Ending Homelessness Today
The official blog of the National Alliance to End Homelessness
Guest Blog: On the Ground Notes, Community Lodgings (Alexandria, VA)
September 03, 2009
In the fight against homelessness, there are a number of solutions and ideas. So far, we as a country have embraced homelessness management – and constructed a series of shelters and assistance programs that do benefit the lives of the homeless but does little else to lift them out of homelessness in a more effective and permanent way.
The Alliance supports a different approach – one based on permanent housing as a solution to homelessness.
In between the two is the concept of transitional housing – a temporary situation that can aid individuals and family who are suffering a short-term crisis. Here’s a story from Bonnie Baxley, Executive Director at Community Lodgings. Inc., a transitional housing program in Alexandria, Virginia.
All families who enter Community Lodgings’ Transitional Housing Program are homeless and most are referred to us by local temporary shelters. Each of our families has their own unique story usually revolving around themes that are all too familiar: addiction, domestic violence and a lack of education.
Recently, we welcomed a new family to our program. J.D., a single mother, and her 5-month old son exemplify the constant struggle that characterizes homelessness. Still, they continue to overcome seemingly incomprehensible problems through support from our caseworkers and their own enduring hope and perseverance.
A 31-year old single mother, J.D., was referred to Community Lodgings from a local homeless shelter. She entered our two-year program with a history of incarceration and substance abuse as well as a hearing disability.
But since her worst days, J.D. has paid her debt to society, maintained sobriety for over two years, and now seeks a new life for her family. She has two children – a 5-month old son that lives with her and a 14-year old daughter living with an aunt in another city.
The family continues to make progress one step at a time. J.D. is currently employed through a temporary staffing agency, working a minimum of 16-20 hours per week while she seeks full-time employment. With the help of Community Lodgings, J.D. enrolled in culinary courses to broaden and strengthen her skill set. She focuses on maintaining sobriety, completing her education and obtaining a GED, and securing full-time employment to provide basic necessities for her children. She is also being treated for bipolar disorder at a local health clinic.
J.D. is determined to make a success of her life.
But she still needs ro concentrate on providing for her family. J.D. receives TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) assistance, food stamps and supplemental security income.
As JD progresses, her caseworker reviews and offers guidance on how to reorganize her financial situation – her budget is based on total monthly income and projected spending. The goal, for both J.D. and for Community Lodgings, is for J.D. to reach independence.
J.D.’s family is one of 13 families currently enrolled in Community Lodgings’ Transitional Housing Program. It is through our program that she and other families strive to meet the ultimate goals of independence and self-sufficiency.
The two-year transitional program helps our families “open doors to independence” by providing an apartment and a support system cultivated by caseworkers, program directors, and community programs. Families sign a two-year commitment contract with Community Lodgings and promise to: stay drug and alcohol free; attend all workshops, meetings and activities as prescribed by our caseworker; and pay a monthly fee based on 30% of her income. Caseworkers provide guidance and opportunities to improve education, employment, finances, health, hou... Read More »
News Brief - Affordable Housing
September 03, 2009
While cruising for news today - noticed three articles from three different states about struggles in affordable housing.
Thought I'd share.
Oregon: City affordable housing plan delayed
California: San Jose transitional housing back open
New York: Turning Stalled Projects Into Moderate-Income Housing
Anyone else seeing recession + housing troubles in the neighborhood? ... Read More »
Meet Rich: Youth Homelessness and Housing
September 01, 2009
Richard HooksWayman - senior policy analyst at the National Alliance to End Homelessness - is the Alliance expert on youth homelessness and housing policy.
Last week, the Youth team launched a Youth Housing page. It's filled with great resources, presentations, and best practices - AND a national Youth Housing Policy Agenda to pursue more housing and resources for youth experiencing homelessness.
For more information about youth homelessness or youth housing, please do not hesitate to contact Rich HooksWayman or Lakesha Pope at the Alliance!... Read More »
A little clarification re: Michael German
September 01, 2009
It seems that there was a bit of a flurry yesterday in response to a Washington Post article profiling Michael German, a long-time employee of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Interagency Council on Homelessness (ICH).
