Ending Homelessness Today
The official blog of the National Alliance to End Homelessness
Friday News Roundup: a farewell, vets, and the cost-effectiveness of Housing FIrst
June 04, 2010
This is my last Friday news roundup at the Alliance. I've been really inspired by all the fantastic work that's happening, both locally and at the federal level, and I'm so glad I got to help spread the word. Hearing stories from community across the country has made me believe that ending homelessness really is possible. Catherine's back at the helm of the About Homelessness blog and soon she'll be joined by a NEW new media intern. Thanks for reading!Memorial Day brought some attention to veterans experiencing homelessness. An in-depth piece from the Arizona Star takes a look at the divide between the VA's plan to end homelessness within 5 years and the attitudes of some vets who are chronically homeless. Change.org's Poverty in America blog features Swords and Plowshares, a facility that combines housing and services to get former soldiers back on their feet. The Corporation for Supportive Housing's Deborah DeSantis shares a recent report that shows there are three times more mentally ill people in jail than in hospitals. The solution is not only humane, but cost-effective: Permanent Supportive Housing.Speaking of cost-effectiveness, the Providence Journal discussed the benefits of the Housing First model by telling the story of Bill Victoria, who was homeless for 30 years before finally finding stable housing: "I thought I'd be homeless forever," he says.Not so. About the Housing First approach, Eric Hirsch, a sociology professor at Providence College, says:It’s definitely cost-effective, especially for people who have been homeless for a long time. This is how you end homelessness.... Read More »
Make your voice heard on the Hill
June 03, 2010
So you’re joining hundreds of advocates, policymakers, and service providers from across the country, heading to DC for our National Conference on Ending Homelessness. You’re excited to learn about everything from creating a rapid re-housing system to accessing mainstream services, from the latest in federal policy to employment strategies for your clients.That’s not all: you also have the opportunity to make your voice heard in Congress. Conference participants are invited to participate in our annual Hill Day, where you'll educate members of Congress about homelessness in your community and encourage them to take action to end homelessness.We know what works in the fight against homelessness, and as constituents, we need to tell Congress is that we have proven strategies. With our experiences and strategies in hand, we can share our policy priorities with our Congressional Representatives:Provide $2.4 billion in FY 2011 for HUD’s Homeless Assistance Grants Program.Fund 200,000 new Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers in FY 2011, including 10,000 new HUD-VA Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) vouchers, and 10,000 vouchers for the Administration’s proposed Housing and Services for Homeless Persons Demonstration.Provide $120 million for SAMHSA Homeless Services Programs in FY 2011, including $15.8 million for the Administration’s proposed Housing and Services Demonstration.Provide $165 million in FY 2011 for Runaway and Homeless Youth Programs, with the full $50 million increase targeted at the Transitional Living Program.Pass the Zero Tolerance for Veterans Homelessness Act (S. 1547).YOU are the most effective advocate for your community and it’s im... Read More »
Making Progress with HPRP - Second Quarterly Leadership Council Report
June 02, 2010
The Homelessness Research Institute (HRI) recently released the second installment of the Quarterly Leadership Council HPRP Report.To recap: HRI is tracking the use of federal stimulus-funded Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing funds (HPRP). The objective of the project is to determine how cities are using this new funding source and how effective communities are at turning dollars into real, measurable improvement.In the first quarterly report, we saw that:Family homelessness was up slightly (6 percent) in the 11 reporting communitiesCollectively, the 11 reporting communities spent approximately $10.4 million on HPRP financial assistance and housing relocation – this is just over 6 percent of their total grant allocation.Collectively, there is slight emphasis on prevention over rapid re-housing with wide variation among communities. San Francisco, Chicago, and Seattle heavily emphasize prevention while Columbus and Denver focus on rapid re-housing.To date, about 7 percent of households projected to be served by prevention programs had been served by December 2009. That number rises to 8 percent for households projected to be served by rapid re-housing programs for the same timeframe. Of the communities, New York has served notably more.Collectively, the 11 reporting communities saved/created approximately 505 full-time jobs my December 2009 with HPRP funds.For the 2-page report – as well as a list of all participating communities – please find the report online.Now on to the second.In the second report, we included two cities not originally in the first: New Orleans, LA and Washington, D.C.There were a coupl... Read More »
