Ending Homelessness Today — Advocacy and Action Alerts
Friday News Roundup: Poverty, housing, and photos
September 17, 2010
Welcome to the Friday news roundup!
So headlining the news this week (or at least yesterday) are the poverty numbers. No surprises: poverty, uninsured, up in 2009.
The nation's official poverty rate in 2009 was 14.3 percent, up from 13.2 percent in 2008. The number of people without health insurance coverage rose from 46.3 million in 2008 to 50.7 million in 2009, or an increase from 15.4 percent to 16.7 percent of the total population. You can check out the full report on the census website.
What’s that mean? Well, from our perspective, it means that there are more people at risk of experiencing homelessness. If you remember our brief on ”sustainable cost burden”, you know that more than half of poor families spend more than half their monthly income for housing (this is often termed “severe housing cost burden.”) You might also remember that severe housing cost burden is up among individuals and families doubled up.
With need so high, this is exactly the wrong time to be rising the elimination of TANF ECF. This job-creating service to the most vulnerable families is in danger of expiring at the end of the month. We’ve written about it before and there are daily stories cropping up the program’s importance. It seems that the program may be seeing rays of hope - but that doesn’t mean you should rest on your laurels. If you haven’t already (and you better have!) call your senator today.
An interesting report shows that housing problems have become the primary subject of employee-assistance calls. According to reporting from USA Today, child care had long reigned as the subject of employee assistance calls but – staring January 2010 – housing became the primary concern.
And of course, the biggest news of the week is the ending of our photo contest! Submissions are due no later than midnight today. So get in those photos! For inspiration, check out the submissions we’ve received so far in our Flickr album.... Read More »
Webinar Launch of Youth Campaign
September 01, 2010
Calling all youth advocates! We need your help! On September 15, the Alliance will be launching a year-long youth advocacy campaign aimed to educate and raise awareness about youth homelessness. The campaign will include a major push this fall for congressional members to visit local runaway and homeless youth programs across the country, in addition a big focus next spring on urging Congress to increase funding for the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act.
The site visit campaign will be launched on September 15 at 2 p.m. ET with a webinar on how to hold an effective site visit. The webinar will be a training tool for both new and old advocates, including tips for how to get congressional members to accept site visit invitations and how to use site visits to initiate lasting relationships with congressional members. Site visits are useful for both Members of Congress and local providers. They allow local advocates an opportunity to begin a long-term relationship with their congressional offices, in addition to helping Members to see first-hand how their actions in Washington impact local programs in their districts. Click here to register for the webinar.
The Alliance will work with interested advocates across the country to choose congressional targets and invite them to visit local programs. The Alliance will also help communities to plan an agenda for their site visits and otherwise make the most out of the visits to strengthen their relationships with their Members of ... 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 »
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 »
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 »
Act NOW: House May Cut Veterans Housing Assistance Program Today
July 29, 2010
The saga of the congressional appropriations continues – but today, we’re talking about something other than the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Programs.
You may remember that we’ve talked about congressional appropriations at length – the most recent post was about the surprising move by the House Appropriations Committee to allocate $2.2 billion to the McKinney-Vento programs – even more than was requested by President Obama or recommended by the HouseT-HUD subcommittee.
But today – there’s a really serious bump in the road.
Today, the House is expected to vote on H.R. 5850, the fiscal year (FY) 2011 Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development (T-HUD) Appropriations Bill – the same bill we’ve been concerned about for all these months. The bill includes a number of provisions to help people experiencing homelessness, including that $2.2 billion for McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance programs we’ve been crowing about.
But danger lurked around a different corner. Now, funding for the HUD - Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) program is in danger of being eliminated.
It’s called Amendment #106 and it cuts a number of programs – HUD-VASH being of particular importance.
Because HUD-VASH houses homeless veterans by coupling rent assistance from HUD and medical treatment + case management from the VA. This program has shown to be effective at keeping even the most vulnerable veterans housed and safe.
The House Appropriations Committee included $75 million for 10,000 additional HUD-VASH vouchers in H.R. 5850 but four congressmen have filed Amendment #106, which would eliminate this funding.
They say it’s because H... Read More »
Three Cheers to You!!
July 21, 2010
Update: This morning, the Senate T-HUD subcommittee ultimately agreed with President Obama’s FY 2011 budget proposal and recommended $2.055 billion for McKinney-Vento programs. Stay tuned for more!
This morning, we made a big hullaballoo about the House Appropriations Committee’s decision to allocate $2.2 billion to McKinney-Vento programs. Departing from long-standing tradition, the House Appropriations Committee decided to increase funding levels to $2.2 billion - $145 million more than proposed by both the House T-HUD subcommittee and President Obama.
While the federal budget process could hardly be described as riveting, this particular action is truly unique. Rarely do the Appropriations Committees on either the Senate or House side depart from the recommendations of their subcommittees. And – of all the programs and initiatives and projects the Appropriations Committee considered (and there are a lot - members decided to give just the McKinney-Vento programs an extra monetary boost.
What does this mean? If nothing else, it means they’re paying attention – to YOU.
The Alliance has a small but mighty advocacy force – an elite group of superadvocates who work with our mobilization team to engage in year-long, ongoing, regular campaigns to inform, educate, and persuade federal lawmakers. It’s not glamorous – and it’s not always easy – but calls, emails, in-person visits, and persistence is what it takes to make changes like the one we saw today in the House Appropriations Committee.
