Ending Homelessness Today — Chronic Homelessness
Meet the Homeless Teacher
May 26, 2015
Thomas Rebman is a middle school teacher and a veteran who has been traveling across the country to raise awareness about homelessness by living as a homeless person. You may have already read about him as he’s appeared in local news outlets several times during his tour. Earlier this month I had the opportunity to speak with him while he was living homeless in Skid Row, an area Los Angeles that is notorious for its high concentration of chronic homelessness.
Where are you right now and what’s it like there?
I’m about two blocks east of Skid Row on First. I’ve been on Skid Row for about four days. I came here to highlight mental illness among the homeless, because I knew there was a lot of it here. But I had no idea how much. Los Angeles really is a completely different animal than any other city I’ve visited. The amount of mental illness I’ve seen on Skid Row is shocking.
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Here are 6 Places that are Using Medicaid to End Chronic Homelessness
May 18, 2015
As communities are becoming more advanced in their efforts to end chronic homelessness they are taking steps to secure funding in systemic ways and from a variety of sources, including Medicaid.
Chronically homeless people make up just a small part of the overall homeless population (15 percent on a given night), but they are the hardest to help. All chronically homeless people struggle with serious physical or mental disabilities, including mental illnesses like schizophrenia and alcohol or drug addiction, that make obtaining and maintaining housing on their own extremely difficult.
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The State of Homelessness in America 2015: Trends in Chronic Homelessness
April 21, 2015
Here at the Alliance, we like to say at homelessness should be rare, brief, and non-recurring. For many people who experience homelessness, this is true. But for 15 percent of the homeless population, the opposite is true: they experience homelessness repeatedly and/or for long periods of time, and they have a disability (such as serious mental illness, chronic substance use disorders, or chronic medical issues). These people are chronically homeless.
People experiencing chronic homelessness tend to be the most difficult to stably house and, as a result, are the most vulnerable people in the homeless population. Many communities, with the support of the federal government, have targeted interventions toward chronic homelessness in the past decade. Research shows that most effective intervention to end chronic homelessness is permanent supportive housing, which combines stable housing with supportive services.
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Ending Chronic Homelessness, Now in 2017
February 23, 2015
Over the years, chronic homelessness in America has dropped significantly. Thanks to the hard work of housing agencies, and advocates in communities around the country, working with the support of federal policies, the number of individuals experiencing chronic homelessness has declined by 21 percent since 2010.
Even so, on a given night, more than 80,000 individuals experience chronic homelessness, which means they are disabled and have experienced homelessness either for a year or longer or at least four times in the last three years. Chronically homeless people make up less than 15 percent of the overall population on a given night, but they are the most vulnerable, and therefore the most in need of our help.
(It’s also cheaper to house them than let them remain homelessness, when you weigh the cost in social services against the cost of providing them with housing services.)
That’s why, back in 2010, the Obama administration set a goal for ending chronic homelessness by the end of 2016 in “Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness.” That’s a year later than the date the administration set for ending veteran homelessness, and while we’re optimistic about ending veteran homelessness by the end of 2015 (and we’re not alone), ending chronic homelessness by the end of 2016 seemed increasingly unlikely.
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Here’s How the President’s Budget Would Reduce Homelessness
February 04, 2015
Earlier this week President Obama released his proposed budget for fiscal year (FY) 2016, which begins Oct. 1, 2015. The proposal includes strong measures to help communities re-house homeless people and prevent people who are at-risk from becoming homeless. As has become typical over the past several years, however, grave disagreement between the administration and Congress over larger budget issues means a lot of uncertainty for the future of homeless programs. The President’s budget presents a feasible best-case-scenario for progress on homelessness. (The worst-case-scenario is decidedly grimmer.) It’s based on some commonsense assumptions about homelessness.
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Top 3 of 2014: 3 Things Everyone Should Know About Homelessness Now
December 30, 2014
As we head into the New Year, we're highlighting some of our most popular blog content by rerunning three of our most read blog posts. This post was originally published on Oct. 20, 2014. It's our most read post of 2014. It should be noted that as of Tuesday, Dec. 16, when President Obama signed a $1.1 trillion spanding bill for Fiscal Year 2015, the third bullet of this post it out of date. For the most recent update on funding for homeless assistance, see this post: What Does the $1.1 Trillion Spending Bill Mean for Homeless Assistance in 2015?