A Peek Inside Fairfax, VA
June 01, 2010
Last week there was a blog post in the Washington Post about Fairfax County, VA and the great work they’re doing using HPRP funds to prevent homelessness. To date, over 600 people have evaded homelessness in Fairfax.The success in Fairfax County prompted some curiosity and excitement about the work being done there. As a member of the Capacity Building Center at the Alliance, I’ve worked in Fairfax County to support their community leaders’ efforts to achieve this great success. For the last 18 months, the Alliance has worked to help the County transform their homeless assistance system into a Housing First/Rapid Re-housing model that focuses on housing-oriented strategies. Fairfax County covers 395 square miles and has a population of over one million residents. With an Annual Median Income (AMI) of over $100,000, you might think that homelessness wouldn’t be a huge issue for the county – but high rental prices and low vacancy rates make the house-hunt hard for low-income families.At the last point-in-time count, conducted on January 27, 2010, there were 1,544 people experiencing homelessness. Luckily, the County’s taking action. In 2007, the County approved the proposed Ten Year Plan to end homelessness; an implementation plan was completed in March 2008. The plan called for the creation of the Office to Prevent and End Homelessness and has since formed a Governing Board responsible for overseeing the progress towards the goal of ending homelessness by the end of 2018. Ten task groups of dedicated stakeholder... Read More »
The Tax Extenders bill passes the House!
May 28, 2010
Hey, big news! Today, the House passed the Tax Extenders bill (after their hiccup yesterday). As a reminder, the bill capitalizes the National Housing Trust Fund (NHTF) and extends the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Emergency Contingency Fund (ECF). The bill now heads to the Senate, and we need your Senators to vote for the legislation, H.R. 4213.WHAT YOU CAN DO:Call the housing staffer in your Senators' offices next week. Congressional office phone numbers can be found by calling the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121.Urge them to continue their support for preventing and ending homelessness in your community by voting YES on H.R. 4213.Call your Representatives and thank them for passing H.R. 4213. The list of who voted for the bill will available here shortly.Needless to say, none of this progress can happen without your voice and support. Thank you so much! for your efforts to sway your members – and don’t stop now!For more information about the Tax Extenders bill, check out our blogpost about the legislation or see our Advocacy Updates.... Read More »
Friday News Roundup: 3 powerful arguments for permanent supportive housing
May 28, 2010
Start your Memorial Day weekend by reading "Honoring our veterans can begin with housing." Here, the Corporation for Supportive Housing's Deborah De Santis not only reminds us how important it is to end homelessness among veterans, but she also reminds us that we know how to do it:The Department of Veterans Affairs and the Congressional Committees that authorize its programs should immediately consider how they can better utilize Housing First to move chronically homeless veterans off the streets, out of the shelters and into permanent supportive housing...Creating permanent supportive housing for veterans, utilizing Housing First and other models, is not only the smart thing to do, it's the right thing to do. For more on veterans' homeless, listen to Housing our vets on Where we live. Speaking of permanent supportive housing, check out "Shelter's the fool’s gold in the pursuit to end homelessness", a piece in Street Roots by Heather Lyons. In response to the announcement that Portland is planning to open a 100-bed shelter, she makes a pretty airtight argument for housing over shelter:I just read that the city is providing 100 new shelter beds for individuals as part of “a campaign to strategically reduce the number of homeless people in Portland.” That’s like opening two new emergency departments because cancer is on the rise. Like emergency departments, shelters serve a very important purpose, but they do not end homelessness for very many people, unless they ar... Read More »
RE: the Tax Extenders Bill
May 27, 2010
As many of our advocates know, the Alliance has long supported the capitalization of the National Housing Trust Fund (NHTF). This fund – intended to support the creation, preservation, and rehabilitation of affordable housing – was created in July 2008 when Congress passed the Housing and Economic Recovery Act. But Congress has yet to allocate any resources – read: funds – to the NHTF. After two years of requesting capitalization, supporters of the NHTF are closer than ever. As we’ve blogged about before, Congress is currently considering H.R. 4213, known as the “Tax Extenders” bill, which include $1 billion to capitalize the NHTF. (The bill also extends the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Emergency Contingency Fund (ECF) – another important resource for vulnerable families. Find out more about the Tax Extenders bill by reading our Advocacy Updates.)The bill was originally slated for the House floor this week, but spending concerns delayed action. The legislation was sent to the House Rules Committee last night, where an amendment further complicated the already dense bill, according to The Hill. Advocates are still hopeful that the bill may pass this week.... Read More »
