Ending Homelessness Today — Policy and Legislation
Field Notes: The Emergency Solutions Grant, Recommendations From The Alliance
February 08, 2012
In response to some questions we have received recently regarding new regulations for the Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG) program, the Center for Capacity Building at the Alliance has decided to address some of these questions in video form. Today’s video features Kay Moshier McDivitt, Capacity Building Associate here at the Alliance. In this interview, Kay discusses how communities can rethink sustainability as an eligibility requirement for rapid re-housing and prevention assistance.
(In the video, Kay refers to a webinar - this is the webinar.)
For more information, you can visit our website, where the Alliance has recently posted a wealth of material on the new ESG program.... Read More »
Help Homeless Vets This Veterans Day
November 10, 2011
Often when we think of homeless veterans, the image that comes to mind is that of an older man, likely of the Vietnam generation, living on the streets. In other words, we tend to associate homeless veterans with chronically homeless people. For this group of people, we know that one of the best interventions to end their homelessness and to prevent future episodes is the joint Departments of Housing and Urban Development – Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) voucher program. Permanent supportive housing, we know, is solution to chronic homelessness; housing, with services and case management through VA, is ending chronic homelessness among veterans one unit at a time.
As such, even in this difficult funding environment, Congress is likely to provide $75 million for approximately 11,000 new vouchers this year.
This is fantastic news and it is helping to end veterans homelessness, but unfortunately, our homeless veterans don’t always meet that image we have in our head. Instead, many are increasingly younger, veterans not only of the Gulf War, but our current conflicts as well. Larger and larger portions of the homeless vet population are females, often with young children.
So how do we serve homeless veterans that may not fit into the definition we have in our heads? VA is responding to the changing face of our veterans with programs like the Supportive Services for Veterans Families (SSVF) program, which provides services to families residing in transitional or permanent supportive housing.... Read More »
The State of HUD Funding
November 03, 2011
Today’s post comes to us from Amanda Benton (née Krusemark), director of grassroots mobilizing at the Alliance.
Over the last couple of months, the Alliance has been working with the Campaign for Housing and Community Development Funding (CHCDF) to secure the greatest possible amount of overall funding for the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in fiscal year (FY) 2012.
The HUD budget funds programs that offer affordable housing to needy families, assist homeless people into stable living situations, provide block grants to improve communities, among others. The HUD budget has and continues to provide assistance to the lowest-income and most vulnerable Americans who have been hit hardest by our recent economic downturn - and this includes homeless and at-risk veterans as well as their families.
On Tuesday, the Senate passed a bill to provide $37 billion in new funding in FY 2012 for HUD – about 10 percent less than last year. The HUD Appropriations Subcommittee in the House has proposed similar legislation that would cut funding for HUD programs by 7.3 percent. Key senators are already meeting with their colleagues in the House to work out a final, compromise piece of legislation.
Under the spending caps set by the deficit reduction deal passed in August, funding for non-security discretionary spending (as opposed to mandatory spending, like Medicaid) should decline by an average of about five percent relative to last year; in other words, both current House and Senate proposals would hit the H... Read More »
An Update on the Fiscal Year 2012 Budget
October 20, 2011
The U.S. Senate may vote as early as today on the fiscal year (FY) 2012 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development bill which has been combined with similar bills for the Commerce, Justice, and Science as well as Agriculture bills (into what they’re calling a “minibus” bill).
In the bill, S. 1596, the subcommittee calls for $1.9 billion dollars to be allocated to the homeless assistance grants – which is level funding as compared to last year. Unfortunately, this is simply not enough to fully fund the programs necessary to make substantial progress towards ending homelessness. Specifically, $1.9 billion is inadequate to fully implement the HEARTH Act, which was passed in 2009 and would modernize and streamline the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants.
As our colleagues at the National Low-Income Housing Coalition point out, there are other worrisome provisions in the bill. The bill would underfund tenant-based rental assistance, underfund the project based rental assistance contracts, and cut the public housing capital fund.
