Ending Homelessness Today
The official blog of the National Alliance to End Homelessness
Spokesman Review (WA): “State Assistance Terminated for 5,000 Families”
February 02, 2011
This morning, a little news clip from the Spokeman Review (WA) caught my eye. The title read: “State assistance terminated for 5,000 families.”
For months now, the Alliance and like-minded interest groups had warned against the impact of the recession on state budgets. (In fact, Nan discussed it in the Washington Post after the release of The State of Homelessness in America.)
States, already feeling pressure on their financial resources, strained to meet the needs of the increasing number of people and families seeking public assistance as they experienced job loss, unemployment, and other economic distress as a result of the recession.
And now, at least in Washington state, it seems that the pressure has finally come to a hilt. The state has decided to reduce their TANF program by 15 percent – cutting nearly 5,000 families off welfare.
Clearly this is exactly the wrong time to deny struggling families the resources they need to avoid economic turmoil - like homelessness. While the recession may be over in theory, communities across the country can testify to the increased – and sometimes still increasing – number of people seeking charitable as they continue to struggle.
And frankly, we all saw it coming. The Alliance examined state budgets in the research newsletter last fall, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities published a number of briefs about TANF and the Emergency Contingency Fund, and on this very blog, we asked you to support the extension of TANF ECF, a small, effective, and efficient federal program helping people find jobs, avoid homelessness, and support their families. Certainly, we could’ve headed this off with the right programs.
Because Washington will not be the last place where families are denied public assistance because the state can no longer provide it. Indeed, Washington will likely be the first of many states to turn families away, leaving those families at risk of homelessness and more economic misfortunes.
This is precisely why we need your help! You can start by reading more about our advocacy work and signing up for our action alerts.
Photo courtesy of billaday.... Read More »
Severe Housing Cost Burden + Unemployment + Working Poor = ....
February 01, 2011
Our post today comes from Alliance research apprentice, Shambhavi Manglik.
As we all know, the largest takeaway from The State of Homelessness in American is that homelessness is up—and the increase is largely due to the recession. That’s why I think that while homeless counts data are interesting and invaluable, the section of the report that I was most drawn to was the chapter on economic indicators.
While all of the indicators discussed in the report help inform our understanding of what the recession truly means for families at risk of experiencing homelessness, I found the findings related to unemployment and housing cost burden to be most illuminating.
Unemployment, unfortunately, is the most glaring, and painful results of the recession. The nationwide increase in the number of unemployed persons from 2008 to 2009—nearly 60 percent— is pretty shocking in and of itself. And while losing a job will create hardship for just about anyone, it has real and significant consequences for families who are already struggling to make ends meet and unfortunately, that’s the experience of most people at risk of experiencing homelessness; they’re already just barely getting by.
And why’s that? Well, one reason is severe housing cost burden. The Alliance defines severe housing cost burden as households who are in poverty and spend 50 percent or more of their monthly income on rent. And it’s no surprise that, like unemployment, severe housing cost burden increased from 2008 to 20... Read More »
The Role of Media in Advocacy
January 31, 2011
Today's post comes to us from Amanda Krusemark, policy and program associate at the Alliance.
Here, I’m called a “program and policy associate,” and in other organizations, I might be called a “grassroots mobilizer.” Basically, it’s my job to spearhead the Alliance’s advocacy work with our local partners across the country. Together, we make the case to federal policymakers that preventing and ending homelessness should be a federal priority.
Like you might imagine, this work involves a lot of letter-writing, meeting with policymakers, site visits, you name it, but a key – and often overlooked – component of advocacy is working with the media.
At a fundamental level, advocacy is really about education – educating policymakers about a problem and pushing a specific solution. And the reach and role of the media is a perfect medium to do just that – educate people about homelessness.
Recently, we launched a Media Campaign around the release of The State of Homelessness in America. We collaborated with providers, public officials, and consumers across the country to use the report to help leverage local media attention on the issue.
The results were astounding! We have been absolutely bowled over the results our local partners generated – so far, more than 50 unique stories in 20 different states have run in the last two weeks mentioning our report. Some stories focus primarily on the release of the report and homelessness data; many, however, refer to the report in context or pressing local and n... Read More »
Friday News Roundup: the PIT counts!
January 28, 2011
Happy Friday, friends!
