Archive for February 24th, 2010

24th February
written by naehblog

People of the blogosphere, we need your help!

Our McKinney-Vento Appropriates Letter-Writing campaign is rapidly drawing to a close and we need you to be part of our final push!

Our goal: to convince Congress to raise funding for the McKinney Vento programs to $2.4 billion dollars.

So we need YOU to write letters to your legislators.

And if your state is on the list below, you’re even MORE important. Your legislator is on a key committee discussing this very issue: homeless assistance funding.

$2.4 billion is a steep price – we know that – but we’ve done the math. And $2.4 billion is what’s necessary to continue to the existing homeless assistance programs in your local communities AND implement the HEARTH Act (the reauthorization of McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance programs that modernize and streamline the system).

So have a heart. Check out the list and the sample letter below, and if you’re so inclined, email the letter to us. We’ll collect the letters, disseminate them to the right offices, and make sure that our government knows we care.

Check out the sample letter below, feel free to edit as you see fit, and click “send.” And don’t hesitate to shoot us an email if you have any questions. (You can also find us on Twitter – @naehomelessness – or our Facebook page.)

Sample Letter
Dear Senator:

I would like to thank you for your commitment to ending homelessness and for enacting the HEARTH Act last year, which reauthorized HUD’s McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants program. Please continue to show your support for this program by asking the leaders of both the Budget Committee and the Appropriations Committee to provide the necessary funding level of $2.4 billion—a 28 percent increase over last year’s level—for HUD’s Homeless Assistance Grants in FY 2011.

The HEARTH Act changes the way funds are allocated and increases funding for homelessness prevention, assistance to families with children, and rural programs. However, without a funding level of $2.4 billion to pay for these activities, my community will likely get little to no funding for new projects in FY 2011.

HUD’s Homeless Assistance Grants are critical to our ability to make progress in preventing and ending homelessness. We hope we can count on you to sign a Congressional letter regarding this appropriations request, which we expect to begin circulating in early February.


24th February
written by naehblog

Okay – so we’re going to take some time to talk about something a tad bit boring…and pretty important. That’s right: Congress.

This just in: the Senate just passed the first piece of the Jobs bill (recap: once upon a time, there was one giant Senate Jobs bill. But some people thought it’d be better to break it up into a bunch of little bills). This $15 billion bill is focused primarily on providing tax credits for employers who are hiring – and especially hiring the unemployed.

More, similar legislation will be coming down the pike, but no where in the distance is one key element that we – the Alliance and homeless asisistance providers and advocates – are looking for.

Additional funding for the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program (HPRP). As a part of the Jobs Bill, we at the Alliance are hoping for $1 billion. Here’s why:

The unemployment outlook has worsened significantly since HPRP was created last year, which puts more people in danger of becoming homeless. It was designed to help 600,000 people, but communities are finding there are more people who need assistance than we’d planned for.

According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), communities from states – including California, Michigan, Nebraska, Florida, Massachusetts, New York, Utah, and South Carolina – have reported that there are far more families who are homeless or at-risk than there is money to help them get back on their feet. An additional $1 billion to extend HPRP would prevent and end homelessness for an estimated additional 200,000 households.

What’s more, HPRP is creating jobs. According to our analysis, current allocations create one full-time, three-year job for each $600,000 of HPRP funding allocated – this means 2,500 jobs through the existing funding. The remaining money provides temporary rent subsidies to landlords, funding more jobs in the rental housing industry and helping with historic high vacancy rates for rental housing.

I know it’s not the easiest concept to wrap around, but the moral is this: providing more prevention and rapid re-housing assistance not only helps individuals and families stay out of homelessness – but it creates jobs in the process. As we move toward creating legislation to improve the economy, let’s make sure to keep an eye on those who need the most.

It’ll be an uphill battle, but help for the homeless belongs in the Jobs bill. Let’s make it happen.

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24th February
written by naehblog

I just finished watching this audio slideshow about a homeless family living in a hotel in Wentzville, Missouri. The specificity of the images struck me: the picnic in the parking lot of the Budget Inn, the can of food pantry carrots, the parents’ hands holding.

But it’s a story that’s more and more common: a lost job, a downward spiral, desperate phone calls to service providers, kids learning to cope. In fact, according to HUD’s third quarterly Homelessness Pulse Report, the number of people accessing services for the first time increased by 26% from July to September 2009. Says one homeless outreach worker from Lincoln, NE:

They are the new poor, only homeless because of the economy. These are the people who at the beginning of the 2000s might have been on the edge or middle class. These are people who never thought they’d be in the position they’re in today.

The report is intended to assess the impact of the current economic crisis and determine how unemployment and foreclosures affect homelessness. The seven Continuums of Care that participated – including New York City, Richmond, the state of Kentucky and Lakeland, FL – represent about 12 percent of the country’s overall shelter and transitional housing capacity.

In particular, HUD’s data shows that like the Tranthams in Wentzville, the newly homeless tend to be families: while the total number of newly homeless people accessing services increased by 26%, the rise for newly sheltered families was 38%. In Phoenix, there was a 51% increase in the number of homeless families accessing services.

Here at the Alliance, we’re hard at work on solutions. To learn more, check out the materials from our 2010 Conference on Ending Family Homelessness, now available here.