The Obama Administration also weighed in on the bills, specifically urging the Senate to provide additional funds for Homeless Assistance Grants and pointing out that resources are necessary to implement the Federal Strategic Plan to End Homelessness.
Congress has expressed a bipartisan commitment to ensuring that deficit reduction efforts do not happen on the backs of the most vulnerable Americans, but many affordable housing programs have nonetheless seen dramatic cuts. These federal reductions, especially when coupled with shrinking state and local budgets, will further... Read More »
Update on HUD Funding
September 09, 2011
Yesterday, Congress held its first vote on a proposal to fund programs within the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), including homeless assistance programs, for the upcoming fiscal year, FY 2012. This process, called the appropriations process, is one of the most critical times for advocates to get involved and reach out to their Members of Congress to educate them on the important programs funded through this yearly process.
The draft legislation, passed by the House HUD Appropriations Subcommittee yesterday, would provide the same amount of funding for HUD’s McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants in FY 2012 as in FY 2011. Unfortunately, as many of our readers know, this is disappointing because a significant increase in funding is needed to address the needs of the growing population of people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, and to implement the HEARTH Act.
However, there was definitely some good news! The legislation would provide $75 million for new vouchers under the joint HUD – Department of Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) program, as the Alliance had advocated!
The original draft of the legislation, released on Wednesday, removed all funding for the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH), which is key to coordinating the federal government’s response to homelessness. Fortunately, the subcommittee adopted an amendment, proposed by Representative Marcy Kaptur (D-OH) to provide about $3 million in funding for USICH. It is likely that the Senate will also provide funding for USICH, allowing them to co... Read More »
Introducting: Guest bloggers, tweeters, and Facebook friends for the week
September 09, 2011
Greetings Alliance friends and supporters!
The week of September 12, we – the usual guards of the Alliance blog, Facebook, and Twitter accounts – will be away from the office. But during that time, you will have the great opportunity to hear directly from some of our colleagues.
Each day, a new expert will take the reigns of our online community and share with you their perspectives on the Alliance, our work, and ending homelessness.
Monday, September 12: Elizabeth
Our resident fundraiser will share with you news from our latest Annual Report, how fundraising happens here at the Alliance, and how your hard earned donations make the difference in our program and policy work. If you have questions about the way the Alliance conducts fundraising, nonprofit development news, or have suggestions about online fundraising for the Alliance, make sure to shoot a note to Elizabeth on Facebook or Twitter on Monday!
Tuesday, September 13: Pete
Research associate and fan favorite Pete will share with you the poverty data that the U.S. Census Bureau will release that day and help break down what the data means for low-income and homeless people. It’s no surprise that many poor people are at risk of experiencing homelessness and that poverty is often associated with the highest homelessness risk factors including doubled up housing situations, severe housing cost burden, unemployment and/or low wages, and the like. Got research questions? Tuesday’s the day for them!
Wednesday, September 14: Kim &am... Read More »
Ending youth homelessness through federal policy reform
June 27, 2011
Today's guest post comes to us from Alliance intern Rricha Mathur.
On June 17, I attended the Voices of Youth briefing held at the Capitol. A group of student panelists, who were and continue to be affected by homelessness, lead a stimulating conversation in which they shared their stories of homelessness, perseverance, and triumph. Currently, each speaker is enrolled in a university program. Their stories underlined that there is a lot Congress can do to help them and the millions of other youth affected by homelessness.
Some of the common struggles relayed in the heartbreaking stories by the panelists are basic and can be alleviated through federal policy. For example, many of the panelists suffered from physical and mental abuse by their parents and relatives and were thrown out of their homes. Once on the street, the young men and women struggled to find food, housing, and stability. They found barriers to food stamps due to eligibility criteria and oftentimes could not locate housing because they couldn’t put down deposits or show a credit history. Policy aimed at giving these young men and women better access to shelters and welfare programs would help their situations tremendously.
