Ending Homelessness Today — Families
Call your senator - save TANF ECF!
September 08, 2010
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: we can – and must - save the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Emergency Contingency Fund (ECF).
And we’re not the only ones that think so. In the last few days, you may have noticed that the innocuous welfare program has received an unusual amount of ink. Stories praising the job-creating program have run in the Chicago Tribune and Huffington Post - among countless other publications.
We hate to say we told you so but we did call it. This stimulus program is making a difference where it’s needed most: offering cash assistance to low-income families, providing housing aid, and subsidizing jobs. In fact, the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that the program has created 250,000 subsidized jobs for low-income parents and youth across the country.
But the program is about to come to a grinding halt. TANF ECF will expire on September 30 if Congress doesn’t act now.
We need you to tell them how.
Senator John Kerry (D-MA) is circulating a sign-on letter for his colleagues in the Senate to join. He wants them to sign the letter to urge Senate leaders to extend the ECF right away and provide a one-year, $2.5 billion extension of ECF to allow states to access additional funds and continue subsidizing jobs for low-income families and youth.
Want to know what you can do?
Call your senators TODAY (If you don’t know the number, you can find out by calling the Congressional Switchboard at 202-224-3121).
Ask to speak to the person who handles welfare issues for the senator.
Urge the welfare staff member to get their boss to sign onto Senator Kerry’s sign-on letter.
But act now! The deadline for senators to join the sign-on letter is next Wednesday, September 15 at noon ET.
For more information, check out previous entries on the blog and the website.... Read More »
A New Capacity Center Tool
August 17, 2010
Today's post comes from Kimberly Walker, a Capacity Building Associate here at the Alliance.
Hello all! Kim here. As part of the Center for Capacity Building, my job is to help communities improve their homeless systems. As part of that mission, I’m working on the Center’s new Ending Family Homelessness Tool and Pilot Project (or the EFHT/PP). I’ve been told this may be of interest to our blog readers, so I thought I’d give you a synopsis of what exactly it is.
This tool turns what the Alliance staff has learned over the years about best practices in ending homelessness, what we’ve learned from the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program (HPRP), and the new Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing (HEARTH) Act requirements into a measuring stick for communities. The EFHT will hopefully encourage communities to use these standards to judge where their system is now and where it needs to be in order for them to end family homelessness.
The tool has several different parts (some that are finished, some that are still being developed/considered):
1) A set of three surveys regarding what communities think about their homeless system
2) A data collection worksheet
3) A resource list
4) A planning document
5) A check-in document (after a plan has been made), and
6) A community forum
As a final product, we hope to create a completely web-based version of these documents that communiti... Read More »
Using HPRP to Help Families
August 16, 2010
This week’s news has been full of reports about families in need overwhelming shelter systems. From Baltimore, MD to Springfield, MA, to LaPorte, IN, we’ve seen articles all week about homeless shelters “bursting” with people. Stories about an increase in the number of homeless children and families seem to be the news item of the week.
Shelter programs are struggling to accommodate more families in their existing programs. When they can’t, families are left to fend for themselves. They beg family and friends to let them stay for just one more night, they find well-lit places like train stations or hospital waiting rooms and try to look like they belong, they find retreat in abandoned buildings or quiet corners of parks where their children can rest.
Of course, shelters never want to turn away families in need. They work hard to find church basements that might serve as overflow shelter or to come up with the resources to pay for motel rooms to increase their capacity to serve families. While offering a temporary refuge, homeless providers recognize that overflow shelters and motels cannot provide families the security they need.
But are all the tools that can help shelter programs serve families better being put to use?
The Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program (HPRP) was created to curb the expected surge of families experiencing housing crises and homelessness as a result of the recession. It provides flexible resources... Read More »
Don't forget: TANF ECF
August 05, 2010
I know we’ve been harping on this on the blog all week, but we don’t want you to forget about the Temporary Aid for Needy Families (TANF) Emergency Contingency Fund (ECF).
