Ending Homelessness Today
The official blog of the National Alliance to End Homelessness
What Do the Election Results Mean for the Fight to End Homelessness?
November 10, 2014
Divided government is part of what America does. The idea that neither Congress nor the president should be able to accomplish much by themselves is written right into the Constitution. Looking back over the past 20-plus years, it appears Americans think that’s not enough, that it’s important that neither party controls both branches.
One result of last Tuesday’s election is that, for the third time in a row, a president who began his administration with both houses of Congress in the hands of his party will end his Presidency with both houses of Congress in the hands of the other party, even though he was elected to a second term. Americans are showing, maybe, that they don’t want the federal government to move forward unless Congress and the president can reach a consensus, agreed on by both major political parties.
History shows us that the goal of ending homelessness is one place where that kind of consensus can exist. Just look at the last two years of the Clinton administration and the last two years of the Bush administration: during each period the president worked with a Congress controlled by the party that opposed him; we still made real progress.
Read More »
This Could be Our Last Chance to Advocate for Increased Homeless Assistance Funding in FY 2015
November 07, 2014
With the mid-term elections now behind us, members of the 113th Congress are set to return to Washington, DC next Wednesday, Nov.12 to begin their lame-duck session. During this legislative session, this class of Congress, which is on track to be the least productive in modern history, will have many unresolved issues left to address.
One looming item on their agenda will be finalizing a fiscal year (FY) 2015 funding bill to fund the government past Dec. 11, the date our current continuing resolution, or stopgap funding measure, will run out. If you are an advocate for ending homelessness, here’s why you should care about this bill: our ability to end chronic homelessness by the end of 2016, and make significant reductions among other homeless populations, depends on Congress including a $301 million increase (to $2.406 billion) to the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants program.
The increase, which President Obama requested in his budget proposal, would fund $37,000 units of permanent supportive housing for people experiencing chronic homelessness and put us on track to end chronic homelessness by the end of 2016. If you care about reaching that goal and changing the lives of thousands of vulnerable and disabled people (and if you’re reading this, we’re hoping you do), Congress needs to hear from you that this increase must be included in the final FY 2015 funding bill.
Read More »
Conducting Unsheltered PIT Counts: What the Experts Say
November 04, 2014
In just two months, communities across the country will begin conducting their annual Point-in-Time (PIT) counts. PIT Counts measure both the number of homeless people in shelters and the number of homeless people who are unsheltered—i.e., people who are sleeping any place unfit for human habitation, such as the street, a car, or an abandoned building.
These counts are critical for homelessness providers, researchers, funders, and advocates, as they are the only source of national data on the homeless population. It is therefore vitally important that both the sheltered and unsheltered counts are as accurate as possible. As you can imagine, conducting an unsheltered count is an extremely difficult task, as unsheltered homeless individuals could be living almost anywhere. For this reason, we invited some experts on unsheltered counts to provide their thoughts and recommendations on how to conduct the most accurate and reliable counts possible.
Read More »
New York City, New Orleans Reduce Veteran Homelessness by more than 50 Percent in Three Years
November 03, 2014
In the last three years, communities across the country, among them New York City and New Orleans, have cut their numbers of veterans experiencing homelessness by more than 50 percent. Now, as part of our Never Another Homeless Veteran campaign, we’re spotlighting these communities that are leading the fight to end veteran homelessness in America.
According to numbers released last week by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the number of veterans experiencing homelessness on a given night in America has declined by 11 percent since 2013, and 33 percent since 2009. During the January 2014 Point-in-Time Count, volunteers counted 49,933 veterans out of a total of 578,424 people experiencing homelessness (or 9 percent).
We at the Alliance want to highlight this progress because it shows what communities can do. (Imagine how many changesd lives those numbers represent!) That’s why this week at our 2014 Awards Ceremony we’re honoring 14 of the 67 communities that have achieved a more than 50 percent reduction in veteran homelessness, with especial recognition for two of them: New Orleans and New York City.
