Ending Homelessness Today — Recession
Economy Byte: Working Poor at Higher Risk for Homelessness
December 08, 2010
Brief on the working poor
Interactive state-by-state map
Newsflash: the working poor are having an especially tough time in this recession.
Shocked yet? Probably not.
But the picture is more textured and nuanced than you might imagine.
For the second installment of our “Economy Bytes” series, the Alliance’s Homelessness Research Institute focused on a population that is struggling to weather the “Great Recession” – the working poor.
In short, we found that the working poor population is more likely to experience risk factors for homelessness than the general working population. And a lot of that is because they’ve been disproportionately affected by elements of this recession.
What do we mean? Okay, so we looked at three elements: severe housing cost burden, doubled up housing situations, and income.
And we found that – although people from different income brackets experience severe housing cost burden, doubled up housing situation, and reduced income – the working poor are more likely to experience these factors and experience them more acutely.
Severe housing cost burden: In 2008, 37.6 percent of the working poor population spent more than 50 percent of their monthly income on rent compared to just 3.8 percent of the general working population.
Doubled up: In 2008, an estimated 7.8 percent of the working poor population was doubled up with family or friends as compared to less than 6.5 percent of the general working population.
Income/workforce: On average, the working poor population works 46.2 weeks per year compared to the general working population’s 49.1 weeks per year. Moreover, the working poor population are also employed in more volatile industries and earn less per hour - industry average of $12.78 per hour compared with average private sector earnings of $21.62 per hour – than the average working person.
Each of these factors – and the culmination of them, certainly – are all risk factors for homelessness and, as the data show, common experiences among working poor people.
It’s not pretty news but news nonetheless. To read the full report, please visit our website and while you’re crusing, take a peek at our interactive map to see how your state stacks up. ... Read More »
Major Findings in the 5th Quarterly Pulse Report
October 21, 2010
On Tuesday, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) released the Fifth Quarterly Pulse report – a snapshot of homelessness in eight communities across the country. This latest report covers the time between January to March 2010.
The moral of the story, as conveyed by the current report, is that homelessness is mostly down.
There was a one percent decrease in the overall shelter count between the fourth and fifth quarters. (All but NYC reported decreases in their local counts.)
There was a four percent decrease in the number of sheltered persons in families between the fourth and fifth quarters (All but the Richmond, VA community reported decreases in their local family counts.)
There was a three percent increase in sheltered homeless individuals between the fourth and fifth quarters. (Despite notable decreases in some areas – VA, CT, and KY – increases in other communities, including OH and NYC, contributed to a rise in this number.)
We also noted a couple of economic indicators:
When comparing January – March 2009 to January – March 2010, seven of the eight sites showed increased joblessness. (LA showed a 0.1 percent improvement in joblessness.)
Five communities experienced increased joblessness between the fourth and fifth quarters.
Half of the sites had increased rates of foreclosure activity.
Another point of concern (that’s often reported in news outlets) is the number of newly homeless. In this quarter’s Pulse report, we see that:
In the eight communities surveyed, the number of newly homeless serv... Read More »
The McKinney-Vento Awards hosted by the Law Center
October 18, 2010
Imagine you’re a 7 year old and your family becomes homeless. Every night, you fall asleep in a shelter, in a car, on the street. Imagine moving in and out of the assistance system, shuffled back and forth from shelters to programs to relatives. Suddenly, school, teachers, classmates, and even homework become the constants in your life - anchors of normalcy when everything else seems to be falling apart.
Last Thursday, the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty hosted the annual McKinney-Vento Awards, the organization’s yearly tribute to leaders in the field. This year’s awardees included best-selling author Barbara Ehrenreich, the law firm Dechert LLP, and the Elzer family of Pittsburgh, PA.
As a novice to the organization and the issue, I felt lucky to tag along and learn. Even on a national level the homeless assistance community is a small one. That is why these events like this one are great opportunities to meet other people in the field, recognize the innovators, and connect with like-minded people and organizations.
As I sat taking in the night, one issue resonated with me most: the plight of homeless children.
The McKinney-Vento Act allows children in homeless families to stay in their original public school regardless of where their family is temporarily staying. Still, as I learned Thursday evening, there are homeless children who face discrimination when trying to exercise that right.
The Elzer family faced just this situation. When ... Read More »
Friday News Roundup: The good, the bad, the soccer
October 08, 2010
Let’s start with some good news.
A great little article from up in Oneida, NY notes the importance of the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program. In Madison County, the Community Action Partnership (CAP) took their HPRP stimulus money and used it to extend short-term, temporary housing assistance for nearly a hundred families in the community.
