Ending Homelessness Today — Policy and Legislation
Friday News Roundup: talking TANF and Ten Year Plans
May 07, 2010
It's been another seriously busy week at the Alliance. Not only did we recognize the formation of the new Congressional Caucus on Homelessness and launch a brand-new website, we also put out the latest Community Snapshot, which highlights the progress in Alameda County, CA. They've reduced homelessness by 15% since 2003. Find out how they did it here.This week on the Change.org End Homelessness blog, blogger Jessica Rowshandel also discussed news about the Congressional Caucus on Homelessness briefing. Plus, they featured a post by our very own Catherine An! On Off the Charts, the Center on Budget names yet another reason for Congress to extend the Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF) Emergency Contingency Fund: it's helping create jobs for more than 180,000 people across the U.S. That's in addition to preventing families from ending up homeless by providing income and short-term rent assistance. (Read our latest on the Emergency Contingency Fund here. The Center for American Progress was also talking TANF this week - check out what they have to say about changing TANF asset tests. And let's end on some good news: Memphis, a city where 1600 people experience homelessness each night, just announced that they've created a Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness. Hats off to Memphis! Plus, Cape Cod's Point in Time Count showed a 10% decrease in the number of people experiencing homelessness.... Read More »
Friday News Roundup: the latest on HPRP, homeless female veterans and counts
April 30, 2010
If you've never read UNITY of Greater New Orleans blog Signs of Life in Greater New Orleans, do it now. This post highlights the complex issues many chronically homeless people face, as well as their dedication to finding each and every person a place to call home. Last week, UNITY GNO took home our Nonprofit Achievement Award and this week, let's continue to celebrate their work.Although we've been discussing programs like the National Housing Trust Fund and the Housing and Services Demonstration Program, our key federal priorities are still on our minds. Here's some updates:The Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program is one with transformative potential, and an initiative we've covered extensively on this blog. The latest on the significance of HPRP comes from from Change.org's End Homelessness blog. Blogger Steven Samra writes:The beauty of HPRP over the few other sources of assistance available is that agencies participating in HPRP are able to help remove the huge barriers to housing that people who are newly homeless often face.We've been paying particular attention to the struggles facing female veterans experiencing homelessness, and it looks like the federal government is, too. The Department of Labor announced a $5 million dollar grant for reintegration initiatives this week, while one former servicewoman in Florida moved into her new home. We're also keeping a close eye on data released from January Point in Time counts. This week Dallas announced that despite... Read More »
Advocacy Update: Let's keep the pressure on!
April 28, 2010
Our Senate sign-on letter asking for $2.4 billion for McKinney-Vento programs has been signed, sealed and delivered with 28 Senator signatures - and you made it happen! Those federal funds will be used to keep homeless assistance programs up and running in your community and across the country. But it's not over yet. As appropriations season begins, let's keep up the pressure on Senators and Representatives to provide $2.4 billion for McKinney programs!Here's how: More Letters. If your Senator didn’t sign onto the group Dear Colleague letter, you can ask him/her to send an individual letter to the Senate HUD appropriations subcommittee. You can find a list of which Senators signed onto the letter here. Site Visits. Urge your Senator or Representative to visit a local program while they’re home over the Memorial Day Recess (May 30 – June 6). Click here for sample invitations and tools for inviting Members of Congress to visit a program. Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you want help planning a site visit – we’d love to work with you! Media. Members of Congress pay close attention to their local papers, so another way to reiterate the importance of making ending homelessness a federal priority and funding McKinney programs is to write an op-ed for your local paper, particularly over congressional recesses. Let us know if we can help you work to earn media.Your hard work hasn't gone unrecognized: several of our Senate signatories were reluctant initially... Read More »
Affordable Housing: For many Americans, it's Out of Reach
April 21, 2010
Today, the National Low-Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) released Out of Reach, an annual analysis of the cost of rental housing in the United States. In order to understand the report, it’s important to establish two things: “Fair Market Rent” refers to the national average cost of a rental unit; it usually refers to a two-bedroom unit. ”Housing Wage” refers to the hourly wage a person must earn – working full-time – in order to afford Fair Market Rent. The report found that a family needs to earn $18.44 per hour in order to afford a modest rental, two-bedroom home in the United States. This amounts to $38,360 per year - $16,310 more than the federal poverty level for a family of four. Key findings of the report include: In 2010, the estimated average wage for renters in the United States is $14.44 – a decline from $14.69 in 2009;At the federal minimum wage of $7.25, a household would have top work 102 hours a week to afford the national average FMR;There is no county in the United States in which a full-time minimum wage worker can afford even a one-bedroom apartment at FMR.The report also found that the two-bedroom Housing Wage topped $20 in 10 states, including the District of Columbia, California, New York, Florida, and Hawaii. The five most expensive metro areas included San Francisco (CA), Honolulu (HI), Stamford-Norwalk (CT), San Cruz-Watsonville (CA), and Westchester County (NY) – the housing wage for each of those areas topped $30 per hour. In their report, the... Read More »
