Ending Homelessness Today
The official blog of the National Alliance to End Homelessness
The President's Budget: v. FY 2011
February 01, 2010
Yesterday, the President unveiled his proposed budget for FY 2011.
It was generally good news in the field of homeless assistance. The Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal and then Associated Press all gave nods to the boost in homeless assistance funding.
We’re nodding right along with them. The president’s budget marks the biggest increase to homeless assistance services in 16 years – and that’s nothing to sneeze at! It’s a critical move at a time when the economy is still so unstable, especially for those who are already on financially precarious ground.
A ten percent ($190 million) bump to McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants, the largest portion of the federal investment to homeless assistance
A 50 percent boost in homeless assistance funding to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). This significant increase may prove useful in the Department’s professed goal of reducing the number of homeless veterans (currently 131,000) to 59,000 by July 2012, but no detailed plan for the strategic use of this funding boost has been made available.
An $85 million permanent supportive housing initiative. What’s most notable about this plan is not only the federal investment in permanent supportive housing – a proven strategy to end homelessness – but the emphasis on interagency collaboration. It will require that recipients be serviced by the Departments of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Health and Human Service (HHS) and Education (DOE).
Extension of the Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF) emergency fund. The emergency fund, which was created under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) provides short-term emergency assistance services for families at-risk of homelessness. This emergency fund is being extended for another year.
Three new initiatives and significant jump in funding for policy development and research at HUD.
We’ll be tackling each of these policy priorities in blogposts to come, starting with the ten percent increase in McKinney-Vento homeless assistance programs: the bread and butter for so many direct service providers supplying the day-to-day, on-the-ground assistance so critical for those experiencing homelessness right now.
As we've been talking about on this blog, the Alliance calling on Congress to increase funding for McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance programs to $2.4 billion in FY2011. To find out more about the advocacy effort – and more about the President’s budget – visit the website.
... Read More »
Friday News Roundup: Quotes on Counts and more
January 29, 2010
As America counted it's homeless population this week, the media came out to cover it. The following quotes, pulled from this year's coverage of Point in Time counts, provide a useful summary. (For some context, read Caroline's post about the significance of counts and our press release about what these counts show.)Beth McKee-Huger, executive director of the Greensboro Housing Coalition: “With the economic situation getting worse, we know that there are a lot more people losing their housing than there used to be or about to lose housing.” From the story "Homeless survey also notes who is nearly homeless" in Greensboro's News-Record. Robert Hess, commissioner for NYC's Department of Homeless Services: "We know where folks are living on the street. Hopefully, they will move into their own homes as 3,000 have done so in over the last 3 years." From Boonsri Dickinson's comprehensive account of NYC's HOPE count. Check out the photos too!Michael Ferrell, chairman of the Homeless Services Committee of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments: "There is no way you can count every single person who's homeless. We give our best representation of what the homeless population is in our area . . . from one year to another." From the Washington Post's piece on counts in the DC metro area. Our very own Bill Sermons and Meghan Greenwell were out counting in DC!Jarome Watts, resident of the Salvation Army shelter in Tuscaloosa, OK: “I think there are a lot more ... Read More »
Weigh in on the Federal Plan to End Homelessness at our Annual Conference
January 28, 2010
The federal government has never before had a plan to end homelessness but for the first time, one is in the works. What's more, attendees at the Alliance 2010 Conference on Ending Family Homelessness will be able to give input on the plan. The U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness will host a forum for audience members to offer comments and suggestions about what should be included in the Federal plan on Friday, February 12 from 7:30am-8:45am."It's a great chance for people to stand up and say something," says Norm Suchar, Alliance Senior Policy Analyst.The HEARTH Act, passed in May of 2009, requires that the Interagency Council develop a plan to end homelessness, which is scheduled to be submitted to Congress in May of this year. The conference forum is one of many listening sessions that the Council is conducting with service providers and advocates. The plan will be comprehensive, covering all federal agencies, particularly HUD, and the Departments of Health and Human Services, Veterans Affairs, Labor, and Education. It will pay particular attention to solving homelessness among four populations: the chronically homeless, veterans, families and youth.According to Suchar, in order to be successful, the federal plan must include measurable outcomes and goals, as well as accountability, so that people and departments know whether they are meeting those goals. What would you like to see in the federal plan to end homelessness?... Read More »
