Ending Homelessness Today — Chronic Homelessness
NYC Homelessness Commissioner Rob Hess Steps Down
April 19, 2010
Today, we at the Alliance learned that Rob Hess, commissioner of the NYC Department of Homeless Services, will be stepping down from his post on Friday, April 23. During his tenure, Rob has been a valuable contributor to the efforts of the Alliance and an important ally in our fight to end homelessness in America. Most recently, Rob had served as co-chairman of the Alliance’s Leadership Council - a group of eleven leaders in the homeless assistance field from across the country. The Leadership Council has been instrumental in pulling together information about effective work around the country, most notably in the implementation of the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program (HPRP), the $1.5 billion stimulus-funded effort to prevent and curb homelessness resulting from the recession. Rob also served as frequent speaker at Alliance Conferences, sharing his experience as a leader in our homeless assistance community and offering lessons from the field. He has been an important source of information, for people working at the local level and for policymakers. He also made important strides in his work at the city-level. As DHS Commissioner, Rob was committed to innovation – he expanded the HomeBase program in NYC, which was the inspiration for the existing federal HPRP program. He worked to reduce street homelessness and focused his efforts on homelessness prevention for families. He also brought thoughtful, empirical data to the problem – integrating data into prevention efforts and emphasizing outcomes for street outreach. His leadership on this issue will continue as he transitions into his new job with the Doe Fund. We look forward to future opportunities to draw on his wisdom and experience.... Read More »
"Housing can save lives," says Martha Kegel, 2010 Nonprofit Achievement Award Winner
April 08, 2010
At our Annual Awards Ceremony on April 22, we'll honor Unity of Greater New Orleans, a nonprofit organization leading a collaborative of 63 agencies providing housing and services to the homeless in New Orleans and Jefferson Parish. In 2009, UNITY provided housing or services to 19,468 homeless children and adults - nearly twice the number of people served annually before Hurricane Katrina.Executive Director Martha Kegel will accept our Nonprofit Achievement Award on behalf of UNITY. Read on to learn more about Martha's story and UNITY's work.1. What is the newest issue emerging in homelessness policy?As climate change leads to more disasters of great severity here and around the globe, a sustained commitment is needed to ensuring permanent housing solutions for the poorest and most vulnerable victims of disasters. Here in New Orleans, nearly five years after poorly designed levees broke, several thousand of the most vulnerable victims of Hurricane Katrina – most of whom have serious disabilities but were stably housed before the disaster -- are living in Third World conditions, squatting in New Orleans’ 61,000 abandoned buildings filled with mold, rotting debris and gaping holes in the ceilings as though Katrina just happened. The Mississippi Gulf Coast too is seeing widespread homelessness as a result of massive loss of housing stock and dramatic increases in rents since Katrina. The lion’s share of attention is given to emergency relief when disasters happen, but a strong and sustained partnership is needed between nonprofits, government and phila... Read More »
Friday News Roundup: Elderly homelessness, the Census, and even some good news
April 02, 2010
Policymakers can consider themselves warned: in 10 years, homelessness among the elderly population will have increased dramatically unless they take action. Along with our own report, The Rising Elderly Population, the AARP's Public Policy Institute and the Center for Housing Policy also released a study this week on Strategies to Meet the Housing Needs of Older Adults. It even comes with an online toolkit to help make these strategies into reality.Although predictions about elderly homelessness are a cause for serious concern, there has been some good news in headlines about homelessness this week:In San Francisco, a new 56-unit development for formerly homeless individuals opened its doors this week. 149 Mason Street also offers a host of services, including an on-site medical clinic. Two officials in Ventura County, CA are working to invest extra revenue in homeless assistance, including start-up money for a housing trust fund. The Cleveland Homeless blog reported on a study by the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless that shows despite increasing unemployment and an increasing difficult housing market, homelessness has only risen slightly due to a solid network of prevention and emergency services. The Huffington Post featured a story about a mother with two children who recently moved into permanent supportive housing after escaping domestic violence.And it's census week! We shared some neat trivia on our blog as census workers visited emergency shelters, free meal sites, and outdoor areas like parking lots in an attempt to g... Read More »
Reoprt out today: Homelessness among the elderly to rise 33% by 2020
April 01, 2010
