Archive for August, 2010
Hello everyone! I can’t believe my internship at the Alliance is over, but I can definitely say I am so glad I came here! When I interviewed for this job, I just wanted to work for a good cause and I didn’t know anything about homelessness. That certainly isn’t the case now!
I have learned so much about homelessness since I came to the Alliance, my perceptions have been completely changed. I have learned about the struggles the people endure and the causes that force people into homelessness. I have learned that the stereotype I had before I came here was just not in line with reality. The biggest misconception I had? That the people I see on the streets are the majority of the homeless population. Chronic homelessness only makes up 20 percent though! After working here, I will definitely do my best to help change people’s perceptions, because I can see that this is the most important step in affecting change.
It has also been great blogging with you! I had never worked on a professional blog or ran social media for an organization before, but the experience has shown me how such tools can really be great ways to get information out to people. Running social media like Facebook and Twitter has also shown me how we can develop communities of people who really care, to help spread information and start to affect real change.
I am so happy to have been able to work with all the staff here at the Alliance, it has truly been a blast. Everyone was so eager to tell me anything I wanted to know, and it is great to find a group so dedicated to ending homelessness. They are all truly an inspiration.
Today’s guest blog comes from Martha Kegel of UNITY.
The Blessings of Katrina
The mood this weekend across New Orleans was somber. Rain poured and dark threatening clouds filled the sky, and I couldn’t seem to shake the gloom. The rebroadcasts of people stranded on their rooftops five years ago only served to remind me of all those who did not survive. All weekend I could feel a pain in my chest at the sight of all those empty houses everywhere I go, the thought of all those New Orleanians still displaced, homeowners still struggling to make their houses habitable, disabled people squatting in abandoned buildings because of drastically inflated rents. This was supposed to be over with by now.
But it’s not.
Yesterday, the fifth anniversary of Katrina, I awoke early in the darkness. By eight o’clock, I was on my way to the Lower Ninth Ward, the scene of the worst devastation in New Orleans, where a poorly designed levee broke with such force that a wall of water swept a neighborhood away, leaving not much but a huge barge behind. Much of the devastation remains. Spending the morning in the Lower Nine was a bad idea, I thought to myself all the way there.
But it wasn’t.
As soon as I fell in line with a crowd of neighborhood people behind a high school brass band sending forth those joyful and unmistakably New Orleans sounds, my heart surged. We are together. We have survived. We are blessed.
Yes, blessed. One of the most unusual blessings brought by this great tragedy is that we now as a community have the shared collective experience of all of us having been homeless. Because 80 percent of the city was badly flooded and the mandatory evacuation lasted over a month under a National Guard lockdown, everyone was displaced for weeks, months or years. We all – rich and poor — understand as never before how important it is for everyone to have a home. Without a home, you have no sense of safety and security, your health deteriorates, you have no normal family life, and you cannot move forward with your life goals.
And that is why our community has been able – with government partners and an outpouring of help from people around the country, and with local churches, synagogues, businesses and schoolchildren pitching in to donate furniture and household goods – to set a record in rapidly re-housing 452 Katrina survivors living in two squalid homeless camps in downtown New Orleans. That is why outreach workers are still combing abandoned buildings to rescue and re-house our most vulnerable residents. That is why, despite a near-doubling of homelessness in a city where only 80 percent of the general population has returned, none of us will give up until every one of us has a home.
Martha Kegel is the Executive Director of UNITY of Greater New Orleans. UNITY rescues and re-houses disabled and elderly people living in the 55,000 buildings left abandoned in New Orleans as a result of Hurricane Katrina five years ago. For a report about long-term homelessness caused by Katrina, see “Search and Rescue Five Years Later: Saving People Still Trapped in Katrina’s Ruins, at www.unitygno.org.
As the anniversary of hurricane Katrina is upon us, we hear about the state of homelessness in the affected areas. From Newsweek, we read about how after five years, the situation is still dire with some statistics saying that the problem of homelessness has doubled.
In other news, the Daily Record tells us how Medicaid expansion will help those experiencing homelessness, and the Berkley Daily Planet informs us on the Western Regional Advocacy Project’s update of their report on homelessness.
The Sacramento Press also brought us some good news, writing on how HPRP funds were used in this past year to house 1,168 families.
With the photo contest now in full swing, we thought it’d be a good time to detail for you what the contest judges are seeking. There are seven judges, five from the Alliance and 2 of our colleagues from the homelessness field.
The full panel of on-staff judges includes: Steve Berg, Vice President of Programs and Policy at the Alliance; Norm Suchar, Director of Capacity Building; Bill Sermons, Director of the Homeless Research Institute; Kimberly Walker, Capacity Building Associate; and D’Arcy Klingle, Meetings and Events Coordinator.
