Ending Homelessness Today — Families
The Importance of Stable Housing for Survivors of Domestic Violence
April 03, 2012
A little over a year ago, the Alliance released a paper on using a rapid re-housing model to end homelessness for survivors of domestic violence. This paper was based on the successes and lessons learned by community programs using a rapid re-housing model to serve survivors.
One of the programs featured in that paper and also featured in a separate best practice on the Alliance website is Home Free, a Volunteers of America – Oregon program. Home Free recently participated in a Centers for Disease Control (CDC) study that examined the link between stable housing and domestic violence.
Recently, the Alliance hosted a webinar that highlighted some of the findings from that study, including that as housing stability increased:
Women and children were safer,
Women had greater job stability and improved income, and
Children missed fewer days in school and displayed fewer behavior problems.
Perhaps most strikingly, when women who participated in the study were asked what made the biggest difference in their life, they said “having housing.” And, when asked what agencies did that was the most helpful, they stated the provision of housing services.
If that weren’t enough, the study also estimated the cost savings of housing survivors on the basis of decreases in their need of emergency services, including police, emergency medical care, and safety net programs. The total savings for emergency systems based on estimated costs was $535,000.
To learn more, please join the Alliance’s next webinar on April 12 at 3 pm ET , featuring Melissa Erlbaum from Clackamas Women’s Services and Megan Owens of Hamilton Family Center, who will focus on the partnerships between homelessness assistance providers and domestic violence service providers to help survivors access permanent housing.
Image courtesy of NoVa Hokie.... Read More »
Poor, very poor people and families in need of concern
February 02, 2012
It’s been all over the news.
A few days ago, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said that he wasn’t concerned about the very poor because we have a social safety net – and, when prodded, he said he would mend the safety net if necessary.
The candidate has been hounded by news outlets since the misstep. The Daily Beast, the Washington Post, and the TakeAway have all pointed out that the Romney should, in fact, show concern for the [growing] very poor population in America. The New York Times even ran an editorial on “the darkening tone of the primaries,” specifically citing this gaffe.
Needless to say, we here at the Alliance are very concerned about the very poor.
As has been widely reported, a full 15 percent of Americans live below the poverty line (which is $18,530 for a family of three) and 6.7 percent of Americans live in deep poverty (defined as half the poverty line.) Half of all Americans are either poor or low-income, living at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty line.
While the last few years have, as the candidate notes, been hard for middle-class Americans, it has been a troublesome time for low-income and poor Americans as well. Recessionary times can be especially difficult for those households with little to no financial resources who suffer the same challenges as middle-income Americans including unemployment and housing crises. Unlike middle-income Americans, however, low-income and poor Americans often do not hav... Read More »
Incarceration and Homelessness
October 31, 2011
According to the Pew Center on the States, between 1973 and 2009, the nation’s prison population grew by 705 percent, resulting in more than 1 in 100 adults behind bars. When this growing population exits the corrections system, they are frequently at risk for homelessness, which can in turn increase the likelihood of another imprisonment. People leaving incarceration tend to have low incomes, and, often due to their criminal history, lack the ability to obtain housing through the channels that are open to other low-income people.
Recently, the Baltimore-based organization Health Care for the Homeless released a report on the link between incarceration and homelessness. This study focused on the situation in the Baltimore region, which has a particularly large population of people in jails and prisons. According to the report, among the cities with the largest jails, Baltimore has the highest percentage of its population in jail, more than three times that of New York City or Los Angeles County.
This report draws a very direct line between housing and homelessness. For example, 74 percent those surveyed who reported experiencing homelessness before their incarceration reported that stable housing would have prevented their incarceration. In Baltimore City, people experiencing homelessness spend an average of 35 days in jail annually.
It is important to point out that the connection goes both ways - incarceration often leads to homelessness, and homelessness can result in incarceration. This report found that the number of people who lacked stable housing after b... Read More »
Affordable Housing Saves on McKinney-Vento Transportation Costs
October 05, 2011
The McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, passed in 1987, provided children without a “fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence” some stability in the form of school.