So, we could continue to flout the continued coverage of our newest report - The State of Homelessness in American (wink, wink!) – but I trust you’ve grown weary of our obsessive affection for that report. And rest assured, we’ll have plenty more posts about the report from friends and fans alike!
Homelessness news this week – no big surprise here – was all about community point-in-time (PIT) counts. (And snow.) Projected numbers, need for volunteers, implications on governments – local media covered the story from all angles.
The Review Journal in Las Vegas projected an increase in their count; the opposite was true according to WBUR-FM in Boston, which reported a dip in their numbers.
The community papers in Montgomery, AL and Detroit focused on the effort involved in reaching out to this oft-overlooked population. Our friends at the Los Angeles Times provided a detailed account of what it takes to conduct that sprawling city’s count – no easy feat by anyone’s standards.
And then there were the stories that put a human face on the annual task. The Dayton Daily News of Ohio profiled a 19-year-old young man who had aged out of the foster care system only to wind up on the streets. The Herald of Washington state focused on a volunteer who had once experienced homelessness himself who was now helping with the Snohomish County’s count.
And you know we were there to lend a hand for the... Read More »
What's so special about the PIT counts?
January 27, 2011
A few days ago, Catherine talked about point-in-time counts.
As a researcher, I can’t begin to tell you how important that raw data is to both understanding homelessness and measuring whether or not we’re making any progress on the problem. In fact, point-in-time (PIT) counts were pivotal to The State of Homelessness report.
The PIT counts are a census conducted on a single night in January by communities across the U.S (over 450 communities participated for the last count). This PIT count is not the only data available on the homeless population; there’s also 12-month data collected by these communities. However, the PIT counts have a clear advantage over the 12-month data because the PIT data captures data on the unsheltered populations as well as sheltered populations.
But getting this wonderful data – now that’s another thing altogether.
Imagine for a minute the logistical nightmares of conducting the PIT counts across the boundaries of an entire community, block by block, in order to capture that unsheltered data. Despite participation in the census by a large contingent of volunteers and an expert group of homeless service workers, it still sounds challenging, doesn’t it? Each year, though, communities are continually learning from their experiences, and their methodologies for conducting the census continue to improve.
The reality is, while imperfect, the PIT counts provide the best available data on what the homeless population “looks like” on a given night. And the reality... Read More »
"Homelessness" in the State of the Union
January 26, 2011
Today's post comes to us from Alliance research associate Pete Witte, who was inspired to geek out after watching the State of the Union last night.
Last night’s speech by President Barack Obama marked the 221st State of the Union (SOTU) address given in U.S. history. At yesterday’s morning staff meeting, some of us at the Alliance wondered if the President would mention homelessness in his speech.
But yesterday’s meeting piqued my curiosity. While watching the speech last night, I thought, “I wonder how many times a President has used the words “homeless” or “homelessness” in a State of the Union address?”
And once the question’s asked, I have to find the answer! It was relatively easy to do with a cool online tool provided by a guy named Brad Borowitz. His website allows you to search the all SOTU addresses and offers graphs, charts, and other visual illustrations of all the SOTU speeches.
So allow me to geek out a bit here: in the 221 SOTU addresses in history, a total of 1,676,558 words have been used, of which 26,789 are unique (these numbers do not include common words such as “and,” “the,” and “state”). “Homeless” has been used a total of seven times and “homelessness” has been used two times over the course of seven SOTU addresses by a total of four Presidents: George W. Bush, George H. W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, and Harry Truman.
Now, what exactly this mea... Read More »
President Obama vows to end veterans homelessness
January 25, 2011
In 2007, the Alliance released Vital Mission: Ending Homelessness Among Veterans, a comprehensive report reviewing the state of veterans homelessness in the country and emphasizing – as I’m sure we can all agree – that veterans homelessness is categorically unacceptable.
Since then, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki has echoed that sentiment repeatedly, vowing to end veterans homelessness in five years. He’s shared his plan with the public, discussed it at the Alliance conference, and it’s a featured part of Opening Doors: The Federal Strategic Plan to End Homelessness authored by the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness.
Yesterday, President Obama took the same pledge, declaring that he and his administration would be “relentless” (according to Politico) in their efforts to end veterans homelessness.
The National Alliance to End Homelessness applauds President Obama, Secretary Shinseki, and the national community dedicated to ensuring that this noble goal becomes reality for all the men and women who serve our country and their families.... Read More »
Define that for me
January 24, 2011
Research Associate Pete Witte guest blogs today on the most commonly used terms in our State of Homelessness report.
