Ending Homelessness Today — Unemployment
What will the “Fiscal Cliff” Mean for Ending Homelessness?
June 14, 2012
Originally only in the wonky DC-based policy blogs, but increasingly also in the mainstream media, the phrase “fiscal cliff” has been appearing. It describes a number of simultaneous events scheduled for the beginning of 2013 that together would disrupt the federal budget, cutting federal spending and raising taxes in an unprecedented and clumsy manner. What does it mean, in general and for homelessness in particular? This blog will attempt to answer that question.
To start, with the way things usually go in the mainstream media, you can virtually count on the phrase “fiscal cliff” soon being abbreviated by writers, so I’ll get that over with by coining the word “FisCliff” right here. FisCliff consists of at least the following, all happening around the beginning of next year:
Domestic and military spending for nonexempt discretionary programs is cut across the board under the “sequestration” provision of the Budget Control Act;
Emergency unemployment insurance for long-term unemployed people expires;
The “Bush tax cuts” (since extended under President Obama) expire;
The Alternative Minimum Tax is applied to households with lower incomes than those who must pay it currently;
Monthly payroll taxes go back up to their usual levels;
Miscellaneous other tax breaks worth $65 billion per year expire;
Temporary increases in Medicare payments to doctors expire; and
The limit on the federal debt is reached again, as it was last summer, requiring another expansion.
All of this adds up to $483 billion in revenue increases and spending cuts in one year. This is big-time deficit reduction, but done in a way that’s not necessarily very intelligent. The most relevant example is that sequestration cuts high-priority, extremely effective programs (like homelessness programs!) by exactly the same percentage as lower-priority, inefficient programs.
Probably the biggest single negative impact on homelessness, however, is likely to be the impact on a fragile economy. Economists largely agree that raising taxes and reducing spending that much in one year would make joblessness substantially worse – people would have less money to spend, so businesses would have fewer customers and would lay people off. High unemployment over the past several years has sent millions of people to shelters. More unemployment means more bad news for homeless assistance systems.
As noted before, spending cuts under sequestration would negatively impact homelessness programs. The exact impact is still unclear because Congress has not yet passed final fiscal year 2013 spending levels, but we believe a likely estimate is that about 150,000 people would be homeless instead of housed, just from the impact on the Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG) and the Continuum of Care (CoC) programs. The large antipoverty entitlement programs like SSI, TANF, and SNAP are exempt, as are all VA programs for veterans – there is still an open question, to be resolved by the White House, whether the HUD rent vouchers under the HUD-VASH program are exempt. Otherwise, all HUD programs are subject to the across-the-board cuts of sequestration.
One thing to remember about FisCliff is that the word “cliff” probably implies a suddenness of impact that will not be evident. Tax cuts and spending increases would go into effect over time. HUD’s Homeless Assistance programs are one example. Reductions in ESG would take place when contracts for 2013 are signed, which occurs in different places over the course of the year. For the CoC programs, the impact would not be felt until the 2013 awards are distributed in early 2014.
In other words, if Congress meets after the election, in a so-called “lame duck session,” and can’t pass a reasonable alternative to FisCli... Read More »
Working Poor People in the United States
September 06, 2011
It’s a week about employment.
Yesterday, the country celebrated Labor Day (the federal holiday intended to honor the economic and social contributions of workers ) and the country is awaiting President Obama’s jobs speech which is slated for this Thursday (after quite a hullaballoo).
While we’ve been plagued with worries about the high rate of unemployment for years now, we haven’t acknowledged the hurdles that poor employed people face. As New York Times contributor Paul Osterman asked in an editorial yesterday, “yes, we need jobs, but what kind?” Osterman astutely points out that despite job growth in Texas, many people are still struggling to make ends meet as the jobs that were created were low-wage and unskilled.
Late last year, the Alliance highlighted a similar point in Economy Byte: Working Poor People in the United States brief. Nearly six percent of the general working population live at or below the federal poverty line and nearly 20 percent of all poor people work. Though they might be employed, their economic fragility leaves that at elevated risk of experiencing homelessness.
Worth noting, I think, are the federal poverty levels definitions:
Persons in Family
48 Contiguous States and D.C.
Given these poverty levels, it’s no wonder that that any individual or family living at or below the federal poverty level is at risk of homelessness. With so little income, any unplanned or unexpected expense could cripple a household.
