Ending Homelessness Today
The official blog of the National Alliance to End Homelessness
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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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).
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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.
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Here are 3 Ways We Can Improve Counts of Homeless Youth
September 23, 2014
Every other year, on a single night in January, communities around the country are required to count all homeless individuals—even those who are not in a shelter. As you can imagine, this is a fairly daunting task: many unsheltered homeless do not want to be found. They may fear for their safety, or they may be worried about coming into contact with law enforcement. Counting unsheltered persons often is even harder with LGBTQ youth, who tend to be more wary of strangers. They may go to great lengths to stay hidden, which means that communities will be unable to get an accurate representation of this population.
As communities begin planning for the January 2015 count, they may be considering improvements to counting homeless LGBTQ youth. Even by conservative estimates, they are overrepresented in the homeless population but underrepresented in counts. This trend is likely to continue, as recent years have seen an increase in homeless LGBTQ youth. As this population continues to rise, it is critical that we find effective strategies for counting these youths.
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A Senate Committee Passed a Bill to Help Homeless Youth. Now it’s Congress’s Turn!
September 22, 2014
Last Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed a bill by a 15-3 vote with bipartisan support that would reauthorize the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act (RHYA), which had expired on September 30, 2013. Now it’s the full Senate’s turn to vote on this extremely important piece of legislation, which not only reauthorizes the previous version, but includes several improvements on it.
Ever since it was signed into law in 1974, 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, “Runaway and Homeless Youth and Trafficking Prevention Act,” goes even further by increasing protection for youth are victims of human trafficking and sexual exploitation, increasing support for family intervention, and prohibiting discrimination against homeless youth based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
It should come as no surprise that we at the Alliance strongly support the bill.
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225 Mayors Have Signed on to End Veteran Homelessness. Has Yours?
September 18, 2014
We are going to end veteran homelessness by the end of 2015. We have the know-how, the funds, and the political will across the country to make this happen – of this I have little doubt.
A big part of building political will has been the Mayor’s Challenge – a movement that began with the work of the departments of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Veterans Affairs (VA), and the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) and some national nonprofit partners. Mayors across the country (around 225 and growing daily) have committed their communities to end veteran homelessness by the end of 2015.
The public commitment to such a goal is the first step in a long process of getting the job done, but it’s an extremely important one. Prior to the Challenge, just a few federal departments and housing assistance providers scattered across the country shared the goal of ending veteran homelessness (and the hard work to reach it). Now that so many mayors and other elected officials have a stake in reaching the goal, they too are developing plans and taking action to make an impact, and in many cases they’re lending resources and expertise to the fight.
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The NOFA is out! (And includes a PSH Bonus!)
September 17, 2014
Yesterday, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) released the 2014 Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) for the Continuum of Care (CoC) program. An interesting development in this NOFA is the inclusion of a Permanent Supportive Housing Bonus project. To help communities reach the federal goal of ending chronic homelessness by 2016 (the goal was originally 2015, but was extended a year), HUD is setting aside approximately $40 million for a Permanent Supportive Housing Bonus project competition. There are five basic things you need to know about the bonus project.
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Poverty Declined by 0.5 Percent, so…
September 16, 2014
Poverty in the U.S. has declined for the first time since 2006, the year before the Great Recession. That’s the big takeaway from the Census Bureau’s report released today, “Income and Poverty in the United States: 2013,” which shows that the official poverty rate has decreased from 15 percent in 2012 to 14.5 percent in 2013. This decrease in the poverty rate is very welcome news, but it’s important we keep in mind that the 2013 poverty rate remains higher than the 2006 poverty rate of 12.3 percent.
The recession may be over, but people are still hurting. From 2012 to 2013, the total number of people in poverty, more than 45 million, did not significantly change. This is true across almost all subgroups, but for the one notable exception of children. (The number of impoverished children declined by nearly two million.) That could be why increasing numbers of people are sharing households, or “doubling up.” Since 2007, the number of adults in shared households has increased by 12 million, 1.8 million of whom doubled-up in the past year alone.
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Call Congress to End Homelessness: There’s Still Time!
