Ending Homelessness Today
The official blog of the National Alliance to End Homelessness
New Year's Resolutions
January 03, 2011
I’m dreading going to the gym today.
At the beginning of every year, packs of “resolutionaries” flood my gym with their new year’s goals to get fit and stay in shape. As a long-time disciple of the church of exercise, my mind silently hurls obscenities at these fair-weather fretters counting their inches and pounds and crowding the cardio machines and classes for as few as four weeks.
But resolutions, when they’re manageable and achievable and honest, can be excellent goals to guide the year. With tenacity and perseverance, resolutions can help us make real, lasting changes in our lives.
So here’s what the Alliance is proposing for our new year’s resolution: we resolve to be at the table.
At a meeting hosted by our friends at the National Housing Conference late last year, I had the opportunity to listen to liberal and conservative experts discuss the midterm elections. They discussed how it was reported in the news, who won and who lost, what issues were most salient, and what it means for the future of the country. Leaders in the housing field were present to ask questions and seek insight and solicit guidance.
And while rhetoric and reason alike floated around the room, there was one comment that stuck in my mind. A conservative analyst (and I’m paraphrasing here) said this: “the housing community was simply not at the table.”
And what I think he meant was that we had not done our job to make housing and homelessness a relevant national issue.
When we consider the big issues of our day – civil rights, immigration, terrorism, environmentalism, health care – does housing and poverty pop up on that list? When you skim the news for snippets on pressing national matters, do you find an article about supportive or affordable housing? When debating with your friends about the issue that the new Congress should address first, do they mention homelessness?
I'm gonna guess no.
And yet, homelessness and housing affect everyone. Over half a million people experience homelessness on any given night; countless more experience homelessness over the course of a year. And the net gets even wider when you include people at risk: people experiencing housing cost burden, doubling up with family and friends, and facing unemployment.
It is our job, as advocates and leaders in the field, to show our friends, neighbors, and leaders that this is an issue that needs to be on the national agenda. This is an issue that faces all Americans. This is an issue in urgent need of our attention.
This year, at the Alliance, we resolve to do better. We resolve to do our part to make homelessness and housing a real, national priority. This year, we resolve to do our part to end homelessness in America.
Photo courtesy of Amodiovalerio Verde.... Read More »
As close to a Top Ten list as we're making this December
December 30, 2010
Okay, so there aren’t ten of them and they’re not really resolutions. Actually they’re the Alliance’s Policy Priorities for 2010.
But in this season of resolutions and top ten lists and the general consideration of things that have happened and things to come, I thought we could see them as simply this: things we can do to end homelessness.
Fully implement Opening Doors, the Federal Strategic Plan to End Homelessness
This year, the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness did an amazing thing – they wrote Opening Doors: The Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness. The document outlines strategies and goals to end veterans’ homelessness, ensure every child and family has permanent affordable housing, finish the job of ending chronic homelessness, and end youth homelessness.
If we’re able to turn each of these goals and strategies into real, effective programs, we’ll be well on our way to eradicating homelessness in the United States.
Fund HUD Homeless Assistance Grants program at $2.4 billion in FY 2011
You already know that about the the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants, the federal government’s largest investment in ending homelessness. And you already know about the HEARTH Act, the first significant program reauthorization in 20 years passed in 2009. The HEARTH Act changed funding calculations and made significant improvements to the McKinney-Vento programs, which will now provide more money for prevention and assistance to families, to rural programs, and for administration.
Meeting the $2.4 billion mark will... Read More »
Monday News Roundup: veterans, families, and HPRP
December 27, 2010
Happy, happy holidays!
Since we missed Friday news roundup last week, I thought we’d do a makeup today.
Legendary reporter, former chief international correspondent for CNN, and host of ABC News’s This Week Christiane Amanpour spoke with journalist Bob Woodruff about veteran homelessness.
