Archive for May, 2010

28th May
2010
written by naehblog

Hey, big news!

Today, the House passed the Tax Extenders bill (after their hiccup yesterday).
As a reminder, the bill capitalizes the National Housing Trust Fund (NHTF) and extends the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Emergency Contingency Fund (ECF).

The bill now heads to the Senate, and we need your Senators to vote for the legislation, H.R. 4213.

WHAT YOU CAN DO:

  • Call the housing staffer in your Senators’ offices next week. Congressional office phone numbers can be found by calling the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121.
  • Urge them to continue their support for preventing and ending homelessness in your community by voting YES on H.R. 4213.
  • Call your Representatives and thank them for passing H.R. 4213. The list of who voted for the bill will available here shortly.

Needless to say, none of this progress can happen without your voice and support. Thank you so much! for your efforts to sway your members – and don’t stop now!

For more information about the Tax Extenders bill, check out our blogpost about the legislation or see our Advocacy Updates.

28th May
2010
written by naehblog

Start your Memorial Day weekend by reading “Honoring our veterans can begin with housing.” Here, the Corporation for Supportive Housing’s Deborah De Santis not only reminds us how important it is to end homelessness among veterans, but she also reminds us that we know how to do it:

The Department of Veterans Affairs and the Congressional Committees that authorize its programs should immediately consider how they can better utilize Housing First to move chronically homeless veterans off the streets, out of the shelters and into permanent supportive housing…

Creating permanent supportive housing for veterans, utilizing Housing First and other models, is not only the smart thing to do, it’s the right thing to do.

For more on veterans’ homeless, listen to Housing our vets on Where we live.

Speaking of permanent supportive housing, check out “Shelter’s the fool’s gold in the pursuit to end homelessness”, a piece in Street Roots by Heather Lyons. In response to the announcement that Portland is planning to open a 100-bed shelter, she makes a pretty airtight argument for housing over shelter:

I just read that the city is providing 100 new shelter beds for individuals as part of “a campaign to strategically reduce the number of homeless people in Portland.” That’s like opening two new emergency departments because cancer is on the rise. Like emergency departments, shelters serve a very important purpose, but they do not end homelessness for very many people, unless they are connected to various types of housing and services.

I guarantee that opening new shelter beds will not reduce homelessness.

Individual stories are perhaps the most powerful argument for permanent housing. Rich and Elizabeth Lombino shared Gina’s story on Change.org’s End Homelessness blog this week. After struggling with incarceration and addiction, Gina finally had her own home for the first time at age 57:

After a few more months of apartment searching and jumping through some administrative hoops, the day finally came for Gina to move in. The next day, she came to see Elizabeth. Through tears in her eyes, Gina spoke of the pure joy she felt at having her own apartment. She felt truly free and alive. She had accomplished a dream that she never thought would come true for her. She spoke at length about the incredible feeling of having her own key and a door to open with it. She said, “I always hoped I would have my own key to my own home. Now I have it. Putting that key in the door of my apartment is the best feeling.”

Happy long weekend, everyone! Take a minute and call Congress in support of HR 4123, the “extenders bill,” which will capitalize the National Housing Trust Fund.

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27th May
2010
written by naehblog

As many of our advocates know, the Alliance has long supported the capitalization of the National Housing Trust Fund (NHTF). This fund – intended to support the creation, preservation, and rehabilitation of affordable housing – was created in July 2008 when Congress passed the Housing and Economic Recovery Act.

But Congress has yet to allocate any resources – read: funds – to the NHTF.

After two years of requesting capitalization, supporters of the NHTF are closer than ever. As we’ve blogged about before, Congress is currently considering H.R. 4213, known as the “Tax Extenders” bill, which include $1 billion to capitalize the NHTF.

(The bill also extends the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Emergency Contingency Fund (ECF) – another important resource for vulnerable families. Find out more about the Tax Extenders bill by reading our Advocacy Updates.)

The bill was originally slated for the House floor this week, but spending concerns delayed action. The legislation was sent to the House Rules Committee last night, where an amendment further complicated the already dense bill, according to The Hill.

Advocates are still hopeful that the bill may pass this week.