The Implications of HUD’s Five-Year Strategic Plan
May 26, 2010
The Department of Housing and Urban Development just released its Strategic Plan for 2010 to 2015. The most important aspect of this strategic plan is what it says about the thinking of HUD current leadership and what it communicates to HUD staff and partners – namely, a shift towards housing-oriented, integrated solutions to end homelessness.First of all, the plan signals an extremely important change in approach for the whole department. Homelessness a high priority goal for its mainstream programs, particularly the Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers program. This is critical because it will be nearly impossible to end homelessness if our only resource is targeted homeless assistance funding, like the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants. Another interesting part of the plan is the heavy focus on combining housing and services, which is described as one of HUD’s signature initiatives. This includes the Housing and Services for Homeless Persons Demonstration that we’ve blogged about before. If HUD sticks to this message in the coming years, it would dramatically improve our efforts to end homelessness. Here are some more specific:HUD has five goals, and they’re not much different than in the last Strategic Plan. They include: Strengthen the Nation's Housing Market To Bolster the Economy and Protect ConsumersMeet the Need for Quality Affordable Rental HomesUtilize Housing as a Platform for Improving Quality of LifeBuild Inclusive and Sustainable Communities Free From DiscriminationTransform the Way HUD Does Business Within each goal are several sub-goals, and one... Read More »
A Transforming Time: Rapid Re-Housing in Salt Lake City
May 25, 2010
Today's guest blog post is from our partners at the Road Home in Salt Lake City. Thanks to Donor Coordinator Jacqueline Jensen for contributing! It is a transforming time for our agency and the services we provide. After many years without the tools to really help families end homelessness, we are finally seeing the resources needed to end homelessness. (The Road Home in Salt Lake City -operating the largest homeless shelter in Utah as well as an extensive transitional and permanent housing program.) The Road Home has recently partnered with the State of Utah, Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County to utilize federal stimulus dollars to rapidly re-house families.With the flexibility allowed by the funds, our Rapid Re-Housing program is designed to give families a jump start. Funding allows payments for utility debts, deposits and rental assistance as well as a strong case management component. We have seen that once in housing, families rarely need to return to emergency shelter ever again. The Road Home recently assisted a young single mother who had been living in the family winter shelter facility. She was able to move out with the assistance of the Rapid Rehousing Program. She and her three children found a nice apartment in West Valley City. Soon after moving, the mother found a job at a grocery store. Recently, she was promoted to be a manager there and has increased her income enough to afford her... Read More »
Las Vegas: Lights, Glitz, and Public Policy
May 24, 2010
Today's guest post is from Policy Associate Anthony Stasi. You might assume that people experiencing homelessness in Las Vegas and the surrounding areas are former gamblers, drifters from California, or people that were hit hard by the foreclosure crisis. But according to Continuum of Care Coordinator Michele Fuller-Hallauer, many of the homeless in this region are mentally ill, and require regular intake of medication. Last week I visited the Southern Nevada Regional Planning Coalition’s Committee on Homelessness, where I met Fuller-Hallauer, Shannon West, and Catherine Huang Hara, who are part of a small group that oversees homeless policy in this area. The Southern Nevada Regional Planning Coalition works with several other organizations and committees in an effective team that has seen results: street homelessness has decreased 16.4%.They’ve also seen family homelessness drop: in 2008, there were 933 homeless households with children. In 2009 that number dropped to 346 homeless households with children. This is a reduction of 587 households or a 63 percent reduction in family homelessness.Still, the overall figure of homelessness in Las Vegas has climbed 16.8 percent. The increase in the overall number of homeless comes from their increase in people that are utilizing transitional housing programs. They have experienced a great deal of success in moving people to permanent housing, but – in cases of those who are mentally ill and unable to make rational choices – they cannot move them into permanent housing as easily. They do a great job in what is a ve... Read More »
Friday News Roundup: Welcome new Alliance staff!