So, responsible community members that we are, we poked around a bit and talked tthe Partnership for Public Service (co-authors of the article in question), as well as the press office at HUD to verify the facts.
Turns out, there's no news to report. Michael German is NOT the new Director of ICH but remains a steadfast and valuable employee.
So we continue to wait for an announcement...... Read More »
Steve Berg on invisibletv!
August 31, 2009
Earlier this morning, Mark Horvath came over to interview Alliance VP Steve Berg on the landscape of homelessness.
In a short conversation (maybe about 15 minutes), the two discuss the recession, housing, and the future of homelessness - both best and worst case scenarios.
If you missed the live broadcast, you can watch it here! Please let me know if you have any reactions, questions or thoughts!
... Read More »
Friday: News Roundup! Veteran's Edition
August 28, 2009
It seems to be that there’s been quite a hullabaloo about veterans and homelessness lately. Has anyone else noticed that?
Just this week, there were two articles about Secretary Shinseki’s commitment to ending veterans homelessness – one from the AP about veteran homelessness in rural areas and one in the Argus Leader as well.
The Secretary’s message has be gaining momentum this month. Since early August, Secretary Shinseki has promised the American Legion that the country “will end vet homelessness.” He discussed homeless veterans issues in Oregon and in his home state of Hawaii. Assistant Secretary Tammy Duckworth also carried a similar message on Fox News this week.
The attention is certainly welcome and warranted. Veterans account for approximately one-quarter of the homeless population, and the group exhibits a high incidence of mental illness, substance abuse, and other behavioral disorders.
We at the Alliance are heartened by the renewed commitment to addressing and ending veteran homelessness – and we wholeheartedly agree that it’s not only a social ill long overdue for transformative action, but one that we can fix as a nation.... Read More »
Ending Homelessness with HPRP: Transforming Homeless Assistance
August 27, 2009
Can homeless assistance be dramatically improved in a time of crisis?
Nine years ago, the Alliance launched A Plan, Not a Dream: How to End Homelessness in Ten Years which charted a course for ending homelessness in the United States. The central idea, grossly simplified, is this:
As a nation, we do a lot to address homelessness—build shelters, distribute food and blankets and the like. What we don’t do is prevent homelessness or help people exit homelessness.
Since then, the Alliance has been working on changing policies and programs to focus more on prevention and re-housing.
Right now, we spend a lot on shelters and other emergency homelessness programs. And any effort to shift to a more prevention and solution-based approach could divert resources away from these existing shelters and programs. It’s a great idea in theory, but one that will take time and patience and there are people that need shelter tonight, and it's pretty cruel to take that away, even if there's a long-term benefit.
So progress has been slow.
And there's a big barrier to making this change – money.
In the spring, Congress passed an economic stimulus bill that included a $1.5 billion Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program (HPRP). One and a half billion isn't a lot compared to the size of the stimulus, but it's a lot for homeless assistance. And what's important is that HPRP will fund rental assistance, housing search assistance, and oth... Read More »
Remembering Ted Kennedy
August 26, 2009
Like so many others today, the Alliance mourns the loss of the esteemed public servant, Senator Ted Kennedy. His leadership, courage, and conviction will undoubtedly ensure his place in our collective memory.
It's fitting that the Alliance first had the opportunity to host Senator Ted Kennedy ten years ago - the same year that the Alliance introduced the Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness. At our 1999 annual conference - The End of Homelessness: Blueprint for New Millennium - the senator joined Mrs. Tipper Gore in addressing the conference of 500 homeless advocates, providers, and community leaders.
The senator had not always been in the plan. In fact, the Alliance had initially invited a staff member (presumably because we figured that the senator had prior engagements) from the senator's office to discuss mental illness among the homeless.
And then luck intervened. Another staff member, who noticed the Alliance invitation and conference materials, thought that the conference would be a fitting venue to debut the senator's new language on mental health. And so, in July 1999, the senator joined the Alliance staff and conference attendees at the Capital Hilton Hotel in Washington, D.C.
Senator Kennedy - the 'lion of the Senate' - spent his entire adult life in service to his country. The Alliance joins the nation in honoring the legacy of the great public servant.... Read More »
Ending Homelessness with HPRP: An Introduction
August 26, 2009
It's an interesting time to be working on ending homelessness.
