Ending Homelessness Today — Chronic Homelessness
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4 percent higher than the last official count in 2007, but homeless advocates think that the survey results are already out of date since their January 2009 count.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 »
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 »