Ending Homelessness Today
The official blog of the National Alliance to End Homelessness
What Does the $1.1 Trillion Spending Bill Mean for Homeless Assistance in 2015?
December 16, 2014
It has been an interesting few weeks here in DC, as negotiations over another spending bill dragged on just ahead of yet another government shutdown. In the midst of negotiations, Democrats and Republicans alike expressed their approval over some parts of the bill and dismay over others. But just last week, both houses of Congress passed the $1.1 trillion spending bill for federal programs for fiscal year 2015. President Obama is expected to sign it into law soon.
The good news is that we won’t have another government shutdown, and that important Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) programs held on to the increases in funding they got last year. To do that, the spending bill provides $2.135 billion for the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants program. The bad news is that’s $271 million less than President Obama requested and that organizations like ours had been advocating for. Funding McKinney at the higher level would have helped us secure 37,000 rent subsidies necessary to meet the goal of ending chronic homelessness by the end of 2016.
That didn’t happen. In this post, I want to focus on the impact that I believe we can expect the passage of this spending bill will have on funding for programs that serve people experiencing homelessness, specifically those under HUD’s Continuum of Care (CoC) and Emergency Solution Grants (ESG) programs, as well as for the Section 8 voucher program.
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The Year in Review: Youth Homelessness
December 15, 2014
If you know anything about youth homelessness, you know that we’re still a long way from ending it. But looking back on 2014, you can also see that we have advanced, slowly but surely, in the right direction. While communities around the country still struggle with mounting a youth-inclusive Point-in-Time Count, we’ve seen more commitment at the federal level, from both legislators and agencies. Though the slow pace can be frustrating, momentum is building, and we’ve got many reasons to be hopeful for the future.
One of the persistent obstacles to developing solutions to youth homelessness is the difficulty in obtaining an accurate count of homeless youth. In 2013, communities finally included unaccompanied youth in their Point-in-Time (PIT) counts, which meant we were finally able to include homeless youth in our 2014 State of Homelessness report. The 2014 PIT Count was not perfect, but some communities did a fantastic job. The Alliance recently hosted several webinars that highlighted communities in Nevada and California that are setting the standard for a youth-inclusive count.
This year also marked the 40th anniversary of the 1974 Runaway and Homeless Youth Act (RHYA), the only piece of federal legislation devoted exclusively to youth homelessness. The Act expired in September 2013, but this year ens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) wrote legislation that would not just reauthorize it, but improve upon it. The Senate Judiciary Committee passed the bill, but reauthorization is unlikely to happen this congressional session. You can be sure that in the New Year, the Alliance will join forces with our fellow advocates and our grassroots network to support it.
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Preparing for the 2015 Point-in-Time Count—Time’s Almost Up!
December 11, 2014
As 2014 winds down and we begin to look toward the New Year, communities across the country also will be looking toward the upcoming point-in-time (PIT) counts. These counts are mandated by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and they are conducted yearly on a single night in January, in accordance with HUD’s Methodology Guide.
Every community is required to do an annual survey of the number of homeless people in shelter, and a bi-annual survey of the number of homeless people who are unsheltered (i.e., are living in a place unfit for human habitation, such as in a park or in an abandoned building). It may be helpful for communities to review HUD’s survey tools, which can be employed for sheltered counts and either observation-based or interview-based unsheltered counts.
Unsheltered counts are difficult for many communities, as it may be hard to know where to look to find members of the homeless population. To help communities think about new and different strategies for conducting these counts, the Alliance has conducted webinars this fall on unsheltered counts.
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The Alliance Kicks Rapid Re-Housing Up a Notch
December 10, 2014
There is a lot going on at the Alliance these days as we work to raise the visibility and understanding of rapid re-housing, which is an essential component of every community’s overall strategy to end homelessness.
We have a couple developments this week that I’m excited to share with you. First, we are announcing a new, monthly newsletter that will start in January 2015. This newsletter will be your go-to source for any new reports, briefs, and studies on rapid re-housing, as well as details on upcoming or recent webinars and a heads-up on Alliance activities and events. If you are signed up for the Alliance’s regular newsletter, you probably received an announcement today on how to sign up for this one.
