Ending Homelessness Today
The official blog of the National Alliance to End Homelessness
Las Vegas: Lights, Glitz, and Public Policy
May 24, 2010
Today's guest post is from Policy Associate Anthony Stasi. You might assume that people experiencing homelessness in Las Vegas and the surrounding areas are former gamblers, drifters from California, or people that were hit hard by the foreclosure crisis. But according to Continuum of Care Coordinator Michele Fuller-Hallauer, many of the homeless in this region are mentally ill, and require regular intake of medication. Last week I visited the Southern Nevada Regional Planning Coalition’s Committee on Homelessness, where I met Fuller-Hallauer, Shannon West, and Catherine Huang Hara, who are part of a small group that oversees homeless policy in this area. The Southern Nevada Regional Planning Coalition works with several other organizations and committees in an effective team that has seen results: street homelessness has decreased 16.4%.They’ve also seen family homelessness drop: in 2008, there were 933 homeless households with children. In 2009 that number dropped to 346 homeless households with children. This is a reduction of 587 households or a 63 percent reduction in family homelessness.Still, the overall figure of homelessness in Las Vegas has climbed 16.8 percent. The increase in the overall number of homeless comes from their increase in people that are utilizing transitional housing programs. They have experienced a great deal of success in moving people to permanent housing, but – in cases of those who are mentally ill and unable to make rational choices – they cannot move them into permanent housing as easily. They do a great job in what is a very busy social services system in southern Nevada.... Read More »
Friday News Roundup: Welcome new Alliance staff!
May 21, 2010
We're welcoming two new staff members at the Alliance this week: Kim Walker is our new Capacity Building Associate and Kate Seif is our new Assistant to the President. We're excited to have their experience and enthusiasm in our office!We had a visit this week from Sarah, John and James, three intrepid college students from North Carolina who are biking across the country to research Housing First initiatives and raise money for housing in their own community. We'll be following them on their blog - and you should too. We're still waiting on the Federal Plan to End Homelessness, but in the meantime, check out the Homeless Law blog's post "Five Reasons I'm Looking Forward to the Federal Plan.The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities sets the record straight about the Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF) Emergency Contingency Fund, in response to claims on the YouCut website. (Pssst: The Emergency Contingency Fund is part of HR 4123, which is being discussed in the House today. if you haven't called your Members of Congress about HR4123, do it now!)We've mentioned Street Roots' photo project, where they asked their vendors what matters most and this week, they posted this cool word cloud. What jumps out at you? Love this editorial in the Salt Lake Tribune about how to end homelessness. They're speaking our language:How do you eliminate chronic homelessness? The problem seems so complex that the obvious solution... Read More »
The political commitment to ending veterans homelessness
May 21, 2010
Today, our Vice President of Programs and Policy Steve Berg went up to the Hill to attend a joint hearing including the Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and the Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development. The joint hearing examined the nation’s progress in ending veterans homelessness.
Currently, there are about 131,000 veterans experiencing homelessness in the United States, representing about one-fifth of the entire homeless population on any given night. Veterans often experience homeless as a result of post-war distress, including emotional or physical trauma which can manifest in diseases, including substance abuse and addiction.
In our last Veterans Update, we presented the challenges to women veterans as a new emerging component of this issue. As women continue to make up a greater percentage of the armed forces, we take greater note of their particular vulnerability to and experience with homelessness. There is also a growing body of evidence that indicates that female veterans have a higher risk of homelessness as compared to their male counterparts – some speculate that this may have to do with a greater incidence of sever housing cost burden, lower incomes, higher rates of post-traumatic stress disorder, among others contributors.
In recent months, both Secretary Shinseki of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and President Obama have come out strongly with intentions to reduce and end veterans homelessness in the United States. Secretary Shinseki has publicly announced the VA’s intent to end v... Read More »
Call Congress today: Fund the National Housing Trust Fund!
May 20, 2010
It's time to act! Homelessness is complicated, but in the end, we believe that people are homeless because they can't find housing they can afford. Today, there is something YOU can do about it.The National Housing Trust Fund aims create 1.5 million units of affordable housing within ten years - and tomorrow, the House will debate H.R. 4213, which would fund NHTF with $1 billion. With your help, the bill will move on to the Senate next week. (H.R. 4213 also includes funding for a variety of programs that low-income Americans need, including the TANF Emergency Contingency Fund. More info is available here).Here's what you can do:1. Call the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121.2. Ask for your Congressional Representative. If you're not sure who that is, you can find out here.3. Ask for the staffer who works on housing.4. Urge them to continue their support for preventing and ending homelessness in your community by voting YES on H.R. 4213. Here's what you can say:I am deeply concerned about homelessness in my community, but I know the way to end homelessness is to house people. I'm calling to ask you to fund the National Housing Trust Fund.The National Housing Trust Fund is critical for efforts to prevent and end homelessness. The majority of the people who enter the homeless system have experienced some sort of crisis that causes them to lose their housing. At least 75% of NHT... Read More »
Doubling Up: Examining the recession, homelessness, and economic indicators
May 19, 2010
How many people are homeless due to the recession? We're not sure yet. Homelessness is what we call a "lagging indicator" of a poor economy, so we still have yet to see the full impact of the economic recession on homelessness.