Some of our own American heroes, as Amanpour discusses, are returning stateside to homelessness and poverty. And while the Department of Veterans Affairs and Secretary Eric Shinseki did pledge to end veteran homelessness in five years, this piece shows us how real the problem is and how much work lies ahead. Read the full article (plus video!) and check out the Alliance’s resources on veterans homelessness.
Up next: families. Maria Foscarinis, executive director of the ... Read More »
Giving to the Alliance
December 22, 2010
The Alliance’s development department is very busy this time of year!
Not only is this the height of giving season, but the Alliance was rated as a four star charity – the highest possible rating – for the fifth year in a row by Charity Navigator, a well-known and highly regarded charity watchdog organization. (Find the Alliance’s Charity Navigator profile here.)
Yet, this holiday season arrives at a time of continued economic uncertainty. In many places across the country families and individuals are threatened with homelessness in greater numbers.
We at the Alliance know that now is the time to be innovative, creative, and find ways to do more with less. Austerity, as the newsmakers say, is the name of the today’s game – and the Alliance is stepping up to the plate. We’re investing in best practices, effective strategies, and the tools necessary to really make a dent in the numbers and a difference in the lives of those experiencing homelessness. With your help, the Alliance will continue to ensure that despite the challenges that face us, homelessness will be ended.
This year, you can give your loved ones a meaningful gift through the Alliance's holiday giving program.
Donations made between now and the end of the year can be given on behalf of a special relative or friend. Recipients will receive a personalized holiday card notifying them of your generosity.
Gifts can be made online or by mail using ou... Read More »
US Conference of Mayor's Report: Homelessness, Hunger Up
December 21, 2010
Today's guest post comes to us from Alliance research associate Pete Witte.
Today, the United States Conference of Mayors released their annual report, the 2010 “Hunger and Homelessness Survey.”
Overall, homelessness increased by 2 percent across survey cities and family homelessness increased by 9 percent.
Moreover, 27 percent of homeless people who needed assistance in the last year didn’t receive services. And given the persisting economic circumstances facing these cities, officials in over 70 percent of survey cities expect the number of homeless families to increase in the coming year.
Which is why the report’s insights on strategies, or best practices, to prevent and end homelessness, may be the most important. A number of effective strategies are outlined in the report - and the big success story mentioned over and over again is HPRP. Eleven cities noted that HPRP was effective in addressing homelessness problems in their communities.
Some key findings:
Every city surveyed reported that requests for emergency food assistance increased over the past year, and those requests increased by an average of 24 percent across the cities. Among those requesting emergency food assistance, 56 percent were persons in families. Unemployment led the list of causes of hunger cited by the survey cities, followed by high housing costs, low wages, poverty, and lack of access to SNAP/food stamps.
Among households with children, unemployment led the list of causes for homelessness cited by city officials. Providing more mainstream assisted housing led the list of... Read More »
National Homeless Persons' Memorial Day
December 21, 2010
Today is a big day.
It’s the first day of winter, the winter solstice, and – coincidentally – a day a lunar eclipse will be visible from North America.
It’s also National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day - one day a year when we honor those people who have died while experiencing homelessness.
Communities across the country get involved. From Asheville, NC to Ventura County, CA to Albany, OR to Jersey City, NJ, communities across the country are taking time to remember our failings and commit to doing better in the future. In Minneapolis, the community has already held a memorial, attended by hundreds in the area.
If you’re interested in holding your own service, you can visit the National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day page on the website of the National Coalition for the homeless and download a how-to manual. But as you’re doing that – and definitely do – remember that it’s up to us to remember people experiencing homelessness more than once a year.
Every night, there are approximately 640,000 people experiencing homelessness in the United State and while the winter nights might be especially hard, summer weather doesn’t make homelessness acceptable. The onus is on us to ensure that all people have a roof over their heads and the opportunity to lead fulfilling, productive lives. Make sure to stay engaged every day of the year – connect with us and stay on top of the things you can do for to end homelessnes... Read More »
How we communicate about homelessness
December 20, 2010
Last week, I had the opportunity to meet with members of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness – brand new research director Kristy Greenwalt (formerly of ICF International and communications director Jason Kravitz.