Friday News Roundup: Elderly homelessness, the Census, and even some good news
April 02, 2010
Policymakers can consider themselves warned: in 10 years, homelessness among the elderly population will have increased dramatically unless they take action. Along with our own report, The Rising Elderly Population, the AARP's Public Policy Institute and the Center for Housing Policy also released a study this week on Strategies to Meet the Housing Needs of Older Adults. It even comes with an online toolkit to help make these strategies into reality.Although predictions about elderly homelessness are a cause for serious concern, there has been some good news in headlines about homelessness this week:In San Francisco, a new 56-unit development for formerly homeless individuals opened its doors this week. 149 Mason Street also offers a host of services, including an on-site medical clinic. Two officials in Ventura County, CA are working to invest extra revenue in homeless assistance, including start-up money for a housing trust fund. The Cleveland Homeless blog reported on a study by the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless that shows despite increasing unemployment and an increasing difficult housing market, homelessness has only risen slightly due to a solid network of prevention and emergency services. The Huffington Post featured a story about a mother with two children who recently moved into permanent supportive housing after escaping domestic violence.And it's census week! We shared some neat trivia on our blog as census workers visited emergency shelters, free meal sites, and outdoor areas like parking lots in an attempt to g... Read More »
Reoprt out today: Homelessness among the elderly to rise 33% by 2020
April 01, 2010
According to The Rising Elderly Population, the latest report from our own Homelessness Research Institute, homelessness among the elderly is set to increase 33% between 2010 and 2010.I sat down with MWilliam Sermons, director of HRI, to talk about the report, specifically our recommended solutions to the increasingly urgent problem of elderly homelessness.Liz: These projections are pretty dire. What can we do to start curbing elderly homelessness now?Bill: I think the primary thing that can be done right now is to trying shore up affordable housing programs on which elderly persons rely.There's a mix between project-based Section 8, housing choice vouchers, Section 202, Section 515. Because elderly persons have a diverse range of needs, they utilize a diverse range of federal programs and local programs. So I think it’s really critical that the housing stock in these programs be preserved.Bill: It’s also critical that new housing units be created moving forward. Federal policy definitely has to move in a direction such that we’re dramatically expanding the availability of affordable housing that elderly persons rely on.I also think that one of the things that’s critical from a homelessness perspective is that the job of ending chronic homelessness be completed. The projection is that there will be a 33% increase in elderly homelessness between 2010 and 2020 and a lot of the people that are chronically homeless now are in the "older adult but not yet elderly" category.So the success that we... Read More »
New NHC President and CEO Maureen Friar on the past, present and future of affordable housing
March 30, 2010
Today's guest post is from Maureen Friar, the new President and CEO of the National Housing Conference. We asked her some of the most pressing questions in the field. Here's what she said:Where do we – as a national community – stand on the issue of affordable housing? Where should we go from here? Our country still faces a huge affordable housing problem. Housing is not affordable for many segments of our society, including low-income households and working families. In addition, when the cost of transportation is combined with the cost of housing, households are finding it even harder to make ends meet. With the recent downturn in economy, collapse of the financial markets, and the overextension of credit, the number of foreclosures continues to rise, affecting millions in our communities. According to our research affiliate the Center on Housing Policy’s newest Paycheck to Paycheck study, between 2008 and 2009, home prices rose or held steady in 90 (44 percent) out of 207 metropolitan areas. Over the same time period, the income needed to purchase a median-priced home decreased in 193 of these metro areas (93 percent). As well known to NAEH, we have made great strides in ending chronic homelessness, but many still are without a home. People are also living in substandard housing and families often are doubled- and tripled- up, which adds to the affordable housing crisis.We must work with the Administration and Congress as one national community to implement measures to halt forec... 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 »
Call Congress today to increase funding for services to the homeless: Do it now!
