Archive for September, 2009

28th September
written by naehblog

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 throughout the state.

Homeless Service Use in Minnesota is an important step toward informing policymakers, service providers, advocates, and others about the use of services designed to meet the needs of people experiencing homelessness in Minnesota. This report is planned to be released annually, with the quality of information improving as participation in HMIS grows.

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25th September
written by naehblog

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 stimulus-funded programs. CoCs will get extra points on their application if they can show that their programs will coordinate with stimulus resources.

One of the tricky things for CoCs is that HUD recently introduced a new online application system, known as e-snaps, and people are still trying to figure out how to navigate the system. To help people out, HUD has created training resources on the Homelessness Resource Exchange (HRE) – a very helpful site for all things homelessness.

The applications are due before midnight ET on November 9, so CoCs will be very busy trying to get their applications ready by then!

If YOU happen to be someone who’s busy writing these applications, please share your story with us! We’d love to hear about some real experiences from people on the ground.

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25th September
written by naehblog

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?

24th September
written by naehblog

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 and the short brief on 10-year plans. We’re hoping it gives you good insight into what’s being done – and an idea of what’s to come.

*We understand that since the publication of A Shifting Focus: What’s New in Community Plans to End Homelessness, even more plans have developed! If you don’t see your plan in the report, feel free to shoot us an email or drop a comment to let us know!

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22nd September
written by naehblog

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 several weeks or several months, but it doesn’t have to be that way. With some help paying for first and last month’s rent, deposits, and moving costs, most families could exit homelessness much quicker. The HEARTH Act puts more resources into this kind of assistance.

3. There will continue to be a focus on Permanent Supportive Housing for people with disabilities. Over the past several years, HUD has encouraged communities to spend more on Permanent Supportive Housing, which consists of a basic apartment with supportive services, like case management, mental health care, and substance abuse services. This effort has been very successful, significantly reducing the number of people with disabilities who experience long-term or chronic homelessness. The HEARTH Act continues this focus and also changes some of the rules to make it easier to develop Permanent Supportive Housing.

22nd September
written by naehblog

Good afternoon, all!

These really aren’t notes from the Board Room, as much as they’re notes from the newsletter that’ll go out today (you can sign up for our newsletter on our website) but I thought you might find them interesting anyway!

  • We published our latest Community Snapshot! Our Community Snapshots are a series of community profiles. Every so often, we identify one community that’s had some noticeable decrease in homelessness, and we go see what they’re doing right. Our latest: Quincy, MA.

  • Online trainings are available for those who will be providing information to the Department of Housing and Urban Development for the Annual Homeless Assessment Report. These trainings are available for those communities who have never participated in the AHAR, and will cover essential and basic elements.

  • The Alliance has posted plan summaries from those participating in the Rapid Re-Housing Demonstration. This pilot program, approved by Congress to the tune of $25 million, offers funds to 23 communities to participate in a program designed to serve homeless families. These pilot communities will use these funds to provide short and medium term rental assistance, housing location assistance, and home-based case management. Each community has developed a centralized intake process and will conduct examinations of their program. We’re actually pretty interested in the project, and will keep you up to date on how it goes.

  • The Center for Economy and Policy Research (CEPR) recently published a paper entitled “Half in Ten: Why Taking Disability into Account is Essential to Reducing Income Poverty and Expanding Economic Inclusion.” One of the more interesting the paper finds is that people with disabilites are more likely to face food insecurity, fail to receive needed medical or dental care, and struggle to pay rent, mortgage, and utility bills compared to other people – even while controlling for income and other characteristics.

Down from the Board Room and back to work!

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18th September
written by naehblog

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 that while white and Latino populations were appropriately represented in the homeless populations, African Americans and Native Americans were overrepresented in the homeless population.

This growth in homelessness in particularly troubling considering the state’s significant economic difficulties. Denver’s one health clinic serving homeless people lost about a third of it’s funding, resulting in a first-ever waiting list for homeless people seeking health care, according to the Associated Press.

(This has caused a bit of an skirmish in the homeless advocate community. Ted Pascoe, executive director of Senior Support Services – a nonprofit serving homeless seniors – announced that he would sleep on the streets to protest his organizations funding cut by the Denver Regional Council of Governments.)

Unfortunately, the story we’re seeing unfld in Denver is not an anomaly. As direct service providers, consumers, local officials, and community leaders can all attest, state budget cuts, the effects of the recession, unemployment, and a host of other hardships are falling upon states and people equally. There’s little doubt that many other states are feeling the same pressures as Denver, Colo.

For more information, please see:
Homeless in Denver, by choice, Denver Post.
Homeless in Colorado metro area up to 11,061, Denver Post.
Advocates: Slow economy fueling Colo. homelessness, Associated Press.

17th September
written by naehblog

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 countries, coupled with a rise in the cost of borrowing. Strauss-Kahn conveyed worries about the lasting effects of such economic distress, noting that it could delay global economic recovery, and spur political unrest and humanitarian concerns in developing countries.

And in June of this year, the British paper, The Guardian, reported on findings from the World Bank that suggest foreign investment into developing countries had halved in 2008.

And just yesterday, while also reporting on Zoellick’s remarks, Thomson Reuters, reported that 43 poor countries still mired in an economic downturn.

Just last week, we heard our own side of this story – increasing poverty rates, the highest in years. The World Bank reminds us that we are not alone in our plight, and that the world is evermore interdependent.

That was our brief adventure in to world economics.

15th September
written by naehblog

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. provides numerous resources, including Recovery Month toolkits, a press kit, and an event locator. Nearly 600 events have been planned around Recovery Month across the country. Click here to find a Recovery Month event near you.

Picture courtesy of:

12th September
written by naehblog

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 portion of a family’s expenditures – also increases.

Luckily, since the beginning of the recession (now defined as late 2007), we have taken several steps to alleviate some of the financial burden facing vulnerable American families.

In May 2009, President Barack Obama signed into law the HEARTH Act, which reauthorized the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance programs and made substantial change in improving and streamlining the programs and – notably – created an emphasis on homelessness prevention in these programs.

In February 2009, the President created the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing program as a part of the $8 billion stimulus, which allocated money for prevention, housing, and other homeless assistance services to communities across the country. The program is being run through the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Hopefully, actions like these will curtail the number of people who fall into homelessness during the recession and assist those who do to quickly find housing again and get back on their feet. In the meantime, however, it is clear from these number and reports like this that the need for improved services is ever-growing.

More information about the details of the report can be found on the Census’s website. Summary information is also available in the New York Times article, and a CNN Money article.