Most of the judges have said they are looking for a winning submission that is not only visually appealing but also tells a story. D’Arcy Klingle, one of the Alliance staff judges, says “To me, a photo should convey a message or a story without using any words, giving the viewer an emotional connection or understanding of the message behind the photo by just looking at it.” She is specifically looking for a photo that would make a great basis for a conference theme.
Some judges have said they like photos with contrast and images that evoke emotion. Bill Sermons, another Alliance staff judge, thinks participants have a challenge in submitting photos that are not only visually appealing but also depict how homelessness is being ended in local communities across the country — but he’s already impressed with some of the submissions received!
If you haven’t been able to check out our flickr album, here are some of the most recent submissions.
The photo above, submitted by Tiago Pinto, was part of a project of the Bay Area Foundation Advisory Group to End Homelessness (CA) in October 2007.
The photo to the right is of Marvin, who is holding up the keys to his new apartment after having suffered from homelessness for 5 years. Way to go Marvin!
Today’s blog post comes Stephanie Wege, a Capacity Building intern this summer at the Alliance, talking about her work in the Center for Capacity Building.
Interning at the Alliance this summer has been a wonderful experience. I’ve learned about the Center for Capacity Building and the tools that it has to offer communities near and far. The Center for Capacity Building not only provides leadership in instruction, but also encourages and fosters collaboration nationwide. Working with them has enabled me to understand the complexity of homelessness.
This summer I have gained insight into the function of technical assistance and training projects. They provide a valuable link between legislation and the activities of homeless service providers. As I’ve learned from various survey assessments that I’ve conducted this summer, providers are often confused by the language of the legislation, inhibiting their ability to enact necessary changes. However, even if the language is clear in some instances, many homelessness assistance systems are not endowed with the staff and finances necessary to permit required changes. There is an overwhelming need, according to the HPRP Implementation Survey, for tools that will help communities to overcome these barriers.
In light of assessments like these, the Capacity Building team has put into action tools that will hasten the implementation of HPRP measures. I assisted the Center for Capacity Building in formulating an Ending Homelessness 101 Web-based training to outline essential steps to ending homelessness as a resource for communities.
The Capacity Building team is also launching a training series that will inform communities about HEARTH features and stimulate integration of HEARTH principles into system design and data management.
Another important element of the Center for Capacity Building’s work that I’ve been able to experience is education — namely peer-to-peer learning. Each homelessness assistance system is unique and has its own story. Communities across the nation can benefit from these shared stories and strategies. One example is the rural case study highlighting the experiences in West Virginia that I was able to help with this summer. Once in circulation, this presentation will enable other rural communities to find common ground and expertise needed to move forward.
As I mentioned above, the Center for Capacity Building provides online training resources on various topics related to ending homelessness with both audio and text components. Recently, the CAP team undertook a survey assessment to evaluate the viability of the online trainings. In an effort to improve the quality, content, and effectiveness of our online trainings, we have designed a survey to elicit feedback from users in regard to the trainings’ design, applicability, and future topics. If you have consulted our online training resources, we would appreciate your feedback via this survey and will use it to further improve our online training resources.
As my internship comes to a close, I am grateful to have been exposed to such a wealth of material and practices, and I know that as I continue forward I will be able to take my experiences here and apply them in future. Thank you again to everyone at the Alliance!
Today’s post is a follow up from Kimberly Walker, a Capacity Building Associate here at the Alliance.
Well, I’m happy to report that things in Lincoln went very well! Our first day there, Iain and I spent the morning meeting the members of the Lincoln Homeless Coalition (all wonderful, engaged people!) and listening to a presentation about their homeless system. We had a diverse group that included providers, a representative from the state, a liaison from the public school system, and the administrator of the HPRP grant. Iain and I spent that first afternoon presenting our findings to the group. A lot of our recommendations centered on how the Coalition could shift their system toward an approach focused on rapid re-housing.
Our second day was all about facilitation. We split our group into two and, after a brief recap of what we had discussed the day before, put them to work on deciding on and prioritizing goals for their system based on the gaps we had identified the day before. From their original list of thirty, Coalition members selected the five that were most important to them. After the goals had been selected, each group engaged in an exercise in which they connected each goal to potential strategies, resources, timelines, and evaluation methods.
Our next visit, in a little less than three weeks, will focus on fine-tuning the beginnings of the plan the group developed. Next time around, I hope to be able to report on the quality of the local cuisine as well…this time I only made it to Outback steakhouse .
Today’s blog comes from Norm Suchar, the recently promoted Director of the Center for Capacity Building. Read on to hear about what the Center is up to!
There’s a lot happening in the homelessness assistance world these days, and we at the Alliance are working on big things to help communities implement the HEARTH Act and end homelessness.
