Ending Homelessness Today — Mental/Physical Health
Steve Berg: What ending homelessness looks like
September 20, 2010
Thanks to all our wonderful fans and supporters who submitted photos for the Alliance photo contest. Our judges are reviewing all the excellent entries and while we wait for the results, we have a very special guest on the blog. Steve Berg, Vice President of Programs and Policy at the Alliance, speculates on what a country without homelessness could look like .
She’s not going to be homeless, even though her boyfriend beat her and disappeared with her money. Even though her job disappeared next, she and her babies had to move in with her mom, and now her mom’s boyfriend wants them out.
She’s not going to be homeless because the domestic violence counselor sent over a woman who mediated, found some places that were hiring, contacted a new day care center, connected her with a different landlord, and paid the security deposit and her storage bill.
She’s not going to be homeless.
She’s going to unwrap the dishes. On one of the newspapers she’s using there’s a story about The Last Homeless Person in America. She laughs, thinking, “That could have been me.” She’ll have to read it later.
He’s not going to be homeless even though he came back from overseas and couldn’t talk to anybody. Even though his girlfriend, his boss, his friends and parents all made him so furious he couldn’t be around them.
He’s not going to be homeless because the last time the doorbell rang, he let in the Veterans Affairs officer – a man who had rung twice before. Before he was ready. He’s not going to be homeless because the VA officer showed him how the Department of Veterans Affairs could help him – with job programs, benefits, landlord assistance, even a rent voucher if he can’t get work right away.
He’s not going to be homeless. He’s going to explore his options with the VA. Before he left, the VA officer showed him a newspaper clip entitled, The Last Homeless Person in America. He told him that not so long ago, tens of thousands of veterans would return from abroad only to live on the streets. “But no more,” he said. “’I will never leave a fallen comrade’ means that if it means anything.”
He’s not going to be homeless, even though he’s coming out of lockup and none of his family will take him back; even though he’s got a record now. He’s not going to be homeless even though he’s made some serious mistakes, even though he’s starting over with nothing.
He’s not going to be homeless because they have a place for him to live. It’s a group home – but it’s that or adult prison and when he gets there it’s all about getting work and getting out and into his own place.
The first day on the job they’re laughing at closing time. Laughing at the rookie cleaning the bathrooms and he laughts with them. There’s a newspaper on the floor, a story about The Last Homeless Person in America. He sweeps it up and knows that’s never going to be him.
She’s not going to be homeless, even though she stopped taking her meds, even though she started drinking more again, even though she’s back on the precipitous edge. She’s not going to be homeless because when the rent was late, her landlord called Mental Health and a whole crew of people ... Read More »
Friday News Round Up: Looking Back
August 27, 2010
As the anniversary of hurricane Katrina is upon us, we hear about the state of homelessness in the affected areas. From Newsweek, we read about how after five years, the situation is still dire with some statistics saying that the problem of homelessness has doubled.
In other news, the Daily Record tells us how Medicaid expansion will help those experiencing homelessness, and the Berkley Daily Planet informs us on the Western Regional Advocacy Project’s update of their report on homelessness.
The Sacramento Press also brought us some good news, writing on how HPRP funds were used in this past year to house 1,168 families.... Read More »
Mental Illness and Homelessness - Notes from the Alliance for Research Progress at NIMH
July 26, 2010
Today’s post comes to us from the newest member of the Alliance staff, research associate Peter Witte.
On Friday, July 23, I had the opportunity to attend the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) summer meeting of the Alliance for Research Progress in Bethesda, Maryland. The Alliance for Research Progress is a group of advocates that represent national organizations (like ours) with an interest in mental health. The group meets twice a year to discuss the mental health field and hear about NIMH research activities and priorities.
About 45 percent of homeless people report that they have experienced an indicator of a mental health problem. Homeless people also report a high level of substance abuse problems. It’s critical that groups invested in ending homelessness – like the Alliance - take part in the dialogue about mental illness and hear about the latest research because so many people experiencing homelessness could benefit the information. (For more information on the relationship between homelessness and mental and physical health, see our “Issues” section.)
Lisa J. Colpe, Chief in the Office of Clinical and Population Epidemiology Research, presented about the Army Study to Assess Risk and Resilience in Service Members (Army STARRS) project. The project is investigating “factors that help protect a soldier’s mental health and those factors that put a soldier’s mental health at risk.”
As an organization that has worked hard to address homelessness among veterans, this presentation was an illuminating look at what we c... Read More »
Why healthcare reform matters in the fight against homelessness
March 22, 2010
Yesterday marked an important moment in American legislative history. Last night (so late it was almost early this morning), the U.S. House of Representatives passed health care reform legislation. The hotly-contested legislation endured fierce debate up to the very end, and the final bill passed without any Republican support. While it may not be readily apparent, the health care reform bill has a significant effects on the homeless population. Among many other things, this legislation expands Medicaid eligibility to include people with incomes of up to 133 percent of the poverty level, covering nearly all people experiencing homelessness. Moreover, the legislation will also provide approximately $10 billion for community health centers for Fiscal Years (FY) 2011 through 2015. Typically, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) allocates 8.7 percent of total community health center funding toward the Health Care for the Homeless program, which can be used to provide services to people in permanent supportive housing. The health care legislation also expands early childhood home visitation programs, which provide parent education, child development, and support services to low-income, at-risk young children and their families. President Obama has said he plans to sign the legislation on Tuesday, March 23.P.S. We made the video above last summer, when the healthcare reform debate was just heating up, but it still does a pretty adequate job of wrapping up how the two are related and why health care reform matters to homelessness. Let us know what... 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 »
Notes from Nan: The Healthcare-Homelessness Connection
October 19, 2009
Happy Monday, everyone!