And it’s not just action – it’s informed action. The Alliance arms our friends and colleagues wi... Read More »
McKinney-Vento Appropriations: Understanding the Process
July 21, 2010
A special blogpost today because the House Appropriations Committee proposed bumping the FY 2011 McKinney-Vento budget from $2.055 to $2.2 billion!
If that first sentence made no sense to you, you're not alone. But we're hoping this post helps you wrap your mind around the federal budget process.
We've written about fiscal year 2011 (FY 2011) funding a few times now on this blog - usually asking YOU to contact your members of Congress to ensure that homeless assistance programs (McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants primary among them) receive adequate funding.
And we've been asking you to do that because RIGHT NOW - right this very moment - Congress is making decisions about the federal budget.
From February (when the President releases a proposed budget) to whenever-Congress-gets-around-to-deciding, the House and the Senate meet in their committees and subcommittees to decide how much money should go into federal programs, agencies, and departments.
And as you can imagine, this is no small task. President Obama's proposed FY 2011 is $3.8 trillion dollars - you try deciding how that money should be spent! For their part, Members consider a wide breadth of factors, including the President's proposed budget, their own legislative priorities, issues of interest to home districts and constituents, national concerns (like the economy!), and a wealth of other things.
So it basically goes down like this:
Subcommittees (12, to be precise) review portions of the bill pertinent to them. In our case, the House and Senate Transportation - Housing and... Read More »
House T-HUD Numbers Out!
July 01, 2010
This morning, the House Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development (T-HUD) Appropriations Subcommittee marked up its fiscal year (FY) 2011 spending bill. (This is the subcommittee - along with its Senate counterpart - that governs the HUD budget.)
Although all of the details of the bill are not yet available, the legislation includes:
$2.055 billion for the HUD McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants (the amount requested by the Administration and a 10 percent increase over FY 2010);
$75 million for HUD-VA Supportive Housing (VASH) vouchers;
$85 million for a Housing and Services for Homeless Persons Demonstration; and
$350 million for the Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA) program (a $15 million increase over FY 2010).
Given the current budget climate and the emphasis on keeping the deficit down, we are delighted that the House has provided increased resources for each of these programs. In fact, if passed by Congress, this would be the largest one-year increase for the McKinney programs in 15 years.
However, it will require $2.4 billion to fully implement the HEARTH Act.
So we need you to get back to those phones and do YOUR part to ensure that you’re protecting the local programs that help our most vulnerable friends and neighbors.
Contact your Representative and ask him/her to work throughout the rest of the appropriations process to provide additional funding for McKinney programs. (And if they happen to be a House T-HUD member, thank them for their work on the spending bill!)
Call the housing staffers i... Read More »
Norm Suchar: "It's a Great Time to be Working on Federal Policy"
April 27, 2010
In the homelessness world, we have a keen awareness of the need to link services with housing for homeless people with a lot of barriers to maintaining their housing. But at the federal level, getting the agencies that operate housing and services programs to coordinate their efforts has been a real challenge.We also know that trying to end homelessness using only the resources provided by homeless specific programs won't work. We need to find better ways to tap into "mainstream programs:" those programs that serve low-income people generally, and have much higher levels of funding. The Housing and Services for Homeless Persons Demonstration Program was proposed by the Obama Administration, and it combines Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers funded by HUD with services provided by a combination of HHS programs, including a special grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, and Medicaid. Last week, the Alliance helped pull together a roundtable discussion between officials from HUD, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the White House, some key Congressional staff, and a Leadership Council, which consists of officials from several cities across the country who are working to end homelessness. The topic of conversation was a new proposal to combine housing subsidies with services to help end homelessness for 10,000 families and individuals. The great thing about this demonstration program is that it tackles both the need to... Read More »
News Alert: USICH extends comment period on FEDERAL PLAN TO END HOMELESSNESS
March 09, 2010
A quick news update: the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) extends the public comment period on the FEDERAL PLAN TO END HOMELESSNESS.Barbara Poppe, Executive Director of USICH offers her thoughts, goals, and perspective in a blogpost on the Department of Housing and UrbanDevelopment (HUD) wesite.Make sure to read the post, and make sure to visit the and offer your thoughts and votes!Thanks!... 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 »
Annual Conferece - End of Day 2
July 30, 2009
Whew! It's been a LOOOONG day!
Adolfo Carrion, the new Director of the White House Office on Urban Affairs Policy gave the lunchtime keynote, followed by acclaimed scholar Dennis Culhane - whose work informs so many of the most effective and promising strategies in ending homelessness. Adolfo, a self-described "urbanist," reiterated the notes that Secretary Donovan had left us with: together, as a community, we can approach homelessness is a collective, effective, and successful way.
Then, the time came: the communications & advocacy workshop! My big workshop!
I know I'm biased, but I tend to think that communications and advocacy not only go hand-in-hand, but are critical components to our mutual mission to address, prevent, and end homelessness. Our issue is such a delicate, complicated, and expansive one - and effectively relaying those nuances in an intelligent and digestible way requires careful thought and skill. And - as Leslie Kerns of M+R Strategic Services and Ehren Reed of Innovation Networks taught us this afternoon - a strategic campaign to get that message across to those who can sympathize, affect, and make a different.
The two taught us that a great advocacy and communications strategy requires a careful examination of goals, the audience, the message, and a launch - and that examining these factos and making sure that all of them line up are instrumental for a successful campaign. I'll post the materials and ideas generated from the workshop in... Read More »