As a refresher, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 created the TANF ECF. The fund can be used to reimburse states for up to 80 percent of increased spending for providing:
non-recurrent, short-term payments (e.g. four months of rental assistance for homeless families, security deposit and first month’s rent, utility assistance);
basic assistance (cash grants to low-income families); and
TANF ECF has made a difference for states – creating jobs and offering the assistance states may need help providing in this time of tight state budgets. Articles and blogs and policy analysis have noted the significance of this overlooked – and quickly expiring – recovery program.
We want to make sure that you fully understand the program – and then take the next step to call your senate office to tell them what you think. The Alliance has produced a number of articles and policy analyses about TANF ECF – and the importance of keeping the valuable, effective program from expiring. And there’s also information about family homelessness – TANF ECF is sometimes discussed in relationship to preventing and ending family homelessness.
If you have questions or comments about the materials there, feel free to give us a shout on Twitter, Facebook, or drop us an old fashioned email.
Thanks guys... Read More »
Ending Family Homelessness: Learning from Communities
August 04, 2010
Today’s blog about family homelessness comes from our colleague Sharon McDonald, Senior Policy Analyst at the Alliance.
Across the country, families are downsizing their housing, doubling up with extended family or friends, moving into motels, and seeking help from homelessness prevention and shelter programs. The Recovery Act provided new funds including the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program (HPRP) and the TANF Emergency Contingency Fund (ECF) to help communities grapple with the increased needs of families impacted by the recession.
With so many families facing homelessness, it is critical to maximize all available resources to help families. We must connect with Members of Congress to educate them about the impact of homelessness on families and communities, and - most importantly - the role social programs are playing in meeting the needs of vulnerable individuals and families.
This includes funding for McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Programs, Housing Choice Voucher Program, and the National Housing Trust Fund. It also includes advocating for an extension to the TANF ECF which is providing rental assistance to help families stay housed and subsidized employment that helps families escape poverty (see yesterday’s excellent post about action needed on the TANF ECF).
Maximizing resources also means making sure that local programs to help low-income and homeless families and children are as efficient and as effective as possible. This means evaluating whether HPRP and other resources are reaching the families they are designed to serve. Are homelessness prev... Read More »
TANF ECF Needs You NOW!
August 02, 2010
Today, Mindy Mitchell writes about the TANF Emergency Contingency Fund, which is set to expire on September 30, 2010.
It’s been called the “best kept secret” of the federal stimulus plan, and unless the Senate acts soon, it will be over in just a couple months, which would be devastating for families who are homeless or are just barely avoiding homelessness. It’s the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Emergency Contingency Fund (ECF), which the Alliance has advocated using to support homeless families since the ECF began, and which I have been exploring for almost two months now as part of my summer internship.
Because I worked directly with homeless families in my former (pre-law school) life, it’s been more than a little frustrating for me this summer to learn how easily such a good program—for homeless families, for all families who are struggling economically, and for whole communities—can fall through the legislative cracks. The TANF ECF extension was originally part of H.R. 4213, which failed to pass the Senate until it was stripped of all its elements except unemployment insurance (UI). No one seems to know now what will happen to all the other vital programs that were originally included in H.R. 4213, but the Alliance is organizing an advocacy push in hopes of getting things moving again. The stated concern of some Senators about the original legislation was the contribution to the federal deficit (which may not be wa... Read More »
Learning about family homelessness
June 28, 2010
When I came to the Alliance, I really did not know anything about homelessness, or those who were experiencing it. I think, like many people, my experience with people experiencing homelessness was only of those collecting change on the streets.
However, since coming to the Alliance and being exposed to the community dedicated to ending homelessness, I have come to understand that this is not a comprehensive picture of homelessness. I think I thought that all people who were experiencing homelessness fell into that category of what I now understand to be chronic homelessness. Turns out I was wrong - there are so many different types of homelessness, most of which aren’t chronic. One type of homelessness that I had not considered before was family homelessness.
