Ending Homelessness Today
The official blog of the National Alliance to End Homelessness
On Hypothermia Nights: Helping People Experiencing Homelessness
March 11, 2015
Here in Washington, DC the cold temperatures and harsh weather during hypothermia season, which lasts from November through March, are dangerous for everyone, but they are perhaps most dangerous for those who are homeless. Just last year, the punishing winter resulted in nine known deaths of homeless individuals in DC.
This winter I volunteered with the Hypothermia Emergency Response Team, which is run by the Capitol Hill Group Ministry. Team volunteers are deployed on nights when the Department of Human Services issues a hypothermia alert in an effort to support the city’s efforts to provide emergency shelter on these frigid nights. Hypothermia alerts are issued when the temperature is forecasted to fall to 32 degrees Fahrenheit or below, including the wind chill factor.
Read More »
Homelessness and Taxes: Tax Credits and The Affordable Care Act
March 10, 2015
It’s that time of year again when everyone must do their taxes. Of course, most people experiencing homelessness don’t file tax returns and wouldn’t suffer a penalty for not filing because they make little to no money.
Contrary to what many people believe, though, many homeless people are employed, at least part of the time. According to a 2002 national study by the Urban Institute, about 45 percent of homeless adults had worked in the past 30 days, only 14 percentage points lower than the employment rate for the general population at that time.
Read More »
New HUD Report Shows Trends of Homelessness
March 04, 2015
If you ask provider of homeless services in your community what a “typical” homeless person in shelter looks like, they may give you an entirely different answer than a provider in my community would give me. Homelessness doesn’t look the same across the nation, across a state, or even across a community.
It’s true that homeless person is unique, which makes it difficult to understand what homelessness looks like in America, but here’s the catch: unless we understand the general demographic trends in homelessness, we cannot provide the most effective services to end their homelessness.
So how do we these trends of homelessness on a national scale? To address this challenging question, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) collects data from around the country throughout the year and synthesizes this information into two yearly reports called the Annual Homelessness Assessment Report (AHAR) to Congress, Parts 1 and 2.
Read More »
HUD Secretary Julián Castro’s Keynote Remarks, 2015 Family and Youth Homelessness Conference
March 02, 2015
These are the keynote remarks delivered by the Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Julián Castro on the second day of our 2015 National Conference on Ending Gamily and Youth Homelessness, Feb. 20, 2015. You can also find them on the HUD website.
Read More »
Some Thoughts on the 2015 National Family and Youth Conference
February 27, 2015
Alliance staff people are back in the cold weather in Washington, DC, after an enlighteing experience at the 2015 National Conference on Ending Family and Youth Homelessness in San Diego last week. The final count was 950 people attending, an all-time high for our family and youth conference. Traffic on Twitter was robust, giving people all over the country who couldn’t attend a taste of what was going on.
And once again, the impression we were left with was the overwhelming enthusiasm and determination that people in this field have, despite obstacles and challenges, to celebrate successes, to push themselves to do better, and never give up on the youth and families who are homeless. In the closing plenary Friday afternoon, Alliance President and CEO Nan Roman shared her thoughts on some things that had impressed her over the course of the conference. Here is a look at some of the highlights.
Read More »
Here are 5 Steps Communities Must Take to End Veteran Homelessness
February 25, 2015
At the Alliance, we’ve been talking a lot about the push to end veteran homelessness by the end of 2015. And we’re not the only ones (see: the departments of Veterans Affairs and Housing and Urban Development, the President and First Lady, and the list goes on…). Of course, telling you, “you need to end veteran homelessness this year” is much easier said than done. We recognize that. That’s why the Alliance will be providing as much guidance to communities as possible throughout the year.
Recently, several policy experts at the Alliance put their heads together to examine communities that have made real progress on ending veteran homelessness (and overall homelessness) to see how they are doing it. We’ve distilled that knowledge into this document, “Five Steps to End Veteran Homelessness,” which, as the title suggests, outlines the five major steps that communities must take to get the job done.
Read More »
Ending Chronic Homelessness, Now in 2017
February 23, 2015
Over the years, chronic homelessness in America has dropped significantly. Thanks to the hard work of housing agencies, and advocates in communities around the country, working with the support of federal policies, the number of individuals experiencing chronic homelessness has declined by 21 percent since 2010.