In case you didn't catch it, we're posting Nan Roman's Huffington Post blog on here, entitled "the Healthcare-Homelessness Connection," - a look into how the current health care debate is affected by homelessness, and vice versa.
The Healthcare-Homelessness Connection
While health care reform is being hotly debated across the nation, one of the groups most likely to be affected by reform has been characteristically silent: people who are homeless.
It's a common misconception that everybody living in poverty is eligible for Medicaid -- in truth, there are many poor people who are not currently eligible for Medicaid. Non-disabled, childless adults -- even those with health problems -- are often not eligible. The same applies to mothers with health conditions whose children have been placed in foster care, and young adults aging out of the foster care system.
In fact, a 1996 nationwide study of homelessness found that only 25 percent of homeless single adults were enrolled in Medicaid.
It's not always easy to see, but homelessness and health care have a clear -- and cyclical -- relationship: poor health can lead to homelessness, and homelessness can aggravate poor health. And both can be a burden on our health care system.
Many people become homeless due to a lack of health care. Untreated illnesses can lead to disability and job loss -- and unemployment remains one of the leading causes of homelessness. It's worth noting here that the leading cause... Read More »
Friday News Roundup: Medicaid and the Health Care Debate
October 16, 2009
Happy Friday, everyone! Apologies for the long absence.
This week, in the Friday News Roundup, we thought we'd share a bit of Alliance news about - what else - the health care debate.
On October 15, Senators Shaheen (D-NH), Brown (D-OH), and Menendez (D-NJ) introduced a coordinated care Medicaid program as part of health reform: the REDUCE Act (Reduce Emergency Department Utilization through Coordination and Empowerment Act). As we've explained before in our video, Medicaid is a key priority for the Alliance in ensuring that the interests of those experiencing homelessness are considered in the health care debate.
Now – the Alliance is working to help attain additional Senators to co-sponsor (officially sign-on in support of) co-sponsor the bill.
This legislation would:
Improve health outcomes for people who are homeless and have multiple disabling conditions;
Allow participating states to reimburse supportive housing providers for all of the primary health care and behavioral health services that people need to remain safely housed; and
Improve future Medicaid benefits packages by tracking and evaluating reductions in hospitalizations or institutional admissions and use of emergency health services.
To be attached to health reform, the REDUCE Act will likely be offered as an amendment when the Senate votes on health care reform legislation. Before health care legislation can proceed to the Senate floor, though, the Senate Finance committee’s version must be combined with the version of the legislation passed this summer by the Senate Health, Education, Lab... Read More »
Innovation in Approaching Mental Illness
September 25, 2009
I got an email this morning from a person involved with Ashoka’s Changemakers.
(Yeah, I didn’t know who they were at first either.)
But it turns out, they’re worth knowing. Changemakers, as they’re called, are people devoted to making a substantive change in social issues. Or, as they like to say it: “Changemakers is a community of action where we all collaborate on solutions.”
Changemakers work on all kind of issues: community, violence, abuse, environment, aging, animal rights, youth. The website is a place where like-minded people can connect, chat, and exchange ideas about new innovations and best practices.
Right now, Changemakers is hosting a competition: Rethinking Mental Health: Improving Community Wellbeing.”
The prompt: submit one way to challenge common misconceptions about mental health and engage communities in expanding our understanding and involvement in finding solutions.
Nope, not easy. But an important step nonetheless.
And why do we care?
Approximately 20 percent of the homeless population is considered “chronically homeless”, and by definition, suffer from some sort of disability. Many times, this disability involves mental health. This disability often prevents a person from being able to find stable housing, employment, and the resources he or she needs in order to pull themselves towards self-sufficiency.
