Ending Homelessness Today — Families
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 Needy Families (TANF), funded by the Department of Health and Human Services. What's more, homeless liaisons from the Department of Education might help identify the family before they became homeless and work to keep them housed.As we blog, Congress is making its way through the budget and appropriations process (or at least, they would be if the District wasn't paralyzed by snow...). We think the initiative has enormous potential, so we'll keep you informed as the program makes it's way toward the final federal budget.... 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 »
Hunger and Homelessness Survey, courtesy of the Conference of Mayors
December 10, 2009
So I guess the homelessness news of the week is that the U.S. Conference of Mayors came out with the Annual Hunger and Homelessness Report, suggesting that family homelessness is on the rise and that hunger has reached record rates. Specifically, the Mayors Report says: In the area of homelessness, nineteen cities (76 percent), reported an increase in family homelessness, while homelessness among individuals decreased or stayed the same for 16 of the 25 cities (64 percent). Most of the cities that experienced drops in individual homelessness attribute the decline to a policy strategy by federal, state and local governments of instituting 10-year plans to end chronic homelessness among single adults. Not surprisingly, the recession and a lack of affordable housing were cited as the top causes of family homelessness in the surveyed cities. While there’s no doubt in my mind that the recession has impacted homelessness on all fronts, I hadn’t been made aware that family homelessness was definitively up. In fact, I think I stumbled across just this quandary earlier this year when the Department of Housing and Urban Development released their Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR) in July of this year. But while we may not have any definitive data, Alliance staff are hearing reports from our friends in the field that need is undoubtedly up. From programs and shelters and advocates across the country, we hear stories of both individuals and families who are nearly that precarious edg... Read More »
Friday News Roundup: Family Homelessness
December 04, 2009
So today, the Alliance had a Congressional Briefing on Family Homelessness. I've never been to one of these myself (at least, not one hosted by the Alliance) so I wasn't sure what to expect - but things clarified about ten minutes into the briefing.It was a reasonably packed room - no place to sit for the whole staff, and we invited speakers from all over the country to discuss state, community, and local solutions to end homelessness among families.So here's where we start: family homelessness is a problem.That's been clear for a while now. News reports have (as of late) fixated on student homelessness - and while youth homelessness is nothing less than a critical problem - there's usually an entire family there that deserves our attention. Authors of the latest Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress (AHAR) from the Department of Housing and Urban Development will argue that family homelessness is up 4 percent from 2007 - 2008 (that's the latest data we have).The numbers are fuzzy, but between unemployment and poverty rates, enrollment in social services, use of food stamps, and other indicators - it's pretty clear that need is up.At our briefing, I had the privilege to listen to three representatives from three states:Bob Pulster, of the MA Department of Housing and Community Development;Kay Moshier McDivitt of the Lancaster County Coalition to End Homelessness in PA;Kathy Wahto, of the Serenity House of... Read More »
"One Paycheck Away" at Thanksgiving
November 25, 2009
The time has rolled around again for us to give thanks for all our blessings, and the Alliance thought it might be helpful to take a sharp look at those who are less fortunate. Thanks for reading our wandering thoughts - and have a happy Thanksgiving!It’s that time of year again. Pumpkins retreat as the mercury plunges, and we’re seized with the charitable desire to be kind to those less fortunate. Suddenly, those on the economic brink of society – those just “one paycheck away” from homelessness – have taken center stage in our national conscience.It’s a shift as sure as the season – and this year, it’s one that resonates all the louder. While homelessness has long been the exclusive plight of Americans living in poverty, its reach is climbing up the socioeconomic ladder. Increasingly, middle-class Americans are seeing the distance from one paycheck to the next get shorter and shorter while their incomes – and savings – dwindle. Combined with cash-strapped states cutting back social services and a continued rise in unemployment, the reality of homelessness comes sharply into focus.This holiday season, there will be far more families living just “one paycheck away.”The good news: this is not news. The ravaging effects of the economy and it’s impact on those living in poverty has not been wholly overlooked. An important federal stimulus initiative known as the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program (HPRP) is one of the few Congress-fun... 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 »
Research Council Notes - What's Next in the Field of Homelessness Research?
October 28, 2009
Yesterday, the Alliance hosted a convening of the Research Council – a handful of leaders in the homelessness research field – to discuss the direction of homelessness research. After a few moments sharing new and innovative projects that each member was working on, the group went forth to discuss three major points:
What has been achieved from the last agenda?
What is the future of homelessness research?
What are the policy implications of our research?
In the last Research Agenda, the council attempted to answer some of the bigger questions facing the field:
What programs and policies are effective in preventing chronic homelessness?
What mix of housing assistance and services prevents and ends homelessness?
What characteristics distinguish those poor, at-risk families who become homeless from those who don’t?
As the voices of these research heavyweights whirled around the room, I furiously took notes on the questions that seemed to resonate loudest. It became clearer and clearer that as much as we have learned about homelessness, there is even more that we don’t know. Now that the foundation has been laid on the issue of homelessness, the charge – it seems – is to dig deeper and deeper until homelessness is no longer the social problem we know today.