The economy is terrible and creating havoc for a lot of people. Rising unemployment tends to lead to more homelessness – and this recession has had a lot of unemployment.
At the same time, there are some opportunities to make progress. Congress passed an almost $800 billion economic stimulus bill in the spring: the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. It includes $1.5 billion Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program (HPRP).
This summer, HUD gave HPRP grants to all 50 states and about 500 cities, counties, and territories. The three-year grants ranged from about $500,000 for smaller cities to $74 million for New York City. These local governments will pass on most of their funds to nonprofit organizations to provide several types of financial assistance and services with the goal of preventing homelessness or helping somebody who has become homeless move into an apartment. Here are some examples of what HPRP will be funding:
Up to 18 months of rental assistance, including up to six months of overdue rent;
Up to 18 months of utility assistance;
Moving costs; and
Rental or utility deposits;
Housing search assistance including help finding apartments and negotiating with landlords;
Help applying for and coordinating other services such as employment, child care, etc.
Legal services; and
Credit repair services.
There is strong evidence that when done smartly, these kinds of programs can reduce homelessness. You can see some examples in this n... Read More »
Friday: News Roundup!
August 21, 2009
Okay, so every Friday, I’m going to try to have a news roundup of stories that were particularly interesting, or funny, or insightful, or really really awful (I’m kind of looking forward to writing about the last ones!).Luckily for you, National Public Radio (NPR) and the Associated Press came to your rescue today. Yesterday, the Department of Labor announced that unemployment had reached 9.5 percent – a 26-year high. The Associated Press and NPR reported that industry sectors across the board were hit fairly hard, with the bright spots being in education and medical fields. There’s been a flurry of discussion about the recession and it’s impacts on homelessness: news about foreclosures and middle-class families and rising rates of homelessness across the country (check out the Daily Clips section of our website for a listing of related stories). But more troubling than those sensationalized stories are reports like this one about unemployment. While the recession may come and (hopefully) go, the root causes of homelessness – including a dearth of affordable housing, mental illness, and (yup) unemployment – are steadfast in the face of economic sways. Also in the news today is a story about schizophrenia.Recent genetic studies, according to reporting by NPR have shed some light on the development of schizophrenia.Researchers, long stymied by puzzling disease, tried to find difference in the genes of thousands of people – some had schizophrenia; some didn’t.The researchers found a few interesting... Read More »
We're on Facebook!
August 18, 2009
After holding out - for months! - I've succumbed to the awesome power of Facebook.
As you can see, we're brand new to the site and we need your support! Please use the link below to become a fan of our organization on Facebook, and get updates on new homelessness research, legislation, and Alliance activities!
Thanks all for your continued support!
National Alliance to End Homelessness on Facebook... Read More »
Guest Blog: Homelessness and Health Care
August 17, 2009
Happy Monday, everyone!
We have a GREAT treat today! Maria Foscarinis, of the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty (NLCHP), sent us a piece on her organization's stance on the health care debate and the homelessness.
No doubt you've heard a thing or two about the raging controversy over health care. All the national papers, including the New York Times, the Washington Post and USA Today are a-buzz with recent criticisms, potential changes, and the likelihood that the administration will concede to the hysteria of the general public.
In our little corner of the world, we wonder what the health care debate will mean for the homeless population. We wonder if reform - should reform pass - will make a tangible difference in their lives: will the chronically homeless get the medical attention they need? Will improved coverage curb the number of costly emergency-room visits? Will the poor and very poor be assured health care coverage under federal programs like Medicaid? And since the Post brought it up, what about the families?
Here at the Alliance, we know what we'd like to see. Check out senior policy analyst Peggy Bailey outline the Alliance's goals for improving health care.
And a slightly different perspective from our friends at the NLCHP. Many thanks to Maria Foscarinis and Ashley Shuler at NLCHP for their invaluable help in getting this piece posted today.
Tale of two health crises
By: Maria Foscarinis
Twenty two... Read More »
ADVICE: Podcast Idea - Social Innovation
August 17, 2009
Happy Monday, all!
We here in the research arm of the Alliance are kicking around an idea for a podcast series.
