Archive for November, 2010

30th November
written by Catherine An

The Alliance just put out a huge (seriously, it’s hefty) toolkit – what we’re calling the Columbus Model.

So here’s the thing: Columbus, OH is really good at ending homelessness. Really, they’ve done all the right things: focused on prevention, implemented rapid re-housing techniques, encouraged excellent data collecting – all the things that make a program measurably successful. They’re so good, in fact, that we published a community snapshot on their 46 percent decrease in homelessness a few years ago.

And they’re still at it! With laser-focus on performance measurement and performance evaluation of both their community-wide homeless assistance system and their individual programs, Columbus has managed to really focus on improving assistance and reducing homelessness.

Lucky for you, we’ve distilled the lessons learned in this community and we’re sharing them with you so that you can implement them in yours! Our four-part profile of the Columbus Model includes:

We’ve also included tools and samples that you can download and adapt for your own community.

Why do you care? You care because next year, the Department of Housing and Urban Development is going to get serious about the outcomes laid out in the HEARTH Act (that’s the reauthorization of the McKinney Vento Grants) – and communities everywhere are going to have to shape up to meet those outcomes. One of the great things about the Columbus Model is that it already meets many of the outcomes laid out in the HEARTH Act – Columbus works on reducing the length of stay, preventing loss of housing, encouraging rapid re-housing, housing stability, data collection, performance measurement, and a number of the other goals that will be required upon the implementation of the HEARTH Act.

We hope you find this model helpful – please feel free to peruse the articles and download the supplemental tools and guidelines. For more information abou the model, or to learn more about the Alliance’s Center for Capacity Building, please email us.

29th November
written by Catherine An

This morning, while compiling the weekend’s clips, I noticed a number of news stories about homeless youth.

Niche topics in this field all have their time: In January, it’s about community counts, in February it can be about the cold and shelters; you can count on a slew of stories about veterans in November and stories urging charity and philanthropy once the holidays roll around. But the last few weeks have been unusual – stories from North Carolina and Wisconsin and Virginia and Ohio about homeless young people.

And it’s about time.

We’ve talked about it before (well, Jeremy has.) Youth homelessness is an issue that’s often overlooked and under-examined. Youth, in that no man’s land between child and adult, can baffle homeless assistance providers who often deal with single adults or families. Unaccompanied youth – sometimes youth who age out of the foster care system or exit the juvenile justice system or run away from home – can be faced with an overwhelming dearth of services available to them once they find themselves homeless.

And it’s the perfect time to address such a problem.

The Alliance has kicked off an effort encouraging communities to include youth in next January’s point-in-time counts – and we’re also smack in the middle of a site visit campaign, encouraging local service providers to invite their Members of Congress to drop by and observe their assistance programs. Making the issue real – by collecting data and engaging an audience – can demonstrate the importance of a cause and encourage people to focus on real solutions.

Youth homelessness is an issue that’s too long stood in the background – but now is an opportunity to do something productive. Tell us about youth homelessness in your area – are there programs in your neighborhood making a difference?

26th November
written by naehblog

Today’s guest blogger is the Alliance’s own development officer, Elizabeth Doherty.

Today, all our inner shopaholics come out as we hasten to get a jump on holiday shopping. And while stores of all stripes are pitching their ideas of the perfect holiday gift, I would like to share an alternative idea with you.

This year, give your loved ones a meaningful gift through the Alliance’s holiday giving program. Donations made between now and the end of the year can be designated on behalf of a special relative or friend. These gifts will honor your loved one while also supporting vital work to prevent and end homelessness.

The individual or individuals honored by your gift will receive a personalized holiday card notifying them of your generosity.

Unfortunately, during these times of continued economic uncertainty, many people find themselves without a place of their own. By supporting our work today, you can ensure our efforts to house these individuals continues.

Our sincerest thanks for your support!

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24th November
written by Catherine An

‘Tis the season to be thankful. And instead of launching into a lecture about how we should all take notice of those less fortunate and give back to our communities (and we should on both counts), we thought we’d be slightly more introspective this Thanksgiving.

So below is a list of the things that the Alliance is thankful for this year. We’re all too aware that we can’t end homelessness alone and we thought we’d take this opportunity to show our gratitude.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone – our warmest wishes to you and yours.