May 21, 2010
We're welcoming two new staff members at the Alliance this week: Kim Walker is our new Capacity Building Associate and Kate Seif is our new Assistant to the President. We're excited to have their experience and enthusiasm in our office!We had a visit this week from Sarah, John and James, three intrepid college students from North Carolina who are biking across the country to research Housing First initiatives and raise money for housing in their own community. We'll be following them on their blog - and you should too. We're still waiting on the Federal Plan to End Homelessness, but in the meantime, check out the Homeless Law blog's post "Five Reasons I'm Looking Forward to the Federal Plan.The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities sets the record straight about the Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF) Emergency Contingency Fund, in response to claims on the YouCut website. (Pssst: The Emergency Contingency Fund is part of HR 4123, which is being discussed in the House today. if you haven't called your Members of Congress about HR4123, do it now!)We've mentioned Street Roots' photo project, where they asked their vendors what matters most and this week, they posted this cool word cloud. What jumps out at you? Love this editorial in the Salt Lake Tribune about how to end homelessness. They're speaking our language:How do you eliminate chronic homelessness? The problem seems so complex that the obvious solution... Read More »
The political commitment to ending veterans homelessness
May 21, 2010
Today, our Vice President of Programs and Policy Steve Berg went up to the Hill to attend a joint hearing including the Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and the Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development. The joint hearing examined the nation’s progress in ending veterans homelessness.
Currently, there are about 131,000 veterans experiencing homelessness in the United States, representing about one-fifth of the entire homeless population on any given night. Veterans often experience homeless as a result of post-war distress, including emotional or physical trauma which can manifest in diseases, including substance abuse and addiction.
In our last Veterans Update, we presented the challenges to women veterans as a new emerging component of this issue. As women continue to make up a greater percentage of the armed forces, we take greater note of their particular vulnerability to and experience with homelessness. There is also a growing body of evidence that indicates that female veterans have a higher risk of homelessness as compared to their male counterparts – some speculate that this may have to do with a greater incidence of sever housing cost burden, lower incomes, higher rates of post-traumatic stress disorder, among others contributors.
In recent months, both Secretary Shinseki of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and President Obama have come out strongly with intentions to reduce and end veterans homelessness in the United States. Secretary Shinseki has publicly announced the VA’s intent to end v... Read More »
Call Congress today: Fund the National Housing Trust Fund!
May 20, 2010
It's time to act! Homelessness is complicated, but in the end, we believe that people are homeless because they can't find housing they can afford. Today, there is something YOU can do about it.The National Housing Trust Fund aims create 1.5 million units of affordable housing within ten years - and tomorrow, the House will debate H.R. 4213, which would fund NHTF with $1 billion. With your help, the bill will move on to the Senate next week. (H.R. 4213 also includes funding for a variety of programs that low-income Americans need, including the TANF Emergency Contingency Fund. More info is available here).Here's what you can do:1. Call the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121.2. Ask for your Congressional Representative. If you're not sure who that is, you can find out here.3. Ask for the staffer who works on housing.4. Urge them to continue their support for preventing and ending homelessness in your community by voting YES on H.R. 4213. Here's what you can say:I am deeply concerned about homelessness in my community, but I know the way to end homelessness is to house people. I'm calling to ask you to fund the National Housing Trust Fund.The National Housing Trust Fund is critical for efforts to prevent and end homelessness. The majority of the people who enter the homeless system have experienced some sort of crisis that causes them to lose their housing. At least 75% of NHT... Read More »
Doubling Up: Examining the recession, homelessness, and economic indicators
May 19, 2010
How many people are homeless due to the recession? We're not sure yet. Homelessness is what we call a "lagging indicator" of a poor economy, so we still have yet to see the full impact of the economic recession on homelessness.
But that doesn’t mean the recession hasn’t had – or won’t have - an impact on homelessness. Today, the Homeless Research Institute's launches our Economy Bytes series, in which we investigate economic indicators that are associated with homelessness. The first in this series investigates doubled-up situations.