Here at the Alliance, we’re frequently contacted by people working on creative projects designed to raise awareness of homelessness. On an almost daily basis, we receive emails from people who have written songs, recorded videos, made movies, even designed videogames.
While the final product will vary wildly from one project to another in terms of quality and message, the artist’s intentions, invariably, are good. They feel strongly that we should do something about homelessness. We do too.
While we occasionally partner with filmmakers for the promotion of a film (e.g. we’re screening the youth homelessness documentary "The Homestretch" at our next conference; check out the trailer above), the number of inquiries we receive is too large for us to respond to all of them.
Recently we were contacted by a filmmaker who had made a film about homelessness. She was preparing to promote her film and wanted to know if we could provide her with three simple talking points that she could use during interviews with journalists.
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5 Things Communities Must Do to End Chronic Homelessness
December 22, 2014
Since the Bush administration first announced the goal of ending chronic homelessness in 2005, we have seen incredible focus on the problem at the national and local levels. We have made significant progress as a result. The number of individuals experiencing chronic homelessness on a given night has declined by 21 percent.
But we aren’t there yet (in January, volunteers conducting the homeless census counted more than 84,000 chronically homeless people), and we have just 24 months to go before we hit the 2016 deadline that the administration set. Fortunately, we already know how to do it: permanent supportive housing (PSH). The net public cost of providing PSH is less than the cost of allowing chronically homeless people to remain homeless.
Can we end chronic homelessness in two years? The federal government has already moved the finish line back a year from 2015. And just last week, President Obama signed a $1.1 trillion spending bill for Fiscal Year 2015 that provides $271 million less for the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants than his administration had requested and that organizations like ours had been advocating for. Additional McKinney funding would have helped us secure 37,000 rent subsidies.
Without the funding increase, the prospect of meeting the 2016 deadline is far less certain. But regardless of the exact date of the goal, what matters most is that we stick to it. The real question is not whether we can end chronic homelessness by the end of 2016, but whether we can end chronic homelessness at all. The answer to that question is an emphatic yes. We already have the experience, the tools, and the knowledge. Now we just need the resources.
If we are to end chronic homelessness by 2016, here are five steps communities will need to take.
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This Sunday We Remember the Lives Lost to Homelessness
December 18, 2014
This might not have occurred to you this morning when you walked by that person with a cardboard sign on your way to work, but that person you just walked past is in mortal danger.
Nobody wants to be homeless, especially in the winter. It’s not just unpleasant, boring, and scary, homeless people face constant exposure to the elements, vulnerability to harassment, sleep deprivation, dehydration, and starvation. For an able-bodied man or woman these conditions are hazardous; for someone with poor health, they can be deadly.
Unfortunately, that’s the position many chronically homeless people find themselves in. For many, it is their own disabilities that have led them to become homeless, rendering them unfit to maintain employment and housing stability. For others, it is their struggle with crippling addictions that has led to life on the streets, a precarious existence that itself often produces its own debilitating physical ailments.
This Sunday, Dec. 21, people in communities around the country will gather at public events for National Homeless Persons' Memorial Day to remember and honor their homeless neighbors who have succumbed to life on the street, or their own poor health conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease, which are found at high rates among the homeless.
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This Could be Our Last Chance to Advocate for Increased Homeless Assistance Funding in FY 2015
November 07, 2014
With the mid-term elections now behind us, members of the 113th Congress are set to return to Washington, DC next Wednesday, Nov.12 to begin their lame-duck session. During this legislative session, this class of Congress, which is on track to be the least productive in modern history, will have many unresolved issues left to address.
One looming item on their agenda will be finalizing a fiscal year (FY) 2015 funding bill to fund the government past Dec. 11, the date our current continuing resolution, or stopgap funding measure, will run out. If you are an advocate for ending homelessness, here’s why you should care about this bill: our ability to end chronic homelessness by the end of 2016, and make significant reductions among other homeless populations, depends on Congress including a $301 million increase (to $2.406 billion) to the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants program.
The increase, which President Obama requested in his budget proposal, would fund $37,000 units of permanent supportive housing for people experiencing chronic homelessness and put us on track to end chronic homelessness by the end of 2016. If you care about reaching that goal and changing the lives of thousands of vulnerable and disabled people (and if you’re reading this, we’re hoping you do), Congress needs to hear from you that this increase must be included in the final FY 2015 funding bill.