The Alliance launches the McKinney-Vento Appropriations Campaign
January 27, 2010
The Alliance is mobilizing to put pressure on Congress to provide $2.4 billion for McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants in FY 2011. Due to changes in the HEARTH Act, it is CRITICAL that the McKinney program receives a large boost in funding this year. Without a funding level of at least $2.4 billion—a 28 percent increase over last year’s level—there will be little to no funding provided to your community for new projects in fiscal year (FY) 2011. Yesterday's webinar explains why more funding is so important.Get involved! Enter the Alliance's Letter Writing Contest: organize your friends and colleagues to write letters to Congress asking for a $2.4 billion dollar increase for the McKinney-Vento program The person who gathers the most letters will be invited to DC for a special Capitol Hill Day event! The contest runs Feb. 1 through Feb. 22. To get on board, please email Director of Field Mobilization Sarah Kahn at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Monday, Feb 1, you will receive and email with a sample letter and action alert. You'll also receive regular updates with information about upcoming advocacy opportunities. Your advocacy efforts allow us to make progress on federal policy, and we are grateful for your partnership in this critical campaign. Visit the McKinney Appropriations Campaign Webpage for campaign materials.... Read More »
More HPRP trends: Centralization and Coordination
January 27, 2010
The Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing program is making good news throughout the U.S. We're keeping track of the media coverage on this interactive map, and we're also highlighting some of the common themes we've seen in the implementation of the program. (Hat tip to fellow intern Grace Stubee for her help with this post!)CentralizationMany groups have used funding from HPRP to create a one-stop shop, or centralized point of access, for services to people experiencing homelessness. One example comes from Cowlitz County, WA, where the center is the office of Lower Columbia Community Action Program. Making services easily accessible is particularly important because many people seeking assistance through HPRP don't know how to navigate the social services system, because they have never needed government assistance before.Elsewhere, the one-stop shop isn't a physical space, but folks can connect with numerous services through an HPRP hotline, which Allegheny County and the city of Pittsburgh worked together to start up.CoordinationIn Columbus, OH, it's not just about having a central location, but also a common way of doing things: "For the community and for the homeless population, there will be one point of contact, with a common language, common process and a hot line," said Dave Davis, director of programs and planning at the shelter board. In Las Vegas, the federal money has encouraged more than 35 social service agencies to coordinate. The county designed a three-tier network of assistance,... Read More »
Counting Homelessness - the 2010 point-in-time counts
January 26, 2010
Hello! I’m Caroline Wagner, and I’m the newest addition to the Alliance staff - Nan Roman’s new assistant. This is my very first blogpost – and it’s about something that I’ve been interested in since I started working in the housing and homelessness field. As anyone on the Alliance staff will tell you, accurate, comprehensive data about homelessness is both critical to creating effective policy and hard to come by. And one of the most reliable, most regular pieces of data mandated nationally is the January point-in-time counts. In the last week of January – read: this week – communities across the country conduct a count to gauge the number of people experiencing homelessness in their area. This information, mandated every other year by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), is a prerequisite to receiving homeless assistance funding. Counts data is aggregated and analyzed by HUD and local governments across the country. The Department releases a national report of their findings based on these counts in late summer. So the question plaguing me was this: how exactly are these extensive, seemingly impossible counts conducted? The answer is surprisingly simple. It’s a lot like you’d expect – heavy legwork by community officials, local leaders, and service providers. Volunteers comb sidewalks, shelters, and soup kitchens counting each and every person experiencing homelessness. For many larger cities, methodology gets even more sophisticated in an effort to ensure accuracy. Los Angeles, Californ... Read More »
