness will be able to serve as many people as they would like.
But we’ll have another chance to make a difference around the corner. Next week, the House subcommittee in charge of the HUD budget will be marking up their FY 2011 budget. So while we’ve lost this battle (for now), we can still make a difference for people experiencing homelessness and for our communities. Stay tuned to find out how YOU can help!... Read More »
Learning about family homelessness
June 28, 2010
When I came to the Alliance, I really did not know anything about homelessness, or those who were experiencing it. I think, like many people, my experience with people experiencing homelessness was only of those collecting change on the streets.
However, since coming to the Alliance and being exposed to the community dedicated to ending homelessness, I have come to understand that this is not a comprehensive picture of homelessness. I think I thought that all people who were experiencing homelessness fell into that category of what I now understand to be chronic homelessness. Turns out I was wrong - there are so many different types of homelessness, most of which aren’t chronic. One type of homelessness that I had not considered before was family homelessness.
Family homelessness has been in the news a lot lately, especially because of the Annual Homelessness Assessment Report (AHAR) which found that the number of families seeking shelter has increased in the last year. Also, the new Federal Strategic Plan to End Homelessness, called Opening Doors, set a specific goal of ending family homelessness in 10 years. These developments have pushed the issue into the spotlight so, in an effort to educate myself more about this group, I asked around the Alliance and did some research to get a clearer picture of family homelessness.
So what is family homelessness? It’s exactly what one would think: families who are not able to afford housing, and... Read More »
Friday News Round Up: New Plan, New Hope
June 25, 2010
This week marked a big step in the fight against homelessness. The U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) released Opening Doors: The Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness, a new federal strategic plan geared toward preventing and ending homelessness today. Everybody has been talking about it all week. Melody Barnes, Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, offered her positive review, while the National Coalition for the Homeless took the seemingly more common reaction of cautiously optimistic. Goals were praised all around, but the question of where funds would come from seemed to be on people’s minds. Our own President Nan Roman offered the Alliance’s take on the new plan. Tony Pugh of McClatchy and Ileana Morales of the Associated Press also offered their analysis of the plan. With the advent of this new federal plan, we’re hoping that there will be a renewed national interest in eliminating homelessness – and this piece examining the link between housing problems and policy is keeping our hopes up! On a more local level, we’re still seeing stories about the implementation of HPRP. Detroit seems to be having trouble distributing funds efficiently and effectively, but there seems to be light in Boston as communities embrace one of the principles of ending homelessness: housing first. And last but most certainly not least, TANF takes the stage. As legislators continue to dwell upon the passage of the Tax Extenders... Read More »
Capitol Hill Day: What is it?
June 23, 2010
The office here at the Alliance is abuzz lately with activity concerning our upcoming National Conference to End Homelessness. And a big part of the conference is what we call Capitol Hill Day.As a newbie with the Alliance, I wasn’t exactly clear on what the purpose of Capitol Hill Day – so I sought out Sumeet Singh, intern for our Program and Policy Associate Amanda Krusemark, who’s helping to make Capitol Hill Day happen.So the bottom line of Capitol Hill day is to affect policy.On Capitol Hill Day, people who are working to end homelessness meet their members of Congress. Meeting Senators and Representatives is a direct way to talk about homelessness and face-to-face meetings are particularly effective. It’s not always with a Member him or herself; sometimes it’s someone on their staff. That may seem less effective, but staffers are extremely important in influencing Members, so it works either way.Capitol Hill Day offers a chance for people to talk directly to the officials who have the power to make decisions that affect the funding and creation of programs that help end homelessness. Sumeet also noted that Capitol Hill Day offers people a chance to establish a relationship with their Congressmen.And the great news is – anyone can do it.Anybody can come and participate in Capitol Hill Day. Groups are often lead by State Captains, people chosen to target the members of each state ... Read More »