Furthermore, these students’ testimonies emphasized that education is an essential asset for homeless youth. Education was one of the major avenues these students used to create better futures. The students turned to teachers, coaches, and counselors for the guidance they lacked at home, and the... Read More »
The CAP Team and the Performance Improvement Clinic
June 01, 2011
While the Alliance is identifies primarily as a policy organization, we do some other things that you may not know about.
In fact, we have this great little department called the Center for Capacity Building. And lately, they’ve been really busy with a project called the Performance Improvement Clinic (formerly called the HEARTH Academy).
Refresher: In 2008, Congress passed the HEARTH Act which was intended to streamline and modernize the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants. You can find out more about the HEARTH Act on our website.
The Performance Improvement Clinic is designed to prepare communities for the HEARTH Act, which is going to change the way communities both apply for federal funding under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants and they way that money can be applied within communities. Moreover, the HEARTH Act asks communities to change some of the ways they operate and measure the progress of their efforts to end homelessness and meet specific, numerical goals.
The Center for Capacity Building (CAP Team) is traveling to help communities prepare for the new legislation with an arsenal of new tools to help communities evaluate their systems and implement systems change. You can find these tools, including the Homeless System Evaluator Tool, as well as webinars, briefs, and resources on our website.
So far, the CAP Team has been to Mississippi, Iowa, Washington, Connecticut, Missouri, North Carolina, and Texas. This week, our intrepid capacity builders are in California before they hit West ... Read More »
What does the federal budget mean for HEARTH Act Implementation?
April 18, 2011
After a long and contentious process, Congress has finally passed a budget for fiscal year 2011. HUD’s homeless assistance grants, will receive a $40 million increase, which is a much smaller increase than we were hoping for, but not as bad as some of the worst-case scenarios that were possible. What does that mean for HEARTH Act implementation?
The short answer is that it means new funding for prevention and rapid re-housing programs, but little to implement changes to the Continuum of Care program.
While the overall increase was $40 million, Congress chose to increase funding for the Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG) by $65 million. The HEARTH Act changes the ESG program to include both the traditional shelter activities, which ESG has always funded, and also the prevention and rapid re-housing activities of HPRP. The $65 million increase will go almost entirely to prevention and rapid re-housing. For most jurisdictions receiving ESG, this will mean an increase of about 35 percent. While it will certainly not replace all of the funding provided by HPRP, it will help sustain some of these programs.
For the Continuum of Care program, things are more complicated. The HEARTH Act combines the Supportive Housing Program, Shelter Plus Care, and Moderate Rehabilitation/Single Room Occupancy programs into a single Continuum of Care program that still funds all of the eligible activities of the previous programs. The amount provided by Congress is enough to fund all renewals, but little will be left f... Read More »
Congressional Briefing on Homeless Children, Youth, and Families
March 29, 2011
Tomorrow, the Congressional Caucus on Homelessness is holding a briefing on “Homeless Children, Youth, and Families.”
During the briefing, panelists will discuss the profound impact that homelessness wields on children and youth, as well as their parents. In addition to the loss of safe, stable housing, homelessness can cause a sense of displacement, trauma, and stress. This can corrupt positive child development, health, and school participation and create life-long costs to children and parents.
The briefing will reference the 60 Minutes segment on homeless children that cast some media attention on the problem. The briefing will also examine the growing epidemic of homeless children and families as well as model programs, strategies, and initiatives to keep children in school and to secure stable housing.
Invited speakers include:
Diane Nilan, Founder and President, HEAR US, Naperville, IL
Barbara Duffield, Policy Director, National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth, Washington, DC
Beth McCullough, Home and School Liaison, Adrian School District, Adrian, Michigan
Lori Criss, Chief Operating Officer, Amethyst Inc, Columbus, Ohio
Michelle Flynn, Associate Executive Director of Programs, The Road Home, Salt Lake City, Utah.
