Archive for February, 2010

9th February
written by naehblog

While yet another snowpocalypse hits DC, most of the Alliance staff has escaped to LA for our Annual Conference on Ending Family Homelessness. It starts unofficially today with an opportunity to give input into the federal government’s plan to end homelessness. (As we’ve mentioned before, it’s a pretty awesome opportunity.)

Representatives from the U.S. Intergency Council on Homelessness and HUD are soliciting recommendations, and as required in the HEARTH Act, the plan should be finalized by May of this year.

Here are some of the key points from our official recommendations. Do you have anything to add?

For veterans:

  • Deploy 60,000 units of permanent supportive housing, targeted to veterans experiencing chronic homelessness (30,000 already in the pipeline);
  • Provide prevention and rapid rehousing services to 250,000 veterans per year;

For families

  • Equip publicly funded programs that serve families who are vulnerable to homelessness (e.g. TANF and child welfare) so they have the capacity (and responsibility) to respond, and resolve, their clients’ housing crises;
  • Increase the supply of affordable housing to families with very low incomes through expanding permanent, short- and medium-term rental assistance; and

For youth:

  • Expand federal investment in youth housing services and infrastructure to serve an additional 50,000 homeless and street-dependent youth annually;
  • Offer Congress and the Administration clear data on the incidence of youth homelessness, research on the extent of long-term homelessness among homeless youth populations, and identification of interventions targeted to specific typologies of homeless youth; and

And this is a big one:

      Ensure the federal plan is outcome-focused and sets measurable goals.

This is what ending homelessness looks like.

A complete version of the Alliance’s recommendations are available here.

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    9th February
    written by naehblog

    Last week’s budget recommendations included a pleasant surprise for permanent supportive housing advocates: 10,000 new homeless and special needs vouchers specifically focused on building collaboration between federal agencies. It’s a welcome sign that the Obama administration is willing to invest in real, practical solutions to homelessness.

    Permanent supportive housing is a proven solution to chronic homelessness; it’s a paradigm shift we’ve been working on here at the Alliance for years, so it’s really exciting to hear the federal government speaking our language:

    Stable housing is the foundation upon which all else in a family’s or individual’s life is built–absent a safe, affordable place to live, it is next to impossible to achieve good health, positive educational outcomes, or reach one’s full economic potential.

    Here’s what’s special about this initiative:

    • Targeting mainstream supports to homeless people: The program could be a catalyst for learning how to target programs like Medicaid and substance abuse treatment to homeless individuals. Since these systems are frequently used by chronically homeless individuals and permanent supportive housing cuts down on use of services, it just makes sense for these agencies to figure out how best to work together.
    • A “silo-busting” alignment of resources: The program represents a move toward interagency collaboration. Take a child whose family is in shelter: not only would the program provide her family with a housing voucher, but it would also connect them with income support such as the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), funded by the Department of Health and Human Services. What’s more, homeless liaisons from the Department of Education might help identify the family before they became homeless and work to keep them housed.

    As we blog, Congress is making its way through the budget and appropriations process (or at least, they would be if the District wasn’t paralyzed by snow…). We think the initiative has enormous potential, so we’ll keep you informed as the program makes it’s way toward the final federal budget.

    5th February
    written by naehblog

    This week, it’s all about the budget. The president’s recommendations for fiscal year 2011 came out on Monday, and bloggers and organizations have spent this week responding.

    On the HUD blog, Secretary Shaun Donovan summarizes what’s in the president’s proposed budget for housing. We’re particularly excited about a new initiative that will provide 10,000 vouchers for supportive housing and encourage collaboration between departments. (Stay tuned for more on this program.) Plus, Secretary Donovan is talking about using “housing as a platform for improving quality of life”! That sounds like progress.

    Elsewhere in the blogosphere, the 13th juror points out that the budget includes some painful cuts in housing for the disabled and the elderly and Open House stresses the innovative affordable housing programs that are included.

    The National Low Income Housing Coalition’s response to the proposed budget highlighted the $1 billion for the National Housing Trust Fund, but there’s more to it says President Sheila Crowley: “We are grateful that the HUD budget was spared the cuts to domestic discretionary programs that are included in the overall budget. Nonetheless, essentially flat funding for HUD this year is insufficient given the high demand for housing assistance as a result of the recession.”