The Federal Plan to End Homelessness: Turning Plans into Action
June 22, 2010
The U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) released a new federal strategic plan geared toward preventing and ending homelessness today. And it was quite the production. Not quite presidential, but the Secretaries of the Departments of Housing and Urban Development (Shaun Donovan), Health and Human Services (Kathleen Sebelius), Labor (Hilda Solis), and Veterans Affairs (Gen. Eric Shinseki) all showed up to unveil Opening Doors: The Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness at a White House briefing this morning. And right they were to make a to-do. Opening Doors is the first comprehensive federal plan developed to prevent and end homelessness, laying out specific goals and clear timeframes. The plan even identifies the data sources (point-in-time homeless counts, to be exact) by which they’ll be measuring progress, allowing for real accountability. Opening Doors sets four major goals: Finish the job of ending chronic homelessness in five years;Prevent and end homelessness among veterans in five years;Prevent and end homelessness for families, youth, and children in ten years; andSet a path to ending all types of homelessness.(Any of this sound familiar?) And while we’re very excited at the prospect of having a federal partner to help achieve our mutual goal of ending homelessness, we know that it’s not going to be easy. We know that the process of moving from plan to action will require more than good intentions.How do we know? Because this ... Read More »
Meet the Summer Interns!
June 21, 2010
After a week of reports and federal policy - and more to come, undoubtedly! - we thought we'd share a lighter side of the Alliance! Marisa (see below!) went around to chat up our summer interns and find out what brought them to the Alliance. Here at the Alliance, we have recently had a number of new interns join us on our mission, and now we would like to introduce them all to you!Mindy MitchellMindy has just completed her first year at CUNY, where she is working on her law degree. She used to be a case worker in Mobile, Alabama, which she says is the reason why she wanted to pursue her law degree, because as she says, “Kids should not be homeless.” It is also one of the reasons why she wanted to work here at the Alliance. Mindy says she wants to work on a structural level to change why families become homeless. While here, she is researching house states and helping get the word out to people in government about extending TANF ECF, part of HR 4213. She is also a bibliophile!Stephanie WegeStephanie is a recent graduate of Cornell University, where she minored in inequality studies, an area that affects a lot of people experiencing homelessness. Stephanie has been looking for full time employment, and believes that this internship at the Alliance will give her an edge in the workplace. She was drawn to the All... Read More »
Friday News Roundup: The Big Gorilla in the Room (read: AHAR)
June 18, 2010
It was a week of big news in the homeless assistance field this week...The 9,000 lb gorilla in the room was definitely the release of the Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress. The HUD-authored study is a compilation of everything we know about homelessness in a given year. Headlining this year’s report is a) homelessness is marginally down overall but b) there are more families seeking shelter, which both we and HUD believe is an indication of the recession's impact on homelessness. Also making headlines this week – but probably more next week – is the long anticipated release of the Federal Strategic Plan to End Homelessness, which is due to be released in full on Tuesday, June 22. While there’s little news to be covered yet, Executive Director of the Interagency Council on Homelessness Barbara Poppe does offer a few sneak peeks. As if that weren’t enough – and it is – let’s not forget that Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard came out with their State of the Nation's Housing this week, which took over our attention for a couple days.And other people are thinking about the state of affordable housing and poverty too. Just today, Stateline released an analysis about the TANF Emergency Contingency Fund, which is still being kicked around by the Senate as part of the Tax Extenders Bill. Also, the state of low-income housing seems to be floating around on the Center for American Progre... Read More »
Media 2.0 and Homelessness
June 17, 2010
