Ending Homelessness Today — Policy and Legislation
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, Labor, and Pensions committee.
For more information about the health reform bill and how it relates to homelessness, check out Nan Roman’s piece in the Huffington Post.
... 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 »
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 »
Ending Homelessness with HPRP: An Introduction
August 26, 2009
It's an interesting time to be working on ending homelessness.
The economy is terrible and creating havoc for a lot of people. Rising unemployment tends to lead to more homelessness – and this recession has had a lot of unemployment.
At the same time, there are some opportunities to make progress. Congress passed an almost $800 billion economic stimulus bill in the spring: the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. It includes $1.5 billion Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program (HPRP).
This summer, HUD gave HPRP grants to all 50 states and about 500 cities, counties, and territories. The three-year grants ranged from about $500,000 for smaller cities to $74 million for New York City. These local governments will pass on most of their funds to nonprofit organizations to provide several types of financial assistance and services with the goal of preventing homelessness or helping somebody who has become homeless move into an apartment. Here are some examples of what HPRP will be funding:
Up to 18 months of rental assistance, including up to six months of overdue rent;
Up to 18 months of utility assistance;
Moving costs; and
Rental or utility deposits;
Housing search assistance including help finding apartments and negotiating with landlords;
Help applying for and coordinating other services such as employment, child care, etc.
Legal services; and
Credit repair services.
There is strong evidence that when done smartly, these kinds of programs can reduce homelessness. You can see some examples in this n... 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 »
News Brief - New York Times
August 11, 2009
It's not yet time for a weekly news wrap-up, but some friends of ours at the Homeless Coordination Office in Arizona put a couple of noteworthy newsbits under my nose.
The first is an article in the New York Times about hate crimes legislation. You know as well as I do that Maryland recently enacted a law making an offense against a homeless people a hate crime. This article suggests that other states are considering the same ordinance, as the number of crimes against homeless people rise.
According to the article, our friends at the National Coalition for the Homeless are publishing a report stating that crimes against the homeless are rising as of late. Causes are varied, but the writer points out that the recession, rising unemployment, and foreclosure are pushing more people into poverty and at the same time, law enforcement is cracking down on encampments and other places homeless people might be.
In related news - and another New York Times article - Barbara Ehrenreich writes that it's now practically a crime to be homeless. The op-ed contributor and author writes that there has been a signficant uptick in states, localities, and law enforcement criminalizing the poor. In heavy-handed language (in my opinion), Ehrenreich points to different ordinances and law that prohibit begging, sleeping in public, truancy, and littering - all, she suggests, discreetly targeting those most vulnerable.
The article is the third in a series chronicling... Read More »
Understanding the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Programs
July 15, 2009
So last week I did something new – the release of the Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR), so I thought this week I’d do something old: the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistant Act.
The McKinney-Vento Act was authored by Stewart Brett McKinney – a Republican Congressman from Connecticut – and Bruce Frank Vento – a Democratic-Farm-Labor Congressman from Minnesota, both of whom were known to their peers as advocates of those less fortunate, and dedicated to finding supportive programs and solutions to homelessness. The bill was signed by President Ronald Reagan, who – ironically - is often accused of contributing to modern-day homelessness by deinstitutionalizing mental health facilities in the 1980s.
The McKinney-Vento Act was a comprehensive, multi-faceted bill that:
Established the Interagency Council on Homelessness, a group of representatives from 15 federal agencies charged to design a comprehensive approach to reduce, prevent, and end homelessness in the country, and
Created 20 assistance programs administered by nine federal agencies providing a spectrum of services to homeless people, including supportive housing, emergency shelter, emergency food and shelter grants, rental assistance, job training and education, etc.
The original text of the bill firmly establishes that homelessness is a growing social problem that can be addressed by the federal assistance. I found it particularly interesting that they wrote, “the problem of homelessness has become more severe and, in the absence of more effective efforts, is expected to become dramatically worse, endangering the lives and safety of the homeless; the... Read More »