    Around here, we’re also talking about how we can impact the budget process. Check out yesterday’s post about how you can get involved in our McKinney-Vento Appropriations campaign, which will increase federal funding for homelessness services. And then do it!

    Life goes on outside the Beltway, though. Alliance President Nan spoke to Governing magazine this week for an in-depth piece on homelessness prevention and rapid re-housing: “A systems change is happening.”

    A case manager talks about how her relationship with a client has grown while he waits for subsidized housing on the Beyond Bread blog and the Cleveland Homeless blog rants about budget cuts on federal, state and county levels.

    Here in DC, we’re bracing for a BIG snowstorm and hoping everyone is safe and warm tonight.

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    4th February
    written by naehblog

    This month – Februrary 2010 – Congress will decide how to spend federal dollars. In the next few weeks, they’re making the tough calls: how much to spend on education, defense, infrastructure, energy…

    This month, we’re pulling out all the social media stops to ensure Congress makes services to homeless people a federal priority. It’s up to us – up to YOU, actually – to make sure that they don’t forget about the people without political clout or interest groups to lobby on their behalf.

    Here’s how you can get involved:

    1.Sign our petition: it’s quick, easy and painless.

    2. Visit our McKinney-Kinney Appropriations campaign website to learn more about the issue. Not only do we have this cool interactive tool that anticipates possible funding scenarios and a downloadable webinar chock-full of information, you can also check out this video resource, featuring Alliance Vice-President Steve Berg. He explains the changes that May 2009′s HEARTH Act made to the McKinney Vento program, and it’s those changes that will require more funding.

    3. Write a letter to your member of Congress. This sample letter is a start, but the more you include about your community, the better. We’re focusing on letters because letters make a difference: last year, Washington State’s letters convinced Senator Murray (Chair of the Subcommittee that funds HUD) to increase the Senate’s McKinney appropriation in the FINAL stages of the HUD appropriations bill. Send us a copy, too, to

    3. After you’ve told us about your letter, tell the world on our Facebook event page. Share with your friends!

    4. Email Sarah Kahn, the Alliance’s Director of Field Mobilization(, to get more involved. We’re keeping a close eye on the budget process, and we’ll send you regular updates as things progress.

    5. Do it now! We’re pushing hard to get as many letters as possible to Congress by February 22.

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    3rd February
    written by naehblog

    As the Alliance’s Annual Conference on Ending Family Homelessness approaches, the office is abuzz with travel plans and last-minute arrangements. We’ve got a full slate of workshops, two awesome keynote speakers, and an ambitious, but reachable goal: ensuring every family in the U.S. has a home.

    Here’s what Alliance staff members are looking forward to:

    LaKesha Pope, Youth Program and Policy Analyst:

    “I’m excited about my workshops: the Cultural Competency workshop, the Outcomes workshop, and the Young Moms workshop. I think some practical tools will be delivered that people can bring back to their communities.”

    Amanda Krusemark, Program and Policy Associate:

    “I’m excited to hear from Barb Poppe, the new Director of the Interagency Council on Homelessness. I want to know what she has to say.”

    Capacity Building Associate Aisha Williams agrees:

    “I’m looking forward to hearing from the new ICH leadership. I’m interested in hearing what their plans are.”

    Bill Sermons, Director of the Homelessness Research Institute:

    I’m probably most excited about our Data and Performance Simplified workshop. We’re looking at a pretty huge turnout, so it’s a great opportunity to make materials about performance accessible to a wider range of people.


    Meghan Henry, Research Associate:

    “I’m most excited about the Affordable Housing Development workshop by NeighborWorks. It’s just so useful. I’m also excited about hearing from people across the country about their experiences this year.”

    2nd February
    written by naehblog

    Here’s the good news: President’s Budget Proposal included $2.05 Billion for McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants. It’s a step up from last year – and more than we expected – but it’s still not enough.

    McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants are the largest federal investment in homeless services and prevention. First enacted in 1987, they provide funding though local Continuums of Care, as well as provide money for emergency shelter and services to homeless children.

    Isn’t this a large increase? Yes…

    …but we’re not crazy! The HEARTH Act, passed in May 2009, reauthorized the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Programs for the first time in nearly 20 years! A lot has changed in those two decades, and these changes – at least initially – are going to cost money.