For more information about family and youth homelessness, please visit the Alliance website. If you’re interested in the Congressional Caucus on Homelessness or would like to attend the briefing, please contact the Alliance advocacy team.... Read More »
A Primer on the Budget
March 17, 2011
In case you haven’t heard, Congress has been struggling with the budget. The 2011 federal fiscal year started on October 1 – almost six months ago – and Congress is still haggling over the FY 2011 budget. It’s come to a point where the country is really just working week by week – from stop-gap funding measure to stop-gap funding measure – because our nation’s leaders can’t decide on how much money to spend (and not spend) for the next six months.
So what happens now?
Right now, House, Senate, and White House negotiators are trying to work out a compromise on a "top-line" number, the overall amount they will be able to spend, for all federal discretionary programs. Once they can reach an agreement, the House and Senate will fill in the program-specific details.
Here’s why you care: we want make sure that Congress allocates enough money to homeless assistance programs – and especially to the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants so that we can fully and effectively implement the provisions in the HEARTH Act. And there’s lots more to care about too – programs that help veterans like HUD-VASH vouchers, section 8, the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act programs, and a bunch of other programs that are essential to the fight to end homelessness.
We know these programs work. A lack of funding would put a dead stop to our momentum from the last several years, so it’s up to all of us to make sure Members of C... Read More »
Friday News Roundup: The Components of Homelessness
March 04, 2011
This week the news media has focused on the essentials of our field: housing, data, populations, and public policy.
Let’s start right in the District. In her column, Michelle Singletary cited our own report to discuss people spending more than 50 percent of their monthly income on rent - what is called a "severe housing cost burden" - a situation that can put people at risk of homelessness.
From Tiffin, OH, the Advertiser-Tribune discussed a sticky situation concerning data collection, showing that data collection methodology should be examined as it affects count accuracy. Perhaps a dry topic for a news article, but methodology is a central component of learning about homelessness, especially at the community level.
Then there was a flurry of reports about different populations experiencing homelessness.
Both the Sacramento Bee and CNN covered veteran homelessness. The Bee zoomed in the challenges specific to women returning from combat and CNN took their turn examining the potential ramifications of federal budget cuts to vulnerable veterans (stay tuned). The Medill News Service also took a crack at state budgets and the potential impact reductions will have on homeless youth. (They’re projecting pronounced increases). And New America Media traveled to the other end of the spectrum writing about elderly people living in poverty, at risk of homelessness, while raising their own grandchildren. (Which comes as no surprise.)
Predictably, there were scant few articles about solutions but there does seem to be good... Read More »
Ending Youth Homelessness with the Alliance Site Visit Campaign
November 23, 2010
Today’s guest post comes to us from Alliance Advocacy intern Jeremy Nichols.
As you already know (because we wrote about it last month), The Alliance’s Advocacy team has been asking you guys to get involved in the Youth Site Visit Campaign.
And thanks to you, we’re rolling right along! So far, 16 communities have committed to conducting site visits, from places like Maryland, Illinois, California, and Pennsylvania. The amount of time and dedication put in by our partners in the field has been amazing and it’s been a real pleasure to be a part of the campaign!
In case you forgot what the Youth Site Visit Campaign was all about, here’s a little refresher: over the holiday season, homelessness assistance providers have asked Members of Congress to come out and get a first-hand look at all of the good their programs are doing for at-risk youth in the community
Often just outside the scope of media attention, youth homelessness is a serious problem in the United States, with an estimate of 50,000 youth living on the streets.
What can we do to fix this? First, we need to increase awareness and get key decision-makers to understand that this a much larger issue than many people initially think. And that’s where you come in.
With the Youth Site Visit Campaign, we hope to:Raise awareness among Members of Congress about the issue of youth homelessnessStrengthen local relationships with Member... Read More »
Next Generation Housing Policy: Convening on Rental Housing
October 25, 2010
Today's blog post comes from Steve Berg, Vice President for Programs and Policy at the Alliance.
As a member of the Alliance’s policy team, I have the privilege and responsibility of meeting with elected officials, members of President Obama’s administration, national advocacy groups, and other stakeholders in the world of homelessness and housing. We share ideas, challenges, strategies, and innovations to best meet our common goals.
