Ending Homelessness Today
The official blog of the National Alliance to End Homelessness
A Note from Our Intern Stephanie!
August 25, 2010
Today’s blog post comes Stephanie Wege, a Capacity Building intern this summer at the Alliance, talking about her work in the Center for Capacity Building.
Interning at the Alliance this summer has been a wonderful experience. I’ve learned about the Center for Capacity Building and the tools that it has to offer communities near and far. The Center for Capacity Building not only provides leadership in instruction, but also encourages and fosters collaboration nationwide. Working with them has enabled me to understand the complexity of homelessness.
This summer I have gained insight into the function of technical assistance and training projects. They provide a valuable link between legislation and the activities of homeless service providers. As I’ve learned from various survey assessments that I’ve conducted this summer, providers are often confused by the language of the legislation, inhibiting their ability to enact necessary changes. However, even if the language is clear in some instances, many homelessness assistance systems are not endowed with the staff and finances necessary to permit required changes. There is an overwhelming need, according to the HPRP Implementation Survey, for tools that will help communities to overcome these barriers.
In light of assessments like these, the Capacity Building team has put into action tools that will hasten the implementation of HPRP measures. I assisted the Center for Capacity Building in formulating an Ending Homelessness 101 Web-based training to outline essential steps to ending homelessness as a resource for communities.
The Capacity Building team is also launching a training series that will inform communities about HEARTH features and stimulate integration of HEARTH principles into system design and data management.
Another important element of the Center for Capacity Building’s work that I’ve been able to experience is education -- namely peer-to-peer learning. Each homelessness assistance system is unique and has its own story. Communities across the nation can benefit from these shared stories and strategies. One example is the rural case study highlighting the experiences in West Virginia that I was able to help with this summer. Once in circulation, this presentation will enable other rural communities to find common ground and expertise needed to move forward.
As I mentioned above, the Center for Capacity Building provides online training resources on various topics related to ending homelessness with both audio and text components. Recently, the CAP team undertook a survey assessment to evaluate the viability of the online trainings. In an effort to improve the quality, content, and effectiveness of our online trainings, we have designed a survey to elicit feedback from users in regard to the trainings’ design, applicability, and future topics. If you have consulted our online training resources, we would appreciate your feedback via this survey and will use it to further improve our online training resources.
As my internship comes to a close, I am grateful to have been exposed to such a wealth of material and practices, and I know that as I continue forward I will be able to take my experiences here and apply them in future. Thank you again to everyone at the Alliance!... Read More »
An Update from Kim on Nebraska!
August 24, 2010
Today’s post is a follow up from Kimberly Walker, a Capacity Building Associate here at the Alliance.
Well, I’m happy to report that things in Lincoln went very well! Our first day there, Iain and I spent the morning meeting the members of the Lincoln Homeless Coalition (all wonderful, engaged people!) and listening to a presentation about their homeless system. We had a diverse group that included providers, a representative from the state, a liaison from the public school system, and the administrator of the HPRP grant. Iain and I spent that first afternoon presenting our findings to the group. A lot of our recommendations centered on how the Coalition could shift their system toward an approach focused on rapid re-housing.
Our second day was all about facilitation. We split our group into two and, after a brief recap of what we had discussed the day before, put them to work on deciding on and prioritizing goals for their system based on the gaps we had identified the day before. From their original list of thirty, Coalition members selected the five that were most important to them. After the goals had been selected, each group engaged in an exercise in which they connected each goal to potential strategies, resources, timelines, and evaluation methods.
Our next visit, in a little less than three weeks, will focus on fine-tuning the beginnings of the plan the group developed. Next tim... Read More »
Building Capacity to End Homelessness
August 23, 2010
Today's blog comes from Norm Suchar, the recently promoted Director of the Center for Capacity Building. Read on to hear about what the Center is up to!
There’s a lot happening in the homelessness assistance world these days, and we at the Alliance are working on big things to help communities implement the HEARTH Act and end homelessness.
The Center for Capacity Building is the Alliance’s training, technical assistance, and consulting arm. Over the years, we’ve worked on a lot of interesting projects, including the Rural Homelessness Initiative of Southeast and Central Ohio, which as the name implies is a homelessness planning and implementation project in a 17 county region in Ohio, and Shifting Gears, an initiative to help homelessness assistance providers transition to a housing first approach. More recently, we’ve been working with communities in the DC metro area to implement strategies that reduce family homelessness, holding trainings on rapid re-housing and creating and piloting a new Ending Family Homelessness Tool.
The Center’s mission is to bring together three areas of the homelessness assistance field: what we aspire to, what we know, and what we practice.