Our research shows that 5 percent more people lived in doubled up situations in 2008 than in 2005; in particular, we've seen a growing share of doubled up families.
Wait, so what's doubled up? Doubling up means that an individual or family lives with extended family, friends, and other non-relatives due to economic hardship. In this case, we define economic hardship as earning no more than 125 percent of the federal poverty level.
Not all doubled up people or families will become homeless but for many, it's a precursor. Of those people who weren't homeless before staying at a shelter, 46 percent spent the previous night at the home of a friend or family member, according to the 2008 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress (AHAR).
But why do people double up? In short, people double up because they can't afford housing. They have had to choose between basic necessities like food, health care, clothing and housing, and peo... Read More »
Ending Family Homelessness: Learning from Massachusetts
May 19, 2010
We tweeted it our and we posted it on our Wall and now we’re ready to chat about it further.
As you already know, we found a paper called “Reducing Family Homelessness in Massachusetts.”
Noted homelessness scholar – and co-chairman of our Research Council - Dr. Dennis Culhane was commissioned to investigate ways to improve the Emergency Assistance program in Massachusetts. The goal was the identify ways to more effectively and efficiently help families experiencing or at-risk of experiencing homelessness - without investing more budget resources in the program.
And you know what? Dr. Culhane and his research assistant Thomas Byrne managed to do just that. The pair recommended two primary ways to improve the performance of the Emergency Assistance program:
1. Increase flexibility in both eligibility and levels of service based on individual need.
2. Focus on reducing the time families spend in emergency shelter, by requiring a shelter exit and self-sufficiency plan as a condition of receiving services.
Dr. Culhane and Byrne also prescribed a number of shifts in thinking and practice to help guide the work and efficiency of the EA system.
What's interesting about Massachusetts is that the state is already making considerable headway towards ending homelessness - and is doing so in a comprehensive way. As the writers point out in their paper, Gov. Deval Patrick's Special Commission Relative to Ending Homelessness has already developed a plan to end homelessness in the state, and a special interagency commiss... Read More »
Are you out there?? Help us find you…online!
May 17, 2010
You’ve been asked before – and no doubt you’ll be asked again. Yes, the Alliance is asking you to participate in an online survey. (We’ve gone to great lengths to try and ensure it’s as quick and painless as possible – I promise.)Here’s the thing: like all nonprofits navigating our way through an increasingly social, online world, we’re trying to figure out where you’re finding us online – and then move in that direction. Like I mentioned in last week’s post about social media in the homeless assistance field, we’ve been trying to make the best use of these great new online tools. Our own personal social media journey has been a pretty rewarding one. We launched social networks in June 2009 and with our one-year anniversary around the corner and a slowly-but-surely-growing audience of supporters, friends, and colleagues, we want to make sure that we’re meeting your needs and expectations. What do you want to hear from us? What do you find most helpful, least helpful? Where do you connect with us – and what forum is most useful for you? Where do you see the Alliance in the homeless assistance field? How do we fit into your efforts?These are all important questions – questions that will undoubtedly inform the way we do our work. And only you can help us find the answers. So please, take a moment to fill out our social media survey. It shoul... Read More »
Friday News Roundup: 10 great blogs about homelessness
May 14, 2010
As Catherine pointed out yesterday, many in the homelessness field have been slow to embrace using social media tools. As the New Media Intern at the Alliance, this hesitance has sometimes created challenges, but it has also made for some happy surprises.As I've explored the social media landscape, I've been impressed and inspired over and over again by the homelessness blogosphere. Advocates, policy organizations, service providers and concerned citizens are using this new medium to share stories and information, to engage supporters and investigate new ideas. So straight from my Google Reader, here's homelessness in headlines this week - from the blogopshere:1) Just this week I started reading the Housing for Families blog out of Massachusetts and Healthcare for the Homeless: both are super useful and informative. 2) for those who can't afford free speech, the blog of Portland's street newspaper Street Roots, consistently shares a wide variety of great content. This past week, they published an interview with Liesl Wendt, CEO of 211info in the Portland area. It serves as a handy introduction to 211 services, as well as the recession's impact on the people of Portland.3) The Homelessness Law blog is thoughtful and timely. This week, National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty Human Rights Program Director Eric Tars shared a success story from Salt Lake City. 4) Unity of Greater New Orleans' Signs of Life. I've said it before and I'll say it again: read it!5) Inforumusa is updated... Read More »
What's the deal with social media in the homeless assistance field?