We're thinking about profiling social innovation leaders in the homelessness field. Recipients of social innovation awards, or just organizations and community heavyweights who are leading the charge in looking at homelessness in a new and different way.
Would you guys be interested in something like that?
And would you prefer it live (calling into an audio conference) or would you prefer it taped (posted to our website with maybe some materials)?
Please let me know! I'll hold out for about a week for feedback!
Catherine... Read More »
Ten Things You Need to Know to End Homelessnessc
August 13, 2009
Okay, I'm a little excited! Yesterday, our friends at The Nation published an editorial we wrote for the "Ten Things" series. You can access the article, "Ten Things You Need to Know to End Homelessness," on the Nation website but - if you're feeling lazy - you can just read it below!
Ten Things You Need to Know to End Homelessness
In July 2009, The Nation published a "Ten Things" piece titled "Ten Things You Need to Know to Live on the Streets." The provocative and thoughtful piece elicited quite a response. We, however, respectfully disagree with the premise of the piece. Before submitting to the idea that there are things you need to know to live on the streets, we suggest that you consider whether living on the streets is necessary at all.
We're no strangers to the issue of homelessness--rather, we're quite well-versed in the subject. Homelessness, as we know it, began in the 1980s and has persisted through the decades. Some see it as an inevitable byproduct of a diminishing affordable housing supply, a lack of well-paying jobs, tumult in the economic sector, and both globalization and urbanization. Many see it as an unavoidable social nuisance. Some don't see it at all. But here, at the National Alliance to End Homelessness, we see it as a problem with a solution.
The causes of homelessness are many and complex--but the solution to homelessness heads toward one straight goal: housing.
... Read More »
What to do about tent cities?
August 12, 2009
Meghan, a co-worker of mine (you might remember her from Geography of Homelessness sent me a Wall Street Journal article about tent cities.
I thought I’d share this article because we get this question a lot: Do we support tent cities? What can we do about them? Are there any good ideas/best practices to deal with these communities?
Writer Jennifer Levitz writes about cities’ responses to the ever-rising number of tent cities. According to Levitz, some are not only allowing tent cities to form and persist, but are furnishing these makeshift areas with portable toilets, security, and social services. Nashville, TN is one such city.
In fact, Levitz writes that even cities that had previously had ordinances against tent cities or sleeping in cars are changing their mind. City officials in Lacey, WA allowed a tent city in the parking lot of church; the city council in Ventura, CA revised a law allowing people to sleep in their cars overnight.
But this doesn’t mean that all cities are hopping on this bandwagon.
New York – with its ever-precarious relationship with homeless people – is staying steadfast. New York City recently shut down a tent city in Harlem, the article notes.
Here at the Alliance, we know what the landscape looks like – and we know that between the recession and state budget cuts, resources are scarcer and scarcer as need rises higher and higher.
It seems that any way you slice it – ... Read More »
News Brief - New York Times
August 11, 2009
It's not yet time for a weekly news wrap-up, but some friends of ours at the Homeless Coordination Office in Arizona put a couple of noteworthy newsbits under my nose.
The first is an article in the New York Times about hate crimes legislation. You know as well as I do that Maryland recently enacted a law making an offense against a homeless people a hate crime. This article suggests that other states are considering the same ordinance, as the number of crimes against homeless people rise.
According to the article, our friends at the National Coalition for the Homeless are publishing a report stating that crimes against the homeless are rising as of late. Causes are varied, but the writer points out that the recession, rising unemployment, and foreclosure are pushing more people into poverty and at the same time, law enforcement is cracking down on encampments and other places homeless people might be.
In related news - and another New York Times article - Barbara Ehrenreich writes that it's now practically a crime to be homeless. The op-ed contributor and author writes that there has been a signficant uptick in states, localities, and law enforcement criminalizing the poor. In heavy-handed language (in my opinion), Ehrenreich points to different ordinances and law that prohibit begging, sleeping in public, truancy, and littering - all, she suggests, discreetly targeting those most vulnerable.
The article is the third in a series chronicling... Read More »
Guest Blog: Poverty in Chicago
August 11, 2009
Afternoon, everyone! Apologies for the break in info - had some family in town and they required by strict attention (and tourist-guiding techniques).
No worries, though, we're back on the horse now!