HUD Secretary trumpets success of HPRP
January 25, 2010
HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan spoke at the Conference of Mayors Winter Meeting this past Friday and as he discussed stimulus programs, he celebrated the success of the HPRP program:"With the Homeless Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program in the Recovery Act, we have begun reorienting the Federal government toward preventing homelessness as cities across the country have been doing for years.In your own recent report, you found that 18 cities—or 72 per cent of respondents—reported that the Homeless Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program will ‘fundamentally change the way [their] community provides services to people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness’.Indeed, no one understands better than our mayors on the front lines in the battle to prevent homelessness just how much the platform of a stable home can drive other outcomes – like savings in the area of health. And it’s time the Federal government recognized that as well."The rest of his remarks are available here.... Read More »
Friday News Roundup: Research on chronic homelessness, youth, vets
January 22, 2010
Organizations across the country are looking to fill their volunteer rosters for annual Point in Time counts next week. Volunteer in your area and look forward to a more detailed look at counts on this blog next week.Otherwise, a variety of interesting, important research pieces have come out this week. Here's a handful of highlights:Results of a study on youth homelessness in Oregon came out this week. While we're always glad to see data on youth homelessness, it looks like numbers of youth experiencing homelessness are increasing pretty dramatically, service providers say.A University of Birmingham professor Jeffrey Michael Clair spent two years interviewing Birmingham's chronically homeless. His conclusion? "Public policy should be oriented more toward enabling people to work and to secure a dwelling." Agreed. (Found this one through Inforumusa.)The Corporation for Supportive Housing's Richard Cho was featured on the Funders Together blog this week with research from the Frequent Users Forum. Their work shows why permanent supportive housing is a cost-effective solution to chronic homelessness: case management combined with permanent housing for those stuck in the "institutional circuit" reduces time and public money spent in hospitals, jails and shelters. The Department of Veteran's Affairs recently reported on the ways they're shifting medical systems to better serve veterans who are homeless, including integrating health care and other services, like job training and housing. Though many of the 131,000 homeless veterans in the U.S. struggle with addiction... Read More »
Following the money: 4 ways communities are using HPRP funds
January 21, 2010
$1.5 billion in Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing (HPRP) dollars are finding their way into struggling communities and we're following them across the country through our interactive HPRP media map. Here are a few trends that are beginning to emerge:Direct Impact: Put simply, HPRP is having a significant impact on people who are on the verge of homelessness: 65 in Shelby County, NC, 150 in Osceola County, FL, 372 in Mesa, AZ, and 5,200 in Tennessee to name a few. New Population: Media coverage has shown that in particular, HPRP funds are helping families hit hard by the recession. Many never dreamed they'd be homeless, but because of extraordinary circumstances - a death in the family in Dallas, job loss in Phoenix - some have found themselves facing eviction or searching for space in a family shelter. HPRP funds are flexible: they can be used to help keep families in their homes by assisting with rent and keeping the heat on or they can be used to help families move by covering down payments and moving expenses.Because so much hinges on housing - a parent keeping her job, a teenager staying in school - HPRP has been crucial for recession-struck families.Systems Change: Although HPRP was designed specifically to deal with the recession, we hope it's part of a permanent paradigm shift from temporary fixes to long-term solutions. Currently, HPRP is causing systematic changes in homelessnss services in certain communities. For example, Kevin... Read More »
The Domino Effect: Conference scholarship recipient describes her homeless experience
January 20, 2010