May 13, 2010
One of my responsibilities at the Alliance is to manage our social networks, and in the era of furious blogging and even more frenetic tweeting, it can get chaotic. Often times, I find the need to stop, take a breath, and evaluate exactly how all this social media frenzy contributes to the Alliance’s goals and mission.Which isn’t to say I don’t see the value in the mediums. I’m the lucky product of a world full of information technology and social media tools. I grew up with high-speed internet at my fingertips and an iPod on my hip; I was an early adopter of Facebook and yes, I have my very own Twitter account. And while I would hardly call myself a pusher or an expert, I do truly believe in the potential of social media tools to cultivate change, progress, and conversation.It's is why I’m so excited to be doing it in this field. While nonprofits are often slightly behind the curve to pick up new technologies, it’s been my personal experience that my own field has been particularly slow to adopt new media platforms. At this years Nonprofit Technology Conference (NTC), I found a small cohort of colleagues in the homeless assistance and housing field to swap stories with – and a major theme of those stories is our missing presence among nonprofits utilizing these new tools.And many of us are.At NTC, I too... Read More »
What you should know about the Runaway Homeless Youth Act
May 12, 2010
Maybe you read in USA Today that the number of calls to the National Runaway Switchboard doubled in 2009. Maybe you've heard that running away from home puts young people at risk of violence, crime, prostitution, drugs and health problems. Maybe you're an outreach worker who hears these stories every day. If, for these or any other reasons, you're concerned about youth homelessness, you should know about the Runaway Homeless Youth Act (RHYA). Along with the Education for Homeless Children and Youth (EHCY) Act, RHYA is one of two federal programs aimed at helping homeless youth.There are 3 main RHYA programs:The Basic Center Program, which helps meet immediate needs of runaway and homeless youth and their families including providing emergency shelter, reunification when possible, food, clothing, counseling, and access to health care;The Transitional Living Program, which provides funding long-term residential services to homeless youth ages 16 to 21 for up to 18 months;The Street Outreach Program, which funds outreach efforts designed to move youth off the streets.Particularly in these tough economic times, these programs are crucial. Not only do they prevent victimization on the streets, but they are more cost-effective than foster care or a correctional facility. And still, current programs do not meet the need: in 2009, RHYA programs served less than 41,000 with shelter services and less than 4,000 received transitional housing. Over 7,500 youth were turned away and denied shelter and housing.We at the Alliance are now looking to Congress... Read More »
McKinney-Vento Advocates Speak Out: Q&A with Leah Bradley
May 11, 2010
As we've talked about the McKinney-Vento Appropriations Campaign on this blog, we've often mentioned the impact that that federal funding has on homeless assistance in your community. Today's blog post is from Leah Bradley, Director of Housing and Program Development at Community Health Link, and one of the winners of our 2010 Letter Writing Contest. She knows first-hand how crucial McKinney-Vento funding is for Worcester, and along with our advocacy team, she traveled to Washington DC to tell her members of Congress.Why is it important for your community to fund McKinney-Vento Homelessness Assistance programs at $2.4 billion? Can you give an example of a program that might be affected? The McKinney Vento- Homeless Assistance programs have been the primary programs in our community to reduce chronic homelessness. According to our 2010 Point In Time survey, chronic homelessness in the City of Worcester was reduced by 38% from 2009 to 2010. The majority of those were housed in McKinney-funded permanent supportive housing. In addition, our community has used HPRP funds to transform our emergency shelter system to a rapid re-housing system. The components of this are a triage system where anyone seeking emergency shelter must see a triage worker first. No one is denied shelter; however, through this system we have been able to divert 67.4% (622 out of 923) of those seeking shelter from staying at the shelter. In order to maintain this new system and house those individuals who become chronically homeless over the next year, we... Read More »