Ending Homelessness Today
The official blog of the National Alliance to End Homelessness
Act NOW: House May Cut Veterans Housing Assistance Program Today
July 29, 2010
The saga of the congressional appropriations continues – but today, we’re talking about something other than the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Programs.
You may remember that we’ve talked about congressional appropriations at length – the most recent post was about the surprising move by the House Appropriations Committee to allocate $2.2 billion to the McKinney-Vento programs – even more than was requested by President Obama or recommended by the HouseT-HUD subcommittee.
But today – there’s a really serious bump in the road.
Today, the House is expected to vote on H.R. 5850, the fiscal year (FY) 2011 Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development (T-HUD) Appropriations Bill – the same bill we’ve been concerned about for all these months. The bill includes a number of provisions to help people experiencing homelessness, including that $2.2 billion for McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance programs we’ve been crowing about.
But danger lurked around a different corner. Now, funding for the HUD - Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) program is in danger of being eliminated.
It’s called Amendment #106 and it cuts a number of programs – HUD-VASH being of particular importance.
Because HUD-VASH houses homeless veterans by coupling rent assistance from HUD and medical treatment + case management from the VA. This program has shown to be effective at keeping even the most vulnerable veterans housed and safe.
The House Appropriations Committee included $75 million for 10,000 additional HUD-VASH vouchers in H.R. 5850 but four congressmen have filed Amendment #106, which would eliminate this funding.
They say it’s because HUD did not ask for it in its original budget request. But HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan testified to Congress he didn’t ask for the resources in the original budget request because the program was slow to get started. But now, he went on, the program is being rapidly implemented. Thousands of homeless veterans are in apartments, and, as Secretary Donovan said, 10,000 additional HUD-VASH vouchers would be quickly and efficiently put to use to house vulnerable veterans.
Everyone’s concerned about the budget – and with good reason. But we aren’t going to balance it on the backs of homeless, disabled, and vulnerable veterans.
Call your Representative's office NOW. Ask to speak to the person who works on housing issues (you can find your Congressional office phone numbers by calling the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121.) and tell them to make sure their boss votes AGAINST Amendment #106 to H.R. 5850.
And HURRY! The House is expected to vote on these bills today.... Read More »
"Doing What Works" with Amanda and Catherine
July 28, 2010
Catherine An: Yesterday, my good friend and colleague Amanda and I had the opportunity to attend an all-day conference hosted by the Center for American Progress called Doing What Works.
Doing What Works is a project that aims to improve government. It has three specific objectives (that you can find here) but basically, the project aims to boost government so that it’s more effective, more efficient, and better serves the American people.
Amanda Krusemark: The conference was really fascinating and the thing that struck me most was that what makes government more efficient and effective – as iterated and reiterated by the speakers – are the same things that make nonprofits more efficient and effective.
It’s a focus on solutions and measures and setting goals. We learned from cabinet makers and celebrated thinkers that it's critical to take some time at the beginning of any process for improvement or change to think through your goals and strategies. And it’s just as important to periodically check in throughout the change process to evaluate how you’re doing. One of my favorite moments was when Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan said that his biggest personal challenge (and the most important thing he does everyday) is to set aside an hour each day to reflect, plan, and otherwise check in on projects.
CA: I want an hour a day.
AK: Your hour a day is at the gym.
CA: T... Read More »
New Alliance Staff!
July 27, 2010
For a walk on the lighter side of the Alliance, we would like to introduce you to two new members of our staff!
Stephanie is a graduate student at the University of Nevada, Reno studying Public Administration. Stephanie says she has been keeping up with the Alliance’s research for a few years, and has wanted to come to DC to engage in real policy research, so she came here to work with us! Stephanie is a Youth Policy Research intern, who will be working on creating Best practices for applying HPRP to youth programs, and is also helping create a baseline for the number of homeless youths. Also, one of her hobbies is welding!