Over the past decade, the aspiration to end homelessness has taken hold. Over 300 communities have plans to end homelessness, and now the federal government has an ambitious plan to prevent and end homelessness.
At the same time what we know about solving homelessness through prevention and rapid re-housing has increased... Read More »
Friday News Round Up: Housing First
August 20, 2010
There is a lot of good news that came out this week, especially from The Coloradoan. They had two articles this week, the first, a great defense of Housing First and homelessness prevention, called, “A radical idea: Ending homelessness”. The second was about Denver’s successful efforts to prevent homelessness by keeping 2,500 families in homes.
We take the bad with the good, though. From the Las Vegas Sun, we hear about how Las Vegas, an area where homelessness has been unfortunately increasing over the last few years, is struggling to get enough federal funding to help combat their growing problem.
From Journal Standard, we read a great personal story about how HPRP funds helped one family stay together and in a home.
Finally, Kathleen Pender of the San Francisco Chronicle told us about how the federal government is allocating funds not just to help homeowners, but the renters who are often at a higher risk of homelessness.... Read More »
Meet the Alliance Staff!
August 19, 2010
We at the Alliance thought that you might like to meet some of the people who work here! So we are creating a video series where we introduce you to some of the staff at the National Alliance to End Homelessness. Today, we meet Bill Sermons!
Want to learn more about HRI? Go here!... Read More »
Exciting News About Capitol Hill Day 2010!
August 18, 2010
For those of you who don’t know, Capitol Hill Day 2010 was held in conjunction with our annual National Conference on Ending Homelessness in July. Nonprofit providers, public officials, private sector representatives, consumers, and other key stakeholders visited their Members of Congress on Capitol Hill to update them on local progress in ending homelessness and urge them to make ending homelessness a federal policy priority.
So, what’s the news? We have posted our 2010 Capitol Hill Day report on our website. The report highlights the unprecedented success of this year’s Capitol Hill Day. This year, a record 40 states were represented by more than 340 participants. Eight states, including Connecticut, Hawaii, Arkansas, Montana, Nevada, Idaho, New Mexico, and South Dakota all had a 100 percent participation rate, meaning that everyone from the state who registered for our conference participated in Capitol Hill Day.
Not only was Capitol Hill Day an amazing effort by advocates from around the country, but the effort has already proven effective on advancing legislation. Less than a week after Hill Day, the House Appropriations Committee increased its proposed fiscal year (FY) 2011 funding for McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants program. Not only is the proposed funding level an 18 percent increase over the FY 2010 funding level, but it is also higher than the amount proposed by the T-HUD appropriations subcommittee! Way to go Capitol Hill Day participants!
Participants held almost 230 congressional meetings, and more than 45 of those meetings were held with a Mem... Read More »
A New Capacity Center Tool
August 17, 2010
Today's post comes from Kimberly Walker, a Capacity Building Associate here at the Alliance.
Hello all! Kim here. As part of the Center for Capacity Building, my job is to help communities improve their homeless systems. As part of that mission, I’m working on the Center’s new Ending Family Homelessness Tool and Pilot Project (or the EFHT/PP). I’ve been told this may be of interest to our blog readers, so I thought I’d give you a synopsis of what exactly it is.
This tool turns what the Alliance staff has learned over the years about best practices in ending homelessness, what we’ve learned from the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program (HPRP), and the new Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing (HEARTH) Act requirements into a measuring stick for communities. The EFHT will hopefully encourage communities to use these standards to judge where their system is now and where it needs to be in order for them to end family homelessness.
The tool has several different parts (some that are finished, some that are still being developed/considered):
1) A set of three surveys regarding what communities think about their homeless system
2) A data collection worksheet
3) A resource list
4) A planning document
5) A check-in document (after a plan has been made), and
6) A community forum
As a final product, we hope to create a completely web-based version of these documents that communiti... Read More »
Using HPRP to Help Families
August 16, 2010
This week’s news has been full of reports about families in need overwhelming shelter systems. From Baltimore, MD to Springfield, MA, to LaPorte, IN, we’ve seen articles all week about homeless shelters “bursting” with people. Stories about an increase in the number of homeless children and families seem to be the news item of the week.
Shelter programs are struggling to accommodate more families in their existing programs. When they can’t, families are left to fend for themselves. They beg family and friends to let them stay for just one more night, they find well-lit places like train stations or hospital waiting rooms and try to look like they belong, they find retreat in abandoned buildings or quiet corners of parks where their children can rest.
Of course, shelters never want to turn away families in need. They work hard to find church basements that might serve as overflow shelter or to come up with the resources to pay for motel rooms to increase their capacity to serve families. While offering a temporary refuge, homeless providers recognize that overflow shelters and motels cannot provide families the security they need.
