Archive for September, 2010
We’re talking about college students facing cost-prohibitive housing options and turning to fitness center facilities, coach-surfing, and shelters.
We’ve heard whispers of this story before. In July, NPR released a story about the confluence of rising education costs and a poor economy. The result, the story suggests, is financially-strapped college student struggling to meet the most basic needs – including food and housing. In December of last year, the Washington Post ran a column about a couple local students who were struggling to keep their head above water in classes while living in shelters. Change.org also featured a post about the rising number of homeless college students, suggesting that colleges and universities take into consideration the rising cost of living as well as the rising cost of higher education.
But only lately has the problem shown up – live and on the phone – in our own offices. We’ve had students call and want to know how to navigate financial aid bureaucracy in order to qualify for more housing aid. We’ve had students call simply to see if we can help them find housing or housing assistance. It came to such a point that our administrative staff asked, in staff meeting, for resources that we can share with these young people who turn to us for support – usually as a last resort as we do no provide any direct assistance or professional referrals.
Though we work on homelessness and housing issues daily, I found it alarming to hear these stories come straight to my phone set – and from such an (as I thought) unexpected demographic.
Tell us what you’re seeing out there. Is this a problem that you’ve encountered as well? Are young people across the country really struggling to attend school while maintaining housing? Are there resources that we can share with students who call in looking for help?
Please share your stories and let us know!
This is the last week to submit your entries to the Alliance photo contest!
In case you haven’t heard – and if you’re reading this blog, chances are slim that you haven’t heard – the Alliance is running a photo contest! We want to know what ending homelessness looks like to you – in a picture!
We’ve already received many great submissions from you guys and we’re really looking to receive some more! For more information about the details of the contest, the contest rules, the judges, and a link to the submission form, keep your eyes on the blog and the website. And to browse through the entries we’ve already received, check out our Flickr album.
Don’t forget! We stop taking submissions at midnight on Friday, September 17. Between now and then, keep those picture coming!
If April is the cruelest month, then September – it seems – is the TANF month
(Okay, bad joke.)
Nonetheless, it’s been all TANF, all the time.
So here’s the story: TANF is a program that helps low-income families. It provides block grants to states and the funds are used to curb child child expenses and promote work preparation and opportunities. In the face of the recession, more and more families were in need of such assistance and the federal government created the TANF Emergency Contingency Fund – an extra pot of money that could help states with up to 80 percent of increased TANF assistance requests. States and think tanks alike have reported that the emergency fund has been a lifeline for both states and the families in those states requiring aid.
But here’s where the bad news comes in. The emergency fund is set to expire on September30 of this year if it isn’t renewed by the Senate (the House has already voted for an extension).
This seemingly innocuous little welfare program has gotten a decent amount of ink in the last few weeks. It hasn’t been the firestorm set off by Quran-burning or midterm elections, but in national and local news sources alike, stories popped up like plastic whac-a-moles.
In Connecticut, the New Haven Register ran a story about the federal program’s implications in the state. The article cited an excellent report by the Center for Budget and Policy priorities in which LaDonna Pavetti (author of the report) called TANF ECF an “effective jobs program” and that eliminating it would “put more people out of work right now.” The Register noted that emergency fund employed 6,461 people in the state. In Chicago, the Public News Service warned of “thousands of jobs to disappear by the end of September,” in a city where the emergency fund contributed to 25,000 subsidized jobs through a program called “Put Illinois to Work”.
TANF ECF also made an appearance in the Huffington Post. According to the online news source, the program is responsible for creating 240,000 jobs across the country – jobs that are in danger of vanishing when the funding dries up. The article quotes House Speaker Nancy Pelosi saying the program is “as positive an initiative for job creation as you can make,” noting that the House had passed reauthorization for the emergency fund. The article also quoted Christine Owens, director of the National Employment Law Project who said, “The emergency fund has tremendously helped states create new employment opportunities…If Congress fails to reauthorize the Fund, those subsidies will vanish along with the job opportunities they provide.”
The program even received global attention this week, with a piece in the International Business Times. Writer Manikandan Raman concludes that, “The failure to extend the program would eliminate tens of thousands of jobs and throw away an opportunity to create additional jobs.”
What can you do? Glad you asked! There’s a sliver of time left to persuade your senator to make a difference. The Alliance and other advocacy organizations are supporting the effort led by Sen. John Kerry (D – MA). The Senator is circulating a sign-on letter encouraging the Senate to pass the extension of the emergency fund. For more information about the effort – and to find out how you can contact YOUR senator – check out a previous post.
You may remember that Kim Walker of the Alliance’s Center for Capacity Building is launching a new tool to end homelessness in Nebraska. Today – while she and our colleague Sam are en route to the Lincoln, she shares thoughts for their next trip!