Read More »
New Data Show Homelessness has Declined 11 Percent since 2007
October 31, 2014
Required by Congress, HUD’s PIT Count is the only national survey that counts everyone who is staying in a shelter or other homeless programs, as well as people who are unsheltered. Its methodology is fairly consistent over time, allowing an assessment of whether the number of homeless people is growing or shrinking each year. Though it does not count every single homeless person, nor does it assess the number of people who are at high risk of homelessness because they have unstable or unacceptable housing, it is the only way that we can determine approximately how many people are homeless, the characteristics of our homeless population, and how homeless Americans are using shelters.
The 2014 PIT Count data show that numbers of homeless people is moving in the right direction.
Read More »
What Can Providers Do to Serve Homeless Youth Better?
October 28, 2014
With as many as half a million youth experiencing homelessness each year, it is surprising and frustrating, for those of us who are working to end youth homelessness, that so little research on this population exists. We want to understand the scope of the problem and its causes, as this will help us understand how to fund and design the most effective services to help as many youth as possible.
Recently, the Family and Youth Services Bureau (FYSB) of the Department of Health and Human Services released a report that gets at this last question—at least part of it. From March 2013 through September 2013, FYSB interviewed 656 young people from their street outreach programs in 11 U.S. cities between the ages of 14 and 21 who were experiencing homelessness to get an idea of what kinds of services they need. For a detailed look at their findings, check out the report’s executive summary.
Read More »
Here are 5 Steps for Raising the Issue of Homelessness at a Public Campaign Event
October 27, 2014
As loyal readers of our blog are already well-aware, members of Congress are home for recess until about a week after the November 4 election. At the Alliance, we’ve been urging homeless advocates to use this time to engage directly with members of Congress about the issue of homelessness by giving tours of their local homeless assistance programs or setting up meetings with their members of Congress.
But here’s another way you can take advantage of the election season: attend a public campaign event. You can expect that many of the members of Congress who are up for re-election will be making public appearances at campaign events this week. These events can take a variety of forms, from town hall meetings, to informal neighborhood gatherings, to candidate forums or debates. If you want your member of Congress to do something about homelessness, be there, and be prepared.
Here are five steps for engaging members of Congress at public events.
Read More »
Here are 5 Steps for Organizing a Congressional Meeting this Fall
October 24, 2014
Now that members of Congress are home in their districts and states for the congressional recess, homeless advocates across the country are using this time to engage directly with them. How can you get involved? We’ve already discussed the most effective way: giving members of Congress a tour of your local homeless assistance program (see this blog post for five tips), but there’s another way to reach Congress this fall. It’s simple: set up a meeting with your member of Congress (or their staff) in their state or district office. Meetings like these set a less formal tone than meetings held in members of Congress’ DC offices and are a great way to build a strong relationship.
Here are five steps for organizing a successful congressional meeting this fall.
Read More »
Alliance to Honor Communities for Reducing Veteran Homelessness
October 23, 2014
On November 5, the Alliance will celebrate the progress we have made in the fight to end homelessness with our 2014 Annual Awards Ceremony, “Communities to Watch: Ending Veteran Homelessness.” This year marks the second year in our Never Another Homeless Veteran Campaign. As such, we will be honoring 20 communities that have decreased veteran homelessness by 50 percent or more in the past three years.
In 2009, President Obama announced the federal government's goal of ending veteran homelessness by the end of 2015. Since then, stakeholders on the national and local levels have been pushing hard to reach this ambitious goal. With the bipartisan support of Congress, communities across the country have implemented and expanded programs that provide homeless veterans and their families with crucial interventions like rental assistance and intensive case management.
As a nation, we have made incredible progress. Since 2011, we have reduced the number of veterans who experience homelessness on a given night by 26 percent. During the same period, the largest metropolitan area in the U.S., New York City, reduced veteran homelessness by almost 65 percent. (That’s more than 3,000 fewer homeless veterans.) And New Orleans achieved an astonishing 76.5 percent decrease in veteran homeless.
Read More »
Attention Researchers: Here’s How to Improve Samples of Homeless Youth
October 21, 2014
Conducting reliable research on homeless youth is exceedingly difficult: how do you locate a transient group that often wants to be invisible? Though the most easily located youths tend to be those in shelters and/or drop-in centers, basing your research on just these populations can lead to biased data. Not only is this a problem for researchers, but it also is a problem for service providers, policymakers, and advocates working to provide programs and policies that are based on strong evidence.