We are glad to welcome Pete to the staff as our new Research Associate for the Homelessness Research Institute (HRI). Before he was with us, Pete worked with the Montgomery County Planning Department for the National Center for Smart Growth. While he is here, Pete will be helping with HRI’s general goal of disseminating research and data throughout the community, as well as helping to educate people about homelessness. One project he is working on right now is to create Community Snapshots of homelessness. Fun fact, Pete is the 7th of eight children. Also, we are all very excited for Pete and his wife who are expecting their first little girl September 21st!... Read More »
Mental Illness and Homelessness - Notes from the Alliance for Research Progress at NIMH
July 26, 2010
Today’s post comes to us from the newest member of the Alliance staff, research associate Peter Witte.
On Friday, July 23, I had the opportunity to attend the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) summer meeting of the Alliance for Research Progress in Bethesda, Maryland. The Alliance for Research Progress is a group of advocates that represent national organizations (like ours) with an interest in mental health. The group meets twice a year to discuss the mental health field and hear about NIMH research activities and priorities.
About 45 percent of homeless people report that they have experienced an indicator of a mental health problem. Homeless people also report a high level of substance abuse problems. It’s critical that groups invested in ending homelessness – like the Alliance - take part in the dialogue about mental illness and hear about the latest research because so many people experiencing homelessness could benefit the information. (For more information on the relationship between homelessness and mental and physical health, see our “Issues” section.)
Lisa J. Colpe, Chief in the Office of Clinical and Population Epidemiology Research, presented about the Army Study to Assess Risk and Resilience in Service Members (Army STARRS) project. The project is investigating “factors that help protect a soldier’s mental health and those factors that put a soldier’s mental health at risk.”
As an organization that has worked hard to address homelessness among veterans, this presentation was an illuminating look at what we c... Read More »
Friday News Round Up: Community stories and McKinney excitement!
July 23, 2010
We are certainly worried about our seniors this week. All Voices talked about seniors living below the poverty line who are never even counted, The Signal wrote about the projected rise of homeless seniors, and the Jacksonville Register also commented on the rise in homeless elderly population. While the predictions are of concern, they certainly do reflect the Alliance’s own projections in the first of Demographics series.
Across the country, communities are undertaking efforts to reduce veterans homelessness. The Washington state paper, The Olympian featured an editorial about updating health care for female veterans, while the LA Times published another piece about Secretary Shinseki’s visit to the region. The Department of Veterans Affairs, emphasized the Secretary, is committed to ensuring those who served in defense of the country are not abandoned when they return from service.
And while some wrote about how deficit worries are slowing funding for federal homeless programs, we were happy to find out this week that House Appropriations Committee proposed increasing funding for McKinney-Vento homeless assistance programs in FY 2011! In a notable departure from longstanding protocol, the House Appropriations deviated from recommendations from both President Obama and it’s own T-HUD subcommittee and increased proposed funding by $145 million. (Is this news to you? Check out our (rather long) post about it.... Read More »
A Capitol Hill Day Experience
July 22, 2010
Today’s blog comes from Alison Eisinger, who participated in Capitol Hill Day, working with her members Congress to help advance the homelessness cause. Read below fro an account of her experience.
Our group was made of roughly 20 people from our state at the conference, and about 8 of us went on hill visits on Wednesday. I was very glad to have had a chance to experience hill visits in April, and knew a little bit what to expect. It did feel as though everyone else on these visits was a seasoned veteran, but at least I had some experience to draw on! We had such excellent packets prepared for us by the NAEH staff -- everything we needed to be able to carry out the visit was in there.
We spoke primarily about fully funding McKinney, about Section 8 vouchers, and about the fact that we see growing demand for services and shrinking resources at the local level.
We had a nice mixture of people, including someone from local government (City Office of Housing), someone who works with a large local funder of services and housing for homeless families, a woman who runs survival services in a rural part of the state, and the ED of a private social service organization and day labor agency (which does not accept public funds but sees the urgent need for federal funding and policies that help end homelessness), as well as someone from the m... Read More »
Three Cheers to You!!
July 21, 2010
Update: This morning, the Senate T-HUD subcommittee ultimately agreed with President Obama’s FY 2011 budget proposal and recommended $2.055 billion for McKinney-Vento programs. Stay tuned for more!
This morning, we made a big hullaballoo about the House Appropriations Committee’s decision to allocate $2.2 billion to McKinney-Vento programs. Departing from long-standing tradition, the House Appropriations Committee decided to increase funding levels to $2.2 billion - $145 million more than proposed by both the House T-HUD subcommittee and President Obama.