But are all the tools that can help shelter programs serve families better being put to use?
The Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program (HPRP) was created to curb the expected surge of families experiencing housing crises and homelessness as a result of the recession. It provides flexible resources... Read More »
Friday News Round Up: Housing Those Most At Risk
August 13, 2010
This week, we heard a lot about the troubles people are having in housing. In Boston, we read about how rentals are becoming harder to find and afford, while in Atlanta, we saw the commotion caused by crowds gathered in an attempt to sign up for Section 8 assistance. What a state things are in when over 20,000 brave the heat in order to seek help!
However, we have also heard good news coming out of places like Arkansas, where they are using HPRP funds to help house people in their population who are experiencing homelessness.
In USA Today, they even examined the possibility that home ownership might not be the best thing for the federal government to push.
Finally, in the LA Times this week they talked about Project 50, a pilot program to house some of Los Angeles’ most vulnerable citizens experiencing homelessness. This program, they explain, could be the start of housing not only 50 of the most vulnerable people, but 10,000. Shelter Partnership also wrote a blog, examining Project 50 on a deeper level.... Read More »
Examining the Federal Plan: Objective 6 – Mainstream Programs
August 12, 2010
Today I have another installment of our series “Examining the Federal Plan”. In this series, we look at the ten objectives of the new federal plan to end homelessness Opening Doors.
We’re looking at Objective 6: Improve access to mainstream programs and services to reduce people’s financial vulnerability to homelessness.
To learn more about this objective, I turned to Sharon McDonald, Senior Policy Analyst at the Alliance (who will be writing about rapid re-housing as a way to relieve growing shelter populations tomorrow – stay tuned!) .
The first thing I wanted to know was what was meant by “mainstream programs”.
Mainstream programs are those not specifically designed to aid the homeless population or to tackle homelessness issues, but the bigger programs that can help people before they become homeless (and after, if need be), such as those that deal with jobs or income. We’re talking about things like Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Unemployment Insurance (UI), and TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families), which is currently in real danger (we did a whole WEEK of posts about saving TANF.)
These programs are meant to reach large portions of the population with lower incomes. These programs are the first lines of defense for preventing people from becoming homeless by providing cash assistance, job placement aid, and other critical services.
The federal plan aims to improve access to these programs. If these mainstream programs could serve more people, we could stop homelessness before it start... Read More »
Video: NAEH Photo Contest!
August 11, 2010
Hey guys, today we have Grace here to tell us about the Alliance's Photo Contest!
Aren't you excited?! To learn more, you can go to the official blog post for the contest, or you can visit the website.
To submit directly, just go here. We can't wait to see your pictures! To see what has been submitted, visit our flickr account.... Read More »
Meet the New Guys
August 10, 2010
For the next two weeks – starting on Monday, August 16 – we’ll be seeing new faces and hearing new voices on the Alliance social networks as staff and interns alike take their intrepid first steps into the Twitterverse, blogosphere, and whatever we’re calling Facebook.
Marisa Seitz is already a familiar face and regular contributor on the Alliance blog. She’s largely responsible for the aesthetic qualities of the new look of the blog and images around the Alliance’s first-ever photo contest. Make her happy and get those photos in!
You’ve probably also heard from Grace Stubee, a returning intern here at the Alliance. She’s hard at work on the advocacy team, helping our hardworking supporters to get their message to their elected officials. Grace will serve as the point person for our photo contest – she can answer all your questions!
From our policy shop, we have Kate Seif, one of the newest full-time Alliance staffers and new assistant to the president. As Nan’s assistant, she triages all the requests, invitations, projects, and papers that Nan receives and handles Nan’s calendar. In addition, she’s a critical element of our policy staff, often serving as point or coordinator on our larger policy publications, including the Policy Guide and upcoming Advocacy Toolkit. She’s also really into vlogging, so look out for videos featuring Kate!
And finally, we have Anna Blasco, social media extraordinaire. Anna is on our admin team and has a s... Read More »
Get You Cameras Ready!
August 09, 2010
All right folks, we’ve got something new and exciting for you today. The Alliance is launching our first ever - wait for it - PHOTO CONTEST!!
That’s right, we are giving you a chance to use those picture skills and show the world your stuff!
At this seminal moment in our national effort to end homelessness, we want to know: What does ending homelessness look like to you?
We want to see how you envision ending homelessness. The concept of ending homelessness can be hard to visualize - and we want to see your take. Is it services? Housing? An specific individual or story? We want you to capture it in a picture!