Thanks to McKinney-Vento, children have the right to stay in their school of origin, despite the upheaval of homelessness. This means that even if kids have to move out of their original school district (because, for example, assistance is not available in that original district), students experiencing homelessness are able to continue attending their school. Because research has shown that students perform better when their school environment is stable, McKinney-Vento requires that school districts must provide transportation for the homeless student to the school of origin.
In recent recessionary years, the cost of bussing homeless students from shelter to school has been debated. States like Massachusetts have declared that they can no longer afford the cost of bussing; others have stopped paying for it outright. The National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty recently released a report, “Beds Not Buses: Housing vs. Transportation for Homeless Students," arguing that a focus on housing will benefit the student and community more, while also cutting the high cost of bussing.
More specifically, the report calls for communities and schools to work together to create more affordable housing, which will prevent children from becoming homeless in the first place. The Law Center analyzed data from the Seattle area and found that “the costs to house unaccompanied homeless youth in supportive housing... Read More »
How to Make TANF Work Better for Homeless Families
September 07, 2011
Today, we pause to revisit the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program. Sharon McDonald, Director for Families and Youth at the Alliance, shares her thoughts about welfare.
Last month marked the 15th anniversary of welfare reform. The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) is often heralded as a success. With the flexibility of the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) block grant, many states provided work supports that helped thousands of families transition off of financial assistance and enter the workforce.
The recent recession, however, highlighted some of the weaknesses of the program. The program did not adequately respond to the increased needs of families suddenly without work and whose unemployment insurance ran out, leaving them teetering on the edge and on their own. From its inception, the program has allowed too many families to fall through the cracks and into deeper poverty. Primary among them are families who experience homelessness.
Less than 20 percent of homeless families report receiving financial assistance from TANF agencies. Studies demonstrate that families who lose TANF assistance often include family members with a disability and other serious barriers to economic self-sufficiency. While some families may lose TANF financial assistance, other eligible families may never apply. With the hope of finding a new job quickly, parents experiencing a short-term economic crisis turn instead to extended families and friends. Many double up. When doubling up results in conflict, they turn to homeless programs.
TANF programs ... Read More »
Friday News Roundup: Family, Youth, and Chronic Homelessness
August 26, 2011
Our Friday news Roundup is broken down today by some of the issue areas the Alliance works on:
Still not convinced that permanent supportive housing is the solution to chronic homelessness? Check out this story from Cleveland, Ohio and this recently published study from Australia.
The Reading Eagle out of Pennsylvania took an in-depth look at the rise in family homelessness, and the barriers some families face in finding affordable housing.
Annie Lowrey suggests one way to help the long-term unemployed is to bring back the Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF) Emergency Contingency Fund (ECF). The program expired last September, which this very blog called “a low down dirty shame.”
This week, the Annie E. Casey Foundation released a report finding that the child poverty rate increased 18% between 2000 and 2009, returning to the level of the early 1990s.
Monday will be back to school for many students across the country. The Tallahassee Democrat looks into what that means for students who don’t have a place to call home.
Did we miss any important news this week? Tell us in the comments!... Read More »
Urban Institute: The Role of TANF During the Recession
August 18, 2011
This month, our friends at the Urban Institute released a brief on the role of TANF during the recession.
The news is not so good.
According to researchers Sheila Zedlewski, Pamela Loprest, and Erika Huber, TANF did not play a significant role in keeping families economically stable during the recession. In fact, there were many states in which the number of people enrolled in the TANF program declined (this study specifically looks at years 2007 to 2010) while unemployment rose dramatically. Of particular note is the state of Arizona, where TANF rolls declined by 48 percent while unemployment in Arizona rose by 134 percent.
The finding is curious. TANF is meant to assist poor families with cash assistance and promote self-sufficiency and work. Why then, during a time of economic turmoil and high unemployment, would poor families not take advantage of TANF benefits?
Reduced TANF use has left a number of families in dire financial situations, what the writers of the brief call “disconnected.” “Disconnected” families have no earnings of cash government assistance of any kind. The writers found that in 1996, one in eight low-income single mothers was disconnected; that jumped to one in five disconnected single mothers from 2004 to 2008.