While the federal budget process could hardly be described as riveting, this particular action is truly unique. Rarely do the Appropriations Committees on either the Senate or House side depart from the recommendations of their subcommittees. And – of all the programs and initiatives and projects the Appropriations Committee considered (and there are a lot - members decided to give just the McKinney-Vento programs an extra monetary boost.
What does this mean? If nothing else, it means they’re paying attention – to YOU.
The Alliance has a small but mighty advocacy force – an elite group of superadvocates who work with our mobilization team to engage in year-long, ongoing, regular campaigns to inform, educate, and persuade federal lawmakers. It’s not glamorous – and it’s not always easy – but calls, emails, in-person visits, and persistence is what it takes to make changes like the one we saw today in the House Appropriations Committee.
And it’s not just action – it’s informed action. The Alliance arms our friends and colleagues wi... Read More »
McKinney-Vento Appropriations: Understanding the Process
July 21, 2010
A special blogpost today because the House Appropriations Committee proposed bumping the FY 2011 McKinney-Vento budget from $2.055 to $2.2 billion!
If that first sentence made no sense to you, you're not alone. But we're hoping this post helps you wrap your mind around the federal budget process.
We've written about fiscal year 2011 (FY 2011) funding a few times now on this blog - usually asking YOU to contact your members of Congress to ensure that homeless assistance programs (McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants primary among them) receive adequate funding.
And we've been asking you to do that because RIGHT NOW - right this very moment - Congress is making decisions about the federal budget.
From February (when the President releases a proposed budget) to whenever-Congress-gets-around-to-deciding, the House and the Senate meet in their committees and subcommittees to decide how much money should go into federal programs, agencies, and departments.
And as you can imagine, this is no small task. President Obama's proposed FY 2011 is $3.8 trillion dollars - you try deciding how that money should be spent! For their part, Members consider a wide breadth of factors, including the President's proposed budget, their own legislative priorities, issues of interest to home districts and constituents, national concerns (like the economy!), and a wealth of other things.
So it basically goes down like this:
Subcommittees (12, to be precise) review portions of the bill pertinent to them. In our case, the House and Senate Transportation - Housing and... Read More »
Capitol Hill Day Success
July 19, 2010
Today’s blog post comes from our Federal Advocacy intern, Sumeet Singh.
Every year, Capitol Hill Day offers a time for advocates of ending homelessness to sit down with their Senators and Representatives and discuss pressing and pertinent issues regarding homelessness. In doing so, it also provides another great opportunity – a chance for these passionate advocates to come together and have their voices heard. This year, those voices were heard as loudly as ever before – advocates from 40 states and Guam held over 215 meetings with Congressional offices, and the results are still pouring in! With every additional meeting, the value and effectiveness of Hill Day 2010 increase that much more. We’ll do a follow-up blog post in a few weeks once we have finalized all of the results. In its decades-long existence, Hill Day’s track record of spreading knowledge, creating awareness, and igniting political movement clearly demonstrates just how powerful a tool it has been.
This year, Hill Day became even stronger.
Take the story of our advocates from Maine as an example. Six years ago, before our current group was involved, the Maine Congressional Delegation was largely unaware and unconcerned with homelessness issues. However, in the years since the Maine advocates have been active in Hill Day events, several Members of Congress from the state, including both Senators, have become champions of the issue. Thanks to our State Captains and Hill Day Participants, stories like this one are becoming more comm... Read More »
Friday News Round Up: Where Do We Go From Here?
July 16, 2010
In the policy realm, PETRA (Preservation, Enhancement and Transformation of Rental Assistance Act) has been rapidly introduced and pushed into Congress, with mixed support. TANF, though, is still being praised, but the effort to have it extended is ever in need of support. (So show yours by calling your members of Congress!)
Many people still struggle with high rates of homelessness, particularly female veterans. However many programs that have been underway for years in places like Washington, D.C. are proving to be effective at reducing and ending hoemlessness.
Also, the Washington Post is doing it’s part to change the ways Americans see homelessness. Last week, the Post published an article entitled “Five Myths About America’s Homeless”, which was written by our Research Council co-chair Dennis Culhane. The acclaimed scholars refuted some of the major misconceptions about homelessness – and people experiencing homelessness, shedding light on the realities of the experience – and the solutions to the social problem.
