Archive for January 6th, 2010

6th January
written by naehblog

It’s a brand new year – a time to start anew, set resolutions and goals, and look forward to the year ahead.

Here at the Alliance, we’re readying for exciting new year: a midterm election, new legislative challenges, a focus on prevention and housing for the homeless – and that’s just the beginning. It’s a promising year in the field of housing and homelessness.

There are a lot of issues we’re keeping an eye on, but here are a few highlights:

HEARTH Act implementation
Last May, President Obama signed into law the HEARTH Act. The HEARTH Act is the first significant reauthorization of the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance programs in nearly 20 years and allocates millions more to homelessness prevention, rapidly re-housing homeless families, and providing permanent supportive housing for homeless people with disabilities. There’s a lot of work to be done before any changes are implemented. We’re looking out for draft regulations, and we expect finalized regulations by May 20.

State Budgets
43 states have made cuts to services for vulnerable residents and with a $140 billion projected shortfall for state budgets in fiscal year 2011, there’s likely more to come. From California to Connecticut, programs that support homeless people have already seen their funding slashed. As the need for these services persist – and even rise – how will states respond with fewer and fewer resources?

In order to receive HUD funding, municipalities must provide counts of people experiencing homelessness during odd-numbered years (like 2009), but they are not required during even years (like 2010). However, these counts help track our progress toward ending homelessness and provide a clearer, more accurate picture of the landscape of homelessness and how it may or may not be changing. The January 2010 count is particularly significant, as it may be the first notable indication on how the recession is affecting homelessness. We at the Alliance are keeping an eye on how many communities are counting, and what those counts may suggest.

Prevention and Re-Housing strategies
By now you know that the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing is no small matter for the Alliance – this new program has the potential to generate some real, tangible, and lasting new strategies and practices in ending homelessness. As 2010 marches forward, the Alliance will continue to monitor how communities are implementing these new funds, and share HPRP stories from municipalities across the country.

January always brings with it the hope of the New Year – a chance to renew our commitments and goals. Feel free to share with us any goals you have in the New Year – anything you think we should be keeping an eye on?

What questions are on your mind about homelessness in 2010?

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6th January
written by naehblog

When I first read this weekend’s New York Times piece, which estimates that food stamps are the sole source of income for six million Americans, I began thinking: how does one survive on food stamps alone?

For a family of four, the food stamp allotment is $668 per month; for a couple, it’s $367.

As it turns out, some fix bicycles. Others sell their gun collections. One woman is trying to breed her chihuahua.

But I kept thinking, and I talked with others here at the Alliance: What does it mean that six million people have no other cash income?

It means that there are real and significant problems with federal programs designed to fight poverty. (Hat tip here to families expert, Sharon McDonald).

Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF) is one part of the puzzle. As the piece points out, the number of families receiving TANF, or cash assistance, has increased marginally during this recession. Although the stimulus package included a $5 billion Emergency Contingency Fund to help states fund their TANF programs, the number of families receiving TANF actually continued to decline in some states until March 2009.

In fact, the number of families receiving TANF has been decreasing since welfare reform under during the Clinton administration, and – in 2005 – fewer than half of eligible families received TANF benefits.

At the same time, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, or the official name of the food stamp program) has ballooned. One reason behind the disparity in the growth of these programs may come down to brass tax: SNAP is fully-funded by the federal government; TANF requires states to dip into their own funds.

It’s a quandary that’s became all too familiar: cash-strapped states are having trouble meeting the ever-rising need for government assistance. Neither the states nor the consumers have anywhere to go to seek out more resources.

What’s clear in this unfortunate tangle is the need for a stronger, more accessible, social safety net. The facts collected, analyzed, and presented by the New York Times (they gathered their own data!) paints a picture all too clear: 1 in 17 residents in Yakima County, WA live on food stamps alone. The number is 1 in 25 in Detroit, MI. A clear 2 million children subsist solely on food stamps.

It is a difficult period for all Americans, but as an interdependent society, we have an obligation to take care of all of us – and especially those who struggle most. The need for new vision and effort is clear – together, we can make it happen.