What's a contest without a prize? Yeah, we don't know either. Considering the community we know reads our blog, we think we’ve got a great one. The winner of our photo contest will receive free registration to our next conference. In addition, the winning submission will be the basis for the design of the conference - the website design, the brochure, the program journal - you name it!
The contest will run from Monday, August 9th to Friday, September 17th. We're giving our judges a week to decide and contact the winner - the winner will be announced on Friday, September 24. In order to enter, all you have to do is go here and fill out our simple form to enter! Full text of the c... Read More »
Friday News Round Up: A Lot to Anticipate
August 06, 2010
August tends to be a slow month, what with everyone including Congress taking their vacations, but even now we can hear the sounds of change rattling up the gangway.
On the subject of homeless veterans, new plans are being released. The White House blog talked this week about “10 Ways the VA is Serving Our Vets”, and the Politico featured a guest opinion about the federal strategic plan's strategy to deal with the veterans at risk of homelessness - and specifically those who will soon be returning from our current conflicts.
Out of Indiana, we heard about new legislation that will help youth who are dealing with homelessness. (It's always so great when student papers cover homelessness!)
Finally, you've already probably seen the first couple stories of a series the Los Angeles Times is running about Project 50 - the controversial local initiative to fight chronic homelessness. The series will continue through the weekend and spotlight one of our organizations own goals: to finish the job of ending homelessness. LA is certainly the place to pilot such a program - the local equivalent of the 100,000 Homes Campaign - as the city is home to a solid ten percent of the national homeless population. Thanks to the LAT for bringing us the series - and here's hoping that the city turns around on permanent supportive housing.... Read More »
Don't forget: TANF ECF
August 05, 2010
I know we’ve been harping on this on the blog all week, but we don’t want you to forget about the Temporary Aid for Needy Families (TANF) Emergency Contingency Fund (ECF).
As a refresher, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 created the TANF ECF. The fund can be used to reimburse states for up to 80 percent of increased spending for providing:
non-recurrent, short-term payments (e.g. four months of rental assistance for homeless families, security deposit and first month’s rent, utility assistance);
basic assistance (cash grants to low-income families); and
TANF ECF has made a difference for states – creating jobs and offering the assistance states may need help providing in this time of tight state budgets. Articles and blogs and policy analysis have noted the significance of this overlooked – and quickly expiring – recovery program.
We want to make sure that you fully understand the program – and then take the next step to call your senate office to tell them what you think. The Alliance has produced a number of articles and policy analyses about TANF ECF – and the importance of keeping the valuable, effective program from expiring. And there’s also information about family homelessness – TANF ECF is sometimes discussed in relationship to preventing and ending family homelessness.
If you have questions or comments about the materials there, feel free to give us a shout on Twitter, Facebook, or drop us an old fashioned email.
Thanks guys... Read More »
Ending Family Homelessness: Learning from Communities
August 04, 2010
Today’s blog about family homelessness comes from our colleague Sharon McDonald, Senior Policy Analyst at the Alliance.
Across the country, families are downsizing their housing, doubling up with extended family or friends, moving into motels, and seeking help from homelessness prevention and shelter programs. The Recovery Act provided new funds including the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program (HPRP) and the TANF Emergency Contingency Fund (ECF) to help communities grapple with the increased needs of families impacted by the recession.
With so many families facing homelessness, it is critical to maximize all available resources to help families. We must connect with Members of Congress to educate them about the impact of homelessness on families and communities, and - most importantly - the role social programs are playing in meeting the needs of vulnerable individuals and families.
This includes funding for McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Programs, Housing Choice Voucher Program, and the National Housing Trust Fund. It also includes advocating for an extension to the TANF ECF which is providing rental assistance to help families stay housed and subsidized employment that helps families escape poverty (see yesterday’s excellent post about action needed on the TANF ECF).
Maximizing resources also means making sure that local programs to help low-income and homeless families and children are as efficient and as effective as possible. This means evaluating whether HPRP and other resources are reaching the families they are designed to serve. Are homelessness prev... Read More »
Make a Real Difference in Ending Homelessness: Get Involved in Elections!
August 03, 2010
Today’s guest post comes from Will O’Brien of Project H.O.M.E. in Philadelphia.
It’s an election year, and here in Philadelphia, we’re feeling the usual election-year buzz.
This year, Pennsylvanians will elect a governor and a U.S. senator - so people across the city are organizing, registering, mobilizing and educating potential voters and candidates on the state’s critical issues.
This year, one of the most active groups mobilizing voters is a coalition called Vote For Homes!, a group comprised of people experiencing homelessness, formerly homeless persons, low-income individuals and families, along with allies and advocates.