Family homelessness has been in the news a lot lately, especially because of the Annual Homelessness Assessment Report (AHAR) which found that the number of families seeking shelter has increased in the last year. Also, the new Federal Strategic Plan to End Homelessness, called Opening Doors, set a specific goal of ending family homelessness in 10 years. These developments have pushed the issue into the spotlight so, in an effort to educate myself more about this group, I asked around the Alliance and did some research to get a clearer picture of family homelessness.
So what is family homelessness? It’s exactly what one would think: families who are not able to afford housing, and... Read More »
Las Vegas: Lights, Glitz, and Public Policy
May 24, 2010
Today's guest post is from Policy Associate Anthony Stasi. You might assume that people experiencing homelessness in Las Vegas and the surrounding areas are former gamblers, drifters from California, or people that were hit hard by the foreclosure crisis. But according to Continuum of Care Coordinator Michele Fuller-Hallauer, many of the homeless in this region are mentally ill, and require regular intake of medication. Last week I visited the Southern Nevada Regional Planning Coalition’s Committee on Homelessness, where I met Fuller-Hallauer, Shannon West, and Catherine Huang Hara, who are part of a small group that oversees homeless policy in this area. The Southern Nevada Regional Planning Coalition works with several other organizations and committees in an effective team that has seen results: street homelessness has decreased 16.4%.They’ve also seen family homelessness drop: in 2008, there were 933 homeless households with children. In 2009 that number dropped to 346 homeless households with children. This is a reduction of 587 households or a 63 percent reduction in family homelessness.Still, the overall figure of homelessness in Las Vegas has climbed 16.8 percent. The increase in the overall number of homeless comes from their increase in people that are utilizing transitional housing programs. They have experienced a great deal of success in moving people to permanent housing, but – in cases of those who are mentally ill and unable to make rational choices – they cannot move them into permanent housing as easily. They do a great job in what is a ve... Read More »
A Take Five Excerpt: SF Mayor Gavin Newsom on HPRP
March 09, 2010
Have you seen the latest in our Take Five Q&A series? It's featuring Mayor Gavin Newsom of San Francisco, where they've created 1, 679 units of permanent supportive housing in the last 6 years. What's below is excerpt of our Take Five piece, and you can read more about SF's work to end homelessness on his blog and here.
What is the newest issue emerging in homelessness policy?
Homelessness among families and children is increasing. We have seen greater demand for our homeless services by families throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. Our ability to address this spike in demand has been strengthened as a result of the Obama Administration's $1.5 billion for the Homeless Prevention and Rapid Re-housing Program (HPRP).
Using local and HPRP funds we have prevented 1,612 households from becoming homeless and/or entering the emergency shelter system. Our programs are focused on keeping families in housing by both addressing the financial burden they are experiencing, coupled with short term supportive services so they can maintain that housing for the long term.