    The HEARTH Act moves towards a housing stability-centric approach to ending homelessness – which we know is the best way to end homelessness permanently. The HEARTH Act also:

    • Expands prevention strategies
    • Places new incentives on rapid re-housing, especially for homeless families
    • Continues the emphasis on permanent supportive housing, this time including the chronically homeless
    • Offers flexibility to rural communities to use McKinney-Vento funds for capacity building as well as services


    (For a more detailed analysis of HEARTH, please visit the website.)

    We are asking for $2.4 billion. It sounds like a lot – we know – but it’s what’s needed to implement all the great new changes that the HEARTH Act makes to the McKinney-Vento programs, all the while continuing the core programs that already exist. This year, we’ll need enough money to implement the HEARTH Act and provide your community with new funding.

    Now, with the President’s recommendations in mind, Congress is embarking on its own budget and appropriations process, so this is a CRITICAL time for constituents to voice funding concerns. The McKinney Appropriations Campaign (that’s us!) must get as many letters as possible to our Senators and Representatives from Feb 1 through Feb 22.

    Our sample letter can get you started.

    What are we asking for?

    We want your Senators and Representatives to ask the leaders of both the Budget and Appropriations committees to fund McKinney at $2.4 billion in FY 2011. This represents a 28 percent increase over last year’s level and $345 million more than the President’s request.

    Timing is everything!

    Right now, the Budget Committee in the House and Senate will begin writing a budget, which sets spending guidelines for their respective Appropriations Committees. The Appropriations Committees, in turn, are beginning to gather request from their colleagues regarding funding recommendations for specific programs – those requests must be made by mid to late March.

    So now is the time to start influencing your Members of Congress. They need to hear from constituents EARLY in this process, so we can be sure that they prioritize funding for McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Programs.

    Step up and organize!
    And just to up the ante, we’re making it a contest. The people who get the MOST LETTERS sent to Congress will win a special invitation to a Capitol Hill Day in late March, courtesy of the Alliance. See the contest details on our website.

    To kick-start your advocacy efforts, here’s a sample action alert.

    To participate in the Letter Writing Contest, please collect copies of any letters you get people in your community—board members, colleagues, friends, family, and clients—to send and forward them the Amanda Krusemark.

    Sooner is always better – and the contest deadline is Feb. 22. After the 22, we follow up with offices to get commitments for site visits and our appropriations requests. So the need is urgent – let’s get writing!

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    1st February
    written by naehblog

    Yesterday, the President unveiled his proposed budget for FY 2011.

    It was generally good news in the field of homeless assistance. The Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal and then Associated Press all gave nods to the boost in homeless assistance funding.

    We’re nodding right along with them. The president’s budget marks the biggest increase to homeless assistance services in 16 years – and that’s nothing to sneeze at! It’s a critical move at a time when the economy is still so unstable, especially for those who are already on financially precarious ground.

    Highlights include:

    • A ten percent ($190 million) bump to McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants, the largest portion of the federal investment to homeless assistance
    • A 50 percent boost in homeless assistance funding to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). This significant increase may prove useful in the Department’s professed goal of reducing the number of homeless veterans (currently 131,000) to 59,000 by July 2012, but no detailed plan for the strategic use of this funding boost has been made available.
    • An $85 million permanent supportive housing initiative. What’s most notable about this plan is not only the federal investment in permanent supportive housing – a proven strategy to end homelessness – but the emphasis on interagency collaboration. It will require that recipients be serviced by the Departments of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Health and Human Service (HHS) and Education (DOE).
    • Extension of the Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF) emergency fund. The emergency fund, which was created under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) provides short-term emergency assistance services for families at-risk of homelessness. This emergency fund is being extended for another year.
    • Three new initiatives and significant jump in funding for policy development and research at HUD.

    We’ll be tackling each of these policy priorities in blogposts to come, starting with the ten percent increase in McKinney-Vento homeless assistance programs: the bread and butter for so many direct service providers supplying the day-to-day, on-the-ground assistance so critical for those experiencing homelessness right now.

    As we’ve been talking about on this blog, the Alliance calling on Congress to increase funding for McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance programs to $2.4 billion in FY2011. To find out more about the advocacy effort – and more about the President’s budget – visit the website.