And this is the kind of economic vulnerability that leads to homelessness.
Mainstream welfare programs, like TANF, are often a bridge for many poor people and families between homelessness and housing. Most poor people – and people who become homeless are typically poor people – have scant resou... Read More »
What We Know About Housing First
August 04, 2011
Nan Roman, president and CEO of the National Alliance to End Homelessness, penned this piece on Housing First for FEANTSA (the European Federation of National Organisations Working with the Homeless) which is an umbrella of not-for-profit organisations which participate in or contribute to the fight against homelessness in Europe.
What Is Housing First?
Housing First is an approach that is built on the principle that a short experience of homelessness and rapid stabilization in housing are best for homeless people and most effective in ending homelessness. Housing First places homeless people in housing quickly and then provides or links them to services as needed, rather than the more customary approach of services first, then housing. While not assuming that housing is sufficient to solve all the problems that people have, Housing First does assume that housing is a necessary platform for success in services, education, employment, and health: in short for achieving personal and family well-being. It also has the benefit of being consumer-driven: housing is what homeless people want and seek.
The Housing First approach focuses on a few critical elements.
There is a focus on helping individuals and families access housing as quickly as possible and the housing is not time-limited (it is not shelter, transitional housing, etc.).
While some crisis resolution and housing search services might be delivered in the process of obtaining housing, core services to promote well-being and housing stability (treatment, education, child development, etc.) a... Read More »
Guest Blog: "Mad as hell" in Lincoln, NE
May 18, 2011
Today's guest post comes to us from Aaron Bowen, Chief Operating Officer at the Community Action Partnership of Lancaster and Saunders Counties.
“I’m mad as hell and I’m not gonna take this anymore.”
In the Oscar award-winning, Sidney Lumet-directed film “Network,” protagonist Howard Beale is just fed up - and I think many of us in the homeless assistance community can sympathize with his frustration.
Here in Lincoln, Nebraska, just over 830 people in a city of around 250,000 were identified as homeless during our January 26, 2011 Point in Time count. Though our overall homeless count dipped slightly from last year—thanks to a very well-run Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program—we remain worked up knowing that so many people still are homeless in Lincoln.
The trouble is, every group, task force, or coalition that does get together enters the strange and often frightening world of “planning” which can sap the life out of groups attempting to tackle the issue that matters to them most. But, like holding a magnifying glass at just the right angle to gather sunlight to its hottest point, planning is necesary in order to focus that “mad as hell” moment into a powerful force for change.
In Lincoln, that’s just what our Continuum of Care did—we planned! Partnering with experts from the National Alliance to End Homelessness’s Center for Capacity Building, we laid Lincoln’s homelessness services system on the table for dissection. We talked candidly ... Read More »
Examining the Family Self-Sufficiency Program
May 03, 2011
The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) recently released the second study of a three-part series evaluating the Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) Program. FSS is a program meant to help residents of public housing who are also participants in the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program – sometimes called the Section 8 Program - become self-sufficient.
The current study examined programmatic features and family characteristics that appear to influence the success of families participating in FSS.
An FSS program basically works like this:
You are a family using a Section 8 voucher. This means that you pay 30 percent of your monthly income toward your rent; the federal government kicks in whatever else you need.
The FSS program you’re in helps you gain the skills to make more money through supportive services and case management.
As you make more money, instead of contributing the any additional income toward rent (up to 1/3 of your monthly income), the FSS program puts that money in an interest-earning escrow account.
When you graduate from the FSS program, you get all that savings.
There are caveats, of course.
All families volunteering for the FSS program have to sign a 5- year Contract of Participation (COP) which basically stipulates that they will engage in the program, follow all the rules, take all the steps, etc.
People who exit the program before graduating forfeit the savings in their escrow account.
So at the end of the 4-year study period:
41 participants (or 24 per... Read More »
The Center for Housing Policy: Should I Stay or Should I Go?