In addition, we allocated local funds to provide short-term rental subsidies so families could circumvent the shelter system and move directly into housing with supportive services so they can secure employment and take over the rent payment of their new home. We will also continue to build both affordable housing and permanent supportive housing so that families with disabilities, and those that just need a stable home, can... Read More »
Friday News Roundup: Leadership in SF, jobs for vets in TX, and stories from the blogosphere
February 26, 2010
In the homelessness headlines this week, San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom reported on his city's progress toward the goals set in their 10-year plan to end homelessness. Since 2004 - when the plan was initiated - the city has created 1,649 units of permanent housing. Although advocates have pointed out that the city still needs more services for the homeless and a stronger emphasis on helping homeless families, San Francisco shows why it pays to have local political support for your ten year plan. Mayor Newsom - a reputedly charismatic and persuasive political leader - and his support of the Ten Year Plan has created momentum in addressing homelessness in his community.In Waco, the VA office has started hiring homeless veterans to help them get back on their feet. Combined with housing, this sounds like a recipe for stability. Three cheers for the Texas city for NOT just talking the talk, but walking the walk to end homelessness!Also in the news this week was this piece from northeastern Minnesota, which has some useful analysis of how to better serve people experiencing homelessness in rural areas.There's all kinds of exciting things happening in the blogosphere this week. For one, our McKinney-Vento Appropriations got picked up by the Change.org End Homelessness blog! (If you haven't already, it's time to write Congress! Now!)I've also been really inspired by some of the amazing stuff coming from service providers, including Calvary Women's... Read More »
HUD report shows increase in newly homeless, especially families
February 24, 2010
I just finished watching this audio slideshow about a homeless family living in a hotel in Wentzville, Missouri. The specificity of the images struck me: the picnic in the parking lot of the Budget Inn, the can of food pantry carrots, the parents' hands holding. But it's a story that's more and more common: a lost job, a downward spiral, desperate phone calls to service providers, kids learning to cope. In fact, according to HUD's third quarterly Homelessness Pulse Report, the number of people accessing services for the first time increased by 26% from July to September 2009. Says one homeless outreach worker from Lincoln, NE:They are the new poor, only homeless because of the economy. These are the people who at the beginning of the 2000s might have been on the edge or middle class. These are people who never thought they'd be in the position they're in today.The report is intended to assess the impact of the current economic crisis and determine how unemployment and foreclosures affect homelessness. The seven Continuums of Care that participated - including New York City, Richmond, the state of Kentucky and Lakeland, FL - represent about 12 percent of the country’s overall shelter and transitional housing capacity. In particular, HUD's data shows that like the Tranthams in Wentzville, the newly homeless tend to be families: while the total number of newly homeless people accessing services increased by 26%, the rise for newly sheltered families w... Read More »
Friday News Roundup: Conference, research, recovery
February 12, 2010
"Never has there been a more salient time to discuss the pressing issue of family homelessness," said Nan Roman. "We're faced with economic instability, rising unemployment, and an anticipated rise in homelessness. At the same time, we see increased attention to the crisis, both from the mainstream media and from the federal government. Now is the time for a serious conversation about systematic change; now is the time to face our challenges head-on."There's a tidbit from the Alliance's National Conference on Ending Family Homelessness, going on now in LA. PATH Partners' Joel John Roberts reports on the event here.As we gathered in LA, some leaders in the field of permanent supportive housing got some much-deserved press this week. Jennifer Ho, who recently joined the federal Interagency Council on Homelessness, discussed the transformation of services in Minnesota. In an interview with Good Magazine, Roseanne Haggerty says: "Communities willing to work on getting people housed instead of letting the homeless drift between shelters, hospitals and jails can solve homelessness." Couldn't have said it better ourselves.And while we've been focusing on the federal this week, folks at the local level have been making some major progress: with youth in Worcester, for veterans in Utah, for chronically homeless people in Alaska (great analysis in this piece), with housing in South Dakota.There's also been some significant research findings out this week. One finds that despite an increase in public aid programs... Read More »
A Federal Plan to End Homelessness: The Alliance recommends
February 09, 2010
While yet another snowpocalypse hits DC, most of the Alliance staff has escaped to LA for our Annual Conference on Ending Family Homelessness. It starts unofficially today with an opportunity to give input into the federal government's plan to end homelessness. (As we've mentioned before, it's a pretty awesome opportunity.)Representatives from the U.S. Intergency Council on Homelessness and HUD are soliciting recommendations, and as required in the HEARTH Act, the plan should be finalized by May of this year.Here are some of the key points from our official recommendations. Do you have anything to add? For veterans:Deploy 60,000 units of permanent supportive housing, targeted to veterans experiencing chronic homelessness (30,000 already in the pipeline);Provide prevention and rapid rehousing services to 250,000 veterans per year;For families Equip publicly funded programs that serve families who are vulnerable to homelessness (e.g. TANF and child welfare) so they have the capacity (and responsibility) to respond, and resolve, their clients’ housing crises;Increase the supply of affordable housing to families with very low incomes through expanding permanent, short- and medium-term rental assistance; and For youth: Expand federal investment in youth housing services and infrastructure to serve an additional 50,000 homeless and street-dependent youth annually; Offer Congress and the Administration clear data on the incidence of youth homelessness, research on the extent of long-term homelessness among homeless youth populations, and identification of interventions targeted to specific typologies of homeless youth; and And this i... 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 »
Ending Family Homelessness Conference: What are you looking forward to?