The agenda for the Alliance's upcoming National Conference on Ending Family Homelessness is packed: speakers will cover performance measurements, prevention strategies, program implementation and more, but some of our conference attendees will speak from personal experience. Valda Brown, a formerly homeless single mother of four, is one of our 2010 conference scholarship recipients. Here, she describes the lived experience of homelessness and the lessons she's learned.My car broke down and from that point on it was like a domino effect: I lost my jobs, my rent was behind and before I knew it, we were evicted. My four boys and I became homeless, with nowhere to go. We had no family here, so we were pretty much on our own. I went into a state of depression, but I couldn’t act upon it as I had to be strong for my children. It was eating me up inside. I couldn’t tell the children as they thought mommy could do everything. I had to deal with what I thought was my failure to them. I was constantly telling them to go to school and get good grades. They looked at me like "You have a college degree with no job and on top of all of that, we are homeless." It was a rough road. I knew I had to stay strong for my children and keep encouraging them to do well in school. My children and I both had... Read More »
Weekly Roundup: counts, affordable housing, and good blog reads
January 14, 2010
Annual Point in Time homelessness counts are in the news again this week, as cities like DC, New York, and Kansas City recruit volunteers for their efforts. NYC is one city that's also hiring decoys to help estimate how many people they'll miss. For more on why we count, read about HUD's Continuum of Care and check out our 2009 counts map. There's been a bit of buzz this week about affordable housing, including this story about moving families out of motels and into homes. Alliance president Nan Roman points out that this strategy works: 80 percent of homeless families who find housing don't become homeless again.Over on Inforumusa, Joel John Roberts asks: Do politicians use housing first as an excuse to only invest in the bare minimum? What do you think?In other homelessness news this week, the Toronto Sun ran a heartwrenching story about Suburbia's hidden homelessness, the New York Times covered the story of a California rancher arrested for housing the homeless - albeit in substandard conditions - on his property, and the San Francisco Library hired a social worker to reach out to its homeless patrons. (Thanks to Change.org's End Homelessness blog for sharing such interesting stuff!)I've followed blogs like Change.org's End Homelessness blog and Poverty and Policy for awhile, but since I became the New Media Intern at the Alliance, I've been scouring the blogosphere for more good reads about housing, homelessness, and... Read More »
Demand for HPRP program "overwhelming," says McClatchy story
January 14, 2010
"When you think about it, it really makes sense to focus on getting people back into housing faster," said Alliance president Nan Roman in Tony Pugh's McClatchy story Demand overwhelms program to prevent homelessness, out yesterday. "Instead of long stays in some homeless facility with a lot of service delivery, wouldn't a little bit of money help people stay where they are and not end up in the system at all?"The story shows what a little bit of money can do: it helped Joseph Wright get back on his feet after he fell behind on rent. Instead of sleeping at a shelter today, he's got a new apartment and a stable teaching job. Service providers have made the original $1.5 billion allocated for HPRP go a long way, but those Pugh talked to - in Salt Lake City, Raleigh, Washington State and Alameda County, California - all agree: the funding is not enough.How much more is needed? The Alliance estimates that an extra $1 billion would not only help 200,000 more families, but also create about 2,000 more jobs at community organizations.As Elaine de Coligny, executive director of EveryOne Home, a housing agency in Alameda County, Calif, said simply: "It's good money to spend."... Read More »
Announcing the Keynote Speakers for our 2010 Ending Family Homelessness Conference
January 11, 2010
It's official: Mercedes Marquez, Assistant Secretary at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and Barbara Poppe, Executive Director of the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness will be the keynote speakers at the Alliance's 2010 National Conference on Ending Family Homelessness.Their keynote addresses are latest addition to an exciting slate of workshops and presentations, which we'll be blogging about more as the date approaches. Check out the tentative agenda here.... Read More »
Friday News Roundup: Cold, Youth, and Nan in the news
January 08, 2010