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New Data Show Homelessness has Declined 11 Percent since 2007
October 31, 2014
Required by Congress, HUD’s PIT Count is the only national survey that counts everyone who is staying in a shelter or other homeless programs, as well as people who are unsheltered. Its methodology is fairly consistent over time, allowing an assessment of whether the number of homeless people is growing or shrinking each year. Though it does not count every single homeless person, nor does it assess the number of people who are at high risk of homelessness because they have unstable or unacceptable housing, it is the only way that we can determine approximately how many people are homeless, the characteristics of our homeless population, and how homeless Americans are using shelters.
The 2014 PIT Count data show that numbers of homeless people is moving in the right direction.
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Here are 5 Steps for Organizing a Congressional Meeting this Fall
October 24, 2014
Now that members of Congress are home in their districts and states for the congressional recess, homeless advocates across the country are using this time to engage directly with them. How can you get involved? We’ve already discussed the most effective way: giving members of Congress a tour of your local homeless assistance program (see this blog post for five tips), but there’s another way to reach Congress this fall. It’s simple: set up a meeting with your member of Congress (or their staff) in their state or district office. Meetings like these set a less formal tone than meetings held in members of Congress’ DC offices and are a great way to build a strong relationship.
Here are five steps for organizing a successful congressional meeting this fall.
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Here’s What We Can Do to Help End Chronic Homelessness
July 23, 2014
As many of you are already aware, the Obama administration’s plan to end homelessness, Opening Doors, calls for ending veteran homelessness by the end of 2015, ending chronic homelessness by 2016, and ending family and youth homelessness by 2020.
These are audacious goals, to be sure, but the Administration has already shown that it’s serious about reaching them. Since Opening Doors was enacted, the Administration’s budget has built up funding for housing for homeless veterans; the Departments of Veterans Affairs (VA) and Housing and Urban Development (HUD) have put campaigns in place to help communities implement effective practices; and the First Lady has assumed a prominent role as public advocate for ending homelessness.
Now, believe it or not, we have the funding we need to end veteran homelessness, and we may soon have a chance to secure the funding we need to end chronic homelessness. According to the Alliance’s analysis, in order to end chronical homelessness we will need new, dedicated funding for 35,000 to 40,000 rent subsidies, targeted to the chronically homeless population.
The Administration’s budget request asks for a $300 million increase in HUD’s homeless assistance for just that purpose. Congress’s initial response has not included it, but we believe they can be made to come around. And this is the year to do it – funding that is included for rent subsidies in the FY 2015 Continuum of Care is the last funding that will be on the streets in time to house people before the end of 2016.
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We’re Screening a Documentary about Skid Row
July 09, 2014
Chances are when you hear the words “Skid Row,” you immediately associate them with poverty and homelessness. And for good reason: over the last few decades, the 50 blocks in downtown Los Angeles that make up Skid Row have become infamous for their huge concentration of impoverished and transient populations.
In a very real sense, Skid Row is a home for chronically homeless individuals, many of whom live lives under desperate circumstances, marked by drug addiction, mental illness, and poverty. If you’re attending our 2014 National Conference on Ending Homelessness this month, you will have a chance to hear their stories during our screening of the documentary, “Lost Angels: Skid Row Is My Home.”
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Study: Permanent Supportive Housing Reduces Homelessness
July 08, 2014
Over the past decade, federal permanent supportive housing programs (PSH) have grown pretty consistently. From 2007 to 2013 alone, the number of PSH beds has increased 50.7 percent from about 190,000 beds in 2007 to about 280,000 beds in 2013. At the same time, chronic homelessness decreased by 25.2 percent. While there have been a variety of studies looking at the effectiveness of PSH in ending an individual person’s homelessness there is limited research into the impact PSH has on homelessness in the overall community.
In a recent longitudinal study looking at the time between 2007 and 2012, researchers found that increased investment in PSH decreased the rate of chronic homelessness by 35 percent. The study used a variety of statistical models controlling for a number of community and individual factors to isolate the impact that PSH had in a community.
Overall, the longitudinal study saw decreases in the number of chronically homeless individuals in communities that had more PSH units. A community that adds one PSH unit per 10,000 individuals would have seen a reduction in the rate of chronic homelessness of one percent.
