Ending Homelessness Today
The official blog of the National Alliance to End Homelessness
Friday News Roundup: Medicaid and the Health Care Debate
October 16, 2009
Happy Friday, everyone! Apologies for the long absence.
This week, in the Friday News Roundup, we thought we'd share a bit of Alliance news about - what else - the health care debate.
On October 15, Senators Shaheen (D-NH), Brown (D-OH), and Menendez (D-NJ) introduced a coordinated care Medicaid program as part of health reform: the REDUCE Act (Reduce Emergency Department Utilization through Coordination and Empowerment Act). As we've explained before in our video, Medicaid is a key priority for the Alliance in ensuring that the interests of those experiencing homelessness are considered in the health care debate.
Now – the Alliance is working to help attain additional Senators to co-sponsor (officially sign-on in support of) co-sponsor the bill.
This legislation would:
Improve health outcomes for people who are homeless and have multiple disabling conditions;
Allow participating states to reimburse supportive housing providers for all of the primary health care and behavioral health services that people need to remain safely housed; and
Improve future Medicaid benefits packages by tracking and evaluating reductions in hospitalizations or institutional admissions and use of emergency health services.
To be attached to health reform, the REDUCE Act will likely be offered as an amendment when the Senate votes on health care reform legislation. Before health care legislation can proceed to the Senate floor, though, the Senate Finance committee’s version must be combined with the version of the legislation passed this summer by the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions committee.
For more information about the health reform bill and how it relates to homelessness, check out Nan Roman’s piece in the Huffington Post.
... Read More »
Data + Research: Good, Innovative magazines
October 07, 2009
Continuing with the theme of research, data, and scholarship this week (did a chance to see our video fact sheet?), I thought I’d highlight a couple of magazines that are near and dear to our hearts at the Homelessness Research Institute. These magazines cover current events, data and statistics, and social innovation – using evidence-based, fact-driven research to influence and inform policy and practice.
We flip through the magazines and click through their website to read the latest in innovations in the field and get inspired for our own projects and tools.
A few we really like:
The Stanford Social Innovation Review
The name says it all, doesn’t it? This straightforward, scholarly, no-nonsense magazine is a clear and thoughtful arbiter of information about social innovation.
Their goal, as they delineate themselves, is to “share substantive insights and practical experiences that will help those who do the important work of improving society do it even better.. to strike a balance between the pragmatic and the intellectual, to embrace no predefined political ideology, and to champion the interests of no single constituency. Instead, we will broker conversations, ask hard questions, disseminate the fruits of rigorous research, and present real-life case studies.”
A particular recent gem of an article: The Nonprofit Starvation Cycle.
Miller McCune looks to “turn research into solutions” – or more specifically, “draws on academic research and other definitive sources to provide reasoned policy options and solutions for today's pressing issues.”... Read More »
Data + Research: Video Fact Sheet
October 06, 2009
Apologies for the hiatus over the last week.
But today, we make it up to you by launching our very first video fact sheet.
A lot of times, we get asked this question: How many homeless people are there?
And while that may seem like a simple question to answer, it’s actually more complicated than it seems. It’s not easy to count homeless people, so there are a lot of estimates. It depends on how you define “homelessness”. It depends on the groups you’re interested in – most people think of single adult men when they picture homelessness, but there are also families and children and veterans.
There’s also different methodology – the Department of Housing and Urban Development requires that all communities count homeless persons in their area every other year, but people count in different ways, so the number should account for that.
And we get variations of the question, too. How many people are homeless in a specific community? How many people who are homeless have a serious disorder? How many people are disabled? How many are youth? How many qualify for federal assistance – and of those, who’s accessing federal assistance?
So it’s actually a pretty complicated answer – and sometimes it can be hard to understand.
But luckily for you, the director of the Homelessness Research Institute – M William Sermons – put together this great video fact sheet explaining the numbers in an easy, understandable way... Read More »
HMIS Data in Minnesota
September 28, 2009
Today, we have a great guest post from our friends in Minnesota. It discusses data, and the importance of that data in approaching homelessness effectively and responsibly. As a member of our own Homelessness Research Institute at the National Alliance to End Homelessness, the importance of good, solid data is something I’ve learned very, very well. Hope you get the message too.