Hello all! My name's Marisa, and I’m the new social media intern here at the Alliance (there's actually a LOT of new folk here this summer - but more about us later).On June 14, I was given the opportunity to attend a series of talks on social media and media in general, as part of Digital Capital Week, an event focused on technology, innovation, and all things digital in Washington DC.I was sent because, as the Alliance has noted on this blog before, the use of social media tools in poverty and homeless assistance organizations continues to drag behind as compared to other movements.So we're studying up! In a discussion about the use of social media tools in news organizations - “Social and Traditional Media: How News and Media Organizations Are Getting Social and Why They Need to Do It” – panelists were all quick to agree that there is no longer an “if” as to whether businesses and organizations should use social media. Andy Carvin, who works for NPR, noted how people have been “social” with the organization for years, even since the late 1970s when people would send self-created audio files to local stations. Today’s social media platforms - including Facebook and Twitter - are only newer, faster ways for an audience to interact with organizations.The panelists also agreed that the beauty of social media is that it acknowledges the power of the people. According to Carv... Read More »
Thoughts on the 2009 Annual Homeless Assessment Report
June 16, 2010
Big, big news. (It’s been a big news week).Aside from the now-announced but still-anticipated release of the federal strategic plan to end homelessness – called Opening Doors - there’s even more news to digest!Today, the Department of Housing and Urban Development released the Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR).And it’s pretty wild.Headlining the report is the fact that homelessness is marginally down. Despite the worst recession this country has seen since the Depression, we’ve managed to avoid an increase in the number of people experiencing homelessness. That may seem like a little thing, but persistent unemployment rate and the erosion of housing affordability we talked about on Monday, it’s a pretty great thing.Among the highlight is a ten percent reduction in chronic homelessness(!!). There’s little doubt that the hard work of communities to implement housing-based strategies and prevention practices was key in that that reduction. For decades, the Alliance has lead the way analyzing research and best practices around chronic homelessness – and we’re so excited to see the results!Such speculation is only further validated by the dramatic shift in the inventory of shelters beds in the United States. For years, emergency shelter and transitional housing beds dominated the supply. This is the first year that permanent supportive housing beds have topped the charts – and we hardly think it’s a coincidence.But the news isn’t all good. As was noted this morning ... Read More »
The State of the Nation's Housing is out - and it doesn't look great
June 14, 2010
Today the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University released their annual State of the Nation’s Housing report – an assessment of the American housing market for the past year.Overall, the report offered mixed news. In the executive summary - entitled, “The Fledgling Recovery”—the report noted that the economy has started to show indications of a recovering housing market, including increased employment rates and reduced house prices. The report is also careful to note, however, that strength in the housing market will heavily depend on a recovery in the unemployment rate, which is currently holding steady at just under 10 percent. While the big picture offered some interesting insights, what was most striking in the report [at least for us] was the state of affordable housing for low-income households. The picture may look mixed for the majority of Americans – but the outlook is notably less rosy for low-income households. It starts with the rental market. Most low-income households are renters and the report definitively states that the supply of low-cost rental housing continues to decline. In fact, housing units considered affordable for those earning the federal minimum wage – rents of $400/month or less - declined by 244,000 units in 2007.At the same time, the number of renters rose over the last year, in some part because of the pressures in the homeowners market. A significant portion of that of that increase is attributed to minority and immigrant households though the report al... Read More »
Friday News Roundup: It’s all local…
June 11, 2010