According to the executive director of CAP, this temporary assistance can be a “soft gap” for people waiting to qualify for Section 8 housing vouchers or for those who need a little extra time before achieving self-sufficiency. The program has been “phenomenal,” not only aiding vulnerable families and providing budgeting counseling but also preventing hundreds of instances of homelessness in the neighborhood.
Things are less phenomenal in Las Vegas, NV where public schools are witnessing an influx of homeless students – an increase of 15 percent according to this morning’s article on the issue. Officials in Nevada note the affect – particularly hard in that state – of three year’s of recession the state resulting in persistent unemployment and, sometimes, job loss (a lagging indicator, as we’ve noted.) The story notes a specific increase in the number of “couch surfers” and doubled up families. Homeless youth are even more vulnerable than their adult counterparts, at higher risk to violence, abuse, and crime.
New York caused a bit of a buzz earlier this week when it announced the city’s Department of Homeless Services decided to run a study to determine if... Read More »
Doubling Up: Examining the recession, homelessness, and economic indicators
May 19, 2010
How many people are homeless due to the recession? We're not sure yet. Homelessness is what we call a "lagging indicator" of a poor economy, so we still have yet to see the full impact of the economic recession on homelessness.
But that doesn’t mean the recession hasn’t had – or won’t have - an impact on homelessness. Today, the Homeless Research Institute's launches our Economy Bytes series, in which we investigate economic indicators that are associated with homelessness. The first in this series investigates doubled-up situations.
Our research shows that 5 percent more people lived in doubled up situations in 2008 than in 2005; in particular, we've seen a growing share of doubled up families.
Wait, so what's doubled up? Doubling up means that an individual or family lives with extended family, friends, and other non-relatives due to economic hardship. In this case, we define economic hardship as earning no more than 125 percent of the federal poverty level.
Not all doubled up people or families will become homeless but for many, it's a precursor. Of those people who weren't homeless before staying at a shelter, 46 percent spent the previous night at the home of a friend or family member, according to the 2008 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress (AHAR).
But why do people double up? In short, people double up because they can't afford housing. They have had to choose between basic necessities like food, health care, clothing and housing, and peo... Read More »
What you should know about the Runaway Homeless Youth Act
May 12, 2010
Maybe you read in USA Today that the number of calls to the National Runaway Switchboard doubled in 2009. Maybe you've heard that running away from home puts young people at risk of violence, crime, prostitution, drugs and health problems. Maybe you're an outreach worker who hears these stories every day. If, for these or any other reasons, you're concerned about youth homelessness, you should know about the Runaway Homeless Youth Act (RHYA). Along with the Education for Homeless Children and Youth (EHCY) Act, RHYA is one of two federal programs aimed at helping homeless youth.There are 3 main RHYA programs:The Basic Center Program, which helps meet immediate needs of runaway and homeless youth and their families including providing emergency shelter, reunification when possible, food, clothing, counseling, and access to health care;The Transitional Living Program, which provides funding long-term residential services to homeless youth ages 16 to 21 for up to 18 months;The Street Outreach Program, which funds outreach efforts designed to move youth off the streets.Particularly in these tough economic times, these programs are crucial. Not only do they prevent victimization on the streets, but they are more cost-effective than foster care or a correctional facility. And still, current programs do not meet the need: in 2009, RHYA programs served less than 41,000 with shelter services and less than 4,000 received transitional housing. Over 7,500 youth were turned away and denied shelter and housing.We at the Alliance are now looking to Congress... Read More »
More HPRP trends: Centralization and Coordination
January 27, 2010
The Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing program is making good news throughout the U.S. We're keeping track of the media coverage on this interactive map, and we're also highlighting some of the common themes we've seen in the implementation of the program. (Hat tip to fellow intern Grace Stubee for her help with this post!)CentralizationMany groups have used funding from HPRP to create a one-stop shop, or centralized point of access, for services to people experiencing homelessness. One example comes from Cowlitz County, WA, where the center is the office of Lower Columbia Community Action Program. Making services easily accessible is particularly important because many people seeking assistance through HPRP don't know how to navigate the social services system, because they have never needed government assistance before.Elsewhere, the one-stop shop isn't a physical space, but folks can connect with numerous services through an HPRP hotline, which Allegheny County and the city of Pittsburgh worked together to start up.CoordinationIn Columbus, OH, it's not just about having a central location, but also a common way of doing things: "For the community and for the homeless population, there will be one point of contact, with a common language, common process and a hot line," said Dave Davis, director of programs and planning at the shelter board. In Las Vegas, the federal money has encouraged more than 35 social service agencies to coordinate. The county designed a three-tier network of assistance,... Read More »
Hunger and Homelessness Survey, courtesy of the Conference of Mayors
December 10, 2009
So I guess the homelessness news of the week is that the U.S. Conference of Mayors came out with the Annual Hunger and Homelessness Report, suggesting that family homelessness is on the rise and that hunger has reached record rates. Specifically, the Mayors Report says: In the area of homelessness, nineteen cities (76 percent), reported an increase in family homelessness, while homelessness among individuals decreased or stayed the same for 16 of the 25 cities (64 percent). Most of the cities that experienced drops in individual homelessness attribute the decline to a policy strategy by federal, state and local governments of instituting 10-year plans to end chronic homelessness among single adults. Not surprisingly, the recession and a lack of affordable housing were cited as the top causes of family homelessness in the surveyed cities. While there’s no doubt in my mind that the recession has impacted homelessness on all fronts, I hadn’t been made aware that family homelessness was definitively up. In fact, I think I stumbled across just this quandary earlier this year when the Department of Housing and Urban Development released their Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR) in July of this year. But while we may not have any definitive data, Alliance staff are hearing reports from our friends in the field that need is undoubtedly up. From programs and shelters and advocates across the country, we hear stories of both individuals and families who are nearly that precarious edg... Read More »
Research Council Notes - What's Next in the Field of Homelessness Research?