We did a lot of talking about communications.
It’s always the same questions: what are the best methods to share information with lots and lots of people? How do we get information to where people are? How do we know what information to give them? How do people consumer information nowadays? And (my personal favorite) what if the information they want isn’t the information we want them to want?
Basically the same topics that haunt any thoughtful communications officer in her sleep.
But despite my fears of the 24-hour news cycle, the unwieldiness of social media, the impact – or lack thereof – of newsletters and email campaigns, I generally try to come back to two main guiding principles (fingers-crossed): a) the goals of the organization and b) the information I want to share.
And I find when I keep that in mind, my work becomes clearer.
I try to push out the great resources we have to share: our counts data, our best practices, our community snapshots, our interactive tools. We consider our audience, the ever-shortening time span of the average consumer, the best and most concise tools we have. We blog to clarify the information we send out, we link to other articles, briefs, and notes we ... Read More »
Friday News: The good, the bad, and the informative
December 17, 2010
It’s a mixed bag, today, guys. And I just found out – not half an hour ago.
The good news: The VA has announced that funds are available for prevention and rapid re-housing for homeless veterans. This is the first Notice of Fund Availability (NOFA) for the Supportive Services for Veteran Families Program.
Now, you know as well as I do that the VA has been working hard this year (and last) to end veterans homelessness. Secretary Shinseki told us all about it at our Annual Conference in July, he issued a great video about it online, and made a public commitment to end veterans homelessness in five years. This move – preventing veteran homeless and utilizing rapid re-housing strategies – is a step in the right direction. You can check out the official language in the Federal Register.
The not-so-good news: The Senate omnibus appropriations bill fell apart. This legislation, which would’ve funded the federal government for FY 2011 and allocated appropriate resources to homeless assistance programs, was gaining traction only yesterday but later in the evening – dead in the water. Instead, Congress will pass a short-term continuing resolution until they can reach a decision about appropriations (likely early next year). For more information, check out our Advocacy Alerts.
The informative: Los Angeles is back in the news about their plan to end chronic and veteran homelessness. Their ambitious plan embraces some of the best practices known to curb and end homelessnes... Read More »
Guest Blog: Health Care and Homelessness, by Abe Oudshoorn
December 16, 2010
Today’s guest blog post comes from Abe Oudshoorn, RN, PhD(c), Year 4 Coordinator, School of Nursing, The University of Western Ontario.
After spending three years on a Dissertation research study about homelessness and health care, I realized that I nearly missed the point.
I am a registered nurse by trade, and my clinical background is working with people who are experiencing homelessness in a community-based clinic. Based on my observations of the importance of healthy client-provider relationships, I set out to study these relationships, and particularly how power comes into play in health care relationships.
I had a lot to work with going into the study: I knew that people who are experiencing homelessness face the worst morbidity rates in Canada, I knew that homeless persons face multiple barriers to accessing health care, and I knew that negative attitudes of health professionals have consistently been identified as the primary barrier to care for homeless people.
So I did my study, and - sure enough - I heard and saw much conflict in client-provider relationships. But when I set about to write, my committee members asked about how policy impacts on my findings.
And this is what I almost missed: Indeed, health providers do use and abuse control with homeless clients, but much of the workplace context is beyond their control.
For example, in the clinic I was studying, there were very limited resources (socks, bus tickets, food and clothing) a... Read More »
Call your senator today!
December 15, 2010
Yesterday, the Senate Appropriations Committee released a draft proposal for fiscal year (FY) 2011 appropriations, which includes funding for many homeless assistance programs.