The Center for Capacity Building is the Alliance’s training, technical assistance, and consulting arm. Over the years, we’ve worked on a lot of interesting projects, including the Rural Homelessness Initiative of Southeast and Central Ohio, which as the name implies is a homelessness planning and implementation project in a 17 county region in Ohio, and Shifting Gears, an initiative to help homelessness assistance providers transition to a housing first approach. More recently, we’ve been working with communities in the DC metro area to implement strategies that reduce family homelessness, holding trainings on rapid re-housing and creating and piloting a new Ending Family Homelessness Tool.
The Center’s mission is to bring together three areas of the homelessness assistance field: what we aspire to, what we know, and what we practice.
Over the past decade, the aspiration to end homelessness has taken hold. Over 300 communities have plans to end homelessness, and now the federal government has an ambitious plan to prevent and end homelessness.
At the same time what we know about solving homelessness through prevention and rapid re-housing has increased a lot. Different strategies have been evaluated, and the data we have on the size, characteristics, and outcomes of the homelessness population is ever increasing.
And now the practice of homelessness will be changing at a faster rate as well with the implementation of the HEARTH Act and growing federal and local government and private philanthropy support for implementing strategies that end homelessness.
Over the next year, the Center is going roll out a series of products and trainings to help communities meet the promise of the HEARTH Act by assessing their existing homelessness assistance system and making it a coordinated, data driven, and housing focused system. It’s an exciting time.
There is a lot of good news that came out this week, especially from The Coloradoan. They had two articles this week, the first, a great defense of Housing First and homelessness prevention, called, “A radical idea: Ending homelessness”. The second was about Denver’s successful efforts to prevent homelessness by keeping 2,500 families in homes.
We take the bad with the good, though. From the Las Vegas Sun, we hear about how Las Vegas, an area where homelessness has been unfortunately increasing over the last few years, is struggling to get enough federal funding to help combat their growing problem.
From Journal Standard, we read a great personal story about how HPRP funds helped one family stay together and in a home.
Finally, Kathleen Pender of the San Francisco Chronicle told us about how the federal government is allocating funds not just to help homeowners, but the renters who are often at a higher risk of homelessness.
We at the Alliance thought that you might like to meet some of the people who work here! So we are creating a video series where we introduce you to some of the staff at the National Alliance to End Homelessness. Today, we meet Bill Sermons!
Want to learn more about HRI? Go here!
For those of you who don’t know, Capitol Hill Day 2010 was held in conjunction with our annual National Conference on Ending Homelessness in July. Nonprofit providers, public officials, private sector representatives, consumers, and other key stakeholders visited their Members of Congress on Capitol Hill to update them on local progress in ending homelessness and urge them to make ending homelessness a federal policy priority.
So, what’s the news? We have posted our 2010 Capitol Hill Day report on our website. The report highlights the unprecedented success of this year’s Capitol Hill Day. This year, a record 40 states were represented by more than 340 participants. Eight states, including Connecticut, Hawaii, Arkansas, Montana, Nevada, Idaho, New Mexico, and South Dakota all had a 100 percent participation rate, meaning that everyone from the state who registered for our conference participated in Capitol Hill Day.
Not only was Capitol Hill Day an amazing effort by advocates from around the country, but the effort has already proven effective on advancing legislation. Less than a week after Hill Day, the House Appropriations Committee increased its proposed fiscal year (FY) 2011 funding for McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants program. Not only is the proposed funding level an 18 percent increase over the FY 2010 funding level, but it is also higher than the amount proposed by the T-HUD appropriations subcommittee! Way to go Capitol Hill Day participants!
Participants held almost 230 congressional meetings, and more than 45 of those meetings were held with a Member of Congress himself/herself. Advocates made the case for increased funding for McKinney-Vento programs in an astounding 130 of those meetings. Other policy recommendations discussed include the importance of providing additional funding for Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers, SAMSHA Homeless Service programs, and Runaway and Homeless Youth Act programs, as well as the importance of passing the Zero Tolerance for Veterans Homelessness Act.
Although the full impact of Capitol Hill Day has yet to fully unfold, success is already in the air. Nearly a dozen congressional offices agreed to tour local homelessness assistance programs in the coming months. Representative Neal (MA) agreed to personally call the House Appropriations Chairman to express his support for providing $2.4 billion for McKinney-Vento programs. Senator Webb (VA) expressed an interest in working together with local advocates to convene a group of representatives from public housing authorities, local nonprofits, and the Department of Veterans Affairs to talk about HUD-VASH funding in Virginia and how to streamline the state’s rapid re-housing process. And these examples only tip the iceberg!
The success of this year’s Capitol Hill Day wouldn’t have been possible without participants from around the country joining together. The individual effort of each person allowed this year’s Capitol Hill Day to be one of the most successful yet. We are eager to see the full impact and will keep you updated. Three cheers for all the Capitol Hill Day advocates!