  • Local partners and advocates.
    Like news and politics, homelessness is local. The on-the-ground direct service providers, the community leaders, the local organizations implementing solutions and plans, the individual advocates that take this issue up with their neighborhoods and cities – these are the champions of our cause. Thank you so much for your courageous, ceaseless efforts!
  • Individual Donors.
    We know that you have the freedom to choose how and to whom to give and we’re so grateful to the individual donors who have chosen to give to the Alliance. Your contribution makes our work possible.
  • Board of Directors.
    Great, supportive leadership is hard to come by and the Alliance is lucky to have a Board of Directors that has always been the backbone of our organization. Our warmest thanks to you all this Thanksgiving!
  • Senators Kit Bond and Chris Dodd.
    These two retiring senators have been our legislative heroes – authoring and supporting policies that aimed to end homelessness in America. We have long admired their dedication to the most vulnerable Americans and their leadership will be sorely missed.
  • Our national partners.
    Ending homelessness isn’t something to do alone. The Alliance is honored to work with other national organizations dedicated to improving the lives of all Americans. Our thanks to the National Center for Housing and Child Welfare, the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, the National Low Income Housing Coalition, the National Housing Conference, the National Law Center for Homelessness and Poverty, the National Network for Youth, the Urban Institute, the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth, and so many countless others.
  • Reporters.
    We get it. News is getting faster, media budgets are getting smaller, fewer people are left in the journalism field, and the deck couldn’t be stacked more against you. We know – the news business is getting cutthroat. Which is why we appreciate it when reporters take a moment to cover the very unsensational, the very unsexy, the very sobering topic of homelessness. It’s no Prince-William-and-Kate-Middleton story, but it’s definitely worth a little ink.
  • Foundations.
    Fannie Mae, the Freddie Mac Foundation, the Melville Charitable Trust, the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have contributed generously in support of our work. With their assistance, we have made strides to end homelessness in America.
  • Alliance networks.
    Yeah, we’re talking about you! All of you – newsletter recipients, Facebook friends, Twitter followers, blog readers, all of you! – you’re at the heart of this organization. We’re about ending homelessness and we hope that as you follow us, you come to realize that it’s not just something that we should do, it’s something we can do. Like we said, homelessness – like news and politics – is local. You guys are the ones pushing the issue forward in your communities, sharing with your friends and neighbors, and doing the hard work it takes to encourage a community to make tough decisions.

We’re ending homelessness together – and we’re thankful for your help!

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23rd November
written by naehblog

Today’s guest post comes to us from Alliance Advocacy intern Jeremy Nichols.

As you already know (because we wrote about it last month), The Alliance’s Advocacy team has been asking you guys to get involved in the Youth Site Visit Campaign.

And thanks to you, we’re rolling right along! So far, 16 communities have committed to conducting site visits, from places like Maryland, Illinois, California, and Pennsylvania. The amount of time and dedication put in by our partners in the field has been amazing and it’s been a real pleasure to be a part of the campaign!

In case you forgot what the Youth Site Visit Campaign was all about, here’s a little refresher: over the holiday season, homelessness assistance providers have asked Members of Congress to come out and get a first-hand look at all of the good their programs are doing for at-risk youth in the community

Often just outside the scope of media attention, youth homelessness is a serious problem in the United States, with an estimate of 50,000 youth living on the streets.

What can we do to fix this? First, we need to increase awareness and get key decision-makers to understand that this a much larger issue than many people initially think. And that’s where you come in.

With the Youth Site Visit Campaign, we hope to:

  • Raise awareness among Members of Congress about the issue of youth homelessness
  • Strengthen local relationships with Members of Congress from across the country
  • Encourage Congress to increase funding for Runaway and Homeless Youth Act (RHYA) programs.

This is a great opportunity – around the holidays, when elected officials are home and good will permeates the season – to engage in campaigns like this that really aim to make a difference.

If you’d still like to get involved, it isn’t too late! Thanksgiving isn’t the only time site visit can be held; any day of the year is the perfect opportunity to put youth homelessness on the radar of your Member of Congress. If you would like to get involved and invite a member of Congress to visit your youth program, let us know! We’ll help you figure out how to get the process started.

22nd November
written by Catherine An

So, we know it’s not Friday but we’ve got big surprises headed your way this Thanksgiving week so we’ve decide to do a Monday News Roundup (I know – we’re living right on the edge!)

In honor of the holidays quickly approaching, we thought we’d do a quick recap of the efforts being made across the country to provide homeless assistance services to our friends and neighbors in need – and summarize how great the need has become during these troubled economic times.

Topping the news of the season is the city of Los Angeles. I know we’ve talked about it before, but it’s worth a second note that the city, which has long struggled with its homeless population, released an ambitious plan to end chronic homelessness. The plan, supported by business leaders in the area, has the potential to permanently house some of the most vulnerable homeless people and measurably reduce homelessness in a city that has been called that “homeless capital of the nation.”