April 19, 2011
A recent report commissioned by the Center for Housing Policy finds that low-income families move much more frequently than the general population. These moves often have to do with the family’s financial status, caused by foreclosure and eviction, among other catalysts.
The report specifically investigates the ways that such mobility impacts children in these families. It finds that children in “hyper-mobile families” – families that move very often – experience negative outcomes including high absenteeism from schools, neighborhood problems, and lower educational development.
Among the conclusions drawn in report is the importance of affordable housing for children and families. Access to affordable housing can reduce the incidence of housing mobility and, in turn, foster housing stability and developmental growth for children.
This report is the first in a series to be release by the National Housing Conference and the Center for Housing Policy.
... Read More »
Friday News Roundup: Having our Voices Heard
April 15, 2011
The biggest news item this week occurred when debate over the federal budget finally ended on Thursday when Congress passed the spending bill that cut $38 billion from FY 2011. (Stay tuned, on Monday we will discuss the bill in greater depth.)
Throughout the debate process one thing remained clear to us at the Alliance – homelessness advocates will have their voices heard.
Cathy ten Broeke from the Office to End Homelessness in Minneapolis and Hennepin County composed a powerful argument for why ending homelessness is not only the right thing to do, but also the fiscally responsible thing to do.
Another excellent opinion piece was authored this week by Former Sen. Tom Daschle and the Hon. Linda Hall Daschle. The Daschle’s wrote about the strides that N Street Village – where Alliance staff members volunteer from time to time – have made toward ending homelessness, in particular, N Street’s successful housing model that integrates housing and health services for women.
On the topic of women, there was an NPR story about a report by Wider Opportunities for Women that found the minimum income workers need to attain basic economic security is about three times more than the federal poverty line. What was the biggest expense among the majority of people studied? Unsurprisingly, housing and utilities.
Finally, a few other stories of note:
Results from the 2011 point in time counts from Metropolitan Washington, D.C. are out. Overall, there were 11,988 homeless people, up from 11,7... Read More »
Congressional Briefing on Homeless Children, Youth, and Families
March 29, 2011
Tomorrow, the Congressional Caucus on Homelessness is holding a briefing on “Homeless Children, Youth, and Families.”
During the briefing, panelists will discuss the profound impact that homelessness wields on children and youth, as well as their parents. In addition to the loss of safe, stable housing, homelessness can cause a sense of displacement, trauma, and stress. This can corrupt positive child development, health, and school participation and create life-long costs to children and parents.
The briefing will reference the 60 Minutes segment on homeless children that cast some media attention on the problem. The briefing will also examine the growing epidemic of homeless children and families as well as model programs, strategies, and initiatives to keep children in school and to secure stable housing.
Invited speakers include:
Diane Nilan, Founder and President, HEAR US, Naperville, IL
Barbara Duffield, Policy Director, National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth, Washington, DC
Beth McCullough, Home and School Liaison, Adrian School District, Adrian, Michigan
Lori Criss, Chief Operating Officer, Amethyst Inc, Columbus, Ohio
Michelle Flynn, Associate Executive Director of Programs, The Road Home, Salt Lake City, Utah.
For more information about family and youth homelessness, please visit the Alliance website. If you’re interested in the Congressional Caucus on Homelessness or would like to attend the briefing, please contact the Alliance advocacy team.... Read More »
A Remarkably Simple Solution to Eviction Prevention
March 16, 2011
Last week the Alliance released a series of profiles focusing on eviction prevention strategies. Specifically, this series examined evictions from public housing units and focused on the successful work of the Tri-City area of Massachusetts; King County, Washington; and Cleveland, Ohio.
Research has shown that a housing subsidy is the single most effective tool in preventing homelessness because it makes market-rate housing affordable. All too often these subsidies are lost through an eviction and it becomes extremely difficult for a household to find affordable housing, thereby placing them at a heightened and totally preventable risk of homelessness.
While public housing authorities (PHA) and direct service providers may not always see eye-to-eye, these partnerships have proven to be very successful and have become the foundation for a richer and more sustained relationship between the organizations.
