Archive for January, 2010
“When you think about it, it really makes sense to focus on getting people back into housing faster,” said Alliance president Nan Roman in Tony Pugh’s McClatchy story Demand overwhelms program to prevent homelessness, out yesterday. “Instead of long stays in some homeless facility with a lot of service delivery, wouldn’t a little bit of money help people stay where they are and not end up in the system at all?”
The story shows what a little bit of money can do: it helped Joseph Wright get back on his feet after he fell behind on rent. Instead of sleeping at a shelter today, he’s got a new apartment and a stable teaching job.
Service providers have made the original $1.5 billion allocated for HPRP go a long way, but those Pugh talked to – in Salt Lake City, Raleigh, Washington State and Alameda County, California – all agree: the funding is not enough.
How much more is needed? The Alliance estimates that an extra $1 billion would not only help 200,000 more families, but also create about 2,000 more jobs at community organizations.
As Elaine de Coligny, executive director of EveryOne Home, a housing agency in Alameda County, Calif, said simply: “It’s good money to spend.”
It’s official: Mercedes Marquez, Assistant Secretary at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and Barbara Poppe, Executive Director of the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness will be the keynote speakers at the Alliance’s 2010 National Conference on Ending Family Homelessness.
Their keynote addresses are latest addition to an exciting slate of workshops and presentations, which we’ll be blogging about more as the date approaches. Check out the tentative agenda here.
Homelessness has been in the headlines this week as falling temperatures cause rising concern for those living on the streets. Deaths from exposure and maxed out cold weather shelters show that the need for real, permanent solutions is dire. Instead of rushing around each winter to respond to emergencies, let’s work on long-term, year-round strategies.
Speaking of permanent solutions, be sure to check out this week’s post by Alliance president Nan Roman on Inforumusa: The Last Ten Years: Looking Back at Ten Year Plans.
Check out this dialogue between service providers in the Baltimore Sun: At issue was the city’s removal of a homeless encampment under the Jones Expressway. Kevin Lindamood and Jeff Singer of Healthcare for the Homeless argue that removing the homeless from public spaces is a flawed approach, while the Diane Glauber of Baltimore Homeless Services says the move was in the interest of safety. They do seem to agree on one point: the solution is access to permanent supportive housing for all.
Both the Examiner and Huffington Post have discussed homeless youth recently. According to our 2007 data, up to 1.65 million children experience homelessness in the U.S., and that number may be on the rise. Minnestota Public Radio’s piece on the topic is some pretty powerful stuff and so are these first hand accounts from kids themselves from the Tacoma Rescue Mission in Washington State.
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.
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?
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.
For most homeless families, living in a friend’s apartment might work better than sleeping in a car or finding shelter space, but for a family caring for an infant who is recovering from a heart transplant, these options are simply not an option. This family needs a stable home.
With the help of New York’s Department of Homeless Services, their partners and stimulus funding through the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program, Baby J and his family found one.
The latest in our series of HPRP success stories comes from Holly Frindell from the Department of Homeless Services in New York.
In August, Baby J was hospitalized with what doctors initially thought was bronchiolitis, but was quickly discovered to be heart failure. His health deteriorated rapidly and he was placed on the waiting list for a heart transplant.
Two weeks following the baby’s admission to the hospital, his parents and three-year-old brother were evicted from their apartment. His father had lost his construction job eight months prior, and the family fell into arrears, eventually losing the apartment where they had lived for more than four years.
The family was fortunate to have relatives to turn to for help, doubling up in a two-bedroom apartment where two other adults and two other children already were living. Word came in November that a heart finally had become available. With the transplant complete, however, the overcrowded apartment no longer was suitable. The hospital transplant team feared that the overcrowding would place the baby at significant risk for infection that could possibly lead to his death. Hospital staff reached out to the Department of Homeless Services (DHS) to see if suitable shelter could be arranged, as the family had no other housing options.
Through intensive cooperative efforts by DHS and hospital staff, the family was placed temporarily at a shelter close to the hospital, where the family had to return three times a week for Baby J’s appointments.
At the same time, the New York City homelessness community prevention and rapid re-housing program, Homebase,was hard at work helping the family secure a suitable, affordable apartment as quickly as possible.
The family was notified the week before Thanksgiving that their application for a subsidized apartment had been accepted. Baby J, along with his parents and brother, moved in just in time to celebrate both heart and home.