Researchers started tackling these issues in a study released last month. The study’s sampling frame included 41 sites from three different types of locations in Los Angeles County.
Read More »
3 Things Everyone Should Know About Homelessness Now
October 20, 2014
Here at the Alliance, we’re frequently contacted by people working on creative projects designed to raise awareness of homelessness. On an almost daily basis, we receive emails from people who have written songs, recorded videos, made movies, even designed videogames.
While the final product will vary wildly from one project to another in terms of quality and message, the artist’s intentions, invariably, are good. They feel strongly that we should do something about homelessness. We do too.
While we occasionally partner with filmmakers for the promotion of a film (e.g. we’re screening the youth homelessness documentary Homestretch at our next conference; check out the trailer above), the number of inquiries we receive is too large for us to respond to all of them.
Recently we were contacted by a filmmaker who had made a film about homelessness. She was preparing to promote her film and wanted to know if we could provide her with three simple talking points that she could use during interviews with journalists.
As the press person for the Alliance, it’s my job to handle these inquiries. So here’s what I threw together. These aren’t the Alliance’s recommended talking points; they’re mine. I based two of them on popular misconceptions that I’ve seen repeated again and again in popular media.
Read More »
Rapid Re-Housing is not an Anti-Poverty Program
October 17, 2014
When I travel around the country talking about or training on rapid re-housing, one of the statements I make that gets the most reaction is this: rapid re-housing isn’t an anti-poverty program, it is an anti-homelessness program. Without fail, several folks in the room will sit back and consider this statement, seemingly for the first time, even though it should be obvious. Although, as someone who has spent the better part of 25 years working on economic and social justice, I get why this statement can cause a few eyebrows in the room to go up.
Let’s face it; a lot of us get into this line of work because we can’t see abject poverty in our society and simply walk on by. And you can’t hit bottom worse than being poor and homeless. But when I talk about rapid re-housing as a solution to homelessness, a lot of folks raise questions about how a family is going to survive after the support ends. They worry that helping a family or individual into an apartment will set them up to ultimate failure. Many ask, “Wouldn’t they be better off with a housing voucher?” My answer is always the same.
Of course they would. But the reality is that there are not nearly enough housing vouchers to meet the need. However, when that family or individual is living on the street, what they need right away is a home.
Read More »
2 Steps We Must Take to End Youth Homelessness
October 15, 2014
So how do we end youth homelessness? That’s a big question, and there remains a lot of debate as to its answer. However, the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) has identified two key priority areas that we must address if we are to set the nation’s course toward ending youth homelessness.
One: We must gather more accurate information on the number of young people who experience homelessness each year. To solve a problem you must know its scope, and right now, in spite of efforts by organization across the country during the last Point-In-Time to get a youth-inclusive count, we still don’t know how many homeless youth are out there.
We do know that about half of the homeless young people counted were unsheltered. That means that in communities across the country, unaccompanied homeless youth were spending the night in places unfit for human habitation: street corners, parks, subway stations, or in abandoned buildings.
Read More »
Homeless Youth and Crime: What Does the Research Say?
October 14, 2014
In order to survive the harsh realities of living on the streets, homeless youth may commit crimes. Research has shown that homeless youth are disproportionately involved in illegal activities as compared to housed youth, but few studies have explored the risk factors that may lead these youths to the criminal justice system.
The Family and Youth Services Bureau, a division of the department of Health and Human Services, recently compiled several studies that aim to determine why homeless youth may engage in criminal behaviors. What they found paints a much richer picture of the reasons that many homeless youth commit crimes.
Read More »
We Have the Funding to End Veteran Homelessness. Now What?
October 09, 2014
Last week, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced it was releasing an additional $207 million in “surge funding” for the Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) program. Later in the week, HUD announced that it was issuing 9,000 new HUD-VA supportive housing (HUD-VASH) vouchers to house chronically homeless veterans.
Clearly, there are a lot of resources coming down the line to help address veteran homelessness. These new resources are meant to help communities find and house every homeless veteran in time to meet our goal of ending veteran homelessness by the end of 2015. This year, VA has released more than $500 million in SSVF grants to nonprofits in every state covering nearly every locality. The money is there (and there might even be more coming soon), so as we’ve discussed in this blog before, the responsibility is now on communities, local VA Medical Centers (VAMCs), and services providers to get the job done.