The Senate proposal includes the following:
$2.2 billion for McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants ($145 million more than the House propsed and $335 million more than last year);
$125.7 million for Runaway and Homeless Youth Act (RHYA) programs ($10 million more than the House proposal and last year’s funding level);
$85 million for 10,000 vouchers under the proposed new Housing and Services for Homeless Persons Demonstration;
$75 million for 10,000 new HUD-VA Supportive Housing (VASH) vouchers; and
$159.4 million for Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) programs targeted toward people experiencing homelessness ($17 million more than the House proposal and last year’s funding levels).
In short: this is great news for the homeless assistance programs we want to support!
The Senate is expected to vote on this package this week - possibly as soon as tomorrow, so we need your help!
What You Can Do:
Call your senators TODAY. In case you can’t find it online, you can find congressional office phone numbers by calling the switchboard at 202-224-3121.
Ask to speak to the person who works on housing and tell the housing staff person to urge his/her boss to support the funding levels for the homelessness assistance programs listed above.
Email any responses to Kate Seif (or call: 202-942-8281).
You know the story: Congress is trying to figure out how to al... Read More »
Last Day for the CFC!
December 14, 2010
Today is the last day to contribute to the Alliance through the http://www.cfcnca.org/!
If you are a federal employee, please consider supporting the Alliance through the CFC, #10022. The Alliance is participating in this year's campaign under the Human Care Charities of America Federation. Look for our listing, "Homelessness, National Alliance to End," #10022 in your CFC pledge book and on your local campaign website.
While each holiday season brings an influx of generous contributions, this year is especially important. The flailing economy has produced the winds of a perfect story: increasing need and diminishing resources. Advocates, services providers, friends, and colleagues have all shared with us the same stories – increased use of shelter, food banks, and assistance programs. Increased incidence of doubling up, unemployment, and unsheltered homelessness. Decreased availability of state funds, charitable donations, and financial supports.
This is the time to do what we can to provide for those less fortunate than ourselves.
Please do what you can to support the Alliance. For more information about giving to the Alliance - or to find other ways to give - please visit the website.
We couldn’t do our work without you – thank you so much!... Read More »
Social Media for Social Change (or ending homelessness?)
December 13, 2010
This morning, our friend Nathan Rott wrote piece about Eric Sheptock, a consumer advocate for homeless people in Washington, D.C.
Eric is a homeless advocate who, himself, is experiencing homelessness. As Nathan observed, “Being homeless has become Sheptock's full-time occupation. It's work that has provided him with purpose and a sense of community.”
And not just in person, but online. Eric has a robust Facebook and Twitter network and two blogs in which he chronicles his life as a person experiencing homelessness. Social networks have become a powerful medium for Sheptock to spread his message and amass followers. “"I don't think I'd be able to do much of anything without the Internet," Nathan quotes Eric.
And it’s not just Eric. Another good friend of the Alliance – Mark Horvath has taken the cause of assisting homeless people online. With a ceaseless stream of tweets, Facebook posts, streaming video, and countless other mediums, Mark peppers his ever-growing group of followers with information about and thoughts on the state of homelessness wherever he goes. He’s even taken his mission on the road – traveling cross-country and back to learn about homelessness on the ground and relay it to his awaiting digital public.
Their stories, Mark and Eric’s, are compelling, stirring, moving. They serve an important role in our efforts to end homelessness – drawing awareness and attention to the problem so that it becomes real and palpable to decision makers and activists. Creati... Read More »
Friday News Roundup: Glee, NY, and Sam Tsemberis
December 10, 2010
Happy Friday, everyone!
To start, I thought I’d just point out that in this week’s episode of , the song-singing cast decides to donate presents and money to the McKinney Vento Program for Homeless Kids – or some variation of those six words.
So they didn’t get it exactly right, but it was awesome seeing the all-important McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants, the federal government’s largest investment in homeless assistance, get a shout-out on such a hit show. First Glee - then the world!