As it turns out it isremarkably simple to prevent evictions for most households. Assistance with paperwork or one-time cash assistance was generally all that was needed. That is because in many communities, evictions occur due to incomplete paperwork and/or failure to pay rent on time (the latter is often caused by some life change – loss of job, family conflict, etc.).
Our Eviction Prevention series highlights three communities that made these strategies work:
In Massachusetts, the Malden Housing Authority partnered with the nonprofit Housing Families, Inc. to provide interventions to tenants who were behind on rent payments and had received an eviction warning notice. Interventions included one-time... Read More »
How to house homeless families
March 14, 2011
Today's guest post comes to us from Alliance VP of Programs and Policy Steve Berg.
A little over a week ago, CBS’ “60 Minutes” focused on children and families experiencing homelessness. The piece received a lot of attention in the week that followed – and rightly so. The piece explored the effect that the recession has had on financially vulnerable families and poverty among children. It specifically featured interviews with children experiencing homelessness and highlighted the problem of families who are forced to live in motels.
I wanted to pass along an update on one of the featured families, the Bravermans. Jacob Braverman, just 14, came home from school one day to find himself locked out of his house. His mom had lost her job, and the bank warned them they had 30 days to leave their home. But just five days later, the police made them vacate the property. Jacob, his mom, and their dog moved in with neighbors across the street. In the episode, Jacob talks about how this experience made him more shy and forced him to mature much more quickly than his peers. He was constantly concerned about the instability he faced and worried what would happen if the neighbors kicked his family out of their home.
Since the episode (filmed in mid-December), the Bravermans have moved into their own apartment in Altamonte Springs, FL. They were able to do so with the help of a Recovery Act program called the Hom... Read More »
Spokesman Review (WA): “State Assistance Terminated for 5,000 Families”
February 02, 2011
This morning, a little news clip from the Spokeman Review (WA) caught my eye. The title read: “State assistance terminated for 5,000 families.”
For months now, the Alliance and like-minded interest groups had warned against the impact of the recession on state budgets. (In fact, Nan discussed it in the Washington Post after the release of The State of Homelessness in America.)
States, already feeling pressure on their financial resources, strained to meet the needs of the increasing number of people and families seeking public assistance as they experienced job loss, unemployment, and other economic distress as a result of the recession.
And now, at least in Washington state, it seems that the pressure has finally come to a hilt. The state has decided to reduce their TANF program by 15 percent – cutting nearly 5,000 families off welfare.
Clearly this is exactly the wrong time to deny struggling families the resources they need to avoid economic turmoil - like homelessness. While the recession may be over in theory, communities across the country can testify to the increased – and sometimes still increasing – number of people seeking charitable as they continue to struggle.
And frankly, we all saw it coming. The Alliance examined state budgets in the research newsletter last fall, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities published a number of briefs about TANF and the Emergency Contingency Fund, and on this very blog, we asked you to support the extension of TANF ECF, a small, e... Read More »
Major Findings in the 5th Quarterly Pulse Report
October 21, 2010
On Tuesday, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) released the Fifth Quarterly Pulse report – a snapshot of homelessness in eight communities across the country. This latest report covers the time between January to March 2010.
The moral of the story, as conveyed by the current report, is that homelessness is mostly down.
There was a one percent decrease in the overall shelter count between the fourth and fifth quarters. (All but NYC reported decreases in their local counts.)
There was a four percent decrease in the number of sheltered persons in families between the fourth and fifth quarters (All but the Richmond, VA community reported decreases in their local family counts.)
There was a three percent increase in sheltered homeless individuals between the fourth and fifth quarters. (Despite notable decreases in some areas – VA, CT, and KY – increases in other communities, including OH and NYC, contributed to a rise in this number.)
We also noted a couple of economic indicators:
When comparing January – March 2009 to January – March 2010, seven of the eight sites showed increased joblessness. (LA showed a 0.1 percent improvement in joblessness.)
Five communities experienced increased joblessness between the fourth and fifth quarters.
Half of the sites had increased rates of foreclosure activity.