March 16, 2010
Do your part to ensure homeless assistance programs have adequate funding! Take the next step in our McKinney-Vento Appropriations campaign by calling your Congressional Representative right now.Tomorrow is the last day YOUR federal Representative can sign the McKinney-Vento Appropriations Congressional Sign-On Letter. The letter – already being circulated in Congress - requests that McKinney-Vento programs receive $2.4 billion for the 2011 fiscal year.As you already know, McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance programs are the cornerstone of the federal investment in preventing and ending homelessness – funding federal efforts, state plans, and providing financial assistance to your own, local programs. We need the estimated $2.4 billion to keep those local programs working and make the changes outlined in the HEARTH Act.So here’s what you do:1) Call the Congressional Switchboard at (202)224-3121.2) Ask for your Representative.If you don't know who that is, you can find out here.35 Representatives are already signatories, and you can find out if yours is one by clicking here. (If your Congressperson has already signed on, call to say thanks!)3) Ask for the staffer who works on housing issues.4) Here's what you can say:I am calling to ask if your boss will support a funding level of $2.4 billion for HUD’s McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants program in FY 2011. Specifically, I would like Representative (______) to sign a Congressional sign-on letter regarding this funding request, which is being circulated by Representatives Moore (D-WI) and Davis (R-KY).HUD's McKinney program is the primary... Read More »
Senate passes latest version of the Jobs Bill, but HPRP funding is nowhere to be found
February 24, 2010
Okay – so we’re going to take some time to talk about something a tad bit boring…and pretty important. That’s right: Congress.This just in: the Senate just passed the first piece of the Jobs bill (recap: once upon a time, there was one giant Senate Jobs bill. But some people thought it’d be better to break it up into a bunch of little bills). This $15 billion bill is focused primarily on providing tax credits for employers who are hiring – and especially hiring the unemployed. More, similar legislation will be coming down the pike, but no where in the distance is one key element that we – the Alliance and homeless asisistance providers and advocates – are looking for. Additional funding for the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program (HPRP). As a part of the Jobs Bill, we at the Alliance are hoping for $1 billion. Here's why:The unemployment outlook has worsened significantly since HPRP was created last year, which puts more people in danger of becoming homeless. It was designed to help 600,000 people, but communities are finding there are more people who need assistance than we'd planned for. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), communities from states - including California, Michigan, Nebraska, Florida, Massachusetts, New York, Utah, and South Carolina - have reported that there are far more families who are homeless or at-risk than there is money to help them get back on their feet. An ... 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 »
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 »
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 »
International Bent: Global Poverty
September 17, 2009
Today, I thought I’d throw an international spin on the poverty + homelessness issues.
Yesterday, Bloomberg News reported that the World Bank expects that “the global recession will push an additional 89 million people into ‘extreme poverty’ by the end of next year…”
(It’s important to note here that the World Bank defines ‘extreme poverty’ as those living on less that $1.25 a day. )
Robert Zoellick, the president of the World Bank, noted that those most impacted by the global recession will likely be those who are already living on the economic fringes of society. According to Bloomberg: “The poor and most vulnerable are at greatest risk from economic shocks,” Zoellick said in a statement released today with the report. “The poorest countries may not be well represented on the G-20 but we cannot ignore the long-term costs of the global downturn on their people’s health and education.”
As such, Zoellick urged the leaders of the Group of 20 (G-20) – slated to meet next week in Pittsburgh, PA – to keep strengthen their support of the world’s poorest countries, and maintain, if not increase, levels of financial investment in developing countries.
So far, that hasn’t been happening.