Lastly, with our conference this week and all the great new federal efforts supporting the fight to end homelessness, one has to wonder, where do we go from here? Our President Nan Roman offers her view.... Read More »
Last thoughts on the 2010 National Conference on Ending Homelessness
July 15, 2010
So it’s all over.
The 2010 National Conference on Ending Homelessness is behind us.
And – even from a non-expert standpoint – I have to say that it was a pretty incredible experience. From the industry luminaries that graced the stage at plenary sessions to the incredible workshop speakers to the [really outstanding] hotel staff, I really felt that the last three days were both educational and inspiring.
Alliance staff are all encouraged to attend [and staff] workshops, so I had the opportunity to learn about a lot of things that I don’t encounter in my communication-and-social-media-days in the office. I learned about the role rapid re-housing can play in the life of domestic violence survivors, I learned about the implications of the HEARTH Act in ending family homelessness, I learned how much interest there was in communications and social media, and I learned a lot – a ton! – about the federal plan to end homelessness and HPRP.
I learned a lot about people! Our field is full of such wonderfully different, quirky, and committed practitioners and advocates! Walking around with an Alliance nametag gave me an avenue to introduce myself to folks – and every time I turned around I had the opportunity to meet direct service providers, advocates, government employees, and real, true experts in the field. And every so often (I think I mentioned this before), I got a chance to meet Twitter friends and Facebook buds that I had chatted with ... Read More »
Sec. Eric K. Shinseki of Veterans Affairs at the Alliance Conference
July 15, 2010
Hi all. We'll write a conference wrap-up post later today, but in the interim, we thought we'd share Secretary Eric Shinseki's remarks on Wednesday, July 14 to the conference attendees. His thoughts on ending veterans homelessness - and his apparent commitment and dedication to the goal - were truly inspiring words on which to end our event! The Secretary's remarks are below.
Remarks by Eric K. Shinseki, Secretary of Veterans Affairs
National Alliance to End Homelessness
National Conference on Ending Homelessness
Grand Hyatt, Washington, DC
14 July, 2010
Nan, thank you for that kind introduction and for your leadership of the National Alliance. Your work on behalf of the homeless is well-known and much-respected. Our thanks to you and your staff for your diligence in supporting all the rest of us, VA included, in our commitments to end homelessness amongst our populations. Your address at our Summit on Veteran Homelessness, last November, resonated with attendees then, and still does today at VA.
I am honored to be here today. From your modest beginnings in 1983, this alliance has grown into a powerful organization of more than 10,000 public and private sector partners. Along the way, you’ve succeeded in housing hundreds of thousands of Americans, a tremendous record of service and achievement. VA is very proud to be one of your partners.
Sometimes, we say that caring for those who cannot care for themselves is a longstanding tradition in this country, that threads of selflessness a... Read More »
Understanding the Federal Plan: Day 2 of the Conference
July 13, 2010
Hello everyone, I’m so excited to be blogging from my first Alliance conference! Already it has been such a wonderful two days, I have been overwhelmed meeting so many people who are all committed to ending homelessness!
Undoubtedly the highlight of the day was the keynote address by none other than Secretary Shaun Donovan of Department of Housing and Urban Development. Sec. Donovan has been a force in advancing the goal of ending homelessness. In his speech, Sec. Donovan went into greater detail about the new federal plan to end homelessness, Opening Doors, and the ways he envisions turning the goals outlined in the plan into action.
But first, the Secretary generously offered his thanks to the National Alliance to End Homelessness and, specifically, to our president Nan Roman, for her leadership in bringing the movement to end homelessness where it is today. He announced that Nan has worked with five (5!) HUD Secretaries and that he intended on being the very last one that Nan works with to end homelessness – as he intends on finishing the job!
Then the Secretary expressed how excited he was about the new federal plan. He offered a feeling of optimism and achievement, comparing the fight to end homelessness to America’s landing of a man on the moon. Like the moon landing, many people see the goal of ending homelessness as impossible or unrealistic, but also like landing on the moon, we enter this ... Read More »
Dispatches from the National Conference on Ending Homelessness - Day 1
July 12, 2010
So it's important to note: I’m not an expert.