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The Year in Review: Family Homelessness
December 09, 2014
It’s almost 2015, and here at the Alliance we are reflecting back on what we as a nation have accomplished in 2014 in the fight to end homelessness. We will have a lot to be grateful for in the New Year, but we will also have a lot of work still ahead of us, particularly when it comes to ending family homelessness.
Here are some startling statistics: On a single night in January 2014, more than 200,000 people in families were either staying in a homeless service program or in a place not intended for human habitation, according to the most recent Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress. That number represents a 3 percent decline (or 6,000 people) since 2013, a significantly smaller decline than the one we saw among veterans (11 percent).
In recent years, policymakers and homeless service providers have made a sustained effort to improve our response to family homelessness. They developed new tools and resources, and they increased investment in rapid re-housing, an intervention that provides temporary financial assistance to homeless families to help them return to permanent housing. (Between 2013 and 2014 rapid re-housing capacity nearly doubled.)
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This #GivingTuesday, Give A Gift to End Homelessness
December 02, 2014
As you probably know by now, today is Giving Tuesday. Everyone has heard of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but now we have a new day meant to transform how people think about, talk about, and participate in the giving season. After running around on Black Friday and taking advantage of the Cyber Monday deals, Giving Tuesday provides a chance to give back.
For the last two years, Giving Tuesday has challenged individuals and communities to make the world a better place through generosity. By using the Giving Tuesday hashtag #GivingTuesday, organizations across the country are spreading their message and raising funds for their programs.
Today we ask you to join the movement and take a second to ask yourself, "How can I make the world a better place?" Want to support our work? This year, our board has shown their support by matching all donations made today. Any size gift helps and, today only, you can double your impact!
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Happy Thanksgiving from the Alliance
November 27, 2014
Today is Thanksgiving, and it is time to spend the day with our families and loved ones, a time for giving thanks for all that we have. It has been a busy year for us, and here at the Alliance we are incredibly thankful for the thousands of partners across the country who are working with us to end homelessness in America.
We are thankful for the thousands of practitioners and volunteers who are working on the front lines in homeless programs, homeless shelters, and housing providers to end and prevent homelessness, people who are providing services directly to homeless people. And we are thankful to our staff members and others working at the national level on developing innovative solutions.
We are thankful for the great progress that communities around the country have made toward ending homelessness, particularly among veterans, which has declined nationally by 10.5 percent since 2013. And we are inspired by the progress of cities like New York and New Orleans, which have achieved reductions of more than 50 percent in veteran homelessness since 2011.
We hope you have the opportunity to spend time with your families this Thanksgiving, and we urge you to keep in your hearts the plight of the most vulnerable of among us, the 580,000 youth, veterans, families, and individuals who will spend the holiday, either alone or with their families, in a shelter or on the street.
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Hunger and Homelessness Often Go Hand-in-Hand
November 26, 2014
Tomorrow millions of Americans will share a Thanksgiving meal with friends and family. But for many Americans—including many homeless Americans—food will be scarce, as it is every day. In recognition of this week’s Thanksgiving holiday and last week’s National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week, this post is devoted to the impact of hunger on the homeless population.
In 2013, 5 percent of households served by Feeding America programs, the nation’s leading domestic hunger-relief organization, were homeless, and 27 percent of households served by Feeding America’s meal programs—such as kitchens and shelters—were homeless. The same year, The United States Conference of Mayors’ Hunger and Homelessness Survey found that 9 percent of all people who accessed food assistance in 25 cities across the country were homeless.
These figures might give you the impression that not very many homeless people receive food assistance, but consider this: less than 1 percent (0.19 percent to be precise) of all people in America is homeless, according to the 2014 Point-in-Time-Count. That means that the homeless population is drastically overrepresented among people who access food assistance.