October 28, 2009
Yesterday, the Alliance hosted a convening of the Research Council – a handful of leaders in the homelessness research field – to discuss the direction of homelessness research. After a few moments sharing new and innovative projects that each member was working on, the group went forth to discuss three major points:
What has been achieved from the last agenda?
What is the future of homelessness research?
What are the policy implications of our research?
In the last Research Agenda, the council attempted to answer some of the bigger questions facing the field:
What programs and policies are effective in preventing chronic homelessness?
What mix of housing assistance and services prevents and ends homelessness?
What characteristics distinguish those poor, at-risk families who become homeless from those who don’t?
As the voices of these research heavyweights whirled around the room, I furiously took notes on the questions that seemed to resonate loudest. It became clearer and clearer that as much as we have learned about homelessness, there is even more that we don’t know. Now that the foundation has been laid on the issue of homelessness, the charge – it seems – is to dig deeper and deeper until homelessness is no longer the social problem we know today.
But in this economic climate and at this particular point in time, there are a few questions that rose as the obvious questions we need to answer soonest:
1. What is the impact of the recession o... 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 »
News Brief - Affordable Housing
September 03, 2009
While cruising for news today - noticed three articles from three different states about struggles in affordable housing.
Thought I'd share.
Oregon: City affordable housing plan delayed
California: San Jose transitional housing back open
New York: Turning Stalled Projects Into Moderate-Income Housing
Anyone else seeing recession + housing troubles in the neighborhood? ... Read More »
Steve Berg on invisibletv!
August 31, 2009
Earlier this morning, Mark Horvath came over to interview Alliance VP Steve Berg on the landscape of homelessness.
In a short conversation (maybe about 15 minutes), the two discuss the recession, housing, and the future of homelessness - both best and worst case scenarios.
If you missed the live broadcast, you can watch it here! Please let me know if you have any reactions, questions or thoughts!
... 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 »
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 »
What to do about tent cities?
August 12, 2009
Meghan, a co-worker of mine (you might remember her from Geography of Homelessness sent me a Wall Street Journal article about tent cities.
I thought I’d share this article because we get this question a lot: Do we support tent cities? What can we do about them? Are there any good ideas/best practices to deal with these communities?
Writer Jennifer Levitz writes about cities’ responses to the ever-rising number of tent cities. According to Levitz, some are not only allowing tent cities to form and persist, but are furnishing these makeshift areas with portable toilets, security, and social services. Nashville, TN is one such city.
In fact, Levitz writes that even cities that had previously had ordinances against tent cities or sleeping in cars are changing their mind. City officials in Lacey, WA allowed a tent city in the parking lot of church; the city council in Ventura, CA revised a law allowing people to sleep in their cars overnight.
But this doesn’t mean that all cities are hopping on this bandwagon.
New York – with its ever-precarious relationship with homeless people – is staying steadfast. New York City recently shut down a tent city in Harlem, the article notes.
Here at the Alliance, we know what the landscape looks like – and we know that between the recession and state budget cuts, resources are scarcer and scarcer as need rises higher and higher.
It seems that any way you slice it – ... Read More »
Why Housing First?
July 23, 2009
Early last week, the staff at the Alliance had a messaging meeting where a staff member shared with us the frustrations of people he’s been meeting on the field. With the recession in high gear and people in dire need of help, why – advocates and providers asked – why were we not endorsing the rapid construction of temporary shelters?
And then I saw this article on my good friend Shannon’s change.org blog.
So I thought the timing was right to ask: Why Housing First?
But first: What is Housing First?