Many readers of this blog are familiar with homeless terms and jargon, such as “chronic homeless,” “permanent supportive housing beds,” “persons in families,” “youth homeless,” and so on. While you may be familiar with the homeless terms, there are always very specific definitions for each term. This is especially true and important when it comes to data in research reports. We all want to be on the same page when we discuss the data!
While future blog posts about the State of Homelessness will go into greater depth on specific economic or demographic factors, I want to define the report’s four economic and demographic terms today so you have a clear understanding what we are discussing.
For each economic factor we essentially tried to capture a data point that would either reveal increased or decreased economic vulnerability across time. And for the demographic factors, we tried to capture a data point that would show increased or decreased risk among populations who are at high risk of homelessness.
Here are the definitions for the report’s terms:
Severe housing cost burdened households are the number of households who are in poverty and spend more than 50 percent of their total household income on rent (by household, this could be a single person, a couple with children, or an extended family of ten people).
The ... Read More »
Friday News Roundup: State of Homelessness, Secretary Donovan, and HUD funding
January 21, 2011
This week, we kept seeing more clips about our newest report, The State of Homelessness in America! We’re so excited to see continued interest in the report and – as you may have seen – we’re going to continue to write about the report on this blog to explicate our findings, definitions, and other nerdy bits (latest installment: a post about data from Pete) so stay tuned!
Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Shaun Donovan also made the news this week with an opinion piece about a national effort to end homelessness. Placed just in time to coincide with impending community point-in-time counts, the secretary encourages communities to do their best to pursue accurate data, “But more collaboration alone won't restore confidence in government; we also need to produce results. And producing results requires smarter decisions based on sound data.” (What’s a point-in-time count? Glad you asked.)
HUD made news again this week when they renewed funding for homeless assistance programs, spreading $1.4 billion nationwide to help organizations providing services for people experiencing homelessness. Local stories (like this one) outlined specific amounts for their particular communities and many noted the pervasive need for such funding to provide assistance to their economically vulnerable friends and neighbors.
And in other news – today, the Alliance staff is off-campus thinking up ways to do our work better. If you have any suggestions or thoughts, don’t hesitate to comment, Tweet, of leave us a note on our Fac... Read More »
Data: A Vehicle to Help End Homelessness
January 20, 2011
Since the release of The State of Homelessness in America - and frankly, long before that – we’ve gotten questions about homelessness data.
It was my job at the Alliance to conduct data acquisition and analysis for The State of Homelessness report – and we thought it might be nice to shed some light on the process:
First, we needed to acquire all of the data. Now I’d love to say that this was as easy as going to websites of public-data sources and clicking a link that read Click here to quickly download all the data you need for your report-making-fun, but as anyone who has worked with data knows, data acquisition is much more complicated.
It was further complicated by the fact that – as report readers know – we gathered a lot of data. If you check out the Appendix of the report, you can see that we acquired data from the Census Bureau, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the Administration for Children and Families, and Realty Trac – just to name a handful.
Getting our hands on the data, as anyone who’s tried to extract data from a federal agency can tell you, was no small feat. We made Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, sent request letters by email, downloaded huge micro-data files that took hours, and so on.
Once a data sources were acquired and once I was familiar with the variables, defi... Read More »
Are you helping out with the point-in-time count?
January 19, 2011
Every year, right around this time, communities across the country conduct their point-in-time count.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) requires that communities receiving federal funds from the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants program conduct a point-in-time count at least every other year. Most communities conduct their counts annually; some do it even more often than that.
These point-in-time counts are the cornerstone of homelessness data. Data conducted during these counts are used to create the Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress and provide the best data available on the number of people experiencing homelessness in the United States.
Count methodology varies across the country. For smaller communities, volunteers may comb the streets and individually count each and every person they see experiencing homelessness. And then there are some communities – think New York, Detroit, Los Angeles – where such a practice would be impossible. So advocates and city officials create formulas and algorithms to extrapolate a more limited count into a realistic estimate. And every year, count methodology evolves and improves so we’re able to get a more and more accurate count.
And why’s that important? Because in order to solve a problem, we first have to understand it – and these counts are the first line in developing that understanding. Before we delve into the details, before we pick apart subpopulations and demographics, we gauge the scope of the problem by understanding these point-in-time counts.
And – as always –... Read More »
Have you seen the State of Homelessness interactive tools?