February 03, 2010
As the Alliance's Annual Conference on Ending Family Homelessness approaches, the office is abuzz with travel plans and last-minute arrangements. We've got a full slate of workshops, two awesome keynote speakers, and an ambitious, but reachable goal: ensuring every family in the U.S. has a home.Here's what Alliance staff members are looking forward to:LaKesha Pope, Youth Program and Policy Analyst:"I'm excited about my workshops: the Cultural Competency workshop, the Outcomes workshop, and the Young Moms workshop. I think some practical tools will be delivered that people can bring back to their communities."Amanda Krusemark, Program and Policy Associate: "I'm excited to hear from Barb Poppe, the new Director of the Interagency Council on Homelessness. I want to know what she has to say." Capacity Building Associate Aisha Williams agrees: "I'm looking forward to hearing from the new ICH leadership. I'm interested in hearing what their plans are." Bill Sermons, Director of the Homelessness Research Institute: I'm probably most excited about our Data and Performance Simplified workshop. We're looking at a pretty huge turnout, so it's a great opportunity to make materials about performance accessible to a wider range of people..Meghan Henry, Research Associate: "I'm most excited about the Affordable Housing Development workshop by NeighborWorks. It's just so useful. I'm also excited about hearing from people across the country about their experiences this year."... Read More »
Weigh in on the Federal Plan to End Homelessness at our Annual Conference
January 28, 2010
The federal government has never before had a plan to end homelessness but for the first time, one is in the works. What's more, attendees at the Alliance 2010 Conference on Ending Family Homelessness will be able to give input on the plan. The U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness will host a forum for audience members to offer comments and suggestions about what should be included in the Federal plan on Friday, February 12 from 7:30am-8:45am."It's a great chance for people to stand up and say something," says Norm Suchar, Alliance Senior Policy Analyst.The HEARTH Act, passed in May of 2009, requires that the Interagency Council develop a plan to end homelessness, which is scheduled to be submitted to Congress in May of this year. The conference forum is one of many listening sessions that the Council is conducting with service providers and advocates. The plan will be comprehensive, covering all federal agencies, particularly HUD, and the Departments of Health and Human Services, Veterans Affairs, Labor, and Education. It will pay particular attention to solving homelessness among four populations: the chronically homeless, veterans, families and youth.According to Suchar, in order to be successful, the federal plan must include measurable outcomes and goals, as well as accountability, so that people and departments know whether they are meeting those goals. What would you like to see in the federal plan to end homelessness?... Read More »
More HPRP trends: Centralization and Coordination
January 27, 2010
The Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing program is making good news throughout the U.S. We're keeping track of the media coverage on this interactive map, and we're also highlighting some of the common themes we've seen in the implementation of the program. (Hat tip to fellow intern Grace Stubee for her help with this post!)CentralizationMany groups have used funding from HPRP to create a one-stop shop, or centralized point of access, for services to people experiencing homelessness. One example comes from Cowlitz County, WA, where the center is the office of Lower Columbia Community Action Program. Making services easily accessible is particularly important because many people seeking assistance through HPRP don't know how to navigate the social services system, because they have never needed government assistance before.Elsewhere, the one-stop shop isn't a physical space, but folks can connect with numerous services through an HPRP hotline, which Allegheny County and the city of Pittsburgh worked together to start up.CoordinationIn Columbus, OH, it's not just about having a central location, but also a common way of doing things: "For the community and for the homeless population, there will be one point of contact, with a common language, common process and a hot line," said Dave Davis, director of programs and planning at the shelter board. In Las Vegas, the federal money has encouraged more than 35 social service agencies to coordinate. The county designed a three-tier network of assistance,... Read More »