September 15, 2014
Last week, the Alliance hosted a National Call In Week and encouraged homeless advocates and anyone else who cares about ending homelessness to call their members of Congress. If you didn’t get a chance to call, you still have time! We are extending our call in period through this Wednesday, September 17. This is a fantastic opportunity to do something that will take only a few minutes of your time and has the potential to affect the lives of thousands of people.
We need your help convincing Congress to grant the Obama administration’s requested $2.406 billion funding level for the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants program in the final fiscal year (FY) 2015 funding legislation. While Congress is likely to pass the final FY 2015 funding legislation later this year, key appropriators are currently doing preliminary work on it before many of them return home to campaign for the November elections. With further negotiation ahead of them before funding levels are finalized, now is a great time to influence the funding process!
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Today We Remember
September 11, 2014
Today, on the anniversary of 9/11 and the day after the President announced continued military action in the Middle East, it is appropriate that we reflect upon those who serve in our military and the sacrifices they make to keep us safe. During the conflicts that followed that national tragedy and those that came before, they have paid the price for our safety and, for what they have done to protect America, we owe them.
That debt has come due. Veteran homelessness is down by 33 percent since 2010, but this September 11 nearly 50,000 of our nation’s veterans will be homeless. Not long ago many more veterans than that were homeless, and we have made progress. Nevertheless, we still have a lot of work ahead of us. The Obama Administration and the Department of Veterans Affairs have committed to ending veteran homelessness by the end of 2015. It will take all of us working together to reach that ambitious goal. But we can do it, and when we do, we will show that it is possible to end homelessness in America for everyone.
If you believe, as we do, in a future where there is Never Another Homeless Veteran, here are a few small steps you can take to support the mission.
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Dear Advocates: Here is How You Can Make a Difference This November
September 10, 2014
The midterm elections are almost here, and that means you and every other U.S. citizen will soon have a chance to vote not only for your interests, but for the interests of the less fortunate. If you care about homelessness, if you care about availability of affordable housing, if you care about income equality, then you should care about who fills the 435 seats in the House, 36 seats in the Senate, and the countless state and local positions that are up for grabs this Election Day, Tuesday, November 4.
For advocates of people experiencing homelessness and other low-income advocates like you, a great deal is at stake. Programs that serve homeless and low-income people cannot succeed without the support of lawmakers. So it is crucial that we back lawmakers who we know are likely to build bipartisan political will for programs that serve the most vulnerable people in America. That will mean the difference between thousands of people being housed, or thousands living on the streets.
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What Does America’s Aging Population Mean for Homelessness?
September 09, 2014
The growth of America’s older adult population is expected to out-pace the supply of accessible, affordable housing, which could force many older adults into homelessness. That’s according to a report released last week by the Joint Center for Housing Studies (JCHS) of Harvard University. With a longer lifespan resulting from medical advances and the aging of the Baby Boom generation, the elderly population is growing quickly. In fact, between now and 2040, we will see more growth in the older segments of the American population than in the younger ones. Though currently 14 percent of Americans are over age 65, this figure is projected to rise to 20 percent by 2030.
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Youth Homelessness is More Than ‘Adult Homelessness, Junior’
September 08, 2014
Here is how a 20-year-old described his vision for a Housing First approach to helping homeless youth in Canada. This description comes from Conor, a member of the Youth Leader’s Committee of The Street Youth Planning Collaborative in Ontario. You should be pleased to learn that it accurately describes what is already happening in the best homeless youth provider programs across the United States.
“Some people are more independent than others, some have different issues and things like that. It’s a really great idea because it will give people a chance – a fighting chance. The way I would imagine it is like if there is some young person who is at risk of being homeless, they would have an interview with someone who would assess their needs, their strengths and weaknesses and build their plan of care around that.” – "A Safe and Decent Place to Live: Towards a Housing First Framework for Youth."
The Housing First approach prioritizes getting homeless people into housing immediately, without forcing them to meet preconditions, then providing them with the services they may need in order to remain stably housed. Over the years, this approach has led to significant declines in homelessness among veterans, families, and the chronically homeless. Yet an important component of the strategy, rapid re-housing, has yet to be applied to the problem of homeless youth on a national scale. If it can work for everyone else, why can’t it work for homeless youth?