But that doesn’t mean the recession hasn’t had – or won’t have - an impact on homelessness. Today, the Homeless Research Institute's launches our Economy Bytes series, in which we investigate economic indicators that are associated with homelessness. The first in this series investigates doubled-up situations.
Our research shows that 5 percent more people lived in doubled up situations in 2008 than in 2005; in particular, we've seen a growing share of doubled up families.
Wait, so what's doubled up? Doubling up means that an individual or family lives with extended family, friends, and other non-relatives due to economic hardship. In this case, we define economic hardship as earning no more than 125 percent of the federal poverty level.
Not all doubled up people or families will become homeless but for many, it's a precursor. Of those people who weren't homeless before staying at a shelter, 46 percent spent the previous night at the home of a friend or family member, according to the 2008 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress (AHAR).
But why do people double up? In short, people double up because they can't afford housing. They have had to choose between basic necessities like food, health care, clothing and housing, and peo... Read More »
Ending Family Homelessness: Learning from Massachusetts
May 19, 2010
We tweeted it our and we posted it on our Wall and now we’re ready to chat about it further.
As you already know, we found a paper called “Reducing Family Homelessness in Massachusetts.”
Noted homelessness scholar – and co-chairman of our Research Council - Dr. Dennis Culhane was commissioned to investigate ways to improve the Emergency Assistance program in Massachusetts. The goal was the identify ways to more effectively and efficiently help families experiencing or at-risk of experiencing homelessness - without investing more budget resources in the program.
And you know what? Dr. Culhane and his research assistant Thomas Byrne managed to do just that. The pair recommended two primary ways to improve the performance of the Emergency Assistance program:
1. Increase flexibility in both eligibility and levels of service based on individual need.
2. Focus on reducing the time families spend in emergency shelter, by requiring a shelter exit and self-sufficiency plan as a condition of receiving services.
Dr. Culhane and Byrne also prescribed a number of shifts in thinking and practice to help guide the work and efficiency of the EA system.
What's interesting about Massachusetts is that the state is already making considerable headway towards ending homelessness - and is doing so in a comprehensive way. As the writers point out in their paper, Gov. Deval Patrick's Special Commission Relative to Ending Homelessness has already developed a plan to end homelessness in the state, and a special interagency commiss... Read More »
Are you out there?? Help us find you…online!
May 17, 2010
You’ve been asked before – and no doubt you’ll be asked again. Yes, the Alliance is asking you to participate in an online survey. (We’ve gone to great lengths to try and ensure it’s as quick and painless as possible – I promise.)Here’s the thing: like all nonprofits navigating our way through an increasingly social, online world, we’re trying to figure out where you’re finding us online – and then move in that direction. Like I mentioned in last week’s post about social media in the homeless assistance field, we’ve been trying to make the best use of these great new online tools. Our own personal social media journey has been a pretty rewarding one. We launched social networks in June 2009 and with our one-year anniversary around the corner and a slowly-but-surely-growing audience of supporters, friends, and colleagues, we want to make sure that we’re meeting your needs and expectations. What do you want to hear from us? What do you find most helpful, least helpful? Where do you connect with us – and what forum is most useful for you? Where do you see the Alliance in the homeless assistance field? How do we fit into your efforts?These are all important questions – questions that will undoubtedly inform the way we do our work. And only you can help us find the answers. So please, take a moment to fill out our social media survey. It shoul... Read More »
Friday News Roundup: 10 great blogs about homelessness
May 14, 2010
As Catherine pointed out yesterday, many in the homelessness field have been slow to embrace using social media tools. As the New Media Intern at the Alliance, this hesitance has sometimes created challenges, but it has also made for some happy surprises.As I've explored the social media landscape, I've been impressed and inspired over and over again by the homelessness blogosphere. Advocates, policy organizations, service providers and concerned citizens are using this new medium to share stories and information, to engage supporters and investigate new ideas. So straight from my Google Reader, here's homelessness in headlines this week - from the blogopshere:1) Just this week I started reading the Housing for Families blog out of Massachusetts and Healthcare for the Homeless: both are super useful and informative. 2) for those who can't afford free speech, the blog of Portland's street newspaper Street Roots, consistently shares a wide variety of great content. This past week, they published an interview with Liesl Wendt, CEO of 211info in the Portland area. It serves as a handy introduction to 211 services, as well as the recession's impact on the people of Portland.3) The Homelessness Law blog is thoughtful and timely. This week, National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty Human Rights Program Director Eric Tars shared a success story from Salt Lake City. 4) Unity of Greater New Orleans' Signs of Life. I've said it before and I'll say it again: read it!5) Inforumusa is updated... Read More »
What's the deal with social media in the homeless assistance field?