We have seen great progress so far, but there are still nearly 50,000 veterans without a place to call home. If you are a provider in one of the communities that received surge funding (check here), get involved to ensure these funds are used as efficiently and effectively as possible. Here are some important things you should be doing.
Read More »
Why Don’t We Have Enough Beds for Homeless Youth?
October 08, 2014
There are not enough beds for the number of homeless youth in this country. I’d like that statement to stand on its own for a moment: there are not enough beds for homeless youth in this country.
If they are lucky, a homeless youth gets a shelter bed or sleeps on a friend or family member’s couch. If they are unlucky, they sleep on the streets, in cars, in abandoned buildings; they may ride public transit all night; or they may barter sex for a place to stay. The important point here is: every night, homeless youth are turned away from shelter and housing programs because of a lack of capacity.
There are a couple of ways to solve this problem—or at least begin to address it. The obvious one is more beds. That means more money and other resources pumped into an overwhelmed shelter system. Unfortunately, government funding appears to be going the opposite direction.
Read More »
Here are 5 Tips for Site Visits with Congress Members this Fall
October 06, 2014
Right now Congress is on recess, which means members of Congress are in their districts and states until November 12, about a week after the election takes place. During that time, homeless advocates like you can take advantage of the election season to engage directly with members of Congress. How can you do that?
One of the most effective ways is by conducting a site visit. Homeless assistance programs depend on their votes, so giving members of Congress a tour of your local homeless assistance program is a great way to show them the impact their vote makes in the lives of their constituents. Here are five quick tips for organizing your next site visit.
Read More »
The True Colors Forty to None Summit Rocked!
October 02, 2014
Youth who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) make up just 4 to 10 percent of the youth in the U.S. Yet LGBTQ youth are still overrepresented among the homeless youth population, according to a recent brief by the Urban Institute. In New York City, LGBTQ homeless youth make up 43 percent of the homeless youth population.
And homeless LGBTQ youth are especially vulnerable. They experience higher rates of physical and sexual assault and higher incidences of mental health problems and unsafe sexual behaviors than their heterosexual counterparts. They experience higher rates of physical and sexual assault and higher incidences of mental health problems and unsafe sexual behaviors than their heterosexual counterparts.
Because of the lack of resources available for homeless youth, most LGBTQ homeless youth are unable to access housing and supportive services. And they often must rely on mainstream homeless youth services, rather than LGBT-specific services. Forty to None found that 76 percent of LGBTQ youth received services from mainstream providers.
Read More »
Congress Went Home. Now’s Your Chance to Talk to Them About Homelessness!
October 01, 2014
For homeless advocates, election season isn’t just about political ads, lawn signs, and round-the-clock news coverage. It’s also a fantastic opportunity to engage directly with members of Congress while they are home in their districts or states for the congressional recess.
Congress will remain on recess until November 12, about a week after the election takes place. Considering that FY 2015 funding is not yet finalized, this upcoming month or so is the perfect time for advocates to give their members of Congress a tour of a local homeless assistance program, set up a congressional meeting, or engage with them at one of their election campaign events.
We want to make sure members of Congress see increasing funding for the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants program as a high enough priority that they are willing to do something about it.
It’s true that Congress has already passed a continuing resolution, or stopgap funding measure, funding the government at FY 2014 levels through December 11, but members of Congress will need to finalize FY 2015 funding at some point. (We’re hopeful Congress will get to that soon after the election).
Read More »
Including Youth in the 2014 PIT Count: Some Thoughts from the Experts
September 30, 2014
January is just three months away, which means that many communities are already planning their methodologies for the upcoming 2015 Point-in-Time (PIT) Count. Unless we know whether the numbers of homeless people are going up or down, we can’t know whether our interventions to help them are working, or whether the resources we’re targeting at them are actually helping.
Counting unsheltered homeless persons is always a challenge, but counting unsheltered youth can be even harder. Youth tend to have different social habits than adults, and they congregate in different places and at different times of day. So strategies that communities use to count unsheltered adults may not be as effective. That’s why, earlier this month, the Alliance brought together several experts to discuss their strategies for counting homeless youth.
Read More »