HRI Fall Research Newsletter

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Newsletters | November 8, 2010

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Quarterly Research Newsletter
Focus On International Research
Fall 2010
In This Issue:
International Research Q&A
HPRP Spending Chart
State Budget Cuts
By The Numbers 
4
Percent decrease in the sheltered homeless population for the first quarter of 2010 as compared with the first quarter of 2009, as reported in HUD's Fifth Quarterly Pulse Report.
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Greetings!

The Alliance's Homelessness Research Institute (HRI) is pleased to release the Fall 2010 edition of the Quarterly Research Newsletter. This issue features a special Expert Q&A with Andrew Hollows, Deputy Executive Director of the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute, and Stephen Gaetz, Director of the Canadian Homelessness Research Network, who respond to questions about homelessness and homelessness research in Canada, Australia, and the United States.

We also summarize a recent report about the impact of the recession on state budgets and offer the regular research newsletter features: Interactive Chart and By The Numbers
Expert Q&A with Stephen Gaetz and Andrew Hollows
Stephen Gaetz is Director of the Canadian Homelessness Research Network and Associate Dean of Research and Field Development at York University. He led Canada's first national homelessness research conference. Andrew Hollows is Deputy Executive Director of the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI) which facilitates the National Homelessness Research Network.
 
Alliance: Is there specific research or evaluation work by U.S. researchers that has been particularly influential on policy or practice in your country?

Gaetz:
I would say that the work of Sam Tsembaris and Pathways to Housing has been highly influential in framing the Housing First approach as a paradigm-shifting approach to addressing homelessness in Canada. In addition, I would say that the emphasis on data gathering and evaluation that is central to the push for "Ten Year Plans to End Homelessness" championed by both the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness and the National Alliance to End Homelessness is beginning to have an impact here in Canada.

Hollows: I must agree about the Tsembaris/Pathways evaluations of Housing First. That body of research shows that by providing permanent, independent housing and relevant support services, Housing First removes some of the major obstacles to obtaining housing for people who have been chronically homeless. In my role before AHURI, work by Paul Toro and Dennis McDonnell and others about public perceptions about homelessness was very useful for efforts here in Australia to re-frame issues of attribution and responsibility for homelessness.

Alliance: What about research and evaluation work that has been conducted in your country that our audience might find useful?
 
Hollows:  One is a study by Chamberlain, Johnson and Theobald that analyses the experiences of 4,252 homeless people and 934 people at risk of homelessness (See Chamberlain, C. Johnson, G. & Theobald, J. (2007) Homelessness in Melbourne: Confronting the Challenge (2007). RMIT University Press, Melbourne). It found that 30 percent of respondents had mental health issues, but what is most interesting is the time of onset of those mental health issues. Just over half (53 percent) developed these problems after becoming homeless. In addition, two-fifths (43 percent) had problems with substance use, with 66 percent developing their problem after they became homeless.  While some people enter the homeless population because of substance use, many engage in substance use only after they have become homeless.

Gaetz:  The best example I can offer relates to an impressive body of research that has emerged relating to the Insite program in Vancouver. This program is a harm-reduction based safe injection site that helps support people with addictions. This is also perhaps one of the most researched programs in the homelessness sector in Canada. What makes this body of research so significant is not only that it demonstrates pretty conclusively the effectiveness of the program, and of harm reduction in general, but that it provides an evidence base for interventions that are not always politically popular.

Hollows: I'd also like to highlight some research being conducted by AHURI about intergenerational homelessness. This research examines the patterns and determinants of intergenerational homelessness and homelessness service use in Australia, and the role and impact of service delivery and policy interventions designed to avert or break the cycle of homelessness across generations. Click here to download this study.

Alliance: What are some of the emerging practices for ending homelessness being implemented in your country?

Gaetz:
I would argue that the real centre for innovation in Canada is the province of Alberta and in particular, the City of Calgary. The Calgary Homeless Foundation has developed and is implementing a Ten Year Plan that is shifting the focus from emergency services to prevention and rapid re-housing.  Not only is this strategic response innovative, but it is effective, as demonstrated by the robust system of evaluation built into the plan.  It should also be mentioned that the Calgary Homeless Foundation has actively engaged the research community in its work, realizing the value of co-creating a research agenda.

Hollows: At the national level, we have a white paper on Homelessness that seeks to reduce homelessness through early intervention and prevention, expanded and integrated services, and encouraging housing stability to break the cycle of homelessness. One underlying principle is "no exits" into homelessness by:
  • Increasing support for people in public and private rental housing to maintain their tenancies;
  • Assisting up to 9,000 additional young people between 12 and 18 years of age to remain connected with their families
  • 'No exits into homelessness' from statutory, custodial care,  health, mental health and drug and alcohol services; and
  • Helping women and children who experience domestic violence to stay safely in the family home.

Interactive Chart: HPRP Per Household Spending
HPRP Spending ChartThe Alliance's Quarterly Leadership Council HPRP Report: April - June 2010 illustrates how HPRP programs in 13 cities have used over $40 million assisting over 92,000 persons experiencing homelessness or at risk of experiencing homelessness. This interactive chart shows prevention and rapid re-housing spending per household for the 13 cities included in the report. Click here to view the Interactive Chart.
State Budgets Impacted by Recession

In a brief released in October 2010, the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities detailed the effect of the recession on state budgets. The report, "States Continue to Feel Recession's Impact," describes the sharp and continued constraint of state budgets, the implications of persistent unemployment, the effect decreased state revenue will have on social services, and the role the federal government can play in improving the financial circumstances of states.

 

According to the brief, virtually all states (48) began to see budget shortfalls in fiscal year (FY) 2009. Through a combination of spending cuts and withdrawals from rainy day funds, states have managed to close their budget shortfalls. But the persistent recession has translated into economic turmoil for many states: high unemployment keeps state income tax receipts low and an unsteady housing market keeps property tax receipts low. Flagging consumption and hesitancy (or inability) to spend on the part of residents only compounds the problem. For FY 2011, 46 states had to make up budget gaps totaling $125 billion before approving their budgets. And as states begin to take more dramatic measures - cutting staff, programs, vendors, and contracts - these reductions only perpetuate the cycle that lead to these declines as fewer and fewer people are able to put money back into the state economies.

 

These reductions also have powerful impacts on the more vulnerable individuals and families among us. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) provided some relief to ailing states. Chief among the assistance the federal government made available to ailing states through ARRA was increased Medicaid funding, which was especially important as more and more families turned to the assistance program for their health care needs. Programs like these, serving the most vulnerable and financial unstable families, will likely suffer cuts if states are unable to make up their budget shortfalls starting in 2012. As the brief explicitly states, "Families hit hard by the recession will experience the loss of vital services throughout the year, and the negative impact on the economy will continue."

 

Unfortunately, the outlook for states is grim. While the financial problem facing the states has not subsided - unemployment continues to stay at a near-record 9.6 percent - the relief offered by federal assistance will come to a halt by 2012. Many states - 39 by the CBPP count - have already projected budget shortfalls totaling $112 for FY 2012.