It’s back to Lincoln tomorrow – and this time, my fellow Capacity Building Associate, Samantha Batko, will be joining me! Our mission for the visit is to finalize the plan that Lincoln started the first time around. This will entail doing some refining of the Lincoln Homeless Coalition members’ initial ideas, particularly the five goals they chose as the most important in helping them shift their system in the direction of ending family homelessness. Last time around, there were a lot of different strategies and resources suggested to help Lincoln accomplish their goals, but now it’s time to decide which strategies and resources are the best and most promising ones. Completing a workable timeline is also of the utmost importance with this visit.
Beyond just finishing up the plan – which is no small feat – we also hope to get the group jump-started with implementation. We are hoping to get the ball rolling so by our next visit, Lincoln will be able to report some progress on each of the five goals they’ve selected. While we at the Alliance our big plans of comprehensive and thoughtful planning, what we are really after is successful implementation that gets positive results.
Until next week!
For more information about the Alliance’s Center for Capacity Building – including information about the Center’s new Ending Family Homelessness Tool and Pilot Project – please visit the website.
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: we can – and must – save the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Emergency Contingency Fund (ECF).
And we’re not the only ones that think so. In the last few days, you may have noticed that the innocuous welfare program has received an unusual amount of ink. Stories praising the job-creating program have run in the Chicago Tribune and Huffington Post – among countless other publications.
We hate to say we told you so but we did call it. This stimulus program is making a difference where it’s needed most: offering cash assistance to low-income families, providing housing aid, and subsidizing jobs. In fact, the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that the program has created 250,000 subsidized jobs for low-income parents and youth across the country.
But the program is about to come to a grinding halt. TANF ECF will expire on September 30 if Congress doesn’t act now.
We need you to tell them how.
Senator John Kerry (D-MA) is circulating a sign-on letter for his colleagues in the Senate to join. He wants them to sign the letter to urge Senate leaders to extend the ECF right away and provide a one-year, $2.5 billion extension of ECF to allow states to access additional funds and continue subsidizing jobs for low-income families and youth.
Want to know what you can do?
- Call your senators TODAY (If you don’t know the number, you can find out by calling the Congressional Switchboard at 202-224-3121).
- Ask to speak to the person who handles welfare issues for the senator.
- Urge the welfare staff member to get their boss to sign onto Senator Kerry’s sign-on letter.
But act now! The deadline for senators to join the sign-on letter is next Wednesday, September 15 at noon ET.
Today we would like to introduce you to John and Rose Bottensek who have committed themselves to the effort to end homelessness by donating a dollar to the Alliance for every copy of their new book that they sell. John is the author of of the new novel; Rose, his wife, is the editor. Read below to hear from the authors how this great movement has inspired them.
As the ongoing economic crisis continues to affect so many Americans, one of the most pressing issues that takes center stage in our minds is the plague of homelessness – an issue that has long been ignored by our American community. In fact, as I write this, I notice my spell check doesn’t even recognize it as a word. That alone speaks volumes as to the lack of recognition this issue receives.
The number of homeless where I live– Madison, Wisconsin – has actually decreased by forty percent in the past five years. I cannot offer an opinion as to why because, like most people, I haven’t paid much attention to the problem until recently.
That is not to say we don’t notice the lines outside the shelters in the evenings, some reaching around the block at times. We live in one of the most beautiful, most prosperous cities in the country. If the problem of homelessness is identifiable here, it is shameful to imagine what it must look like at on a national scale.
For my wife, Rose, and me, ignorance is no longer an acceptable state of mind.
We became familiar with the National Alliance to End Homelessness earlier this year, when my first book, “VonJanic – Legend of Arláge”, was about to go to press.
In spite of the fact that we had closed our business in 2008 when the financial markets froze up, we realized how fortunate we had been to have food on the table and a roof over our heads. Unlike so many, we had the means to weather the storm of economic uncertainty and came upon the realization that we had an obligation to share our success with those in need.
In researching the nearly endless possibilities of not-for-profits and charities, the Alliance quickly rose to the top of our list. To begin, Rose and I identified three areas that concerned us on either a national or global front: food, water, and shelter.
We examined independent ratings, scrutinized financial statements, looked at programs, and studied the missions of countless organizations.
One of the most influential elements which guided our final decision was simply the people we encountered.
The Alliance employs a staff of energetic, devoted, and sincere individuals. We are proud to count them all as not only partners in achieving victory over a national problem, but as friends.
The Alliance shares our personal belief that giving a man a fish provides a meal; teaching him to fish sustains him for a lifetime. Members of the Alliance know that simply throwing money at a problem doesn’t always solve the problem. They work to identify the best practices to end homelessness and work with communities to bring about measurable, permanent change.