According to The Rising Elderly Population, the latest report from our own Homelessness Research Institute, homelessness among the elderly is set to increase 33% between 2010 and 2010.I sat down with MWilliam Sermons, director of HRI, to talk about the report, specifically our recommended solutions to the increasingly urgent problem of elderly homelessness.Liz: These projections are pretty dire. What can we do to start curbing elderly homelessness now?Bill: I think the primary thing that can be done right now is to trying shore up affordable housing programs on which elderly persons rely.There's a mix between project-based Section 8, housing choice vouchers, Section 202, Section 515. Because elderly persons have a diverse range of needs, they utilize a diverse range of federal programs and local programs. So I think it’s really critical that the housing stock in these programs be preserved.Bill: It’s also critical that new housing units be created moving forward. Federal policy definitely has to move in a direction such that we’re dramatically expanding the availability of affordable housing that elderly persons rely on.I also think that one of the things that’s critical from a homelessness perspective is that the job of ending chronic homelessness be completed. The projection is that there will be a 33% increase in elderly homelessness between 2010 and 2020 and a lot of the people that are chronically homeless now are in the "older adult but not yet elderly" category.So the success that we... Read More »
Friday News Roundup: new HUD study, plus healthcare and homelessness
March 26, 2010
This week, HUD released a study that supports this argument we’ve been making for years: emergency shelter is actually more expensive for society than providing permanent housing. Along those lines, the latest in our series of seriously neat interactive tools, which we launched this week, illustrates the cost savings to communities with permanent supportive housing. You can read more on the new HUD study on Change.org's End Homelessness blog or in USA Today. As this week began, a historic piece of healthcare legislation was passed in the House and signed by President Obama. While kinks get worked out and the fight continues, we’re focusing on how reform will impact people experiencing homelessness. On Monday, we talked about why healthcare matters in the fight against homelessness and in the Huffington Post, Deborah De Santis of the Corporation for Supportive Housing made a convincing case:The administration's proposal includes expanding Medicaid to everyone who earns below 133 percent of the federal poverty level. Currently, permanent supportive housing projects across the country are constantly trying to find funding to pay for mental health services, substance abuse treatment, primary health care and intensive case management services. Expanded Medicaid insurance coverage will allow supportive housing providers to focus on providing services, rather than chasing after funding.The full article is definitely worth a read. Speaking of healthcare, the Street Roots blog published a stellar interview with Jim O’Connell, one of the founding physician... Read More »
Spotlight on budget: Permanent Supportive Housing!
February 09, 2010
Last week's budget recommendations included a pleasant surprise for permanent supportive housing advocates: 10,000 new homeless and special needs vouchers specifically focused on building collaboration between federal agencies. It's a welcome sign that the Obama administration is willing to invest in real, practical solutions to homelessness.Permanent supportive housing is a proven solution to chronic homelessness; it's a paradigm shift we've been working on here at the Alliance for years, so it's really exciting to hear the federal government speaking our language:Stable housing is the foundation upon which all else in a family’s or individual’s life is built--absent a safe, affordable place to live, it is next to impossible to achieve good health, positive educational outcomes, or reach one’s full economic potential.Here's what's special about this initiative:Targeting mainstream supports to homeless people: The program could be a catalyst for learning how to target programs like Medicaid and substance abuse treatment to homeless individuals. Since these systems are frequently used by chronically homeless individuals and permanent supportive housing cuts down on use of services, it just makes sense for these agencies to figure out how best to work together.A "silo-busting" alignment of resources: The program represents a move toward interagency collaboration. Take a child whose family is in shelter: not only would the program provide her family with a housing voucher, but it would also connect them with income support such as the Temporary Assistance for N... Read More »
Friday News Roundup: Research on chronic homelessness, youth, vets
January 22, 2010
Organizations across the country are looking to fill their volunteer rosters for annual Point in Time counts next week. Volunteer in your area and look forward to a more detailed look at counts on this blog next week.Otherwise, a variety of interesting, important research pieces have come out this week. Here's a handful of highlights:Results of a study on youth homelessness in Oregon came out this week. While we're always glad to see data on youth homelessness, it looks like numbers of youth experiencing homelessness are increasing pretty dramatically, service providers say.A University of Birmingham professor Jeffrey Michael Clair spent two years interviewing Birmingham's chronically homeless. His conclusion? "Public policy should be oriented more toward enabling people to work and to secure a dwelling." Agreed. (Found this one through Inforumusa.)The Corporation for Supportive Housing's Richard Cho was featured on the Funders Together blog this week with research from the Frequent Users Forum. Their work shows why permanent supportive housing is a cost-effective solution to chronic homelessness: case management combined with permanent housing for those stuck in the "institutional circuit" reduces time and public money spent in hospitals, jails and shelters. The Department of Veteran's Affairs recently reported on the ways they're shifting medical systems to better serve veterans who are homeless, including integrating health care and other services, like job training and housing. Though many of the 131,000 homeless veterans in the U.S. struggle with addiction... Read More »
Friday News Roundup: 38 percent drop in homelessness in Los Angeles, California
October 30, 2009
Without question, the news of the day is the reported 38 percent drop in Los Angeles, CA.