It’s been a week of local news about homelessness – local plans, NIMBYism all across the country, and community efforts to confront housing. In Tempe, Arizona, there’s a project underway to target chronic homelessness – the Temple Pilot Project funded by the federal Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing fund. The effort is part of Maricopa County’s effort to reduce homelessness by a notable 75 percent by 2020. In Johnson County, Missouri, a more nascent effort is underway. Johnson County is seeking applicants to serve on a task force to find solutions – both long-term and immediate strategies to service people experiencing homelessness. Five representatives are expected to be selected and a report of finding and recommendations is due in early 2011. News is less positive in other communities – NIMBYism seems to be a strong theme in some communities across the country. In Tulsa, OK and Dallas, TX, community members are strongly protesting the construction of a permanent supportive housing building and low-income housing complex. Despite calls from advocates to demonstrate support for their most vulnerable friends and neighbors, riled residents are thus far compromising progress. From Colorado, there was a great article explaining how a community effort to end homelessness is not just a moral issue, but an important economic issue. The article goes on to discuss how Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper presented his case at the 2010 United Way Community Luncheon and extolled the virtues of the community Road Home program, Denver’s Ten Year Plan t... Read More »
Staying Home: The Rights of Renters in Foreclosed Properties
June 10, 2010
Today’s guest post comes from Whitney Gent of the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty.Even though she had been paying her rent on time, Beverly, a resident of a rental property in Ohio, came home one weekend last year to find her apartment had been padlocked, and her belongings removed. She didn’t know the building was in foreclosure, and its new owners had illegally evicted her. Forced to stay with relatives, as even her bed had been taken, Beverly became another victim of the foreclosure crisis. Unfortunately, Beverly is not alone. Estimates show that 40 percent of families facing foreclosure-related eviction are not owners, but low-income renters. In February 2009, the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty and the National Low Income Housing Coalition issued a report entitled Without Just Cause: A 50-State Review of the (Lack of) Rights of Tenants in Foreclosure. The report revealed that most states’ laws provided virtually no protections for tenants in properties that were the subject of foreclosure actions. Indeed, only two – New Jersey and the District of Columbia – provided that tenant leases survived foreclosure.Thanks in part to this research, the federal government has taken action to protect renters like Beverly. The Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act (PTFA) was signed into law by President Obama in May of last year, and it affords tenants unprecedented federal protections – including the right to 90-days notice prior to eviction or, in many cases, the right t... Read More »
Worst Case Housing Needs - A report from HUD
June 09, 2010
A short while ago, the Department of Housing and Urban Development released a report on “Worst Case Housing Needs.” According to HUD, a person or household is experiencing worst case needs when: they’re paying 50 percent of more of their monthly income on rent (also called “severe housing cost burden,”they’re living in severely substandard housing conditions,or both.Highlights of the report confirm the critical need to continue investing in affordable housing: In 2007, 5.9 million households – nearly 13 million people – experienced worst case needs.This number is a marginal increase from 2006.In general, worst case needs are experienced by “extremely low-income” families (families earning less than 30 percent of the area median income). 93 percent of the 5.9 million households were extremely low income. 7 percent were “very low-income” households, making 30 to 50 percent of area median income (AMI).The report reflects data from 2007 and does not take into account the effects of the current recession. In a press release, HUD expected the effects of the recession to be reflected in the next report.While those took care of the headline themes of the report, there were other pieces of information that painted a fuller picture. Though “worst case needs” is defined by severe housing cost burden, severely substandard housing, or both, it was the severe housing cost burden that was the primary cause of worst case needs. Of the 5.91 million households counted, 5.48 cited severe rent burden as their sole problem.Among the households examined – families with children, disab... Read More »
The Tax Extenders bill: From the House to the Senate!