As we discussed in ... Read More »
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 populatio... 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 »
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 »
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 »
TANF ECF expires today
September 30, 2010
So, here’s the update.
Today, the Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF) Emergency Contingency Fund (ECF) expires.
You’re read all about it on our blog. You know what the program does. You know that it’s an effective, affordable initiative that not only gets results but helps thousands of vulnerable Americans by providing financial assistance and creating jobs (and if you don’t, check out this post).
So it’s a low down dirty shame that the U.S. Senate has decided to let this program fold. Worse still that as a result of the expiration, 240,000 people could lose their jobs tomorrow, even today. Articles in both Mother Jones and Campus Progress explain the consequences of the end of this program, including the effect it’ll have on people in poverty, vulnerable families, and 99ers.
It’s worth noting here that there are some senators who stepped up to the plate. Senator John Kerry (D- MA) tried to circulate a sign-on letter urging his colleagues to support an extension of the program. Senator Dick Durbin (D – IL) also noted that the program had been critical in his state of Illinois.
And we can’t underestimate the gratitude that we owe you – for calling on your senators to ask them to support this important program.
But you win some, you lose some. And at the end of the day, this social safety net program will expire leaving thousands of Americans with even... Read More »
LAST CHANCE for TANF ECF
September 22, 2010
Seriously, this is your LAST CHANCE.
We’ve been beating the issue – we know – but TANF Emergency Contingency Fund (TANF ECF) will expire in 8 days. And there’s just no time to dawdle!
Urge Congress to save TANF ECF by calling your senator now.
Call your senators and ask to speak to the person who works on welfare issues. Don’t know the number? Call the congressional switchboard to find out: 202-224-3121.
When the staffer who works on welfare issues picks up, ask him or her to urge their boss (read: the senator) to call Senate leaders and tell them that they support extending TANF ECF.
If you can, report back! We want to hear what happened – what they said, what they promised, if they had any objections. Learning about your efforts can help us make a more concerted try with ours. Call (202-942-2856), email, or drop us a note here or on Facebook.
Remember: The ECF was created as part of the Recovery Act, intended to help states support the increasing number of people receiving TANF due to the recession. Since it passed, the program has:
provided cash assistance to low-income families;
provided short-term rent assistance to families experiencing a housing crisis; and
created 250,000 subsidized employment opportunities nationally, many of which will end on September 30 if Congress does not act to extend the funding.
For more information, check out a great piece from the Center on Budget and Policy ... Read More »
TANF ECF Needs You NOW!
August 02, 2010
Today, Mindy Mitchell writes about the TANF Emergency Contingency Fund, which is set to expire on September 30, 2010.
It’s been called the “best kept secret” of the federal stimulus plan, and unless the Senate acts soon, it will be over in just a couple months, which would be devastating for families who are homeless or are just barely avoiding homelessness. It’s the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Emergency Contingency Fund (ECF), which the Alliance has advocated using to support homeless families since the ECF began, and which I have been exploring for almost two months now as part of my summer internship.
Because I worked directly with homeless families in my former (pre-law school) life, it’s been more than a little frustrating for me this summer to learn how easily such a good program—for homeless families, for all families who are struggling economically, and for whole communities—can fall through the legislative cracks. The TANF ECF extension was originally part of H.R. 4213, which failed to pass the Senate until it was stripped of all its elements except unemployment insurance (UI). No one seems to know now what will happen to all the other vital programs that were originally included in H.R. 4213, but the Alliance is organizing an advocacy push in hopes of getting things moving again. The stated concern of some Senators about the original legislation was the contribution to the federal deficit (which may not be wa... Read More »
Ten Things to Look Forward to at the Alliance Annual Conference!
July 06, 2010
Everyone here at the Alliance is so excited for our conference next week!
So in an effort to get everybody else pepped-up, we thought we’d share ten great things (among hundreds!) that you should look forward to at this year’s conference:
1. The anniversary of the Ten Year Plan
This conference marks the ten-year anniversary of the Alliance’s Ten Year Plan to end homelessness. Our president Nan Roman will discuss what we’ve done so far - and what next steps lie ahead.
2. Secretary Donovan’s keynote
There’s no doubt about it: HUD Sec. Shaun Donovan will discuss the new federal plan to end homelessness and how it can potentially change the whole field of ending homelessness.