Between October 1, 2007 and September 30, 2008, nearly 13,000 people stayed in the emergency shelter and transitional housing programs that participate in Minnesota’s Homeless Management Information System (HMIS), according to a recent report from Wilder Research. HMIS participating organizations have about 3,400 beds per night designated for people experiencing homelessness, about 57 percent of the state’s total capacity.
The report, Homeless Service Use in Minnesota: Emergency shelter and transitional housing, federal fiscal year 2008 provides numbers and characteristics of people who reside in HMIS-participating emergency and transition housing. It uses aggregated data submitted annually to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for its Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR) to Congress.
A companion report presents detailed tables for each of Minnesota’s 13 HUD-related ‘Continuum of Care’(CoC) regions. (As we’ve discussed on this blog before, a CoC is the administrative unit in charge homeless programs.)
Minnesota has among the highest AHAR participation rates in the county. In addition to strengthening HUD’s report and providing useful information at the local level, high AHAR participation helps secure funding for homeless programs throug... Read More »
Friday: News Roundup! the NOFA
September 25, 2009
Today, a post from Amanda Krusemark, assistant to the President and a jane-of-all-trades member of the staff. The news: HUD released the NOFA today, which may seem insignificant to many, but often represents a large percentage of homeless assistance funding for many communities.
The big news today is that Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) finally released the 2009 CoC NOFA.
In homeless industry talk a NOFA is a Notice of Funding Availability. It let folks across the country know that the application for federal funds is available.
Specifically, the NOFA explains the pertinent details, including how much money is available, who is eligible, what the funds can be used for, and how to complete an application for funding. In essence, the NOFA is the siren call for service providers to apply for federal funding.
This particular NOFA is a pretty big deal for homeless service providers, because it covers the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance programs. As we’ve discussed before, the McKinney-Vento programs represent the largest chunk of federal funds dedicated solely to homeless programs. Applying for these funds is one of the biggest jobs that Continuums of Care (CoC) – the official administrative unit in charge of homeless programs - do all year, because these funds will be often be the biggest single funding sources for homeless programs for the year.
We’ve talked a lot on this blog about the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program (HPRP) and other stimu... Read More »
Innovation in Approaching Mental Illness
September 25, 2009
I got an email this morning from a person involved with Ashoka’s Changemakers.
(Yeah, I didn’t know who they were at first either.)
But it turns out, they’re worth knowing. Changemakers, as they’re called, are people devoted to making a substantive change in social issues. Or, as they like to say it: “Changemakers is a community of action where we all collaborate on solutions.”
Changemakers work on all kind of issues: community, violence, abuse, environment, aging, animal rights, youth. The website is a place where like-minded people can connect, chat, and exchange ideas about new innovations and best practices.
Right now, Changemakers is hosting a competition: Rethinking Mental Health: Improving Community Wellbeing.”
The prompt: submit one way to challenge common misconceptions about mental health and engage communities in expanding our understanding and involvement in finding solutions.
Nope, not easy. But an important step nonetheless.
And why do we care?
Approximately 20 percent of the homeless population is considered “chronically homeless”, and by definition, suffer from some sort of disability. Many times, this disability involves mental health. This disability often prevents a person from being able to find stable housing, employment, and the resources he or she needs in order to pull themselves towards self-sufficiency.
Check out the website, the community and the competition. Got any good ideas? ... Read More »
Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness
September 24, 2009
Almost ten years ago, the Alliance unveiled the Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness, a campaign aimed at engaging communities to look strategically and systemically examine homelessness in their localities. The plan outlined a community-based framework aimed at engaging a wide array of sectors and stakeholders to comprehensively broach and solve this social problem. The Alliance presented this campaign in a report called, A Plan, Not a Dream: How to End Homelessness in Ten Years. Six years into the project, over 200 communities had adopted this plan, initiating 10-year plans at the state, local, and regional levels. The plans developed timeline with tangible benchmarks, addressed different subpopulations of the homeless community, and incorporated data-driven, evidence-based strategies, as presented in the Alliance’s Ten Essentials, a list of best practices and proven techniques.