But in this economic climate and at this particular point in time, there are a few questions that rose as the obvious questions we need to answer soonest:
1. What is the impact of the recession o... 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 »
New Rules for Homeless Assistance Programs
September 22, 2009
We're heard though the grapevine that some people are a little confused - and a little worried - by the new Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing Act, a.k.a. the HEARTH Act. There seem to be some question about what, exactly, this legislation will do and how it will affect local direct service providers.
Below, our senior policy analyst Norm Suchar has some answers. Take it away, Norm!
One of the major homelessness policy debates over the past 2 decades has been about updating the Department of Housing and Urban Development's (HUD's) homeless assistance programs. After years of debates and several false starts, Congress passed a bill called the Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing Act, a.k.a. the HEARTH Act. It was signed by President Obama on May 20, 2009.
The HEARTH Act makes mostly evolutionary changes to homeless assistance, although some of the changes are more substantial. The changes go into effect in about two years. Here are some of the highlights.
1. The HEARTH Act focuses much more on preventing homelessness. Currently federal homeless assistance programs don't fund many prevention programs. Because of the HEARTH Act, there will be a lot more homelessness prevention, particularly for helping people when they get behind on the rent or when they have a dispute with a landlord.
2. There is a greater focus on helping families with children move into their own housing. Families are typically homeless for... 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 »
Foster Children: Youth Homelessness and Housing
September 10, 2009
Today, I had the opportunity to attend a meeting addressing housing and homelessness issues for foster children and youth. Hosted by the National Foster Care Coalition (NFCC), this meeting brought together advocates, policymakers, government officials, and other interested parties in addressing the issue of foster children.
According to the NFCC, there are nearly half a million children and youth in foster care - and of those, over 26,000 age out of the foster care program without ever having joined a permanent family. Studies have demonstrated that these youth - who never experience the benefits of permanent housing and support - often are more likely to experience negative outcomes, including poverty, homelessness, incarceration, as well as mental and physical illness. They often never learn the life and educational skills necessary to live successful, independent lives.
Luckily, there are actions that we can take to help these foster care children, and increase the odds that they will become productive, active members of society. The NFCC presented a housing policy platform for foster care children, which include the following (these are just a selection among a longer list):
Increase the legal and financial incentive to providing foster placement prevention services, including housing.
Require federally-mandated child welfare planning/plans to integrate housing goals.
Provide federal incentives for states to extend foster care [services] until 21, if needed.
Change TANF to support minor parents in their efforts to find housing for themselves and their children.
As an... Read More »
Secretary Donovan video - Annual Conference remarks
September 08, 2009
At long last, the video of Secretary Donovan at the Alliance's Annual Conference on Ending Homelessness. Below, please find the text of the remarks below.
More videos from the conference are forthcoming!
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... Read More »
Guest Blog: On the Ground Notes, Community Lodgings (Alexandria, VA)
September 03, 2009
In the fight against homelessness, there are a number of solutions and ideas. So far, we as a country have embraced homelessness management – and constructed a series of shelters and assistance programs that do benefit the lives of the homeless but does little else to lift them out of homelessness in a more effective and permanent way.
The Alliance supports a different approach – one based on permanent housing as a solution to homelessness.
In between the two is the concept of transitional housing – a temporary situation that can aid individuals and family who are suffering a short-term crisis. Here’s a story from Bonnie Baxley, Executive Director at Community Lodgings. Inc., a transitional housing program in Alexandria, Virginia.
All families who enter Community Lodgings’ Transitional Housing Program are homeless and most are referred to us by local temporary shelters. Each of our families has their own unique story usually revolving around themes that are all too familiar: addiction, domestic violence and a lack of education.
Recently, we welcomed a new family to our program. J.D., a single mother, and her 5-month old son exemplify the constant struggle that characterizes homelessness. Still, they continue to overcome seemingly incomprehensible problems through support from our caseworkers and their own enduring hope and perseverance.
A 31-year old single mother, J.D., was referred to Community Lodgings from a local homeless shelter. She entered our two-year program with a history of incarceration and substance abuse as ... Read More »
Guest Blog: Homelessness and Health Care
August 17, 2009
Happy Monday, everyone!
We have a GREAT treat today! Maria Foscarinis, of the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty (NLCHP), sent us a piece on her organization's stance on the health care debate and the homelessness.
No doubt you've heard a thing or two about the raging controversy over health care. All the national papers, including the New York Times, the Washington Post and USA Today are a-buzz with recent criticisms, potential changes, and the likelihood that the administration will concede to the hysteria of the general public.
In our little corner of the world, we wonder what the health care debate will mean for the homeless population. We wonder if reform - should reform pass - will make a tangible difference in their lives: will the chronically homeless get the medical attention they need? Will improved coverage curb the number of costly emergency-room visits? Will the poor and very poor be assured health care coverage under federal programs like Medicaid? And since the Post brought it up, what about the families?
Here at the Alliance, we know what we'd like to see. Check out senior policy analyst Peggy Bailey outline the Alliance's goals for improving health care.
And a slightly different perspective from our friends at the NLCHP. Many thanks to Maria Foscarinis and Ashley Shuler at NLCHP for their invaluable help in getting this piece posted today.
Tale of two health crises
By: Maria Foscarinis
Twenty two... 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 »