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How Many Homeless Veterans Will be Affected by VA’s Changes to Eligibility Requirements?
November 19, 2014
We have discussed on this blog again and again the fantastic progress we’ve made in addressing veteran homelessness and the long road we have ahead us to get the job done. Of course, we won’t be able to get there without the thousands of homeless advocates like you who are working at the local level, serving homeless veterans and their families directly. We are so appreciative of your efforts.
Last week I attended the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans’ Veterans Access to Housing Summit in New Orleans, where I met many great people and learned a lot about what is going on at the national level in the fight to end veteran homelessness. So with today’s blog post, I would like to give you a talk about one of the major focuses of the event. At the Summit the major topics of discussion included:
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Measuring Homelessness: How Do Veterans Compare?
November 18, 2014
Every year, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) requires communities across the country do a one-night count of its sheltered homeless population, and every other year requires that communities conduct a count of the unsheltered population.
The idea is to figure out where homelessness is going up and where it’s going down. This gives us a sense which communities are most effective in fighting homelessness, as well as where we should target our resources in order to make the biggest impact. The count includes data on a variety of subpopulations, including adults, youth, families, and veterans. For today’s blog post, in honor of Military Family Month, we’re talking about one of them in particular: veterans.
(By the way, the count takes place in January, so the 2015 PIT Count is coming up soon. If you’re interested in helping, please reach out to homeless assistance providers in your area. Communities always need dedicated volunteers.)
Here’s a quick a look at what the recently released 2014 PIT Count data say about trends in veteran homelessness.
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Here’s How Las Vegas Got a More Accurate Count of their Homeless Youth
November 17, 2014
This January, communities across the country will make an effort to count every homeless person, both staying in their shelters and living on their streets. Congress requires that communities conduct these Point-In-Time (PIT) Counts every other year, but these days many communities are conducting them every year.
PIT Counts aren’t definitive, but they do provide a good single-night “snapshot” and a consistent methodology that allow communities to see the year-over-year progress they are making in ending homelessness. Historically, one of the shortcomings of PIT counts has been their exclusion of homeless youth populations.
Homeless youth are hard to count for a variety of reasons, but if we want to craft targeted and cost-effective solutions, it’s vitally important that they’re included. Homeless advocates and experts have devised several strategies for including them in counts.
In the homeless assistance field, there is widespread recognition that we need to do a better job counting homeless youth. Many communities have made a concerted effort to do just that. One of them is Las Vegas/Clark County. Here’s how they did it.
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Study: Homeless Veterans Served by SSVF Program Far Less Likely to Return to Homelessness
November 13, 2014
A couple weeks ago the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) released an intriguing research brief looking at their Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) Program, its homelessness prevention and rapid re-housing initiative for homeless veterans and their families. The study was conducted by the National Center on Homelessness Among Veterans.
The study tracked 36,363 veterans served by the SSVF program during 2012 and 2013 to see how many of them fell back into homelessness after exiting (and were no longer receiving subsidies to pay for housing). They followed these households until January 1, 2014, which means some households were tracked for as long as 27 months, but most were followed for shorter periods. The findings were encouraging.
When researchers crunched the numbers, they found that only 9.4 percent of the veteran families who exited the program had returned to homelessness one year later. The number had increased to the 15.5 percent mark two years later. The success rate among single veterans was slightly lower, with 16 percent returning to homelessness one year later and 26.6 percent returning within two years.
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Happy Veterans Day from the Alliance!
November 11, 2014
On this Veterans Day, it’s a good time to take a moment to consider how far we have come and how far we still have to go in our efforts to end veteran homelessness. Since 2011, we have reduced veteran homelessness by 33 percent. Since January 2013, we have reduced it by 11 percent.
Make no mistake about it, we are proud of those numbers going down, but the goal is still to reach zero. How will we do it? This month we honored two cities, New York and New Orleans, who have achieved reductions in veteran homelessness by more than 60 percent. They’re doing something (actually, a lot of things) right. We took a look at their homeless systems, and here’s what we found.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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