26th May
2010
written by naehblog

The Department of Housing and Urban Development just released its Strategic Plan for 2010 to 2015.

The most important aspect of this strategic plan is what it says about the thinking of HUD current leadership and what it communicates to HUD staff and partners – namely, a shift towards housing-oriented, integrated solutions to end homelessness.
First of all, the plan signals an extremely important change in approach for the whole department. Homelessness a high priority goal for its mainstream programs, particularly the Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers program. This is critical because it will be nearly impossible to end homelessness if our only resource is targeted homeless assistance funding, like the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants.
Another interesting part of the plan is the heavy focus on combining housing and services, which is described as one of HUD’s signature initiatives. This includes the Housing and Services for Homeless Persons Demonstration that we’ve blogged about before.
If HUD sticks to this message in the coming years, it would dramatically improve our efforts to end homelessness.
Here are some more specific:
HUD has five goals, and they’re not much different than in the last Strategic Plan. They include:
  • Strengthen the Nation’s Housing Market To Bolster the Economy and Protect Consumers
  • Meet the Need for Quality Affordable Rental Homes
  • Utilize Housing as a Platform for Improving Quality of Life
  • Build Inclusive and Sustainable Communities Free From Discrimination
  • Transform the Way HUD Does Business
Within each goal are several sub-goals, and one of those (sub-goal 2A to be exact) is: End homelessness and substantially reduce the number of families and individuals with severe housing needs.
The plan also says that HUD will measure the following outcomes:
  • Reduce the number of homeless families.
  • Reduce the number of chronically homeless individuals.
  • Reduce the number of homeless veterans to 59,000 by June 2012 (jointly with the Department of Veterans Affairs).
So there is a fair amount of content on homelessness, but how important is this Strategic Plan? Strategic Plans are supposed to guide the budget and policy making process, but Congress has a very big role in those decisions, and what HUD plans to do isn’t always what happens.
While it’s not exactly a picture of the future, it does tell us a lot about the thinking of the people who are leading HUD and the message they are sending to HUD’s nearly 10,000 staff and many partners, including local Public Housing Agencies.
The good news is that message they are sending is that ending homelessness is a priority, and they are willing to make changes to some big programs to help make it happen.
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25th May
2010
written by naehblog


Today’s guest blog post is from our partners at the Road Home in Salt Lake City. Thanks to Donor Coordinator Jacqueline Jensen for contributing!

It is a transforming time for our agency and the services we provide. After many years without the tools to really help families end homelessness, we are finally seeing the resources needed to end homelessness. (The Road Home in Salt Lake City -operating the largest homeless shelter in Utah as well as an extensive transitional and permanent housing program.)

The Road Home has recently partnered with the State of Utah, Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County to utilize federal stimulus dollars to rapidly re-house families.

With the flexibility allowed by the funds, our Rapid Re-Housing program is designed to give families a jump start. Funding allows payments for utility debts, deposits and rental assistance as well as a strong case management component. We have seen that once in housing, families rarely need to return to emergency shelter ever again.

The Road Home recently assisted a young single mother who had been living in the family winter shelter facility. She was able to move out with the assistance of the Rapid Rehousing Program. She and her three children found a nice apartment in West Valley City. Soon after moving, the mother found a job at a grocery store. Recently, she was promoted to be a manager there and has increased her income enough to afford her rent. She no longer needs our assistance.

We have also used these funds in conjunction with other programs. Another single mom staying in our women’s shelter was approved to re-unite with her children but needed a home to bring them to. We were able to access a single family home, beautifully renovated by the Neighborhood Stabilization Program funds, for this family. We worked with the mom through the application process for a Shelter Plus Care voucher with our local Housing Authority. And we used Rapid Re-housing funds to assist her with an old housing debt so that she would qualify for the voucher. In addition, we partnered with LDS Church’s thrift store to help this family acquire beds and basic furniture as well as a two week supply of food.

“Our team has been working side by side with our families to move out of homelessness and into housing,” said Matthew Minkevitch, Executive Director for The Road Home. “During the first six months of the project (Oct 1, 2009-Mar 31, 2010), the Rapid Rehousing team assisted 232 households as they moved out of homelessness and into housing in the community.”