Earlier this month I had the distinct honor of attending a White House-sponsored gathering called Next Generation Housing Policy: Convening on Rental Housing. A policy that could do more to help the lowest-income Americans afford decent housing would provide a powerful wind at the back of everyone who works to end homelessness - so the issue is key to our work.
The event took place in a building that looks like a small warehouse, planted in an internal courtyard of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building (EEOB), next door to the White House. Inside was a comfortable, well-appointed auditorium. About 200 people were there – federal officials, people from the development and financing industry, researchers who study housing, and advocates for low-income people.
Speakers included members of the Obama Administration: Shaun Donovan, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development; Melody Barnes, Director of the Domestic Policy Council; Larry Summers, Director of the National Economic Council. Academics, advocates, and practitioners from the affordable housing world also spoke, offering their ideas for change. Among them was our friend and c... Read More »
The 10 Best Things on Our Website
October 20, 2010
So after tipping my hat to the 100,000 Homes Campaign for featuring our interactive tools and maps on their (awesome!) blog, I did a little tooling around to remind myself of other really useful tools on our very own website!
The Alliance has, for almost 30 years, lead the campaign to end homelessness in the United States. And over the decades, we’ve accumulated the data, best practices, and effective strategies necessary to end homelessness.
And we’re hoping to share them with you!
After checking out our most visited pages and most popular tools, we’ve compiled a list of ten things - links, pages, reports – you need in order to end homelessness in your community (read: really great tools and info). And, just for good measure, I've tossed in a couple not-so-popular but ever-so-useful links as well.
The About Homelessness section.
This section gives you a broad snapshot of homelessness at the national level and includes sections and information on different demographics, the cost of homelessness, and maps produced by the Homelessness Research Institute(HRI).
The Interactive Tools and Solutions section.
HRI produces a number of charts, tools, and maps to help you better understand homelessness. Some of the more recent tools illustrate the number of doubled-up households in the United States, HPRP spending per household in the cities we’re tracking, and reductions in point-in-time counts necessary to meet the goals outlined in the federal strategic plan to end homel... Read More »
Ending Veterans Homelessness: A recap of our congressional briefings
October 06, 2010
Today's guest post comes from our new Advocacy intern, Jeremy Nichols. Yesterday, Jeremy attended the Alliance-sponsored congressional briefings on ending veterans homelessness - this is his report.
Did you know that though veterans make up only 11 percent of the civilian population they account for roughly 20 percent of homeless people in the nation?
With that alarming statistic in the back of our minds, my colleagues and I headed to Capitol Hill for two briefings on Tuesday about ending veterans homelessness.
As far as Capitol Hill briefings go, these received great attendance from Hill staffers and members of the homelessness provider community. The morning briefing was hosted by Congressional Caucus on Homelessness with a strong presence from the Alliance and the Corporation for Supportive Housing and the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans. The Honorable Congresswoman Judy Biggert (who also happens to be a co-chair of the Caucus) gave the opening remarks and once again showed her support for the cause. Brava Congresswoman Biggert!
Our second briefing was for the Senate and quite a few staffers turned out to hear the message.
Tori Lyon, the Executive Director for the Jericho Project in New York City was the first speaker. She discussed how her program is using the HUD-VASH program to make supportive housing a cost-effective solution to veterans homelessness. It costs $12,000 for the Jericho Project to house someone for a year compared to $20,000 for a shelter cot and $67,000 for a jail cell. Ms.... Read More »
Meet Jeremy Nichols, our new Advocacy intern!
October 04, 2010
My name is Jeremy Nichols and I am the Alliance’s new Advocacy intern. In one short month, my time with the Alliance has already been filled with emailing member’s offices, conducting webinars, and getting used to the nonprofit world’s love of abbreviations (TANF ECF, HEARTH, HPRP, the list goes on).
I’ve been drawn to the issue of homelessness since high school. I grew in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and during my first week of high school, life ground to a halt when Hurricane Katrina hit. As people began to pick up the pieces in the weeks following the hurricane, it became clear to me that those families and individuals teetering on the brink of financial stability were about to be pushed off the edge.