June 07, 2010
The last time we wrote about it, the Tax Extenders bill passed the House. Next stop: the U.S. Senate. Senate leaders are hoping to start debate on the bill as soon as tomorrow! and could vote on the bill this week!. You can’t stop now when we’re so close! We need your senators to vote for H.R. 4213.What you can DOCall the housing staffer in your Senators' offices today. Congressional office phone numbers can be found by calling the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121.Urge the housing staffer to continue their support for preventing and ending homelessness in your community by voting YES on H.R. 4213 and making sure funding for the NHTF and extension of the TANF ECF are included in the bill.Let us knowhow it turned out! Contact Amanda Krusemark - and let us know who you contacted and what they said so we know who to target in the future!Remember: The Tax Extenders bill includes capitalization for the National Housing Trust Fund (NHTF) and extends the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Emergency Contingency Fund (ECF) – both critical programs in reducing and ending homelessness in the United States. In fact, synchronizing housing and services has shown to be the most effective way to end a person’s homelessness and lead them towards stability. For more background on these programs, check out our old blogposts. Thanks in advance to ALL our sup... Read More »
Friday News Roundup: a farewell, vets, and the cost-effectiveness of Housing FIrst
June 04, 2010
This is my last Friday news roundup at the Alliance. I've been really inspired by all the fantastic work that's happening, both locally and at the federal level, and I'm so glad I got to help spread the word. Hearing stories from community across the country has made me believe that ending homelessness really is possible. Catherine's back at the helm of the About Homelessness blog and soon she'll be joined by a NEW new media intern. Thanks for reading!Memorial Day brought some attention to veterans experiencing homelessness. An in-depth piece from the Arizona Star takes a look at the divide between the VA's plan to end homelessness within 5 years and the attitudes of some vets who are chronically homeless. Change.org's Poverty in America blog features Swords and Plowshares, a facility that combines housing and services to get former soldiers back on their feet. The Corporation for Supportive Housing's Deborah DeSantis shares a recent report that shows there are three times more mentally ill people in jail than in hospitals. The solution is not only humane, but cost-effective: Permanent Supportive Housing.Speaking of cost-effectiveness, the Providence Journal discussed the benefits of the Housing First model by telling the story of Bill Victoria, who was homeless for 30 years before finally finding stable housing: "I thought I'd be homeless forever," he says.Not so. About the Housing First approach, Eric Hirsch, a sociology professor at Providence College, says:It’s d... Read More »
Make your voice heard on the Hill
June 03, 2010
So you’re joining hundreds of advocates, policymakers, and service providers from across the country, heading to DC for our National Conference on Ending Homelessness. You’re excited to learn about everything from creating a rapid re-housing system to accessing mainstream services, from the latest in federal policy to employment strategies for your clients.That’s not all: you also have the opportunity to make your voice heard in Congress. Conference participants are invited to participate in our annual Hill Day, where you'll educate members of Congress about homelessness in your community and encourage them to take action to end homelessness.We know what works in the fight against homelessness, and as constituents, we need to tell Congress is that we have proven strategies. With our experiences and strategies in hand, we can share our policy priorities with our Congressional Representatives:Provide $2.4 billion in FY 2011 for HUD’s Homeless Assistance Grants Program.Fund 200,000 new Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers in FY 2011, including 10,000 new HUD-VA Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) vouchers, and 10,000 vouchers for the Administration’s proposed Housing and Services for Homeless Persons Demonstration.Provide $120 million for SAMHSA Homeless Services Programs in FY 2011, including $15.8 million for the Administration’s proposed Housing and Services Demonstration.Provide $165 million in FY 2011 for Runaway and Homeless Youth Programs, with the full $50 million increase targeted at the Transitional Living Program.Pass the Zero Tolerance for Veterans Homelessness Act (S. 1547).YOU are the most effective advocate for your community and it’s im... Read More »
Making Progress with HPRP - Second Quarterly Leadership Council Report
June 02, 2010