To learn more about programs and services provided by The Road Home, visit www.theroadhome.org.

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24th May
2010
written by naehblog

Today’s guest post is from Policy Associate Anthony Stasi.

You might assume that people experiencing homelessness in Las Vegas and the surrounding areas are former gamblers, drifters from California, or people that were hit hard by the foreclosure crisis. But according to Continuum of Care Coordinator Michele Fuller-Hallauer, many of the homeless in this region are mentally ill, and require regular intake of medication.


Last week I visited the Southern Nevada Regional Planning Coalition’s Committee on Homelessness, where I met Fuller-Hallauer, Shannon West, and Catherine Huang Hara, who are part of a small group that oversees homeless policy in this area.

The Southern Nevada Regional Planning Coalition works with several other organizations and committees in an effective team that has seen results: street homelessness has decreased 16.4%.

They’ve also seen family homelessness drop: in 2008, there were 933 homeless households with children. In 2009 that number dropped to 346 homeless households with children. This is a reduction of 587 households or a 63 percent reduction in family homelessness.

Still, the overall figure of homelessness in Las Vegas has climbed 16.8 percent. The increase in the overall number of homeless comes from their increase in people that are utilizing transitional housing programs. They have experienced a great deal of success in moving people to permanent housing, but – in cases of those who are mentally ill and unable to make rational choices – they cannot move them into permanent housing as easily.

They do a great job in what is a very busy social services system in southern Nevada.

21st May
2010
written by naehblog

We’re welcoming two new staff members at the Alliance this week: Kim Walker is our new Capacity Building Associate and Kate Seif is our new Assistant to the President. We’re excited to have their experience and enthusiasm in our office!

We had a visit this week from Sarah, John and James, three intrepid college students from North Carolina who are biking across the country to research Housing First initiatives and raise money for housing in their own community. We’ll be following them on their blog – and you should too.

We’re still waiting on the Federal Plan to End Homelessness, but in the meantime, check out the Homeless Law blog’s post “Five Reasons I’m Looking Forward to the Federal Plan.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities sets the record straight about the Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF) Emergency Contingency Fund, in response to claims on the YouCut website. (Pssst: The Emergency Contingency Fund is part of HR 4123, which is being discussed in the House today. if you haven’t called your Members of Congress about HR4123, do it now!)


We’ve mentioned Street Roots’ photo project, where they asked their vendors what matters most and this week, they posted this cool word cloud. What jumps out at you?

Love this editorial in the Salt Lake Tribune about how to end homelessness. They’re speaking our language:

How do you eliminate chronic homelessness? The problem seems so complex that the obvious solution is often overlooked. If you want to take people off the streets and put them on the road to a better life, you start by putting a permanent roof over their heads.

And then’s there our social media survey, part of our ongoing discussion about how to work together online to end homelessness. We want to hear from you!

http://streetroots.wordpress.com/2010/05/19/what-matters-to-our-vendors-word-cloud/
http://www.agreatercleveland.org/?p=550

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21st May
2010
written by naehblog

Today, our Vice President of Programs and Policy Steve Berg went up to the Hill to attend a joint hearing including the Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and the Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development. The joint hearing examined the nation’s progress in ending veterans homelessness.

Currently, there are about 131,000 veterans experiencing homelessness in the United States, representing about one-fifth of the entire homeless population on any given night. Veterans often experience homeless as a result of post-war distress, including emotional or physical trauma which can manifest in diseases, including substance abuse and addiction.

In our last Veterans Update, we presented the challenges to women veterans as a new emerging component of this issue. As women continue to make up a greater percentage of the armed forces, we take greater note of their particular vulnerability to and experience with homelessness. There is also a growing body of evidence that indicates that female veterans have a higher risk of homelessness as compared to their male counterparts – some speculate that this may have to do with a greater incidence of sever housing cost burden, lower incomes, higher rates of post-traumatic stress disorder, among others contributors.

In recent months, both Secretary Shinseki of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and President Obama have come out strongly with intentions to reduce and end veterans homelessness in the United States. Secretary Shinseki has publicly announced the VA’s intent to end veterans homelessness in five years; in his proposed fiscal year (FY) 2011 budget, President Obama includes a 50 percent increase in funding for veterans homelessness programs.