Housing First is a concept that was pioneered by Dr. Sam Tsemberis of the NYU School of Medicine and an organization in New York called Pathways to Housing.
The premise of the Housing First campaign is the housing is a basic human right and should not be denied to anyone, regardless of their habits or circumstances. Housing First prescribes providing the homeless permanent supportive housing – which includes supportive services coupled with permanent housing (not shelter). The supportive services address addiction, mental health, case management and the like, and provides stability for homeless individuals. These services increase the ability of homeless individuals to maintain permanent housing and achieve self-sufficiency.
It’s important to note that this approach is a significant departure from the traditional way the country approached homelessness before. In the old system, homelessness management was emphasized through shelter, mental health services, medical services, and the like before permanent h... Read More »
Data + Research: Foreclosure to Homelessness
July 21, 2009
Today, the Director of the Homelessness Research Institute - M William Sermons – attended the National Governor’s Association’s Center for Best Practices’ “Expert’s Roundtable: Helping Families Recover from Foreclosure through Economic Opportunities and Family Supports.”
He was invited to present findings from a report he co-authored earlier this year about the relationship between foreclosure and homelessness. The report - Foreclosure to Homelessness: The Forgotten Victims of the Subprime Crisis - examines how much foreclosure has contributed to rising homelessness rates, and specifically, the rise in numbers of homeless families.
The study went like this: surveys were distributed to direct service providers. These included emergency shelter providers, transitional shelter providers, food assistance programs, and the like. These surveys asked providers to determine how many people they were experiencing homelessness as a result of foreclosure. (A copy of the survey administered is available in the appendix of the full report.)
The results were mixed.
Certainly, a majority of people said that at least some of their clients were homeless as a result of foreclosure – about 80 percent.
But the median percentage of clients that were affected was far smaller. Housing providers (including emergency, transitional, and permanent housing providers) estimated that five percent of their clients experience homelessness due to foreclosure; all respondents (including those who don’t provide housing assistance) estimated that ten percent of their clients experienced homelessness as a result of foreclosure.
But perhaps the most telling finding in the report is tha... Read More »
Data + Research: the Annual Homeless Assessment Report
July 09, 2009
Today, we’ve got some big news. It’s really big. It’s huge. It is [cue music] - the Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR) from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)!!
...It’s really much more exciting than it sounds.
Basically, the AHAR is a comprehensive review of homelessness counts and trends in 2008. But before we delve into the magical world of data and statistics, there’s something you should know about this year’s report [cue suspense music]:
This year, there were TWO kinds of data collected: point-in-time counts and year-long data. Point-in-time counts are pretty much raw numbers. They tell us how many homeless people and what kind. Year-long data give us a little more detail about the demographics of these counts. Year-long data is also a bit newer than the point-in-time counts. This is the second year in a row that HUD collected year-long data, and we’re really pretty excited about the increase in data availability and analysis. (Yes, because we’re nerds.)
So without further ado…
This year’s AHAR shows that, overall, homelessness is flat compared to last year. Numbers vary slightly between the point-in-time count and the year-long data, but the Alliance concludes that the changes, if any, are marginal.
What’s much more interesting than the total number of homeless people is the information about specific types of homelessness – most significantly, chronic homelessness and family homelessness.
AHAR shows that chronic homelessness is... Read More »
the basics: Why are people homeless?
July 06, 2009
It’s a question that’s surprisingly overlooked – maybe overshadowed by the challenges of homelessness in and of itself.At the Alliance, we focus on different kinds of homelessness, including:Veteran HomelessnessFamily HomelessnessYouth HomelessnessChronic HomelessnessEach group comes to homelessness in different ways – and the solutions to that type of homelessness varies as well.Veteran HomelessnessVeterans often become homeless as a result of some post-war challenges. Emotional or mental distress (including PTSD, emotional trauma, etc.) can manifest in damaging behaviors, like substance abuse and addiction. These behaviors can then lead to the inability to maintain permanent housing.Recently, Assistant Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Tammy Duckworth appeared on CNN to discuss the state and health of veterans returning from conflicts abroad. The Secretary expounded upon the increase of suicides, mental illness, and homelessness among veterans from our current conflicts, as well as the VA’s continued efforts to address these ongoing issues.Family HomelessnessFamily homelessness is typically caused by some unforeseen costly event: a raise in rent, medical emergency, or the like. The inability to manage this financial hurdle can push a family into homelessness – an occurrence that’s been felt more dramatically in the current recession.Despite sensationalized news reports, families that experience this kind of homelessness aren’t typically picturesque, middle-class families. They’re typically families that were already living on the economic fringes of society – often paycheck-to-paycheck – who are pushed off by the big event.The good news – if th... Read More »