3. Capitol Hill Day
Representatives from at least 44 states will be visiting their representatives in Congress to discuss the importance of a federal commitment to end homelessness. Learn more about it here.
4. Secretary Shinseki’s keynote
The VA has committed to ending veteran homelessness in five years and we hope Sec. Shinseki will share their bold new plans with us!
5. Launch of the 100,000 Homes Campaign
Common Ground of New York is committing to housing the hundred thousand most vulnerable people experiencing homelessness. You can find out more here.
This year’s conference offers several tracks – giving you an opportunity to focus on a specific subject or area. Tracks themes include: domestic violence, HPRP, and HEARTH.
7. Expert Roundtables
Wednesday morning, the conference will o... Read More »
Friday News Roundup: 38 percent drop in homelessness in Los Angeles, California
October 30, 2009
Without question, the news of the day is the reported 38 percent drop in Los Angeles, CA.
In a year when everything seemed to present endless challenges for the homeless and homeless advocacy community – rising unemployment, stifled state budgets, increasing homeless counts, reduction of public services, and the rest – it seemed incredible that the city with the largest homeless population in the country saw such a pronounced decrease in their numbers. The Los Angeles Continuum of Care (CoC) is a solid ten percent of the entire homeless population in the country – so any significant movement in their number would represent a notable change in the nation’s homeless population.
All to say – we definitely noticed.
And the inevitable question that rises from such a report is this: how?
Alliance staff has ruminated about the data for the last couple days. Together, we discussed the drop in the sheltered count (down by 19 percent), rental unit vacancy rates for the last five years (up by 3 percent), the unemployment rate (up by 5 percent), the Consumer Price Index (down by 4 percent), and – of course – methodology. We compared Los Angeles to New York and the nation, comparing numbers and rates and population, noting the general difficulties in counting homelessness people – especially the unsheltered (67 percent of the homeless population in LA is unsheltered.)
Of course, all these variables could play a role in determining how and why the count went down as significantly as it did. The rate of rental ... 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 »
Troubles in Colorado
September 18, 2009
So Colorado is counting their homeless population, and the outlook doesn’t really look so great for the state.
According to the Metro Denver Homeless Initiative, there are about 11,061 homeless people in the metro Denver region. That number is about 4 percent higher than the last official count in 2007, but homeless advocates think that the survey results are already out of date since their January 2009 count. John Parvensky, director of the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, suggests that the real number could be up to 20 percent higher than the 2007 count.
The Alliance had long anticipated that the number of people experiencing homelessness would rise in these economic times, especially if there were no national or other concerted actions to try to remedy the effects of the recession on the very poor and the homeless (who, as we know, are often the hardest hit by economy tumult). Luckily since then, the President has since then created the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing program (HPRP) as a part of the stimulus and we are, in fact, seeing evidence of rising homelessness and more people in need of basic services.
Here are a couple of highlights about the news from Colorado.
The Denver Post reports that almost approximately 45 percent of those recently counted were newly homeless.
34.7 percent of those counted attribute their homelessness primarily to job loss; 31.2 percent counted attribute their homelessness to the inability to pay for housing.
The Denver count also suggest t... 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 »
Ten Things You Need to Know to End Homelessnessc
August 13, 2009
Okay, I'm a little excited! Yesterday, our friends at The Nation published an editorial we wrote for the "Ten Things" series. You can access the article, "Ten Things You Need to Know to End Homelessness," on the Nation website but - if you're feeling lazy - you can just read it below!
Ten Things You Need to Know to End Homelessness
In July 2009, The Nation published a "Ten Things" piece titled "Ten Things You Need to Know to Live on the Streets." The provocative and thoughtful piece elicited quite a response. We, however, respectfully disagree with the premise of the piece. Before submitting to the idea that there are things you need to know to live on the streets, we suggest that you consider whether living on the streets is necessary at all.
We're no strangers to the issue of homelessness--rather, we're quite well-versed in the subject. Homelessness, as we know it, began in the 1980s and has persisted through the decades. Some see it as an inevitable byproduct of a diminishing affordable housing supply, a lack of well-paying jobs, tumult in the economic sector, and both globalization and urbanization. Many see it as an unavoidable social nuisance. Some don't see it at all. But here, at the National Alliance to End Homelessness, we see it as a problem with a solution.
The causes of homelessness are many and complex--but the solution to homelessness heads toward one straight goal: housing.
... Read More »
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 »