The Domino Effect: Conference scholarship recipient describes her homeless experience
January 20, 2010
The agenda for the Alliance's upcoming National Conference on Ending Family Homelessness is packed: speakers will cover performance measurements, prevention strategies, program implementation and more, but some of our conference attendees will speak from personal experience. Valda Brown, a formerly homeless single mother of four, is one of our 2010 conference scholarship recipients. Here, she describes the lived experience of homelessness and the lessons she's learned.My car broke down and from that point on it was like a domino effect: I lost my jobs, my rent was behind and before I knew it, we were evicted. My four boys and I became homeless, with nowhere to go. We had no family here, so we were pretty much on our own. I went into a state of depression, but I couldn’t act upon it as I had to be strong for my children. It was eating me up inside. I couldn’t tell the children as they thought mommy could do everything. I had to deal with what I thought was my failure to them. I was constantly telling them to go to school and get good grades. They looked at me like "You have a college degree with no job and on top of all of that, we are homeless." It was a rough road. I knew I had to stay strong for my children and keep encouraging them to do well in school. My children and I both had... Read More »
HPRP Success Stories: 16-month-old has a new heart and a new home
January 04, 2010
For most homeless families, living in a friend's apartment might work better than sleeping in a car or finding shelter space, but for a family caring for an infant who is recovering from a heart transplant, these options are simply not an option. This family needs a stable home.With the help of New York's Department of Homeless Services, their partners and stimulus funding through the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program, Baby J and his family found one.The latest in our series of HPRP success stories comes from Holly Frindell from the Department of Homeless Services in New York. In August, Baby J was hospitalized with what doctors initially thought was bronchiolitis, but was quickly discovered to be heart failure. His health deteriorated rapidly and he was placed on the waiting list for a heart transplant. Two weeks following the baby’s admission to the hospital, his parents and three-year-old brother were evicted from their apartment. His father had lost his construction job eight months prior, and the family fell into arrears, eventually losing the apartment where they had lived for more than four years. The family was fortunate to have relatives to turn to for help, doubling up in a two-bedroom apartment where two other adults and two other children already were living. Word came in November that a heart finally had become available. With the transplant complete, however, the overcrowded apartment no longer was suitable. The h... Read More »
Rapid Re-Housing: From tent to apartment in 12 days
December 16, 2009
Michelle Zamora of The Road Home in Salt Lake City shows us just how quickly rapid rehousing can work. Using Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing (HPRP) funds, her organization moved a family from a tent to a stable apartment in under 2 weeks. Instead of getting stuck in a shelter or out in the cold, HPRP helped this family of six to stay safe, healthy, and together. The Road Home launched our Rapid Rehousing program on October 1, 2009. With funding contracts from the State of Utah, the County of Salt Lake and Salt Lake City, we invited homeless families to be assessed for Rapid Rehousing participation. A family came to us on October 8. Dad, Mom and four little kids were disheveled, scared and cold. Mom told us she is seven months pregnant and couldn't stay where they had been for several months before. When we asked for further clarification we learned that they had been sleeping in a tent west of Salt Lake City. The family was assessed for Rapid Rehousing on that day. Dad is employed making $9.00 an hour. His job seems stable and he is very proud of being employed. He was nervous that his boss might find out he was homeless and that he could be terminated. The family was welcomed in to The Road Home for crisis shelter. Their assessment for Rapid Rehousing participation was approved soon after and they started looking for employment. Today is October 20, and... Read More »