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Homelessness and Substance Use: The Numbers Don’t Tell the Whole Story
April 14, 2014
It’s not uncommon for people experiencing homelessness to also struggle with alcohol and drug problems. In the 2013 homeless Point-In-Time Count, one in five people experiencing homelessness said they had a chronic substance use disorder. The proportion of chronically homeless people with substance use disorders is estimated to be much higher, and the condition frequently co-occurs with mental illness.
As troubling as these numbers are, they do not show the complete picture. Rarely noted, for instance, is the obvious fact that the vast majority of the 20 million people in this country with substance use problems are not homeless. That suggests that people with substance use disorders might be homeless for reasons other than substance use. Poverty, lack of access to treatment, justice involvement, strained family supports – these factors can also contribute to housing instability, compounding the effects of a substance use disorder. Therefore, in addition to treatment, some people will need help addressing these factors if they are to recover and become stably housed.
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Momentum Grows for Ending Chronic Homelessness
March 13, 2014
Ending chronic homelessness seems to be going viral. First, we heard that the numbers of chronically homeless veteransin Phoenix and Salt Lake City had reached zero. Then other cities such as Minneapolis and Columbus, OH announced that they would join in a friendly competition to be next.
Meanwhile, in dozens of cities across the country, the 100,000 Homes campaign is fast progressing toward its goal of housing 100,000 of the most vulnerable people experiencing homelessness. (They’ve reached 89,882 as of today.) One of those cities is Nashville, recently the subject of a 60 Minutes profile of 100,000 Homes showcasing how Housing First makes sense for people and communities.
Here in the District of Columbia, a broad-based coalition that includes the Alliance, has gotten behind a local campaign, the Way Home, which aims to end chronic homelessness in D.C. by 2017.
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Obama Proposes Funding Increases to Fight Homelessness
March 06, 2014
The Administration’s fiscal year (FY) 2015Budget Proposal, released on Tuesday, March 4, proposes, among other things, significant new resources for homelessness programs, including a $200 million increase for a program that serves homeless veterans and their families. If Congress enacts these budget requests, communities will get the resources they will need to meet the goals of ending veteran homelessness by the end of 2015, and ending chronic homelessness by the end of 2016.
Here is a quick rundown of what we should be able to accomplish with these funding increases and the tough work communities around the country will have to undertake.
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Homelessness and Tuberculosis: What Can We Do?
February 24, 2014
With flu season over, or almost over, Americans may be breathing a healthy sigh of relief, even as public health officials turn to preventing next year’s outbreaks. People living and working in homeless shelters still have to contend with an airborne bacterium that never goes out of season – tuberculosis, or TB as it is more frequently known. TB is a curable condition that can be fatal if left untreated, and a controllable disease that can spread widely unless precautions are taken.
People experiencing homeless populations have extraordinarily high rates of TB, as much as 10 times the rate in the general community. Public health experts cite a number of reasons for this disparity, including overall poor health status; poor nutrition; lack of access to health care services; and staying at close quarters in emergency shelters and other congregate settings. Even so, communities concerned about homelessness can take steps to ease TB’s impact on vulnerable people and promote interventions that make the spread of TB less likely.
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Why Homeless Advocates Should be Optimistic about 2014
January 27, 2014
Judging by early developments in 2014, those of us who are working to end chronic homelessness have reason to be optimistic. In addition to Medicaid eligibility expanding in about half the states, which will give vulnerable people access to health care and bring more safety net resources to communities, the new year ushered in a pair of promising news items.
First, a targeted homeless program in New York City released early results of its studies showing how Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) can reduce public costs of caring for chronically homeless people with severe mental illness, substance use disorders, and other disabling conditions.
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National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day
December 20, 2013
This Saturday, December 21st, is the first day of winter and the longest night of the year. On or around this date each year, the National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day is observed to remember those who have died without homes. Last year, more than 150 communities representing 40 states and the District of Columbia participated in the 23rd Annual National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day through local events and vigils.
I first began working on homeless issues in the late 1980s as a member of the Community for Creative Non-Violence (CCNV), an organization that operates the Federal City Shelter in Washington, DC. One of my regular assignments was to coordinate with the DC Medical Examiner’s Office (also known as the morgue) to collect unclaimed bodies of homeless persons. CCNV would receive cremated remains of these individuals, some dying of natural causes, others from violence or hypothermia.
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