January 18, 2011
So you’ve seen the report. And you’ve read our clips. And maybe you even sat through the entire video or the press conference.
We appreciate it, we really do! We appreciate all the support that the entire community has shown for our The State of Homelessness report.
But if you’ve done all those things (and nothing more) – you’re probably missing the best part of our report!
The interactive tools. (Cuz really, what’s better than maps?)
The Alliance produced a series of maps for each of the indicators in the report. A few of my faves:
The total homelessness by state map that shows the homeless population by state and the percent chance by state from 2008 to 2009.The severe housing cost burden among poor households by state which shows the number of households that are paying 50+ percent of their income on rent and shows the percentage change of those numbers from 2008 to 2009.The unemployment by state map – even if it is no big surprise and wholly depressingThe doubled up map – mostly because this is maybe one of the coolest indicators in the report (in my opinion).
But that’s 4 of 12, guys – there are way more maps to check out and we’re not even done building all of them yet! They’re a great way to learn more about your specific state and get a visual representation of how some states are doing compared to others. Yeah, so Texas, Califor... Read More »
Friday News Roundup: All State of Homelessness, all the time
January 14, 2011
As you know, it was a big week for us! On Wednesday, we released The State of Homelessness in America at a press conference at the National Press Club and we had our fingers-crossed that people would care – and respond.
And to our delight, they did!
Our new friend Henri Cauvin at the Washington Post does a great job in summing up the major findings of the report (which you can also find here) and noting the major trends that go through the report. One of the important concerns, Cauvin notes, is the unease moving forward as strapped state budgets try to serve more people with fewer resources – which is probably exactly why Governing magazine ran the story as well.
Doubled up was the story for the Huffington Post. Reporter Laura Bassett points to housing prices and unemployment as key motivators of the 12 percent increase in doubling up; something that Susan Campbell also pointed out in the Hartford Courant.
Nan got an opportunity to voice her own thoughts about the report – not just on CSPAN but as an editorial contributor for the DC paper, The Hill. In it, she waxes positive, noting: “With adequate and well-targeted federal policy and resources to support local ingenuity and determination, we can ensure that increased homelessness is not another sad legacy of the economic recession.”
And the truth is, that is the right moral of the story. While the data may shown a grim picture, ... Read More »
Major Findings in the State of Homelessness report
January 13, 2011
So here’s the headliner: the recession contributed to an increase in overall homelessness from 2008 to 2009, and family households experienced the largest percentage increase. The increases, coupled with worsening economic and demographic indicators of homelessness, paint an austere picture of The State of Homelessness in America.
Other Major Findings:
The nation’s homeless population increased by approximately 3 percent from 2008 to 2009. The largest percentage increase among subpopulations was in the number of family households experiencing homelessness, which increased by over 4 percent. In Mississippi, the number of people in homeless families increased by 260 percent.
The doubled up population increased by 12 percent to more than 6 million people from 2008 to 2009. In Rhode Island the number increased by 90 percent; in South Dakota the number more than doubled.
Nearly three-quarters of all U.S. households with incomes below the federal poverty line spent over 50 percent of monthly household income on rent. Forty states saw an increase in the number of poor households experiencing severe housing cost burden from 2008 to 2009.
California, Florida, and Nevada – states known to have been disproportionately impacted by the recent housing crisis – have high rates of homelessness and high rates of unemployment, foreclosure, housing cost burden, lack of insurance, and doubling up.
People in doubled up living situations, released from incarceration, and aged out of foster care are twice as likely to experience homelessness than the average poor person; these populations are twenty times as likely to experience homelessness as the average American.
So the ... Read More »
The State of Homelessness in America
January 12, 2011
If you weren't there, you missed it big!
The Alliance hosted a press conference this morning to release The State of Homelessness in America, a first-of-it's-kind comprehensive examination into homelessness counts, economic indicators, demographic factors, and policy recommendations.
We were delighted and honored to be joined by Senator Jack Reed (D - RI) and consumer advocate Ebony Roscoe of Community of Hope. Both were able to provide unique perspectives on homelessness - and the solutions to this social problem.
Photos from the event will be up on our Facebook page soon and you can access the report online. And you better believe that in the weeks to come, we'll be dissecting findings, themes, and trends from the report on this blog!
Stay tuned!... Read More »
Alliance releases The State of Homelessness in America
January 11, 2011
Hello blog buddies!
As a very special treat, we’re giving you the scoop – so listen up.