Homelessness has been in the headlines this week as falling temperatures cause rising concern for those living on the streets. Deaths from exposure and maxed out cold weather shelters show that the need for real, permanent solutions is dire. Instead of rushing around each winter to respond to emergencies, let's work on long-term, year-round strategies. Speaking of permanent solutions, be sure to check out this week's post by Alliance president Nan Roman on Inforumusa: The Last Ten Years: Looking Back at Ten Year Plans.Check out this dialogue between service providers in the Baltimore Sun: At issue was the city's removal of a homeless encampment under the Jones Expressway. Kevin Lindamood and Jeff Singer of Healthcare for the Homeless argue that removing the homeless from public spaces is a flawed approach, while the Diane Glauber of Baltimore Homeless Services says the move was in the interest of safety. They do seem to agree on one point: the solution is access to permanent supportive housing for all.Both the Examiner and Huffington Post have discussed homeless youth recently. According to our 2007 data, up to 1.65 million children experience homelessness in the U.S., and that number may be on the rise. Minnestota Public Radio's piece on the topic is some pretty powerful stuff and so are these first hand accounts from kids themselves from the Tacoma Rescue Mission in Washington State.... Read More »
Looking forward: A federal program, state budgets and local counts
January 06, 2010
It's a brand new year - a time to start anew, set resolutions and goals, and look forward to the year ahead. Here at the Alliance, we're readying for exciting new year: a midterm election, new legislative challenges, a focus on prevention and housing for the homeless - and that's just the beginning. It's a promising year in the field of housing and homelessness.There are a lot of issues we're keeping an eye on, but here are a few highlights: HEARTH Act implementation Last May, President Obama signed into law the HEARTH Act. The HEARTH Act is the first significant reauthorization of the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance programs in nearly 20 years and allocates millions more to homelessness prevention, rapidly re-housing homeless families, and providing permanent supportive housing for homeless people with disabilities. There's a lot of work to be done before any changes are implemented. We're looking out for draft regulations, and we expect finalized regulations by May 20.State Budgets43 states have made cuts to services for vulnerable residents and with a $140 billion projected shortfall for state budgets in fiscal year 2011, there's likely more to come. From California to Connecticut, programs that support homeless people have already seen their funding slashed. As the need for these services persist - and even rise - how will states respond with fewer and fewer resources? CountsIn order to receive HUD funding, municipalities must provide counts of people experiencing homelessness during odd-numbered years (like 2009),... Read More »
What does living on food stamps mean?
January 06, 2010
When I first read this weekend's New York Times piece, which estimates that food stamps are the sole source of income for six million Americans, I began thinking: how does one survive on food stamps alone? For a family of four, the food stamp allotment is $668 per month; for a couple, it's $367. As it turns out, some fix bicycles. Others sell their gun collections. One woman is trying to breed her chihuahua. But I kept thinking, and I talked with others here at the Alliance: What does it mean that six million people have no other cash income? It means that there are real and significant problems with federal programs designed to fight poverty. (Hat tip here to families expert, Sharon McDonald). Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF) is one part of the puzzle. As the piece points out, the number of families receiving TANF, or cash assistance, has increased marginally during this recession. Although the stimulus package included a $5 billion Emergency Contingency Fund to help states fund their TANF programs, the number of families receiving TANF actually continued to decline in some states until March 2009. In fact, the number of families receiving TANF has been decreasing since welfare reform under during the Clinton administration, and - in 2005 - fewer than half of eligible families received TANF benefits. At the same time, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, or the official name of the food stamp program) has ballooned. One... Read More »
HPRP Success Stories: 16-month-old has a new heart and a new home
January 04, 2010
For most homeless families, living in a friend's apartment might work better than sleeping in a car or finding shelter space, but for a family caring for an infant who is recovering from a heart transplant, these options are simply not an option. This family needs a stable home.With the help of New York's Department of Homeless Services, their partners and stimulus funding through the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program, Baby J and his family found one.The latest in our series of HPRP success stories comes from Holly Frindell from the Department of Homeless Services in New York. In August, Baby J was hospitalized with what doctors initially thought was bronchiolitis, but was quickly discovered to be heart failure. His health deteriorated rapidly and he was placed on the waiting list for a heart transplant. Two weeks following the baby’s admission to the hospital, his parents and three-year-old brother were evicted from their apartment. His father had lost his construction job eight months prior, and the family fell into arrears, eventually losing the apartment where they had lived for more than four years. The family was fortunate to have relatives to turn to for help, doubling up in a two-bedroom apartment where two other adults and two other children already were living. Word came in November that a heart finally had become available. With the transplant complete, however, the overcrowded apartment no longer was suitable. The h... Read More »
