Ending Homelessness Today — Chronic Homelessness
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, it is hard work.
In times like these, it is nothing less than the work of angels.
So, thank you.
Three years ago, The New Yorker ran an article that most of you are probably familiar with.
It was called "Million Dollar Murray" and it chronicled the story of an ex-marine who, for well over a decade, was a fixture in the part of Reno, Nevada that tourists rarely see: its shelters, emergency rooms, jail cells, and backstreets.
Like too many of our nation's homeless population, Murray Barr died while still homeless, still on the streets.
Indeed, his story reminds us that each of us is here today for the same fundamental reasons:
Because we believe that a civilized society does not allow someone to live like that.
Because a civilized society doesn't allow someone to die like that - alone, on the streets, with no hope, no chance for a better life.
But as much as Murray's story was a cautionary tale - it was also one of affirmation.
Today, not only do we know we can do better by the long-term homeless, like Murray - because of you, we are doing better.
I witnessed this for myself in New York City, where as Commissioner of the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, I worked with groups like Common Ground, who day-after-day systematically debunked one of the most corrosive myths that even well-meaning people have long held:
That some people want to be homeless.
It led to a twisted sort of logic - that if government couldn't house and improve the health of those living on our streets-visibly ill and suffering-who could we help?
Well, together, we showed them. By developing the "technology" of combining housing and supportive services-delivering permanent supportive housing via a targeted pipeline of resources- we've "moved the needle" on chronic homelessness, reducing the number of chronically ill, long-term homeless by nearly a third in the three years since "Million Dollar Murray" was published.
The fact is, we have now proven that we can house anyone.
... 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 »
the basics: Why are people homeless?
July 06, 2009
It’s a question that’s surprisingly overlooked – maybe overshadowed by the challenges of homelessness in and of itself.At the Alliance, we focus on different kinds of homelessness, including:Veteran HomelessnessFamily HomelessnessYouth HomelessnessChronic HomelessnessEach group comes to homelessness in different ways – and the solutions to that type of homelessness varies as well.Veteran HomelessnessVeterans often become homeless as a result of some post-war challenges. Emotional or mental distress (including PTSD, emotional trauma, etc.) can manifest in damaging behaviors, like substance abuse and addiction. These behaviors can then lead to the inability to maintain permanent housing.Recently, Assistant Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Tammy Duckworth appeared on CNN to discuss the state and health of veterans returning from conflicts abroad. The Secretary expounded upon the increase of suicides, mental illness, and homelessness among veterans from our current conflicts, as well as the VA’s continued efforts to address these ongoing issues.Family HomelessnessFamily homelessness is typically caused by some unforeseen costly event: a raise in rent, medical emergency, or the like. The inability to manage this financial hurdle can push a family into homelessness – an occurrence that’s been felt more dramatically in the current recession.Despite sensationalized news reports, families that experience this kind of homelessness aren’t typically picturesque, middle-class families. They’re typically families that were already living on the economic fringes of society – often paycheck-to-paycheck – who are pushed off by the big event.The good news – if th... Read More »