I tinker on the Alliance social networks, blog, and website – and I’ve learned a ton during my year here – but when it comes to homelessness, housing, policy, and practice – I’m the greenest girl you’ll meet at the Alliance.
Which is why coming to the National Conference on Ending Homelessness – this is my second! – is such a moving experience. For three days out of the year, I’m surrounded by nearly 1300 people from across the country who devote their time, energy, and passion to ending homelessness in the United States.
From the perspective of an outsider, it seems outlandish. It seems impractical and impossible. My own skeptical eyebrows shoot up to my hairline.
But, as I’ve learned – day by day at the Alliance – ending homelessness is no dream.
This year, the Alliance is hosting almost 80 workshops and three plenary sessions over the course of three days featuring experts and practitioners who have learned what ending homelessness looks like. Direct service providers, researchers, elected officials, and community activists from across the country are here in D.C. to tell us exactly how to do it.
Needless to say, it’s been a whirlwind of a first day.
After a morning of usability testing (our own small contribution to the movement!), Alliance president Nan Roman kicked off the opening plenary. She went over the state of the national movement to end homelessness. She co... Read More »
Friday News Round Up: Newsflash – We need TANF!
July 09, 2010
This week we’ve seen a lot of love for TANF. We have talked about it a lot, and this week CNN Money and the New York Times both noted how important the program is, and why it’s important to keep it funded. LaDonna Pavetti from the Center on Budget on Policy Priorities also offered her perspective for the continuation of the program.
CNN also put out an interesting piece this week about a group of homeless teens, which helped illustrate the hardships homeless youths experience. (In case you missed it: we talked about homeless youths just yesterday.)
Out of Austin, TX we are unfortunately seeing more of one of the main causes of homelessness: a lack of affordable housing. However, in Western Massachusetts and Asheville, NC, programs intended to reduce homelessness are proving effective.
Finally, the new federal plan is still a hot topic, and many critical reviews of the plan are circulating around.
And there’s no doubt that the plan is exactly what Secretary Donovan will be discussing during his keynote speech at our own – you got it – Annual Conference! Next time we blog, we’ll be live-blogging from the Hyatt!... Read More »
Examining the Federal Plan: Objective 8 –Youth Homelessness
July 08, 2010
The new federal plan to end homelessness has set 10 objectives to guide us on the path to ending homelessness.
And the bait was just to good to pass up.
On the blog, we’ll examine each goal, what’s known, what isn’t, and what we’re going to do moving forward on that goal. We’ll call the series, “Examining the Federal Plan.”
This week we will be looking at objective eight, “Advance health and housing stability for youth aging out of systems such as foster care and juvenile justice”.
I myself am still learning a lot about the different kinds of homelessness, but the Alliance is chock full of people who are each a wealth of information and more than willing to help me learn. Since this objective has to do with youth homelessness, I thought this week I could do a post about youth homelessness in general, since it is an area of homelessness that often goes unseen.
To learn about youth homelessness, I talked to LaKesha Pope, Senior Youth Policy and Program Analyst.
Here are some of the questions I asked her and what I learned:
What causes youth homelessness?
Youth can become homelessness for many different reasons, many of them the same factors that cause other groups to experience homelessness. However, the major factors that usually contribute to youth homelessness are family dysfunction and breakdown, specifically family conflict, abuse, and disruption. Many youth enter a state of homeless... Read More »
Musings on Social Media
July 07, 2010
A couple weeks ago, I gave a brief, casual presentation about our organizational social media networks over a lunch meeting.
The Alliance has been online for about a year now, on Twitter, Facebook, Blogger, and YouTube.
Not surprisingly, Twitter and Facebook are our most active networks; the blog averages a few thousand readers per month.
And as we invest the time and manpower it requires maintaining these networks (and sometimes it takes quite a bit!), we’re constantly asking ourselves the following questions:
1. What is the goal of our social networks?
2. What do people want from our social networks?
So to answer the second question, we put out a social media survey in May/June of this year. We asked people who they were, what their roles were in the homeless assistance community, how they followed the Alliance, and what content they preferred (Reports? Advocacy updates? Federal policy information?)
And we came up with some interesting results.
The majority of our Twitter users say advocacy updates and opportunities to take action are most useful, followed by media clips about housing and homelessness.