From Homeless to Housed in Maryland
December 22, 2009
If you in the DC metropolitan area over the weekend, you know that conditions were snowy , to put it mildly! The nation’s capitol was hit with it’s first big blizzard in about a decade – leaving up to two feet of snow and both charmed and frustrated residents in it’s wake, according to the Washington Post. It’s days like Saturday – which I spent safely in the tenth floor of a residential high-rise – that I really take time to wonder about the lives of those experiencing homelessness. As the wind picked up and temperatures plummeted and the ground was covered in white, I wondered what people experiencing homelessness were doing to protect themselves. I wondered what people could do to protect themselves. In the spirit of learning a first-person perspective, we offer you another HPRP success story. Karen was the second winner of our Story Bank challenge and she won registration to our next conference of her choice. Her story doesn’t have anything to do with snow, but she narrates her struggle to overcome homelessness with the help of existing assistance systems in Maryland. My name is Karen and I was considered chronically homeless. My last episode of homelessness lasted for 11 months and during that time I lived in a tent in Salisbury. Md. I became homeless for the first time in 2003 and hopefully for the last time from 2006-2007. I am now in recovery from chronic alcoholism. I l... Read More »
Friday News Roundup: HPRP, female vets, and National Homeless Person's Memorial Day
December 18, 2009
“There's that disconnect from the community when you're homeless, and it's a big leap to get back to that connection,” Deborah Beste, executive director of Phoenix Programs told the Columbia Missourian this week. “That's what we're trying to avoid." Funds from the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program (HPRP) allow Phoenix Programs to do just that: keep the community together by preventing homelessness. In addition to Beste in Missouri and Zamora in Salt Lake City (who we featured earlier this week), folks in California, Minnesota, and Illinois are using HPRP to help stem the rising tide of homelessness in their communities.However, we're starting to see some of the issues that arise at the local level when organizations start to use federal dollars. One example is the Keller Community Storehouse in Texas: although they're glad for the funds, they're struggling to keep up with increasing demand while trying to negotiate the complexities of paperwork and deadlines. We've covered homelessness among veterans extensively at About Homelessness, but this week, news came from a slightly different angle: female veterans often face some unique obstacles--responsibility for children, sexual trauma, to name a few--in addition to those that male vets deal with. Check out this AP story, which tells former Army Pvt. Margaret Ortiz's story and describes how Veteran's Affairs is re-structuring some of their programs to better serve homeless female veterans. It's that time of year and Change.org's End Homelessness blog urges you t... Read More »
Ending Homelessness, made possible by the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program
December 17, 2009
I hope you had a chance to read Liz Whitehurst’s entry on the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program (HPRP). More than that, I hope you liked it – because here at the Alliance communications department, it’s gonna be all HPRP, all the time. We’re taking advantage of HPRP as a platform to take about the issue that we hold most dear. With this new federal assistance – coming at a time when need is growing so rapidly and community, state, and local services are being [sometimes dramatically] curbed as a result of the recession – we have a chance to share success stories. Stories of men, women, and families being successfully and permanently re-housed. Stories of ending homelessness. With our ears to the ground, we’re hearing promises of real change during such a difficult time. We’re hearing stories of this Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program being used in innovative new ways – used to transform homeless assistance services to focus on prevention and housing, moving away from shelters and soup kitchens. Which isn’t to say that we’re blindly starry-eyed. We know that no federal program is perfect – we know that there are communities experiencing roadblocks along the way, communities struggling to figure out the best way to use these critical new funds to make the most impact on their neighborhoods. But we’re hoping we can help. We’ll be sharing HPRP stories on this blog regularly from here on... Read More »