We at the Alliance are hoping that this surge in support – evidenced by the hearing, the budget, the announcements coming out of the VA – are an indication that there will be real political support to end homelessness among our nation’s veterans. We look forward to working with both Congressional leaders and the Administration to ensure that those who have offered themselves in the service of the country will never face homelessness. Because, as Secretary Shinseki says in his video address on the issue, “there’s still no reason why a single veteran is living on the streets of our country.”

Well said, Mr. Secretary.

20th May
2010
written by naehblog

It’s time to act!

Homelessness is complicated, but in the end, we believe that people are homeless because they can’t find housing they can afford. Today, there is something YOU can do about it.

The National Housing Trust Fund aims create 1.5 million units of affordable housing within ten years – and tomorrow, the House will debate H.R. 4213, which would fund NHTF with $1 billion. With your help, the bill will move on to the Senate next week. (H.R. 4213 also includes funding for a variety of programs that low-income Americans need, including the TANF Emergency Contingency Fund. More info is available here).

Here’s what you can do:

1. Call the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121.

2. Ask for your Congressional Representative. If you’re not sure who that is, you can find out here.

3. Ask for the staffer who works on housing.

4. Urge them to continue their support for preventing and ending homelessness in your community by voting YES on H.R. 4213. Here’s what you can say:

I am deeply concerned about homelessness in my community, but I know the way to end homelessness is to house people. I’m calling to ask you to fund the National Housing Trust Fund.

The National Housing Trust Fund is critical for efforts to prevent and end homelessness. The majority of the people who enter the homeless system have experienced some sort of crisis that causes them to lose their housing. At least 75% of NHT funds funds for rental housing would be aimed at extremely low income households.

H.R. 4213, the “tax extender bill,” would provide $1 billion for the NHTF and an additional $65 million for project-based vouchers to be released in conjunction with capital grants. Please vote yes on H.R. 4213 today.

5. Hang up, then call back: follow steps 1-5 for both your Senators!

Want more information? Courtesy of the National Low-Income Housing Coalition, here are some important facts about NHTF.

  • The housing trust fund will, once capitalized, provide communities with funds to build, preserve, and rehabilitate rental homes that are affordable for extremely and very low income households.
  • It is a permanent program, and will have dedicated source of funding not subject to the annual appropriations process.
  • At least 90% of the funds must be used for the production, preservation, rehabilitation, or operation of rental housing.

Stay tuned to this blog for advocacy updates!

19th May
2010
written by naehblog

How many people are homeless due to the recession? We’re not sure yet. Homelessness is what we call a “lagging indicator” of a poor economy, so we still have yet to see the full impact of the economic recession on homelessness.

But that doesn’t mean the recession hasn’t had – or won’t have – an impact on homelessness. Today, the Homeless Research Institute’s launches our Economy Bytes series, in which we investigate economic indicators that are associated with homelessness. The first in this series investigates doubled-up situations.

Our research shows that 5 percent more people lived in doubled up situations in 2008 than in 2005; in particular, we’ve seen a growing share of doubled up families.

Wait, so what’s doubled up? Doubling up means that an individual or family lives with extended family, friends, and other non-relatives due to economic hardship. In this case, we define economic hardship as earning no more than 125 percent of the federal poverty level.

Not all doubled up people or families will become homeless but for many, it’s a precursor. Of those people who weren’t homeless before staying at a shelter, 46 percent spent the previous night at the home of a friend or family member, according to the 2008 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress (AHAR).

But why do people double up? In short, people double up because they can’t afford housing. They have had to choose between basic necessities like food, health care, clothing and housing, and people who are doubled up have had to sacrifice their own housing.

The following chart shows the relationship between poverty and people in doubled up situations.

What about services for doubled up people and families?

The growing number of people in doubled up situations likely means there is a growing demand for services.

In 2009, the Homeless Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing (HEARTH) Act expanded the definition of homelessness to include some doubled up families, making them eligible for homeless assistance services, but in order to effectively serve this population, we need more information about doubled up people and families.

Want to know more? The full brief is available here.

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