May 13, 2010
One of my responsibilities at the Alliance is to manage our social networks, and in the era of furious blogging and even more frenetic tweeting, it can get chaotic. Often times, I find the need to stop, take a breath, and evaluate exactly how all this social media frenzy contributes to the Alliance’s goals and mission.Which isn’t to say I don’t see the value in the mediums. I’m the lucky product of a world full of information technology and social media tools. I grew up with high-speed internet at my fingertips and an iPod on my hip; I was an early adopter of Facebook and yes, I have my very own Twitter account. And while I would hardly call myself a pusher or an expert, I do truly believe in the potential of social media tools to cultivate change, progress, and conversation.It's is why I’m so excited to be doing it in this field. While nonprofits are often slightly behind the curve to pick up new technologies, it’s been my personal experience that my own field has been particularly slow to adopt new media platforms. At this years Nonprofit Technology Conference (NTC), I found a small cohort of colleagues in the homeless assistance and housing field to swap stories with – and a major theme of those stories is our missing presence among nonprofits utilizing these new tools.And many of us are.At NTC, I too... Read More »
What you should know about the Runaway Homeless Youth Act
May 12, 2010
Maybe you read in USA Today that the number of calls to the National Runaway Switchboard doubled in 2009. Maybe you've heard that running away from home puts young people at risk of violence, crime, prostitution, drugs and health problems. Maybe you're an outreach worker who hears these stories every day. If, for these or any other reasons, you're concerned about youth homelessness, you should know about the Runaway Homeless Youth Act (RHYA). Along with the Education for Homeless Children and Youth (EHCY) Act, RHYA is one of two federal programs aimed at helping homeless youth.There are 3 main RHYA programs:The Basic Center Program, which helps meet immediate needs of runaway and homeless youth and their families including providing emergency shelter, reunification when possible, food, clothing, counseling, and access to health care;The Transitional Living Program, which provides funding long-term residential services to homeless youth ages 16 to 21 for up to 18 months;The Street Outreach Program, which funds outreach efforts designed to move youth off the streets.Particularly in these tough economic times, these programs are crucial. Not only do they prevent victimization on the streets, but they are more cost-effective than foster care or a correctional facility. And still, current programs do not meet the need: in 2009, RHYA programs served less than 41,000 with shelter services and less than 4,000 received transitional housing. Over 7,500 youth were turned away and denied shelter and housing.We at the Alliance are now looking to Congress... Read More »
McKinney-Vento Advocates Speak Out: Q&A with Leah Bradley
May 11, 2010
As we've talked about the McKinney-Vento Appropriations Campaign on this blog, we've often mentioned the impact that that federal funding has on homeless assistance in your community. Today's blog post is from Leah Bradley, Director of Housing and Program Development at Community Health Link, and one of the winners of our 2010 Letter Writing Contest. She knows first-hand how crucial McKinney-Vento funding is for Worcester, and along with our advocacy team, she traveled to Washington DC to tell her members of Congress.Why is it important for your community to fund McKinney-Vento Homelessness Assistance programs at $2.4 billion? Can you give an example of a program that might be affected? The McKinney Vento- Homeless Assistance programs have been the primary programs in our community to reduce chronic homelessness. According to our 2010 Point In Time survey, chronic homelessness in the City of Worcester was reduced by 38% from 2009 to 2010. The majority of those were housed in McKinney-funded permanent supportive housing. In addition, our community has used HPRP funds to transform our emergency shelter system to a rapid re-housing system. The components of this are a triage system where anyone seeking emergency shelter must see a triage worker first. No one is denied shelter; however, through this system we have been able to divert 67.4% (622 out of 923) of those seeking shelter from staying at the shelter. In order to maintain this new system and house those individuals who become chronically homeless over the next year, we... Read More »
The Alliance launches website redesign!