Community members on Facebook, blog, and our weekly newsletter were all most interested in learning about permanent supportive housing; Twitter users were interested in learning about HPRP.
The policy advocates, grassroots advocates/activists, housing/service providers, and interested citizens who follow us all preferred Facebook updates to updates on other outlets.
50 percent of the survey respondents either collaborate w... Read More »
Ten Things to Look Forward to at the Alliance Annual Conference!
July 06, 2010
Everyone here at the Alliance is so excited for our conference next week!
So in an effort to get everybody else pepped-up, we thought we’d share ten great things (among hundreds!) that you should look forward to at this year’s conference:
1. The anniversary of the Ten Year Plan
This conference marks the ten-year anniversary of the Alliance’s Ten Year Plan to end homelessness. Our president Nan Roman will discuss what we’ve done so far - and what next steps lie ahead.
2. Secretary Donovan’s keynote
There’s no doubt about it: HUD Sec. Shaun Donovan will discuss the new federal plan to end homelessness and how it can potentially change the whole field of ending homelessness.
3. Capitol Hill Day
Representatives from at least 44 states will be visiting their representatives in Congress to discuss the importance of a federal commitment to end homelessness. Learn more about it here.
4. Secretary Shinseki’s keynote
The VA has committed to ending veteran homelessness in five years and we hope Sec. Shinseki will share their bold new plans with us!
5. Launch of the 100,000 Homes Campaign
Common Ground of New York is committing to housing the hundred thousand most vulnerable people experiencing homelessness. You can find out more here.
This year’s conference offers several tracks – giving you an opportunity to focus on a specific subject or area. Tracks themes include: domestic violence, HPRP, and HEARTH.
7. Expert Roundtables
Wednesday morning, the conference will o... Read More »
Friday News Round-Up: Local Communities Tackle Homelessness
July 02, 2010
On the national front, the Economist talked about the new federal plan to end homelessness, commenting on the state of homelessness today and focusing on how employment must be a major focus when considering homelessness issues.
Architectural Record had an interview with Secretary Donovan of HUD (who is a trained architect, did you know??) and the Secretary discussed the role of architectural development in creating new affordable housing.
But a lot of the news this week has been about local communities, who are tackling homelessness in their own, tailored way.
In New Hampshire, a new plan is out to stop veteran homelessness, while in Kentucky they are changing the way they assist youth aging out of the foster care system so that they can avoid experiencing homelessness.
There seem to be concerns in both San Diego and Oregon about rising homelessness.
New York’s new budget could possibly stall the creation of more low-income housing, and San Francisco had funding cut from their homeless outreach program.
However, good news is coming out of in Lufkin, TX. They have just approved funds to not only help rebuild affordable housing for those displaced by natural disaster, but they’ve also approved funds to create new low-income housing in the area.
Communities all over the nation are becoming more aware about the people in their areas who are experiencing homelessness and working to prevent and end homelessness by implementing best practices and effective str... Read More »
Examining the Federal Plan: Objective 10 – Crisis Response Systems
July 01, 2010
And we’re back!
The Alliance is examining all ten goals of Opening Doors, the federal strategic plan to end homelessness. You may remember that we took a closer look at Goal 8 – Ending Youth Homelessness a bit back.
As the Alliance’s new media intern, I’m really excited to be writing this series, because every time I examine one of these goals, I get to learn about a new aspect of homelessness and solutions to homelessness (and really, that’s what the Alliance is all about).
This week we’ll be looking at Objective 10: “Transform homeless services to crisis response systems that prevent homelessness and rapidly return people who experience homelessness to stable housing.”
To learn more about this objective, I talked to Norm Suchar, our new (!) Director of the Center for Capacity Building (formerly senior policy analyst at the Alliance).
The first thing I tried to wrap my head around was what this objective meant, and why it was part of the federal plan.
Right now, the “crisis response system” in place is shelters. When someone encounters an event that creates a situation where they can no longer afford housing, the first response is to put them in a shelter.
This shelter system, however, is not effective if we are to eradicate homelessness. The crisis response system for homelessness needs to be transformed, so that when someone enters a crisis situation and that person’s housing needs are addressed, we turn to... Read More »