In a year when everything seemed to present endless challenges for the homeless and homeless advocacy community – rising unemployment, stifled state budgets, increasing homeless counts, reduction of public services, and the rest – it seemed incredible that the city with the largest homeless population in the country saw such a pronounced decrease in their numbers. The Los Angeles Continuum of Care (CoC) is a solid ten percent of the entire homeless population in the country – so any significant movement in their number would represent a notable change in the nation’s homeless population.
All to say – we definitely noticed.
And the inevitable question that rises from such a report is this: how?
Alliance staff has ruminated about the data for the last couple days. Together, we discussed the drop in the sheltered count (down by 19 percent), rental unit vacancy rates for the last five years (up by 3 percent), the unemployment rate (up by 5 percent), the Consumer Price Index (down by 4 percent), and – of course – methodology. We compared Los Angeles to New York and the nation, comparing numbers and rates and population, noting the general difficulties in counting homelessness people – especially the unsheltered (67 percent of the homeless population in LA is unsheltered.)
Of course, all these variables could play a role in determining how and why the count went down as significantly as it did. The rate of rental ... Read More »
HIV/AIDS in DC and housing
October 21, 2009
Recently, the Washington Post launched a series about HIV/AIDS funding in the District of Columbia. The series shed light on waste, mismanagement, and neglect – hallmarks, it seems from the story, of a program intended to serve those desperately in need of services. DC, as the story confirms, has the highest rate of HIV/AIDS in the country; higher than some West African countries.
As I was reading this well-researched expose, I was struck at the intersection of HIV/AIDS and housing.
I was particular taken with the profiles of two people: a homeless man afflicted with HIV named Alexander Harrington and a [housed] single mother of two named J’Mia Edwards.
Harrington was an ex-offender who, upon his release, sought out assistance from an AIDS service center that promised counseling, a lead on permanent housing, and job training. Shortly after his stay there, he was pushed out with nothing to show for his time.
J’Mia Edwards is an outreach worker, attempting to ensure that her friends and neighbors are educated about HIV/AIDS, all the while caring for her two young children.
Resonant throughout the stories of these two was their deep desire for stable housing.
J’Mia Edwards go so far as to remark,”…if I don’t have adequate housing, I’m not gonna worry about taking my medication…a part of my prevention is my housing.”
And these deliberations by people who are presently experiencing this need only soli... Read More »
Data + Research: Video Fact Sheet
October 06, 2009
Apologies for the hiatus over the last week.
But today, we make it up to you by launching our very first video fact sheet.
A lot of times, we get asked this question: How many homeless people are there?
And while that may seem like a simple question to answer, it’s actually more complicated than it seems. It’s not easy to count homeless people, so there are a lot of estimates. It depends on how you define “homelessness”. It depends on the groups you’re interested in – most people think of single adult men when they picture homelessness, but there are also families and children and veterans.
There’s also different methodology – the Department of Housing and Urban Development requires that all communities count homeless persons in their area every other year, but people count in different ways, so the number should account for that.
And we get variations of the question, too. How many people are homeless in a specific community? How many people who are homeless have a serious disorder? How many people are disabled? How many are youth? How many qualify for federal assistance – and of those, who’s accessing federal assistance?
So it’s actually a pretty complicated answer – and sometimes it can be hard to understand.
But luckily for you, the director of the Homelessness Research Institute – M William Sermons – put together this great video fact sheet explaining the numbers in an easy, understandable way... Read More »
Innovation in Approaching Mental Illness
September 25, 2009
I got an email this morning from a person involved with Ashoka’s Changemakers.