For the past dozen election cycles (or so), Vote For Homes! has worked to mobilize and educate citizens during the about the issues that impact our communities, with particular emphasis on the needs of low-income and homeless people and families: housing, jobs, and support services. Drawing on a range of experience and expertise, Vote For Homes! proposes constructive policies and engages in dialogue with candidates. We lead non-partisan voter registration campaigns, reaching out especially to folks in shelters, programs and struggling neighborhoods where people often feel alienated from the political system. Project H.O.M.E. is proud to be one of the leaders in the Vote For Homes! campaign.
We do this because we recognize that it isn’t enough to provide quality services to persons and families in need – we must also address the structures, systems, and ... Read More »
TANF ECF Needs You NOW!
August 02, 2010
Today, Mindy Mitchell writes about the TANF Emergency Contingency Fund, which is set to expire on September 30, 2010.
It’s been called the “best kept secret” of the federal stimulus plan, and unless the Senate acts soon, it will be over in just a couple months, which would be devastating for families who are homeless or are just barely avoiding homelessness. It’s the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Emergency Contingency Fund (ECF), which the Alliance has advocated using to support homeless families since the ECF began, and which I have been exploring for almost two months now as part of my summer internship.
Because I worked directly with homeless families in my former (pre-law school) life, it’s been more than a little frustrating for me this summer to learn how easily such a good program—for homeless families, for all families who are struggling economically, and for whole communities—can fall through the legislative cracks. The TANF ECF extension was originally part of H.R. 4213, which failed to pass the Senate until it was stripped of all its elements except unemployment insurance (UI). No one seems to know now what will happen to all the other vital programs that were originally included in H.R. 4213, but the Alliance is organizing an advocacy push in hopes of getting things moving again. The stated concern of some Senators about the original legislation was the contribution to the federal deficit (which may not be wa... Read More »
House Approves $2.2 Billion for McKinney-Vento, $75 Million for VASH
July 30, 2010
House Approves $2.2 Billion for McKinney-Vento, $75 Million for VASH
Last night, the House approved H.R. 5850, the fiscal year (FY) 2011 Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development (T-HUD) Appropriations Bill. The bill includes a number of provisions to help people experiencing homelessness.
Although a proposed amendment to the bill would have eliminated funding for the HUD - Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) program, the amendment was eventually withdrawn. As a result of YOUR help in making phone calls to your representatives, the final bill includes $75 million for HUD-VASH.
In addition to funding for HUD-VASH, the legislation includes:
$2.2 billion for HUD's McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants (an 18 percent increase over FY 2010);
$17.080 billion for Tenant-Based Rental Assistance renewals (a $740.8 million increase over FY 2010), including:
$85 million for 10,000 housing vouchers for the Housing and Services for Homeless Persons Demonstration;
$350 million for the Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA) program (a $15 million increase over FY 2010);
$4.829 billion for the Public Housing Operating Fund (a $54 million increase over FY 2010); and
$2.5 billion for the Public Housing Capital Fund (no change from FY 2010).
The House approved $2.2 billion in funding for McKinney-Vento programs due to all of YOUR hard work. Although we need $2.4 billion to fully implement the Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing (HEARTH) Act, we need to let our representatives know how appreciative we are to them for providing an 18 percent increase for McKinney-Vento programs.
Check the House Appropriations Committee website for more information on H.R. 5850.
Again – none o... Read More »
Friday News Roundup: Federal Legislation Takes a Front Seat
July 30, 2010
As the end date for possible extension of the TANF Emergency Contingency Fund draws ever nearer, we hear more and more pleas for Congress to pass funds for this important program that has done so much in helping end and prevent homelessness.
Related: The Wall Street Journal talked this week about the federal poverty level, an important measurement that helps us understand more about how many people could be at risk for homelessness. We’re pleased to see that notable news organizations and important thinkers are paying attention to the state of poverty and vulnerability of so many Americans.
Especially because it seems like the problem is prevalent: a startling statistic came out of Indiana this week. According to AP writer Ken Kusmer the number of homeless students has increased 26 percent in the state since 2006-07. We saw a string of similar stories in the year – is this a resurgence of that trend?
Which doesn’t mean there’s isn’t help to be had. The Pittsburg Post-Gazette wrote this week about how HPRP funds are being used prevent evictions in Westmoreland County, PA, and the Sequim Gazette wrote about great homeless assistance work in Clallam County - work that was highlighted at the Alliance’s national conference in July as one of five high-performing counties in preventing and ending homelessness. Great work!
And finally – the big news – the danger posed on the House T-HUD spending bill – we called it H.R. 5850 yesterd... Read More »