Ending Homelessness Today — Housing First
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 several weeks or several months, but it doesn't have to be that way. With some help paying for first and last month's rent, deposits, and moving costs, most families could exit homelessness much quicker. The HEARTH Act puts more resources into this kind of assistance.
3. There will continue to be a focus on Permanent Supportive Housing for people with disabilities. Over the past several years, HUD has encouraged communities to spend more on Permanent Supportive Housing, which consists of a basic apartment with supportive services, like case management, mental health care, and substance abuse services. This effort has been very successful, significantly reducing the number of people with disabilities who experience long-term or chronic homelessness. The HEARTH Act continues this focus and also changes some of the rules to make it easier to develop Permanent Supportive Housing.... 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 »
Ten Things You Need to Know to End Homelessnessc
August 13, 2009
Okay, I'm a little excited! Yesterday, our friends at The Nation published an editorial we wrote for the "Ten Things" series. You can access the article, "Ten Things You Need to Know to End Homelessness," on the Nation website but - if you're feeling lazy - you can just read it below!
Ten Things You Need to Know to End Homelessness
In July 2009, The Nation published a "Ten Things" piece titled "Ten Things You Need to Know to Live on the Streets." The provocative and thoughtful piece elicited quite a response. We, however, respectfully disagree with the premise of the piece. Before submitting to the idea that there are things you need to know to live on the streets, we suggest that you consider whether living on the streets is necessary at all.
We're no strangers to the issue of homelessness--rather, we're quite well-versed in the subject. Homelessness, as we know it, began in the 1980s and has persisted through the decades. Some see it as an inevitable byproduct of a diminishing affordable housing supply, a lack of well-paying jobs, tumult in the economic sector, and both globalization and urbanization. Many see it as an unavoidable social nuisance. Some don't see it at all. But here, at the National Alliance to End Homelessness, we see it as a problem with a solution.
The causes of homelessness are many and complex--but the solution to homelessness heads toward one straight goal: housing.
... Read More »
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 »
the view from: Los Angeles, California
July 14, 2009
The Alliance is probably best known as a federal policy shop, but that’s not all we do here. Nope – we’re a multi-talented organization!
While I may be partial to my native Homelessness Research Institute, we also have a department called the Center for Capacity Building. That’s our field team – the great folks who go out into the field and work directly with communities and local officials to help turn great policy into effective programs and best practices.
Just last week, the Director of the Center for Capacity Building – our own Damien Heath – flew to sunny L.A. to provide technical support to some service providers in southern California. Hosted by the United Way of Greater Los Angeles, Damien gave a couple workshops on rapid re-housing.
The idea behind rapid re-housing is fairly simple, and it’s borne out of the Housing First model. Basically, we recommend that people experiencing homelessness be housed as quickly as possible – the principle being that providing housing first (get it? Housing First?), and then providing other services as needed, is the best way to reduce and end homelessness in the long run. (For a more comprehensive analysis on Housing First and rapid re-housing, you can always visit our website.
FYI: That’s not how we approach homelessness in America today. Our homeless systems today are focused on managing homelessness through shelters and soup kitchens – not ending homelessness through strategic, systematic means like permanent housing and... Read More »