In response to this tremendous reaction, the Homeless Research Institute (HRI) published an analysis of the existing 10-year plans. A New Vision: What is in Community Plans to End Homelessness? examines the content of local plans and shares information developed by local planners and community officials.
Today, there are over 234* plans to end homelessness, and the Alliance has produced a timeline to track the evolution of these plans. To complement the online tool, Shannon Moriarty - former HRI intern and trusted colleague – produced A Shifting Focus: What’s New in Community Plans to End Homelessness, an update on 10-year plans since 2006.
Please take a moment to check out the tool ... Read More »
New Rules for Homeless Assistance Programs
September 22, 2009
We're heard though the grapevine that some people are a little confused - and a little worried - by the new Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing Act, a.k.a. the HEARTH Act. There seem to be some question about what, exactly, this legislation will do and how it will affect local direct service providers.
Below, our senior policy analyst Norm Suchar has some answers. Take it away, Norm!
One of the major homelessness policy debates over the past 2 decades has been about updating the Department of Housing and Urban Development's (HUD's) homeless assistance programs. After years of debates and several false starts, Congress passed a bill called the Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing Act, a.k.a. the HEARTH Act. It was signed by President Obama on May 20, 2009.
The HEARTH Act makes mostly evolutionary changes to homeless assistance, although some of the changes are more substantial. The changes go into effect in about two years. Here are some of the highlights.
1. The HEARTH Act focuses much more on preventing homelessness. Currently federal homeless assistance programs don't fund many prevention programs. Because of the HEARTH Act, there will be a lot more homelessness prevention, particularly for helping people when they get behind on the rent or when they have a dispute with a landlord.
2. There is a greater focus on helping families with children move into their own housing. Families are typically homeless for... 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 »
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 »
Happy National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month
September 15, 2009
September is National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month. This annual observance is designed to promote the benefits of substance abuse treatment and the highlight contributions of treatment providers in this field. Recovery Month also aims to educate the public about substance abuse and addiction and confirm that recovery is possible. It’s an important time to reflect upon the relationship between substance abuse and homelessness – and what is and isn’t true about that relationship. Substance abuse is much more common among those experiencing homelessness, and specifically those identified as experiencing chronic homelessness. Chronic homelessness is defined by some sort of disability; many chronically homeless people have a serious mental illness like schizophrenia and/or alcohol or drug addiction. As anyone who has been touched by substance abuse can attest – it’s a difficult battle in the best of circumstances. Substance abuse creates barriers to achieving independence and stability, barring the way to a healthy lifestyle including permanent employment and housing. And more often than not, homelessness and the challenges of a transient – and sometimes street – lifestyle only exacerbate the disability. As responsible members of a more and more interdependent community, we should do our utmost to provide resources to those with substance abuse issues, and ensure that all those actively seeking help find it quickly and safely. RecoveryMonth.gov provides numerous resources, including Recovery Month toolkits, a press kit, and an event locator. Nearly 600 events have been planned around Recove... Read More »
Friday: News Roundup, Poverty Report
September 11, 2009
The big [relevant] news of the day is the poverty update.Yesterday, the U.S. Census Bureau announced that the nation’s poverty rate climbed to 13.2 percent last year, which translates into 39.8 million people living in poverty. This rose from 12..5 percent in 2007, and is the highest poverty rate in 12 years.The information for this recent report was gathered early in 2008, and by most accounts, the recession grew worse during 2008, suggesting that the numbers may have since inflated. Economists suggest, as noted in the New York Times article this morning, that we may see even more pronounced effects of the recession on levels of poverty for the 2009 year.This news hardly comes as a surprise during an economic crisis that has affected so many Americans. Nor is one surprised by the details of the data, which suggests that those most affected tend to be families headed by women, people of color, and children.Rising unemployment, a rise in the need of social services coupled with a decrease in the availability of those resources, drastic state budget cuts, and all the other extraneous pressure of the recession have strongly affected those at the economic fringes of society and those most vulnerable to falling into poverty.This data supports the Alliance’s prediction that up to 1.5 million more people may experience homelessness before the recession is over without significant government intervention. As poverty increases, the risk of losing housing – often the most considerable porti... Read More »
Data + Research: Geography of Homelessness, Part Two
September 11, 2009
This month, we continue to the ongoing Geography of Homelessness series with an issue about the prevalence of homelessness in rural and urban areas.