The Homelessness Research Institute (HRI) recently released the second installment of the Quarterly Leadership Council HPRP Report.To recap: HRI is tracking the use of federal stimulus-funded Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing funds (HPRP). The objective of the project is to determine how cities are using this new funding source and how effective communities are at turning dollars into real, measurable improvement.In the first quarterly report, we saw that:Family homelessness was up slightly (6 percent) in the 11 reporting communitiesCollectively, the 11 reporting communities spent approximately $10.4 million on HPRP financial assistance and housing relocation – this is just over 6 percent of their total grant allocation.Collectively, there is slight emphasis on prevention over rapid re-housing with wide variation among communities. San Francisco, Chicago, and Seattle heavily emphasize prevention while Columbus and Denver focus on rapid re-housing.To date, about 7 percent of households projected to be served by prevention programs had been served by December 2009. That number rises to 8 percent for households projected to be served by rapid re-housing programs for the same timeframe. Of the communities, New York has served notably more.Collectively, the 11 reporting communities saved/created approximately 505 full-time jobs my December 2009 with HPRP funds.For the 2-page report – as well as a list of all participating communities – please find the report online.Now on to the second.In the second report, we included two cities not originally in the first: New Orleans, LA and Washington, D.C.There were a coupl... Read More »
A Peek Inside Fairfax, VA
June 01, 2010
Last week there was a blog post in the Washington Post about Fairfax County, VA and the great work they’re doing using HPRP funds to prevent homelessness. To date, over 600 people have evaded homelessness in Fairfax.The success in Fairfax County prompted some curiosity and excitement about the work being done there. As a member of the Capacity Building Center at the Alliance, I’ve worked in Fairfax County to support their community leaders’ efforts to achieve this great success. For the last 18 months, the Alliance has worked to help the County transform their homeless assistance system into a Housing First/Rapid Re-housing model that focuses on housing-oriented strategies. Fairfax County covers 395 square miles and has a population of over one million residents. With an Annual Median Income (AMI) of over $100,000, you might think that homelessness wouldn’t be a huge issue for the county – but high rental prices and low vacancy rates make the house-hunt hard for low-income families.At the last point-in-time count, conducted on January 27, 2010, there were 1,544 people experiencing homelessness. Luckily, the County’s taking action. In 2007, the County approved the proposed Ten Year Plan to end homelessness; an implementation plan was completed in March 2008. The plan called for the creation of the Office to Prevent and End Homelessness and has since formed a Governing Board responsible for overseeing the progress towards the goal of ending homelessness by the end of 2018. Ten task groups of dedicated stakeholder... Read More »
The Tax Extenders bill passes the House!
May 28, 2010
Hey, big news! Today, the House passed the Tax Extenders bill (after their hiccup yesterday). As a reminder, the bill capitalizes the National Housing Trust Fund (NHTF) and extends the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Emergency Contingency Fund (ECF). The bill now heads to the Senate, and we need your Senators to vote for the legislation, H.R. 4213.WHAT YOU CAN DO:Call the housing staffer in your Senators' offices next week. Congressional office phone numbers can be found by calling the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121.Urge them to continue their support for preventing and ending homelessness in your community by voting YES on H.R. 4213.Call your Representatives and thank them for passing H.R. 4213. The list of who voted for the bill will available here shortly.Needless to say, none of this progress can happen without your voice and support. Thank you so much! for your efforts to sway your members – and don’t stop now!For more information about the Tax Extenders bill, check out our blogpost about the legislation or see our Advocacy Updates.... Read More »
Friday News Roundup: 3 powerful arguments for permanent supportive housing
May 28, 2010
Start your Memorial Day weekend by reading "Honoring our veterans can begin with housing." Here, the Corporation for Supportive Housing's Deborah De Santis not only reminds us how important it is to end homelessness among veterans, but she also reminds us that we know how to do it:The Department of Veterans Affairs and the Congressional Committees that authorize its programs should immediately consider how they can better utilize Housing First to move chronically homeless veterans off the streets, out of the shelters and into permanent supportive housing...Creating permanent supportive housing for veterans, utilizing Housing First and other models, is not only the smart thing to do, it's the right thing to do. For more on veterans' homeless, listen to Housing our vets on Where we live. Speaking of permanent supportive housing, check out "Shelter's the fool’s gold in the pursuit to end homelessness", a piece in Street Roots by Heather Lyons. In response to the announcement that Portland is planning to open a 100-bed shelter, she makes a pretty airtight argument for housing over shelter:I just read that the city is providing 100 new shelter beds for individuals as part of “a campaign to strategically reduce the number of homeless people in Portland.” That’s like opening two new emergency departments because cancer is on the rise. Like emergency departments, shelters serve a very important purpose, but they do not end homelessness for very many people, unless they ar... Read More »