Another point of concern (that’s often reported in news outlets) is the number of newly homeless. In this quarter’s Pulse report, we see that:
In the eight communities surveyed, the number of newly homeless serv... Read More »
The McKinney-Vento Awards hosted by the Law Center
October 18, 2010
Imagine you’re a 7 year old and your family becomes homeless. Every night, you fall asleep in a shelter, in a car, on the street. Imagine moving in and out of the assistance system, shuffled back and forth from shelters to programs to relatives. Suddenly, school, teachers, classmates, and even homework become the constants in your life - anchors of normalcy when everything else seems to be falling apart.
Last Thursday, the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty hosted the annual McKinney-Vento Awards, the organization’s yearly tribute to leaders in the field. This year’s awardees included best-selling author Barbara Ehrenreich, the law firm Dechert LLP, and the Elzer family of Pittsburgh, PA.
As a novice to the organization and the issue, I felt lucky to tag along and learn. Even on a national level the homeless assistance community is a small one. That is why these events like this one are great opportunities to meet other people in the field, recognize the innovators, and connect with like-minded people and organizations.
As I sat taking in the night, one issue resonated with me most: the plight of homeless children.
The McKinney-Vento Act allows children in homeless families to stay in their original public school regardless of where their family is temporarily staying. Still, as I learned Thursday evening, there are homeless children who face discrimination when trying to exercise that right.
The Elzer family faced just this situation. When ... Read More »
Friday News Roundup: Making Progress
October 15, 2010
This week we have heard some powerful arguments for Housing First and supportive housing.
Our good friends Rosanne Haggerty of Common Ground in New York and Martha Kegel of UNITY in New Orleans authored a fantastic piece in defense of supportive housing. A proposed project in New Orleans – a city still suffering the effects of a hurricane five years past - would redevelop an abandoned nursing home into supportive housing for people with disabilities and low-income working people is facing opposition from the local community. Rosanne and Martha do such a great job articulating the argument, I’ll let them speak for themselves:
“Homelessness is a humanitarian crisis, but it is bad for a community in many other ways as well. By converting abandoned buildings into beautifully renovated apartments, supportive housing offers an opportunity to help solve several of New Orleans' pressing problems at once. Housing the homeless is good for everyone.”
In other news: Massachusetts is kicking butt in implementing and executing their plan to end homelessness; the state has helped place 376 people in housing and has helped prevent almost 11,000 families from becoming homeless through a Housing First model. Even as the Massachusetts Housing and Shelter Alliance reports the numbers of new families and individuals seeking help continues to grow in the area, Boston's Pine St. Inn claims to have eliminated 10 percent of their shelter beds due to successful housing placements – at an estimated savings of $9,000 per person. Way to go, MA!
A new... Read More »
National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty to host McKinney-Vento Awards
October 13, 2010
Today’s guest post comes from the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty. Our good friends at NLCHP are hosting their annual McKinney-Vento Awards tomorrow - Thursday, October 14 - at the L’Enfant Plaza Hotel.
Each year, at our annual McKinney-Vento Awards, NLCHP pays tribute to the voices of homeless persons and those fighting to make them heard. This year, on Thursday, October 14, at the L’Enfant Plaza Hotel in Washington, D.C., NLCHP is proud to welcome U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan as keynote speaker at an evening honoring individuals and organizations who have demonstrated an extraordinary commitment to the fight to end homelessness in America.
The NLCHP is pleased honor New York Times best-selling author Barbara Ehrenreich, whose work has demonstrated a deep commitment to raising awareness of and promoting understanding about poverty and homelessness in the U.S. We are also excited to honor Dechert LLP, a firm with an exemplary record of pro bono legal work. Lastly, we will honor the Education Law Center of Pennsylvania, which will receive the Bruce F. Vento Award.
We are also honored to recognize the Elzer family with the Personal Achievement Award.
Last spring, in the span of a month, the Elzers lost everything. The father, William, lost his job, the family's vehicle was repossessed, and they were forced out of their house and into shelter. But as the children began to adjust to their... Read More »