In March of this year, the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn delivered an address to a Brookings panel suggesting that developing countries were beginning to feel the impacts of the global economic recession, mainly through depressed trade interests and decreasing investment from other coun... Read More »
Friday: News Roundup, Poverty Report
September 11, 2009
The big [relevant] news of the day is the poverty update.Yesterday, the U.S. Census Bureau announced that the nation’s poverty rate climbed to 13.2 percent last year, which translates into 39.8 million people living in poverty. This rose from 12..5 percent in 2007, and is the highest poverty rate in 12 years.The information for this recent report was gathered early in 2008, and by most accounts, the recession grew worse during 2008, suggesting that the numbers may have since inflated. Economists suggest, as noted in the New York Times article this morning, that we may see even more pronounced effects of the recession on levels of poverty for the 2009 year.This news hardly comes as a surprise during an economic crisis that has affected so many Americans. Nor is one surprised by the details of the data, which suggests that those most affected tend to be families headed by women, people of color, and children.Rising unemployment, a rise in the need of social services coupled with a decrease in the availability of those resources, drastic state budget cuts, and all the other extraneous pressure of the recession have strongly affected those at the economic fringes of society and those most vulnerable to falling into poverty.This data supports the Alliance’s prediction that up to 1.5 million more people may experience homelessness before the recession is over without significant government intervention. As poverty increases, the risk of losing housing – often the most considerable porti... 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 »
Congratulations to New Jersey!
September 09, 2009
Congratulations to our friends in New Jersey, who have been working to pass state legislation that would allow them to create housing trust funds for the homeless in their state. Governor John Corzine signed that legislation in to law yesterday.
Governor Corzine was joined by state Senator Dana Redd (D-Camden, Gloucester), Assemblymembers Nilsa Cruz-Perez (D-Camden, Gloucester), Gordon Johnson (D-Bergen), Bonnie Watson-Coleman (D-Mercer), Elease Evans (D-Bergen, Passaic) and Camden Mayor Gwedolyn Faison as he signed the County Homeless Trust Fund into law in a ceremony held on September 8, 2009, at the Cathedral Kitchen in Camden.
An article by the Associated Press briefly outlines the stipulations and ramifications of this bill.
Advocates in New Jersey celebrate the passing of the bill, calling it a signficant step in their efforts to fight homelessness. More information about the Trust Fund legislation and other efforts to fight homelessness in New Jersey can be found below.
Homeless Trust Fund Bill Becomes Law
Photos from the Trust Fund Signing
Video from the Trust Fund Signing
Appreciation for the Trust Fund!... Read More »
Meet Rich: Youth Homelessness and Housing
September 01, 2009
Richard HooksWayman - senior policy analyst at the National Alliance to End Homelessness - is the Alliance expert on youth homelessness and housing policy.
Last week, the Youth team launched a Youth Housing page. It's filled with great resources, presentations, and best practices - AND a national Youth Housing Policy Agenda to pursue more housing and resources for youth experiencing homelessness.
For more information about youth homelessness or youth housing, please do not hesitate to contact Rich HooksWayman or Lakesha Pope at the Alliance!... Read More »
Ending Homelessness with HPRP: Transforming Homeless Assistance
August 27, 2009
Can homeless assistance be dramatically improved in a time of crisis?
Nine years ago, the Alliance launched A Plan, Not a Dream: How to End Homelessness in Ten Years which charted a course for ending homelessness in the United States. The central idea, grossly simplified, is this:
As a nation, we do a lot to address homelessness—build shelters, distribute food and blankets and the like. What we don’t do is prevent homelessness or help people exit homelessness.
Since then, the Alliance has been working on changing policies and programs to focus more on prevention and re-housing.
Right now, we spend a lot on shelters and other emergency homelessness programs. And any effort to shift to a more prevention and solution-based approach could divert resources away from these existing shelters and programs. It’s a great idea in theory, but one that will take time and patience and there are people that need shelter tonight, and it's pretty cruel to take that away, even if there's a long-term benefit.
So progress has been slow.
And there's a big barrier to making this change – money.
In the spring, Congress passed an economic stimulus bill that included a $1.5 billion Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program (HPRP). One and a half billion isn't a lot compared to the size of the stimulus, but it's a lot for homeless assistance. And what's important is that HPRP will fund rental assistance, housing search assistance, and oth... Read More »