Even so, on a given night, more than 80,000 individuals experience chronic homelessness, which means they are disabled and have experienced homelessness either for a year or longer or at least four times in the last three years. Chronically homeless people make up less than 15 percent of the overall population on a given night, but they are the most vulnerable, and therefore the most in need of our help.
(It’s also cheaper to house them than let them remain homelessness, when you weigh the cost in social services against the cost of providing them with housing services.)
That’s why, back in 2010, the Obama administration set a goal for ending chronic homelessness by the end of 2016 in “Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness.” That’s a year later than the date the administration set for ending veteran homelessness, and while we’re optimistic about ending veteran homelessness by the end of 2015 (and we’re not alone), ending chronic homelessness by the end of 2016 seemed increasingly unlikely.
Read More »
See You Tomorrow at the 2015 Family and Youth Conference!
February 18, 2015
We’re looking forward to seeing you in San Diego this week for our 2015 National Conference on Ending Family and Youth Homelessness. Here in DC, as you may already be aware, we just had a ton of snow dumped on us. Some of us had our flights to San Diego canceled, and we’ve had to scramble to make new arrangements. But so far it looks like we’re all going to make it.
If you’re going to be there, please consider sharing your experience on social media using the conference hashtag #NAEH15. If you aren’t attending, you can keep up with the conference on Twitter, on the Alliance blog, and the Alliance Facebook page. Alliance staff will be tweeting about conference content, events, and speakers throughout the event.
Read More »
How do Communities Use their Limited Resources to Help Homeless People?
February 12, 2015
Homeless assistance systems, as we all know, have limited resources. This means that they often cannot serve everyone. To make the most of their available resources, many communities try to serve the subpopulations and individuals who are most in need of help. Doing that, however, can be tricky.
Communities must first identify the most vulnerable persons and then match them with the most appropriate services. Experts have devised a variety of tools for communities to use to accomplish this daunting task. These tools are administered by workers in the homeless assistance system, who ask people experiencing homelessness questions in order to determine the degree of their vulnerability, as well as what services they should receive.
(Here at the Alliance we have developed our own tool for communities: The Alliance Comprehensive Assessment tool.)
There is wide variety in the assessment tools that communities use and how they use them. Last fall, the Alliance and the Office of Policy Development and Research of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) brought together leading homelessness experts from around the country for an expert convening to discuss the assessment tools that communities use and what questions they should include.
Read More »
Here’s a Breakdown of Funding Levels for Homeless Programs in the President’s Budget
February 10, 2015
Last week was a busy one for the Alliance’s policy team. On Monday, Feb. 2, the Obama administration released its fiscal year (FY) 2016 budget proposal, and we wasted no time in poring over the details to determine exactly what the administration is proposing for key homeless assistance and affordable housing programs.
Soon after, we published a number of materials on the budget proposal for advocates, from a chart that outlines the proposed funding levels by program to sample FY 2016 appropriations talking points. You can find them all at our President’s FY 2016 Budget Briefing page.
We also hosted a webinar that provided an overview of the appropriations process and an analysis of the administration’s proposed funding levels.
Read More »
Here’s How the President’s Budget Would Reduce Homelessness
February 04, 2015
Earlier this week President Obama released his proposed budget for fiscal year (FY) 2016, which begins Oct. 1, 2015. The proposal includes strong measures to help communities re-house homeless people and prevent people who are at-risk from becoming homeless. As has become typical over the past several years, however, grave disagreement between the administration and Congress over larger budget issues means a lot of uncertainty for the future of homeless programs. The President’s budget presents a feasible best-case-scenario for progress on homelessness. (The worst-case-scenario is decidedly grimmer.) It’s based on some commonsense assumptions about homelessness.
Read More »
Employment and Housing: Early Findings from the Family Self-Sufficiency Study
February 03, 2015
Here at the Alliance, we often say that the answer to homelessness is housing. Though there are many ways to ensure people have access to housing, one of them is by connecting them to employment. If people are employed in living-wage jobs, they should be more able to afford housing.