The Alliance began the Geography of Homelessness series to investigate the popular concept of urban homelessness (and to make use of new homeless information collected by the Department of Housing and Urban Development).
The Alliance began be defining all existing Continuums of Care (CoC) into one of five categories: rural, mostly rural, mixed, mostly urban, and urban. After defining each of the CoCs, we counted up how many were rural, how many were urban, how many were mixed, etc. Ultimately, we concluded - as is explained by the first issue of the Geography series - that 77 percent of those people who were experiencing homelessness were doing so in an urban environment.
In this second issue, we look into the prevalence of homelessness in each of these area types. While it is popularly accepted homelessness tends to be an urban phenomenon, it is also widely known that rural areas have higher rates of poverty, deep poverty, and other characteristics that are commonly associated with homelessness. We try to reconcile these two ideas in this second issue of the Geography series.
The Alliance calculated the rate of homelessness in all the CoCs, counting the number of people experiencing homelessness per 10,000 people in the community.
The Alliance found while the two communities with the highest rates of homelessness were... Read More »
Foster Children: Youth Homelessness and Housing
September 10, 2009
Today, I had the opportunity to attend a meeting addressing housing and homelessness issues for foster children and youth. Hosted by the National Foster Care Coalition (NFCC), this meeting brought together advocates, policymakers, government officials, and other interested parties in addressing the issue of foster children.
According to the NFCC, there are nearly half a million children and youth in foster care - and of those, over 26,000 age out of the foster care program without ever having joined a permanent family. Studies have demonstrated that these youth - who never experience the benefits of permanent housing and support - often are more likely to experience negative outcomes, including poverty, homelessness, incarceration, as well as mental and physical illness. They often never learn the life and educational skills necessary to live successful, independent lives.
Luckily, there are actions that we can take to help these foster care children, and increase the odds that they will become productive, active members of society. The NFCC presented a housing policy platform for foster care children, which include the following (these are just a selection among a longer list):
Increase the legal and financial incentive to providing foster placement prevention services, including housing.
Require federally-mandated child welfare planning/plans to integrate housing goals.
Provide federal incentives for states to extend foster care [services] until 21, if needed.
Change TANF to support minor parents in their efforts to find housing for themselves and their children.
As an... Read More »
the President: Healthcare and the Homeless
September 09, 2009
President Barack Obama just finished his address to a joint session of Congress about health care reform. The raging debate over this monstrous social issue has been the cause of many an editorial, many a pundit's diatribe, and much distress and concern among the American public.
Tonight, the President reminded us about "the things that truly matter" and the importance of approaching our biggest challenges. He reminded us that we not only have a personal responsibility to take care of ourselves, but a moral and civic responsibility to look after those least among us. He reminded us that we can and must take on the hard challenges that confront us as a nation to make us, collectively, a healthier, more whole community. The President urged us to put aside our difference and focus on the common values and priorities that bring us together.
We know that the President could not be more right - and we support and applaud the President in his efforts to provide necessary services to the American people, and to make sure that those who are most in need also have access to critical care.
As I listened to the President discuss his priorities and agenda tonight, I could only be reminded (though perhaps because I'm surrounded by it day-after-day!) of those who really are the least among us. Not the middle class families or the post-college graduates - though their needs are equally important -... Read More »
Congratulations to New Jersey!