In more down-to-earth news, youth homelessness is at it again. There were three stories, an opinion piece in Oregon’s Statesman Journal, a news article from the Associated Press, and a Boston Globe piece (quote our own Nan Roman!) going over the purported rise in youth homelessness across the country. Just last week, we were discussing in the office the ascendancy of this issue in the news media – more evidence that the time is ripe to act on this important topic.
New York is under fire again. A controversial new study evaluating the effects of prevention has reached front page status in the New York Times. I know advocates across the country are feverishly discussing this new study – and whether or not it’s the right thing to do. What do you guys think about the New York study?
Prevention does seem to be doing something in Salt Lake City, UT. Our good friend Julia Lyon at the Salt ... Read More »
Economy Byte: Working Poor at Higher Risk for Homelessness
December 08, 2010
Brief on the working poor
Interactive state-by-state map
Newsflash: the working poor are having an especially tough time in this recession.
Shocked yet? Probably not.
But the picture is more textured and nuanced than you might imagine.
For the second installment of our “Economy Bytes” series, the Alliance’s Homelessness Research Institute focused on a population that is struggling to weather the “Great Recession” – the working poor.
In short, we found that the working poor population is more likely to experience risk factors for homelessness than the general working population. And a lot of that is because they’ve been disproportionately affected by elements of this recession.
What do we mean? Okay, so we looked at three elements: severe housing cost burden, doubled up housing situations, and income.
And we found that – although people from different income brackets experience severe housing cost burden, doubled up housing situation, and reduced income – the working poor are more likely to experience these factors and experience them more acutely.
Severe housing cost burden: In 2008, 37.6 percent of the working poor population spent more than 50 percent of their monthly income on rent compared to just 3.8 percent of the general working population.
Doubled up: In 2008, an estimated 7.8 percent of the working poor population was doubled up with family or friends as compared to less than 6.5 percent of the general working population.
Income/workforce: On average, the working poor population works 46.2 weeks per year compared to the general working populatio... Read More »
Researchers Have Fun Too
December 07, 2010
As the only non-researchy member of the Homelessness Research Institute at the Alliance, I felt especially privileged to be a guest at today’s meeting of the Research Council – a gathering of the leading thinkers on homelessness. I was lucky to be seated at a table with Dennis Culhane, Jill Khadduri, Mary Beth Shinn, Bob Rosenheck, and representatives from a smattering of federal agencies: HHS, Commerce, HUD, Census, and the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness.
And after a morning spent going around the table to discuss everyone’s latest research efforts, those agency liaisons took their turns. We eagerly anticipated learning what, if anything, our federal partners are doing to advance the research necessary to end homelessness. What projects are they initiating? What questions are they asking and answering? What are they doing to bring us closer to a country where everyone has a place to call home?
This and that, it turns out.
By far the most impressive agency was the Department of Housing and Urban Development. They’re pursuing a number of reports and studies to examine the effects of some of the most promising strategies to end homelessness, including: research on the Housing and Services for Homeless Persons Demonstration, research on youth aging out of foster care, and research on the effectiveness of prevention (to name just a few). What’s admirable about the array of research topics is not how widely varied they are – but how they re... Read More »
Investing in Ending Homelessness is Investing in Human Capital
December 06, 2010
As an organization working to improve the lives of low-income Americans, we are big fans of the political economist and author Robert Reich.
Reich’s most recent book, “Aftershock: The Next Economy and America’s Future,” argues that the problems following the “Great Recession” can be attributed to a growing income disparity. In short, the rich are acquiring a greater and greater cut of the country’s wealth as the middle and lower classes face economic vulnerability, rising debt, and job loss.
That is where we come in – oftentimes it takes just one illness, a loss of a job, or other unexpected expenses to push economically vulnerable people out of their housing.
Reich believes the answer is investing in “human capital” (as opposed to investing in financial capital like Wall Street bail outs) by specifically addressing the needs of those in poverty. This means a greater investment in job training and education, for example. As we see ending homelessness as an investment in human capital, these ideas resonated loudly in our office.