Over the past several years, MDRC, a nonprofit that conducts research on social policy, has examined a demonstration project to explore ways to increase employment and earnings for families living in subsidized housing. In 2012, MRDC released early findings from the project in a report, “Working Toward Self-Sufficiency: Early Findings from a Program for Housing Voucher Recipients in New York City.” (MDRC will release a second report of longer-term findings soon.)
MRDC focused on the Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) program, a federal program that works to decrease reliance on housing vouchers by providing case management to prepare families for and connect them to employment, increasing families’ share of the rent as their income increases, and diverting families’ increased rent payments into interest-accruing accounts that are paid out to them upon program completion.
Read More »
How Veteran Providers Can Take Advantage of Hypothermia Nights
February 02, 2015
On particularly cold winter nights, many cities mount aggressive campaigns to encourage vulnerable adults living outdoors to come in for the night. City leaders or nonprofit groups elect to expand their community's shelter capacity, often with church basements or city facilities that aren't designed to be used as sleeping accommodations.
Individuals who seek shelter at these temporary overflow locations aren’t likely to receive much in the way of services, but they won’t be asked many questions either, which is often by design. The idea is to erect as few barriers to shelter as possible so that people will choose to come indoors when weather conditions are particularly dangerous.
And yet, these overflow shelters offer a unique opportunity for service providers to engage particularly vulnerable homeless veterans and others who might typically avoid emergency shelters. With Congress and the Obama administration providing unprecedented new resources to help veterans escape homelessness, this winter is time to take advantage of it.
Read More »
Here’s All the Youth Homelessness Content for our Upcoming Family and Youth Conference
January 29, 2015
Here at the Alliance offices, we’re busily preparing for our upcoming National Conference on Ending Family & Youth Homelessness. (And since everyone in DC is currently wondering when the next winter storm is going to dump any snow on us, we’re more than a little excited about being in sunny San Diego next month.) As the Alliance’s youth policy analyst, I’m currently working hard on organizing the youth homelessness content. And there is going to be a lot of it!
The conference is less than a month away. If you’re going to be attending, you’re probably already thinking about what workshops you want to attend. Here’s a quick look at the wide variety of youth-focused workshops we have lined up. In these workshops, we’ll be exploring what providers, researchers, and policymakers are doing to end youth homelessness by 2020, the goal set in Opening Doors, the national strategic plan to end homelessness.
Read More »
The Alliance Supports Reauthorization of the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act
January 27, 2015
Today Senators Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., introduced a bill reauthorizing the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act (RHYA), which expired on Sept. 30, 2013. (Senators Cory Booker, D-NJ, and Kelly Ayotte, R-NH, also signed on to the bill as original co-sponsors.)
Ever since it was signed into law in 1974, the RHYA has been the only federal law exclusively dedicated to homeless youth, ensuring essential services like street outreach, basic shelter, and transitional living programs. The new reauthorization bill, the Runaway and Homeless Youth and Trafficking Prevention Act, goes even further by increasing protection for youth who are victims of human trafficking and sexual exploitation. It increases support for family intervention, and prohibits discrimination against homeless youth based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
The Alliance supports reauthorization of RHYA and the improvement of its programs so it can more effectively and efficiently serve homeless youth, particularly the most vulnerable youth who are on the streets and unsheltered every night.
Read More »
Obama’s FY 2016 Budget: Why Homeless Advocates Should Pay Attention
January 26, 2015
The Administration typically releases their budget proposal for the upcoming fiscal year during the first week of February. Unlike recent years, this year President Obama is expected to release his fiscal year (FY) 2016 Budget Proposal early next month (Monday, Feb. 2 to be exact), which will kick off the federal funding process earlier than in recent years. Here at the Alliance, we will be examining the budget closely to determine what it means for programs that serve people experiencing homelessness.
As usual, we will share these insights during a webinar, “President's Budget Proposal - Overview and Impact on Homelessness” next Thursday, Feb. 5, at 12 pm ET. We’re going to be discussing the Obama administration’s proposed funding levels for key homelessness and affordable housing programs, as well as upcoming opportunities for advocates.
Read More »
The 2015 Point-in-Time Count is Finally Here.