May 10, 2010
Happy Monday, everyone! We have big news today – really really big news! And after months and months of planning, preparing, and posting, we’re finally ready to share it with you all. In case you haven’t already noticed (and I’m hoping at least some of you already have!), the Alliance has made some significant changes to the website: a wider format, bigger pictures, links to our new media networks, and an awesome new library (if we do say so ourselves). The new design wasn’t just an aesthetic improvement – we had some specific goals in mind. In particular, we wanted to:improve access to contentimprove search functionalityimprove navigation.(And okay, making the website cleaner and prettier was an added bonus.)As we got started on this effort, the website team did some website evaluation – our expert consultants called it “user testing.” We asked our friends and colleagues about their experience using the website, and among the many suggestions and critiques we received, we heard one comment repeated over and over again: “your website is full of really great content – but I can never find what I’m looking for!” So we definitely wanted to change that. Among the many changes we’ve made to the website, we wanted to highlight just a few that we think you might find most helpful: Check out the About Homelessnesssection.As the new media and communications girl at the Alliance, I get a LOT of questions about ho... Read More »
Friday News Roundup: talking TANF and Ten Year Plans
May 07, 2010
It's been another seriously busy week at the Alliance. Not only did we recognize the formation of the new Congressional Caucus on Homelessness and launch a brand-new website, we also put out the latest Community Snapshot, which highlights the progress in Alameda County, CA. They've reduced homelessness by 15% since 2003. Find out how they did it here.This week on the Change.org End Homelessness blog, blogger Jessica Rowshandel also discussed news about the Congressional Caucus on Homelessness briefing. Plus, they featured a post by our very own Catherine An! On Off the Charts, the Center on Budget names yet another reason for Congress to extend the Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF) Emergency Contingency Fund: it's helping create jobs for more than 180,000 people across the U.S. That's in addition to preventing families from ending up homeless by providing income and short-term rent assistance. (Read our latest on the Emergency Contingency Fund here. The Center for American Progress was also talking TANF this week - check out what they have to say about changing TANF asset tests. And let's end on some good news: Memphis, a city where 1600 people experience homelessness each night, just announced that they've created a Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness. Hats off to Memphis! Plus, Cape Cod's Point in Time Count showed a 10% decrease in the number of people experiencing homelessness.... Read More »
Three cheers for Alameda County! Reducing homelessness in California
May 06, 2010
It’s been a tough recently for California. The state of sand and stars has been plagued by political controversy and economic troubles leaving state and local leaders with some very tough choices. Still, there are nuggets of good news coming out of the Golden State. In Alameda County, for instance, we’re seeing some marked and measurable decreases in homelessness. In spite of the recession, in spite of the housing crisis, in spite of the state’s budget troubles – the county of Alameda is managing to reduce homelessness for their community. In 2003, Alameda County identified over 5,000 people who experienced homelessness on a given night – 43 percent of those people were persons in families with children. But over the last few years, the city has implemented some best practiced that have yielded real results. Among those best practices was Housing First, an approach to ending homelessness that centers on providing homeless people with housing as quickly as possible – and then providing services as needed. Between 2005 and 2009, the county created 512 permanent housing units and carefully targeted those units to those who needed them most. The city also developed the Priority Home Partnership (PHP) using funds provided by the federal governments Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program (HPRP). PHP is an integrated, multi-agency approach to preventing homelessness that involved centralized screening at intake and an innovative assessment tool that aims to provide households and families the right mix of housing and services to prevent hom... Read More »
Conference scholarship deadline extended
May 05, 2010
Nearly everyone in the office is already hard at work preparing the program for our National Conference on Ending Family Homelessness Alliance to End Homelessness. We know that funds are hard to find right now, but we also know that our conference is far better because of participants who don't have the money to attend. That's why we're offering scholarships to individuals who are experienced or have experienced homelessness, as well as people who are part of organizations who working to end homelessness. And we've just extended the deadline for applications! Scholarship applications are now due May 23. Apply now.Scholarships are granted based on the following:financial need, geographic distribution, targeted population(s) served, andthe leadership skills the applicant will be able to bring back to his/her community.For more information and the official rules, visit the conference website. You can submit your application in via fax, email OR mail to:By fax: 202-638-4664By email: firstname.lastname@example.orgBy mail: National Alliance to End Homelessness 1518 K Street, NW, Suite 410 Washington, DC 20005... Read More »
Kicking off the Congressional Caucus on Homelessness with Representatives Judy Biggert and Alcee Has
Meet Anna: Our new Administrative Associate!