For more, watch Reich break it down in this short video:
The good news is you can see Robert Reich during the Thursday plenary session of our National Conference on Ending Family Homelessness. Visit the conference website to learn more about, and register for, this year's conference.... Read More »
Friday News Roundup: Los Angeles and Congress
Let's hear it for Los Angeles!
December 02, 2010
With all due respect to the empire state, let’s hear it for Los Angeles!
Yesterday, flanked by city and county officials, community members, and leaders in the field, the Business Leaders Task Force on Homelessness unveiled a five year plan to end chronic and veterans homelessness in Los Angeles.
The plan outlines a comprehensive initiative built on rapid re-housing, permanent supportive housing, regional solutions, and community cooperation. The report also identified four key strategies to accomplishing this mission:
Align goals to integrate our systemCollect and share data to assess need and track progressTarget and reallocate existing resources to maximize impactCoordinate resources to streamline funding.
Los Angeles has long been a challenge for the homeless assistance field, with far and away the largest number of people of experiencing homelessness (42,694 according to the latest AHAR, a high rate of homelessness (43/10,000 people in LA are homeless; the national average is 23), and the infamous Skid Row. Los Angeles is also home to a number of other conditions that make it residents vulnerable to homelessness: a high poverty rate (15.3 percent), high unemployment (12.5 percent), and notoriously high housing costs. Los Angeles is also distinctive in it’s unusually high unsheltered count – even among large cities, Los Angeles stands out as one with the majority of its homeless population unsheltered (28,644 homeless people in LA are unsheltered, according to the latest AHAR.)
No where in the country is a fresh new commitment to ending homelessness needed more. The B... Read More »
Remembering Sister Mary Ann Luby
December 01, 2010
This week, the homeless assistance community lost one our truest and most steadfast advocates for ending homelessness: Sister Mary Ann Luby.
Her influence in the field and passion for the cause was second to none – and all of the existing champions for ending homelessness stand on her shoulders. For 27 years Sister Mary Ann worked to increase awareness about the issue and advocate for solutions right on the front lines.
As the director of Rachael’s Women’s Center and an outreach worker at the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless since the clinic’s very inception, Sister Mary Ann was a D.C. institution.
Patty Mullahy Fugere, Executive Director of the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless, rightly calls on us to honor her legacy by fulfilling her mission: "At every turn, she has challenged us to be faithful to the people whom we serve. To honor all that she was and all that she taught us, we must redouble our efforts in these challenging days and continue to push forward toward building a just and inclusive community."
Sister Mary Ann succumbed to a battle with cancer and passed in her home on Monday, Nov. 29.
A more detailed notice of her passing in available in the Washington Post.... Read More »
Check out the Alliance's Columbus Model
November 30, 2010
The Alliance just put out a huge (seriously, it’s hefty) toolkit – what we’re calling the Columbus Model.
So here's the thing: Columbus, OH is really good at ending homelessness. Really, they've done all the right things: focused on prevention, implemented rapid re-housing techniques, encouraged excellent data collecting - all the things that make a program measurably successful. They're so good, in fact, that we published a community snapshot on their 46 percent decrease in homelessness a few years ago.
And they're still at it! With laser-focus on performance measurement and performance evaluation of both their community-wide homeless assistance system and their individual programs, Columbus has managed to really focus on improving assistance and reducing homelessness.
Lucky for you, we've distilled the lessons learned in this community and we're sharing them with you so that you can implement them in yours! Our four-part profile of the Columbus Model includes:
Becoming a Data Driven System,
Performance Measurement and Evaluation,
Quality Improvment, and
We've also included tools and samples that you can download and adapt for your own community.
Why do you care? You care because next year, the Department of Housing and Urban Development is going to get serious about the outcomes laid out in the HEARTH Act (that's the reauthorization of the McKinney Vento Grants) - and communities everywhere are going to have to shape up to meet those outcomes. One of the great things about the Columbus Model... Read More »