A few pieces of business to wrap up:
Pictures from the Conference (172 of them!) are up on our Flickr account. Check it out and see if we snapped you up!
We didn't have a Friday news roundup, but I did notice this morning that there are a LOT of stories about the recession, a decline in services just as there's increased demand, and - as always - trickling stories about HPRP funds. Keep an eye on those daily clips to stay on top of the news.
We'd love to hear from you! Tell us what you want more information about - shoot us a comment, follow us on Twitter (@naehomelessness) or shoot me an email with an idea, request, whatever. This is all about you - really! (For me, it's just an exercise in writing concisely.)
Last week, I got an email from a woman at The Documentary Channel. They've created a piece on homelessness in Chicago, specifically looking at the role of addiction in homelessness. A spokesperson wrote to us, "Chicago filmmaker Brian Schodorf takes a raw and real look at the men behind the statistics with poignant testimonies from the streets and expert interviews inside elite university offices."
It's a long one - trust me, you'll... Read More »
Grant Opportunities from our Development Team
August 05, 2009
It's pretty crazy. Just now, I'm typing up some of the usability results from the Alliance's Annual Conference on Ending Homelessness, and I'm remembering that a handful of users suggested that we share fundraising ideas on our website.
And then, I get this email from our Development Director, Beth Roche: Here are some new grant opportunities that do not seem to be a good fit for the Alliance, but that I thought some folks might be interested in knowing more about to pass along to other nonprofits and colleagues.
Well, Beth! I'm sure there are some people who might be interested! Here you go, folks:
The 14th Annual MetLife Awards for Excellence in Affordable Housing is open for entries. Enterprise Community Partners and the MetLife Foundation have focused this year's competition on best practices in the area of affordable independent senior living and environmentally responsive housing.
A program of Civic Ventures, the Purpose Prize annually provides five awards of $100,000 each to people over 60 who are working to address society's biggest challenges.
The SEVEN (Social Equity Venture) Fund, a nonprofit organization that works to promote enterprise-based solutions to poverty, has published its second annual open Enterprise-based Solutions to Poverty Request for Proposals. The fund's Request for Proposals is limited to research in economics, government policy, and business strategy, insofar as the research bears directly on questions in enterprise-based solutions to poverty.
Best of luck if you choose to pursue these funding... Read More »
Five Things I Learned at the Annual Conference
August 03, 2009
It's August 3, 2009 - the Monday after the National Conference on Ending Homelessness in Washington, D.C. The staff is back, almost recharged (Mondays are hard), and going over the last few days.
Here's how it broke down:
1200+ participants from across the country;
Almost 250 speakers sharing about housing strategies, best practices, and the newest data;
62 workshops about matters ranging from housing, federal policy, best practices, and communications;
Six remarkable keynote speakers, including HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan, White House Director of Urban Affairs Policy Adolfo Carrion, Jr., Senator Jack Reed, and a very boisterous account from Congressman Al Green.
This was my first conference - and I was overwhelmed with the response of the attendees. I learned a lot, but highlights included:
1. There are a LOT of us!
The fervor and passion and drive of service providers, policymakers, and advocates from far and wide was a moving testament to the goodwill that still exists in all of us - even in these trying economic times. More than once I heard of organizations "breaking the bank" so that their partners could benefit from our conference. We're very touched - and much obliged.
2. We're making some noise.
This was my first opportunity to see the new HUD Secretary live and in-person, and his carefully thought-out address may not have alleviated all my worries - but it did let me know that the federal government hasn't turned a deaf ear to those most in need.... Read More »
Annual Conference - Sen. Jack Reed!
July 31, 2009
I'm sitting here, listening to what is NO DOUBT a standing ovation given to Sen. Jack Reed who just gave an address to at the final plenary session at the Conference.
The senator - a longtime homeless advocate and champion of highly successful legislation to prevent and end homelessness - touched upon a number of different topics, including the ramifications of the HEARTH Act and the inexcusable tragedy of veteran homelessness.
"We have a lot of work to do," said the senator.
He's already started, it seems. Yesterday, the senator announced, he introduced the Zero Tolerance for Homeless Veterans - in an effort to do just that: end veteran homelessness.
Whew! Guess you never know what'll happen!... Read More »