(Yeah, I didn’t know who they were at first either.)
But it turns out, they’re worth knowing. Changemakers, as they’re called, are people devoted to making a substantive change in social issues. Or, as they like to say it: “Changemakers is a community of action where we all collaborate on solutions.”
Changemakers work on all kind of issues: community, violence, abuse, environment, aging, animal rights, youth. The website is a place where like-minded people can connect, chat, and exchange ideas about new innovations and best practices.
Right now, Changemakers is hosting a competition: Rethinking Mental Health: Improving Community Wellbeing.”
The prompt: submit one way to challenge common misconceptions about mental health and engage communities in expanding our understanding and involvement in finding solutions.
Nope, not easy. But an important step nonetheless.
And why do we care?
Approximately 20 percent of the homeless population is considered “chronically homeless”, and by definition, suffer from some sort of disability. Many times, this disability involves mental health. This disability often prevents a person from being able to find stable housing, employment, and the resources he or she needs in order to pull themselves towards self-sufficiency.
Check out the website, the community and the competition. Got any good ideas? ... Read More »
Troubles in Colorado
September 18, 2009
So Colorado is counting their homeless population, and the outlook doesn’t really look so great for the state.
According to the Metro Denver Homeless Initiative, there are about 11,061 homeless people in the metro Denver region. That number is about 4 percent higher than the last official count in 2007, but homeless advocates think that the survey results are already out of date since their January 2009 count. John Parvensky, director of the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, suggests that the real number could be up to 20 percent higher than the 2007 count.
The Alliance had long anticipated that the number of people experiencing homelessness would rise in these economic times, especially if there were no national or other concerted actions to try to remedy the effects of the recession on the very poor and the homeless (who, as we know, are often the hardest hit by economy tumult). Luckily since then, the President has since then created the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing program (HPRP) as a part of the stimulus and we are, in fact, seeing evidence of rising homelessness and more people in need of basic services.
Here are a couple of highlights about the news from Colorado.
The Denver Post reports that almost approximately 45 percent of those recently counted were newly homeless.
34.7 percent of those counted attribute their homelessness primarily to job loss; 31.2 percent counted attribute their homelessness to the inability to pay for housing.
The Denver count also suggest t... Read More »
Happy National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month
September 15, 2009
September is National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month. This annual observance is designed to promote the benefits of substance abuse treatment and the highlight contributions of treatment providers in this field. Recovery Month also aims to educate the public about substance abuse and addiction and confirm that recovery is possible. It’s an important time to reflect upon the relationship between substance abuse and homelessness – and what is and isn’t true about that relationship. Substance abuse is much more common among those experiencing homelessness, and specifically those identified as experiencing chronic homelessness. Chronic homelessness is defined by some sort of disability; many chronically homeless people have a serious mental illness like schizophrenia and/or alcohol or drug addiction. As anyone who has been touched by substance abuse can attest – it’s a difficult battle in the best of circumstances. Substance abuse creates barriers to achieving independence and stability, barring the way to a healthy lifestyle including permanent employment and housing. And more often than not, homelessness and the challenges of a transient – and sometimes street – lifestyle only exacerbate the disability. As responsible members of a more and more interdependent community, we should do our utmost to provide resources to those with substance abuse issues, and ensure that all those actively seeking help find it quickly and safely. RecoveryMonth.gov provides numerous resources, including Recovery Month toolkits, a press kit, and an event locator. Nearly 600 events have been planned around Recove... 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 »
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 »
Annual Conference - Secretary Donovan's remarks
July 30, 2009
Prepared Remarks for Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan at the National Alliance to End Homelessness, Annual Conference
Thursday, July 30th, 2009
Thank you, Nan - for that introduction, for your remarkable leadership with the Alliance, and, above all, for the bedrock commitment to end homelessness you have impressed upon five different HUD Secretaries. I look forward to continuing our work together.
I want to also thank your board, particularly Co-Chairs Susan Baker and Mike Lowry. And I want to note the HUD team here helping us address homelessness - Mark Johnston, our Deputy Assistant Secretary for Special Needs, and Ann Oliva, who heads up our Office of Special Needs Assistance Programs.