Check out the website, the community and the competition. Got any good ideas? ... Read More »
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 »
Happy National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month
September 15, 2009
September is National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month. This annual observance is designed to promote the benefits of substance abuse treatment and the highlight contributions of treatment providers in this field. Recovery Month also aims to educate the public about substance abuse and addiction and confirm that recovery is possible. It’s an important time to reflect upon the relationship between substance abuse and homelessness – and what is and isn’t true about that relationship. Substance abuse is much more common among those experiencing homelessness, and specifically those identified as experiencing chronic homelessness. Chronic homelessness is defined by some sort of disability; many chronically homeless people have a serious mental illness like schizophrenia and/or alcohol or drug addiction. As anyone who has been touched by substance abuse can attest – it’s a difficult battle in the best of circumstances. Substance abuse creates barriers to achieving independence and stability, barring the way to a healthy lifestyle including permanent employment and housing. And more often than not, homelessness and the challenges of a transient – and sometimes street – lifestyle only exacerbate the disability. As responsible members of a more and more interdependent community, we should do our utmost to provide resources to those with substance abuse issues, and ensure that all those actively seeking help find it quickly and safely. RecoveryMonth.gov provides numerous resources, including Recovery Month toolkits, a press kit, and an event locator. Nearly 600 events have been planned around Recove... Read More »
the President: Healthcare and the Homeless
September 09, 2009
President Barack Obama just finished his address to a joint session of Congress about health care reform. The raging debate over this monstrous social issue has been the cause of many an editorial, many a pundit's diatribe, and much distress and concern among the American public.
Tonight, the President reminded us about "the things that truly matter" and the importance of approaching our biggest challenges. He reminded us that we not only have a personal responsibility to take care of ourselves, but a moral and civic responsibility to look after those least among us. He reminded us that we can and must take on the hard challenges that confront us as a nation to make us, collectively, a healthier, more whole community. The President urged us to put aside our difference and focus on the common values and priorities that bring us together.
We know that the President could not be more right - and we support and applaud the President in his efforts to provide necessary services to the American people, and to make sure that those who are most in need also have access to critical care.
As I listened to the President discuss his priorities and agenda tonight, I could only be reminded (though perhaps because I'm surrounded by it day-after-day!) of those who really are the least among us. Not the middle class families or the post-college graduates - though their needs are equally important -... 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 »
Remembering Ted Kennedy
August 26, 2009
Like so many others today, the Alliance mourns the loss of the esteemed public servant, Senator Ted Kennedy. His leadership, courage, and conviction will undoubtedly ensure his place in our collective memory.
It's fitting that the Alliance first had the opportunity to host Senator Ted Kennedy ten years ago - the same year that the Alliance introduced the Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness. At our 1999 annual conference - The End of Homelessness: Blueprint for New Millennium - the senator joined Mrs. Tipper Gore in addressing the conference of 500 homeless advocates, providers, and community leaders.
The senator had not always been in the plan. In fact, the Alliance had initially invited a staff member (presumably because we figured that the senator had prior engagements) from the senator's office to discuss mental illness among the homeless.
And then luck intervened. Another staff member, who noticed the Alliance invitation and conference materials, thought that the conference would be a fitting venue to debut the senator's new language on mental health. And so, in July 1999, the senator joined the Alliance staff and conference attendees at the Capital Hilton Hotel in Washington, D.C.
Senator Kennedy - the 'lion of the Senate' - spent his entire adult life in service to his country. The Alliance joins the nation in honoring the legacy of the great public servant.... Read More »
Friday: News Roundup!
August 21, 2009
Okay, so every Friday, I’m going to try to have a news roundup of stories that were particularly interesting, or funny, or insightful, or really really awful (I’m kind of looking forward to writing about the last ones!).Luckily for you, National Public Radio (NPR) and the Associated Press came to your rescue today. Yesterday, the Department of Labor announced that unemployment had reached 9.5 percent – a 26-year high. The Associated Press and NPR reported that industry sectors across the board were hit fairly hard, with the bright spots being in education and medical fields. There’s been a flurry of discussion about the recession and it’s impacts on homelessness: news about foreclosures and middle-class families and rising rates of homelessness across the country (check out the Daily Clips section of our website for a listing of related stories). But more troubling than those sensationalized stories are reports like this one about unemployment. While the recession may come and (hopefully) go, the root causes of homelessness – including a dearth of affordable housing, mental illness, and (yup) unemployment – are steadfast in the face of economic sways. Also in the news today is a story about schizophrenia.Recent genetic studies, according to reporting by NPR have shed some light on the development of schizophrenia.Researchers, long stymied by puzzling disease, tried to find difference in the genes of thousands of people – some had schizophrenia; some didn’t.The researchers found a few interesting... Read More »
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 »
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 »
Homelessness: A Brief History
July 01, 2009
So, to kick things off, here’s a nice, soft introduction into how we got where we are today: Homelessness has been around pretty much since there were more people than homes (read: a long, long time). A number of national and economic events (anyone remember the Great Depression?) prompted bursts of homelessness from time to time, but local and federal authorities usually answered the need. Homelessness as we know it today surged around the 1980s. Why the 80s? Good question. Perhaps the most sensationalized - and one of the more controversial - cause of modern-day homelessness is deinstitutionalization.
The 1950s and 1960s saw a wave of activism against mental health institutions as reports of neglect, abuse, and mistreatment in such facilities became commonplace. The goal of deinstitutionalization was to move people who are mentally ill and disabled from these institutions into community-based health centers, where they would be fewer restrictions on patients and a lesser financial burden to federal and state coffers. (Popular opinion seems to fault President Reagan for deinstitionalization, but my own research has not validated that opinion.) Many argue that the effort has been unsuccessful, and that people who are mentally ill are now housed in the criminal justice system or are homeless altogether.
Read More »