September 09, 2009
Congratulations to our friends in New Jersey, who have been working to pass state legislation that would allow them to create housing trust funds for the homeless in their state. Governor John Corzine signed that legislation in to law yesterday.
Governor Corzine was joined by state Senator Dana Redd (D-Camden, Gloucester), Assemblymembers Nilsa Cruz-Perez (D-Camden, Gloucester), Gordon Johnson (D-Bergen), Bonnie Watson-Coleman (D-Mercer), Elease Evans (D-Bergen, Passaic) and Camden Mayor Gwedolyn Faison as he signed the County Homeless Trust Fund into law in a ceremony held on September 8, 2009, at the Cathedral Kitchen in Camden.
An article by the Associated Press briefly outlines the stipulations and ramifications of this bill.
Advocates in New Jersey celebrate the passing of the bill, calling it a signficant step in their efforts to fight homelessness. More information about the Trust Fund legislation and other efforts to fight homelessness in New Jersey can be found below.
Homeless Trust Fund Bill Becomes Law
Photos from the Trust Fund Signing
Video from the Trust Fund Signing
Appreciation for the Trust Fund!... Read More »
Secretary Donovan video - Annual Conference remarks
September 08, 2009
At long last, the video of Secretary Donovan at the Alliance's Annual Conference on Ending Homelessness. Below, please find the text of the remarks below.
More videos from the conference are forthcoming!
Thank you, Nan - for that introduction, for your remarkable leadership with the Alliance, and, above all, for the bedrock commitment to end homelessness you have impressed upon five different HUD Secretaries. I look forward to continuing our work together.
I want to also thank your board, particularly Co-Chairs Susan Baker and Mike Lowry. And I want to note the HUD team here helping us address homelessness - Mark Johnston, our Deputy Assistant Secretary for Special Needs, and Ann Oliva, who heads up our Office of Special Needs Assistance Programs.
And of course, many of you know Fred Karnas - Fred is a senior adviser and has been critical in our Recovery Act efforts, including working with Mark and Ann quickly distributing the Homeless Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing funds that so many of you made possible.
Will all of you stand up?
I want to also acknowledge the work of the Pete Dougherty, the interim executive director of the Interagency Council on Homelessness, and the USICH staff, many of whom are here today.
But most of all, I want to thank everyone in this room who labor day in and day out to help the millions of men, women, and children in our nation who experience homelessness.
In... Read More »
Nan Roman in Australia
September 08, 2009
The president of the National Alliance to End Homelessness - Nan Roman - is currently in Australia learning about homelessness in other countries.
Earlier today, she was on the radio discussing American homelessness v. Australian homelessness, and shedding some light about the differences and similarities of the two situations.
Check her out at the Australian Broadcasting Company website. ... Read More »
Guest Blog: On the Ground Notes, Community Lodgings (Alexandria, VA)
September 03, 2009
In the fight against homelessness, there are a number of solutions and ideas. So far, we as a country have embraced homelessness management – and constructed a series of shelters and assistance programs that do benefit the lives of the homeless but does little else to lift them out of homelessness in a more effective and permanent way.
The Alliance supports a different approach – one based on permanent housing as a solution to homelessness.
In between the two is the concept of transitional housing – a temporary situation that can aid individuals and family who are suffering a short-term crisis. Here’s a story from Bonnie Baxley, Executive Director at Community Lodgings. Inc., a transitional housing program in Alexandria, Virginia.
All families who enter Community Lodgings’ Transitional Housing Program are homeless and most are referred to us by local temporary shelters. Each of our families has their own unique story usually revolving around themes that are all too familiar: addiction, domestic violence and a lack of education.
Recently, we welcomed a new family to our program. J.D., a single mother, and her 5-month old son exemplify the constant struggle that characterizes homelessness. Still, they continue to overcome seemingly incomprehensible problems through support from our caseworkers and their own enduring hope and perseverance.
A 31-year old single mother, J.D., was referred to Community Lodgings from a local homeless shelter. She entered our two-year program with a history of incarceration and substance abuse as ... 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 »