Like so many, I tried to do my part. I volunteered through my church and worked with at-risk individuals living in the FEMA trailer parks. As the trailer parks began to be phased out, those left stranded were often mentally and physically incapable of holding jobs, paying rent, and fending for themselves. We worked to help such people: we secured benefits, dealt with landlords, and found stable living environments.
The entire experience opened my eyes to the stark scarcity of resources available for people experiencing homeless. Moreover, it became clear that the few resources that do exist are mired in miles of red tape that can seem impossible to navigate.
I’m also a ... Read More »
Friday News Roundup: Check the Facts
October 01, 2010
I am going to start off with the good news first because I know the East coast has had a rough week! We at the Alliance got a little recognition today for our work helping the The Lincoln Homeless Coalition revamp the way they serve homeless families. Which, faithful reader, you already know all about from this blog. So kudos to our CAP team! (Want the CAP team in your community? Check out the website.)
Working at the Alliance may make me biased but I was convinced even more this week about the importance of homelessness research. In order to effectively solve a problem, we must first fully understand it. And the research can be hard to swallow - like this report from Toronto - which indicates that homeless youth, particularly lesbian and bisexual women and young people of color, are overwhelmingly victims of crime. Why on earth would anyone victimize a homeless kid?
But with every cloud comes a silver lining. Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) has urged members of the Senate to designate these kind of violent attacks against people experiencing homelessness as hate crimes. This act, the "Hate Crimes Against the Homeless Statistics Act," would lead to stiffer penalties for perpetrators and mandate the collection of data on this problem - which hopefully will lead to better solutions. All this because of reports that violent attacks of this nature have been on the rise here in the United Stat... Read More »
Friday News Roundup: the TANF month
September 10, 2010
If April is the cruelest month, then September - it seems - is the TANF month
(Okay, bad joke.)
Nonetheless, it's been all TANF, all the time.
So here's the story: TANF is a program that helps low-income families. It provides block grants to states and the funds are used to curb child child expenses and promote work preparation and opportunities. In the face of the recession, more and more families were in need of such assistance and the federal government created the TANF Emergency Contingency Fund - an extra pot of money that could help states with up to 80 percent of increased TANF assistance requests. States and think tanks alike have reported that the emergency fund has been a lifeline for both states and the families in those states requiring aid.
But here's where the bad news comes in. The emergency fund is set to expire on September30 of this year if it isn't renewed by the Senate (the House has already voted for an extension).
This seemingly innocuous little welfare program has gotten a decent amount of ink in the last few weeks. It hasn't been the firestorm set off by Quran-burning or midterm elections, but in national and local news sources alike, stories popped up like plastic whac-a-moles.
In Connecticut, the New Haven Register ran a story about the federal program's implications in the state. The article cited an excellent report by the Center for Budget and... Read More »
Call your senator - save TANF ECF!
September 08, 2010
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: we can – and must - save the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Emergency Contingency Fund (ECF).
And we’re not the only ones that think so. In the last few days, you may have noticed that the innocuous welfare program has received an unusual amount of ink. Stories praising the job-creating program have run in the Chicago Tribune and Huffington Post - among countless other publications.
We hate to say we told you so but we did call it. This stimulus program is making a difference where it’s needed most: offering cash assistance to low-income families, providing housing aid, and subsidizing jobs. In fact, the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that the program has created 250,000 subsidized jobs for low-income parents and youth across the country.
But the program is about to come to a grinding halt. TANF ECF will expire on September 30 if Congress doesn’t act now.
We need you to tell them how.
Senator John Kerry (D-MA) is circulating a sign-on letter for his colleagues in the Senate to join. He wants them to sign the letter to urge Senate leaders to extend the ECF right away and provide a one-year, $2.5 billion extension of ECF to allow states to access additional funds and continue subsidizing jobs for low-income families and youth.
Want to know what you can do?
Call your senators TODAY (If you don’t k... Read More »