May 03, 2010
Today's guest blogpost comes from Anna Blasco - the newest addition to the Alliance staff serving as our Administrative Associate. Hello! My name is Anna Blasco and I am the new Administrative Associate at the National Alliance to End Homelessness. Although this first week has been a whirlwind, the energy and commitment with which the Alliance bunch works has been exciting to witness! My interest in ending homelessness originated the summer before my senior year at American University when I volunteered on the DC Rape Crisis Center’s hotline. I received calls daily from women in abusive relationships who felt they would have no where to go if they fled. I realized then that having secure and stable housing needed to be the first step towards any other positive life change.I am so excited to be working towards ending homelessness and to learn more about the incredible community of support service administrators, policy makers and, of course, the Alliance staff, that have made this essential issue their life’s work.... Read More »
Friday News Roundup: the latest on HPRP, homeless female veterans and counts
April 30, 2010
If you've never read UNITY of Greater New Orleans blog Signs of Life in Greater New Orleans, do it now. This post highlights the complex issues many chronically homeless people face, as well as their dedication to finding each and every person a place to call home. Last week, UNITY GNO took home our Nonprofit Achievement Award and this week, let's continue to celebrate their work.Although we've been discussing programs like the National Housing Trust Fund and the Housing and Services Demonstration Program, our key federal priorities are still on our minds. Here's some updates:The Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program is one with transformative potential, and an initiative we've covered extensively on this blog. The latest on the significance of HPRP comes from from Change.org's End Homelessness blog. Blogger Steven Samra writes:The beauty of HPRP over the few other sources of assistance available is that agencies participating in HPRP are able to help remove the huge barriers to housing that people who are newly homeless often face.We've been paying particular attention to the struggles facing female veterans experiencing homelessness, and it looks like the federal government is, too. The Department of Labor announced a $5 million dollar grant for reintegration initiatives this week, while one former servicewoman in Florida moved into her new home. We're also keeping a close eye on data released from January Point in Time counts. This week Dallas announced that despite... Read More »
The National Housing Trust Fund: Have YOU Shown Your Support?
April 29, 2010
It’s been a long, ongoing struggle to create and fund a National Housing Trust Fund (NHTF). After years of campaigning, advocates won a huge victory in July 2008 when Congress passed the Housing and Economic Recovery Act, which established the NHTF. The legislation that created the NHTF also included a funding mechanism but unfortunately, that mechanism involved using resources from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and only if they are in sound condition. That's not the case now, and it may not be for a very long time. So now, nearly 2 years later, Congress still hasn’t put any money into the Trust Fund. In December, the House passed a “jobs bill” that includes $1 billion for the NHTF, along with an additional $65 million for project-based vouchers to be coupled with the Trust Fund grants. However, the Senate has yet to follow suit. To encourage Congress to finally provide some initial funds for the NHTF, the National Housing Trust Fund Campaign is collecting organizational signatures on a sign-on letter calling on Congress to provide $1 billion for the NHTF. So far, an astounding 1,684 organizations from across the country have signed on! Their goal is to get organizations from every single congressional district in the country to sign on. So far, we're at 379 out of 435 congressional districts. If your organization hasn’t signed on yet, click here to sign on~! Below is a list of the congressional districts not yet represented on the letter:Wh... Read More »
Advocacy Update: Let's keep the pressure on!
April 28, 2010
Our Senate sign-on letter asking for $2.4 billion for McKinney-Vento programs has been signed, sealed and delivered with 28 Senator signatures - and you made it happen! Those federal funds will be used to keep homeless assistance programs up and running in your community and across the country. But it's not over yet. As appropriations season begins, let's keep up the pressure on Senators and Representatives to provide $2.4 billion for McKinney programs!Here's how: More Letters. If your Senator didn’t sign onto the group Dear Colleague letter, you can ask him/her to send an individual letter to the Senate HUD appropriations subcommittee. You can find a list of which Senators signed onto the letter here. Site Visits. Urge your Senator or Representative to visit a local program while they’re home over the Memorial Day Recess (May 30 – June 6). Click here for sample invitations and tools for inviting Members of Congress to visit a program. Email email@example.com if you want help planning a site visit – we’d love to work with you! Media. Members of Congress pay close attention to their local papers, so another way to reiterate the importance of making ending homelessness a federal priority and funding McKinney programs is to write an op-ed for your local paper, particularly over congressional recesses. Let us know if we can help you work to earn media.Your hard work hasn't gone unrecognized: several of our Senate signatories were reluctant initially... Read More »