January 22, 2015
In the next two weeks, volunteers across the country will set out to conduct a count of all homeless persons in their communities. Though it may be too late sign up to volunteer in your community’s 2015 Point-in-Time Count (here in D.C., volunteer registration is already closed), you can still help us out at the Alliance.
Every year the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) requires communities to conduct sheltered counts of people living in emergency shelter or transitional housing. Every other year, HUD requires communities to conduct unsheltered counts of people living in a place unfit for human habitation (such as in an abandoned building or in a park). This year is one of the years that both counts are required, so every community will be conducting both a sheltered and an unsheltered count.
Here at the Alliance, we track this data as it is released. Different communities release their count data at different times, and we want to know which communities are reporting an increase in homelessness and which ones are reporting a decrease. Of course, there are a lot of communities across the nation, so we can’t do this without your help.
Read More »
Homeless Youth Count (And Should Be Counted!)
January 21, 2015
Next week, volunteers and homeless service providers around the country will venture into wooded areas, under bridges, city parks, and subway lines in order to look for people living outdoors. This nationwide effort is designed to get the best possible “point-in-time” count of people experiencing homelessness – those living in shelters, transitional housing programs, or in places unintended for human habitation – on one given night.
We have seen too often that they will miss a very important segment of the homeless population: homeless youth.
There are many reasons homeless youth are missed in Point-in-Time Counts. Some are complicated and difficult to overcome. Youth may be spending the night with a stranger and are not on the street during the point-in-time count. Many will go to great lengths to avoid appearing homeless and may be reluctant to share their housing status with a stranger. Some youth under the age of 18 may fear child welfare involvement and so they may avoid interacting with people who might alert social service agencies to their lack of housing.
Young people who are out on the streets at night can't always be found in the same locations where homeless adults are found. Often they are not using the same social service programs, and many of those programs do not report data to the community’s Homelessness Management Information System (HMIS). To conductive a youth-inclusive count, communities will have to modify their traditional counting strategies. But in the meantime, here some easy steps for communities to implement for next week’s count:
Read More »
New Orleans Ends Veteran Homelessness, Sets an Example for the Nation
January 14, 2015
The city of New Orleans has come a long way in the nine or so years since the surging waters of Hurricane Katrina devastated large swaths of the city and displaced more than 400,000 of its residents. Before Katrina, a little more than 2,000 people experienced homelessness on a given night. By 2007, that number swelled to more than 11,500.
After Hurricane Katrina, homelessness skyrocketed in New Orleans as a result of the destruction of much of the housing stock and the disappearance of jobs. But in the intervening years, through incredible work by leaders in that community and others around the country, the number of people living on the streets, in shelters, and in abandoned buildings has declined significantly.
As of January 2014, the number people in Jefferson and Orleans parishes who experience homelessness on a given night had declined to 1,981 people. The homeless service system in New Orleans has become a national model for street outreach, landlord outreach, targeting of permanent supportive housing, rapid re-housing, and other strategies for fighting homelessness.
Last week the city reached a new and historic milestone when Mayor Landrieu announced that New Orleans had ended homelessness among veterans. Ending veteran homelessness is, of course, a major goal of “Opening Doors: The Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness.” Under Opening Doors, the benchmark date set for ending veteran homelessness is the end of 2015.
Read More »
How We Conduct Research on Homelessness Matters as Much as Our Findings
January 13, 2015
Here at the Alliance, we love solid research on homelessness. Strong studies of homeless populations give our policy team and our advocates the ammunition they need to make compelling arguments to lawmakers about the necessity of support for homeless persons.
But homeless populations arguably are one of the most difficult populations to study, because they are often transient, lack consistent contact information, and may not want to identify themselves as homeless. For this reason, one of the most valuable types of research on homelessness is actually research about research.
Confused? Allow me to explain. The value of research is dependent on the way researchers go about conducting it (i.e. its methodology). The better the methodology of the research, the more useful the researcher’s findings will be, both for policymakers and other researchers. So it’s really important that researchers develop strong methodologies.
With this goal in mind, many researchers are actually studying methodologies themselves, instead of studying particular populations. In other words: rather than studying homeless youth themselves, researchers might examine the best methods to study homeless youth. That way, they and other researchers will have solid methodologies on which to base future studies of homeless youth.
Read More »