And of course, many of you know Fred Karnas - Fred is a senior adviser and has been critical in our Recovery Act efforts, including working with Mark and Ann quickly distributing the Homeless Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing funds that so many of you made possible.
Will all of you stand up?
I want to also acknowledge the work of the Pete Dougherty, the interim executive director of the Interagency Council on Homelessness, and the USICH staff, many of whom are here today.
But most of all, I want to thank everyone in this room who labor day in and day out to help the millions of men, women, and children in our nation who experience homelessness.
In the best of times,... Read More »
One more day…until the Annual Conference!
July 27, 2009
The annual National Conference on Ending Homelessness officially starts on Wednesday, July 29 at the Renaissance Hotel in Washington, D.C.
The annual events hosts luminaries from the homeless advocacy fields, and presents workshops, plenary sessions, and keynotes speakers sharing a wide variety of perspectives, best practices, and new ideas.
This year, the Alliance is expecting 1200 participants, 250 speakers, presenting 76 workshops, six pre-conference meetings, four keynote speakers, as well as a couple focus groups, expert roundtables, and terrific networking opportunities. Keynote speakers include Sen. Jack Reed (D – RI), Director of White House Office of Urban Affairs Adolfo Carrion Jr., homelessness scholar Dennis Culhane, and Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Affairs Shaun Donovan.
As usual, the gathering will be a rare opportunity for policymakers to mingle with direct service providers to mingle with elected officials to mingle with members of the general public and press. Each of these stakeholder groups will be able to offer their perspectives and concerns while attending workshops about the stimulus funds, housing strategies, chronic homelessness assessment, youth homelessness, and a breadth of other homelessness issues.
For three days, these 1200 people will trade their personal experiences and expertise on ending homelessness in the United States and hopefully – with luck and determination – everyone will leave the annual conference better equipped to address homelessness in their geographic, political, policy areas.
And behind this wonder of a conference is a small staff of very dedicated individuals (if we do... Read More »
Why Housing First?
July 23, 2009
Early last week, the staff at the Alliance had a messaging meeting where a staff member shared with us the frustrations of people he’s been meeting on the field. With the recession in high gear and people in dire need of help, why – advocates and providers asked – why were we not endorsing the rapid construction of temporary shelters?
And then I saw this article on my good friend Shannon’s change.org blog.
So I thought the timing was right to ask: Why Housing First?
But first: What is Housing First?
Housing First is a concept that was pioneered by Dr. Sam Tsemberis of the NYU School of Medicine and an organization in New York called Pathways to Housing.
The premise of the Housing First campaign is the housing is a basic human right and should not be denied to anyone, regardless of their habits or circumstances. Housing First prescribes providing the homeless permanent supportive housing – which includes supportive services coupled with permanent housing (not shelter). The supportive services address addiction, mental health, case management and the like, and provides stability for homeless individuals. These services increase the ability of homeless individuals to maintain permanent housing and achieve self-sufficiency.
It’s important to note that this approach is a significant departure from the traditional way the country approached homelessness before. In the old system, homelessness management was emphasized through shelter, mental health services, medical services, and the like before permanent h... Read More »
Data + Research: the Annual Homeless Assessment Report
July 09, 2009
Today, we’ve got some big news. It’s really big. It’s huge. It is [cue music] - the Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR) from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)!!
...It’s really much more exciting than it sounds.
Basically, the AHAR is a comprehensive review of homelessness counts and trends in 2008. But before we delve into the magical world of data and statistics, there’s something you should know about this year’s report [cue suspense music]:
This year, there were TWO kinds of data collected: point-in-time counts and year-long data. Point-in-time counts are pretty much raw numbers. They tell us how many homeless people and what kind. Year-long data give us a little more detail about the demographics of these counts. Year-long data is also a bit newer than the point-in-time counts. This is the second year in a row that HUD collected year-long data, and we’re really pretty excited about the increase in data availability and analysis. (Yes, because we’re nerds.)
So without further ado…
This year’s AHAR shows that, overall, homelessness is flat compared to last year. Numbers vary slightly between the point-in-time count and the year-long data, but the Alliance concludes that the changes, if any, are marginal.
What’s much more interesting than the total number of homeless people is the information about specific types of homelessness – most significantly, chronic homelessness and family homelessness.
AHAR shows that chronic homelessness is... Read More »