The Alliance is very pleased and very proud to present The State of Homelessness in America, a thorough, in-depth, first-of-its-kind examination into homelessness across the country.
And it’s not just another Counts report – we’ve taken it to the next level! This year, not only do we review the changes in homelessness at the national and state levels from 2008 and 2009, we’ve also thrown in some indicators.
Acknowledging the interest in the recession’s impact on homelessness, the considerable roles that economic factors play in homelessness, and the existence of specific demographic groups at increased risk of homelessness, we’ve also analyzed factors associated with homelessness. They include: severe housing cost burden, real income, unemployment, foreclosure, lack of insurance, doubling up, youth aging out of homelessness, and release from incarceration.
(Yup – it’s a hefty read).
In the days following, we’ll be digging deeper into our findings and the implications of those findings. You can follow this series of posts by clicking on "The State of Homelessness" category below. But until then, enjoy this special, exclusive, for-our-blog-readers-only advance of the report. You can find it online here.... Read More »
Homelessness in a vacuum?
January 10, 2011
During a meeting today, Nan mentioned, “homelessness isn’t divorced from all of this.”
And by “all of this,” Nan primarily meant the recession but she also meant the environmental factors that we all witness: rising unemployment, weakened job market, depressed wages, rising housing costs, and all those other economic and social factors that may or may not be a part of an overall recession.
And of course this is true. Not only are all these factors associated with homelessness (they, in fact, contribute to homelessness) but people experiencing homelessness – and those at-risk of homelessness – face these factors just like all people. In fact, the impact of these factors often weigh most heavily on our more vulnerable friends and neighbors who have fewer economic means and a much smaller safety net than other Americans.
As many of you know, the Alliance is preparing to launch a new report entitled, The State of Homelessness in America analyzing homelessness counts and trends from 2008 to 2009. Asides from our regular counts data, we’ll be including four economic indicators and four demographic drivers in the report, including:
unemploymentsevere housing cost burdenreal incomeforeclosuredoubling upaging out of foster carelack of insurancedischarge from incarceration.
We found, as you might imagine, a number of interesting trends when analyzing these factors but one of the key morals of the story is just the point Nan made this morning: homelessness does not exist in a vacuum. It is far from the foreign, al... Read More »
Friday News Roundup: Industry news, media clips, and Ted Williams
January 07, 2011
Happy New Year, friends! We’re so excited to be back!
So – first and foremost we’ve been asked to tell you this little nugget of news: on Tuesday, Jan. 11, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is hosting a webinar at 3 p.m. ET on the requirement for the 2011 point-in-time counts. Speakers will also discuss federal partnerships and participants will be able to ask questions. But to get on the call, you have to register.
In other industry news, as many of you know, the Alliance is releasing a new report on homelessness on Wednesday, January 12. If you want a short summary of the report, check out the recording of our webinar. If you want to join us for the press conference unveiling the awesome new document, let me know on our ... Read More »
Conference Update: Join us at the Rapid Re-Housing Clinic!
January 05, 2011
Today's post comes to us from Kim Walker.
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-housing program more successful.
We're capping registration at 100, so be sure you register now! We think that this clinic will be a great way to kick of the conference (it’s slated for Wednesday, F... Read More »
Why Aren’t We Counting the Kids?
January 04, 2011
This January, every Continuum of Care (CoC) in the United States will be conducting a point-in-time count of their homeless population. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) wants an accurate count of all people experiencing homelessness in a community – so they require communities to submit a count when they apply for homeless assistance funding.
Trouble is, we’re not getting the full picture. All too often, unaccompanied youth (kids not with their parents), get overlooked during these counts.
Communities have found that young people (under the age of 25) don’t behave like their adult counterparts: they don’t congregate in the same areas, they don’t always access the same services, they just can’t be found in the same places. So to get an accurate count of the total homeless population, communities must develop a strategy specifically targeting unaccompanied homeless youth.
Why, you ask? That’s a great question. Because we know that point-in-time counts are no picnic. We know communities are already expending tremendous resources to conduct counts. We know that asking communities develop yet another program to count specifically unaccompanied youth can seem cumbersome. We get it, we know, it’s not easy.
But they’re our kids. We all know they’re out there, we all know they need our help. Research has demonstrated that youth experiencing homelessness are at higher risk of experiencing violence, abuse, exploitation, and a host of other dangers. But we still don’t have... Read More »