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Call on Congress to End Homelessness! Here’s How
September 04, 2014
After a bit of a lull while Congress was out of town on August recess, the Alliance and our partners are now gearing up for a big advocacy push with a National Call In Week for McKinney funding. Next week, we want to make sure that members of Congress hear loud and clear that homeless assistance programs must be a priority in fiscal year (FY) 2015!
Prior to the recess, Congress did some work on federal funding, but they did not finalize any spending bills. The House passed seven out of the 12 funding bills, including the HUD funding bill that funds many affordable housing and homeless assistance programs, but no funding bills made it through the full Senate. This means that both chambers still have a great deal of negotiation ahead of them in the upcoming months to wrap up this appropriations cycle.
Right now, we anticipate that congressional offices will complete much of their behind-the-scenes work on determining final FY 2015 funding levels for programs this month, before their focus inevitably shifts to the election. That’s why, when members of Congress return to session next week, one of the first things they must hear about is the importance of increasing funding for homeless assistance programs.
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In Case You Missed It: Veteran Homelessness Down 33 Percent since 2010
August 26, 2014
Today, the Department of Veteran Affairs, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness announced that veteran homelessness has decreased 33 percent since 2010. The January 2014 Point-in-Time (PIT) Count found less than 50,000 veterans experiencing homelessness nationwide.
This news comes on the heels of $300 million in grants announced earlier in August for the Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) program to help more100,000 veterans and their families, and the launch of the Mayor’s Challenge on Veteran Homelessness launched by First Lady Michelle Obama in the spring. You can see all of the participating elected officials and the jurisdiction they represent on a map created by the Alliance.
All of this progress is positive, but there is a lot of work ahead. With less than two years remaining to end veteran homelessness by the stated goal of the 2016 PIT Count, the decreases must become much steeper. In fact, veteran homelessness will have to decrease by about 26,000 vets each year—about the same number of vets as the decrease between the 2010 and 2014 PIT Counts.
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Here Are the Transformation Talks from our 2014 National Conference
August 25, 2014
This year we did something different at our National Conference. Well, actually, we did several things different. We added a workshop session, increased the number of speakers (including the First Lady), and we added a new speaking format to one of our plenary sessions. It’s that last one I’d like to talk about here, the new speaking format.
Implementing a new speaking format, as you may already be thinking, is hardly revolutionary. But if you’re a fan of TED Talks, as we are, you may appreciate the change. The idea was to book three speakers with distinct viewpoints to deliver remarks that were concise (not longer than 10 minutes), focused, and ultimately, we hoped, engaging for the audience.
We weren’t adhering to official TEDx rules, so we called these speeches “Transformation Talks.” They took place during our luncheon plenary, July 31, and they addressed the role of faith-based organizations in ending homelessness, the connection between housing and health care, and why “bureaucracy” shouldn’t be considered a dirty word.
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Homelessness Doesn’t Discriminate
August 21, 2014
Have you seen this video yet? I wouldn’t be surprised if you have. It went viral not long ago. As of this writing it has almost three million views. So lots of people have seen it, shared it, and, I would venture, watched it multiple times. I know I have.
The video, a promotional tool for the “Rethink Homelessness” campaign, depicts actual homeless people holding cardboard signs bearing startling facts about their lives. And while it’s tempting to criticize the video because it perpetuates a stereotype, the video also forces its viewers to acknowledge the humanity of the people many choose to regard merely as a disquieting fixture of urban life.
About 610,000 people experience homelessness on a given day in this country, and no, most of them are not standing on sidewalks holding cardboard signs, panhandling. Many are in shelters; many are living in their cars; many are depleting the savings they amassed while not homeless; and many more are subsisting on homeless services while working hard to lift themselves out of homelessness.
Still, it’s a stereotype that is based on the reality of a minority of homeless people in big cities resorting to this method of calling attention to their desperate situation. Here in D.C. I see it every day on my commute to the office: veterans, mothers, teenagers, and the chronically homeless with their cardboard signs, just blocks away from the White House.
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