We’re doing just a small part in combating this stain on the fabric of America. A one dollar donation per book sale may not seem like very much, but hopefully, each dollar is one step closer to keeping ‘homelessness’ out of spell check.
This morning, I was listening to an NPR podcast about our reliance on our digital devices. It’s the same song that’s become quite popular in the last few years – about our growing addiction to gadgets, our constant attachment to a never-ending stream of information and social networks, our world’s increasing speed and transience.
In a world of such haste, it takes discipline to slow down and take note of moments.
But this is exactly what we – with your help – are trying to accomplish with our photo contest.
I spent part of my Labor Day holiday checking out the photos people have submitted for the Alliance contest thus far. There are pictures of children, of faces, of buildings, and keys. There are pictures of families and houses and landscapes.
And in between the separate elements of the pictures – the people, the backdrop, the light – there is the moment. Somewhere in the picture a person who was once experiencing homelessness found housing. Somewhere in the picture a family resumed their lives in a stable, permanent home. Somewhere in the picture, homelessness was ended.
And while moments in this digital age zip by with hardly a status update, these are the moments that linger and define us. These are the moments that when, added up, push us towards a better reality, a richer community, a time when all people will have a safe and permanent place to call home.
For our photo contest, we’re asking you to capture these moments as they occur in your lives. So many people have already submitted their moments – but I know that there are countless more to be shared by our community of colleagues and supporters who work tirelessly everyday to end homelessness.
While we are offering prizes (see our photo contest rules), we also know that there’s an equally important end here. This is our opportunity to show that, if we’re able to slow down and take notice, we could see that homelessness is a problem with a clear and definitive solution – housing.
Thanks again for all your help in sharing that solution with the world. Can’t wait to see more of those photos.
Our friend Lornet Turnbull wrote a touching story about refugees facing homelessness in the United States. The piece highlighted the struggles of refugee families fleeing conflict areas across the world only to experience homelessness in the United States. Not only do they face the often-complicated homeless support system, they face language and cultural obstacles as well.
Merrill Balassone of McClatchy Newspapers reported more sobering news – that people experiencing homelessness and increasingly targets of crime. According to the story, “new data show homeless people nationwide were singled out in more than 1,000 attacked over the last 11 years by perpetrators motivated by anti-homeless hostility”. There is some movement (as reported in the New York Times last year and seen on change.org now) to categorize violence against people experiencing homelessness as a hate crime.
And we can’t forget about HPRP, especially not with Congress about to come back into session. The federal prevention and rapid re-housing program is still being implemented in communities across the country. And while there are reports of challenges in performance and outreach (like in Texas), there are more and more success stories everyday.
In fact, the Journal Sentinel shared a story just last week about a Harvard study that examined the effect stimulus dollars were having on evictions in Milwaukee County. The study concluded that homelessness prevention and rapid re-housing stimulus dollars had contributed to a 15 percent decrease in evictions.
From the article: “For some people, one month’s rent – often $300 or $400 – can be enough to bridge the gap for people between jobs or health emergencies…It’s a lot cheaper to prevent homelessness than to shelter a family, which is far more costly and disruptive.”
Today, we continue the meet-the-staff series with Norm Suchar, the new director of the Alliance’s Center for Capacity Building. We’ve written about the Center for the blog before – now take some time to learn about the new director!
Calling all youth advocates! We need your help! On September 15, the Alliance will be launching a year-long youth advocacy campaign aimed to educate and raise awareness about youth homelessness. The campaign will include a major push this fall for congressional members to visit local runaway and homeless youth programs across the country, in addition a big focus next spring on urging Congress to increase funding for the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act.
The site visit campaign will be launched on September 15 at 2 p.m. ET with a webinar on how to hold an effective site visit. The webinar will be a training tool for both new and old advocates, including tips for how to get congressional members to accept site visit invitations and how to use site visits to initiate lasting relationships with congressional members. Site visits are useful for both Members of Congress and local providers. They allow local advocates an opportunity to begin a long-term relationship with their congressional offices, in addition to helping Members to see first-hand how their actions in Washington impact local programs in their districts. Click here to register for the webinar.
The Alliance will work with interested advocates across the country to choose congressional targets and invite them to visit local programs. The Alliance will also help communities to plan an agenda for their site visits and otherwise make the most out of the visits to strengthen their relationships with their Members of Congress.
In the spring, the youth campaign will focus on fiscal year (FY) 2012 appropriations, with many activities aimed to urge Congress to increase funding for RHYA programs. Stay tuned for more details.
If you’re interested in taking part in any of this year’s youth advocacy campaign, please contact Amanda Krusemark (firstname.lastname@example.org).