Youth homelessness seems to have hit a stride in the news cycle. While a few stories have percolated over the year, the issue seems to have reached the top of the collective media consciousness in recent weeks: on Monday alone, there were at least five stories on the subject across the county. While the issue of youth homelessness still requires research study, the gravity of the situation needs an equal amount of attention. Youth represent an overlooked and often underserved homeless population – one that we have the capacity and responsibility to help. Kudos to the news media for paying special notice to this important group.

Unfortunately, need is always met with appropriate resources. Along with the stories about youth homelessness on Monday came a rash of stories about lack of aid. In states from New Hampshire to Massachusetts to Washington, journalists detailed the rising need of services coupled with the declining supply. This time of financial instability, strapped state budgets, and high unemployment seems to present a perfect storm for the most economically vulnerable among us.

This is exactly why solution-focused, cost-effective, and practical conversations about social problems – like homelessness – are so important year round. So while you may be paying particular attention to homelessness this winter, make sure to try it remember before Turkey Day 2011.

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19th November
written by Anna Blasco

This week was National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week and the news was filled with fantastic events across the country. In scanning the headlines I discovered a reoccurring theme: college students have been some of the main movers and shakers. As a (somewhat) recent grad myself, it is great to see students making a difference in their communities.

“Sometimes it is easy to get caught up in a world where you think your tests and papers are the biggest problems going on,” says a senior at the University of Colorado who was helping organize a “Hunger Banquet.”  How true.

Students at Coastal Carolina University, the University of Iowa, and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas all made headlines with “sleep out” events coupled with food or volunteer drives. Indian University students raised funds and awareness in a manner befitting a college town like Bloomington: with an indie-rock concert.

I hope during these events the students paused to consider if any of their classmates had previously or were currently experiencing homelessness. As education costs continue to rise we hear increasingly about financially-strapped college student struggling to meet the most basic needs – including food and housing.

A number of these events across the country did a great job of focusing on the most vital question: how do we end homelessness? In Rock Hill, SC the hot topic was the need for housing for people living with HIV. “I’ve heard it many times,” says Anita Case, ED of Catawba Care Coalition, “housing is health care.” Students at Mary Baldwin College also aimed not only to raise awareness, but uncover solutions as well.

Did you miss out on these events? Don’t worry, there is still plenty you can do to help!

16th November
written by Catherine An

As my friends in the development world would say, it’s giving season. Which is a really a euphemistic way of saying this is the time of year when nonprofits amp up their donor appeals and people get into the holiday spirit by contributing to the lives and livelihoods of those less fortunate.

Here at the Alliance, we’re lucky to have the opportunity to work with a range of people interested in ending homelessness in their own unique ways. We learn about movies and documentaries on homelessness, hear about bike rides across the country to raise awareness about homelessness, work with nonprofits and private companies alike interested in engaging the public about homelessness, and we correspond with writers who want to publicize their books on the issue.

Latest in that last category is Jay Levy, an LICSW who has spent the last two decades working with individuals experiencing homelessness. He’s been a key contributor to homeless assistance efforts in Massachusetts and is currently working with Eliot CHS-Homeless Services as a regional manager.

His book, Homeless Narratives & Pretreatment Pathways, is based on his years in the field and shares the stories of not only Jay’s experiences, but those of the people he’s assisted. Find out more about book on his website. Massachusetts fans can also attend a reading this Thursday, Nov. 18 at Boswell Books in Shelburne Falls. (A note of disclosure: Jay is donating 15 percent of the book’s proceeds to the Alliance.)

In this holiday season, there are a number of things you can do to help end homelessness.

Among our favorites is to join the Food & Shelter campaign hosted by our friends Great Nonprofits. It’s quick and easy and costs absolutely nothing but a few minutes.

During this month, Great Nonprofits is featuring national organizations dedicated to ending homelessness and fighting hunger. If you’re familiar with any such organization (like us!) you can go on the site and review it (works a lot like Yelp).

Your review will help other people better understand the organization, spread the word about the organization, and elevate the organization’s ranking. It’s a great, simple way to help out an organization you want to support.

Wanna know more? Let us know by leaving a comment!

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15th November
written by Pete Witte

Today’s post comes to us from Pete Witte, research assistant at the Alliance.

When I was a child, I loved Shel Silverstein’s poem, “Smart,” about a boy who took his father’s one dollar bill and – through a series of misguided trades – he wound up with five pennies.

Besides offering poetic charm, “Smart” also teaches a nice lesson: bigger (numbers of coin) doesn’t equal better (value).

The poem’s logic could apply to the national conception of growth and development as it relates to gross domestic product (GDP).

Here’s a new idea: Instead of simply aiming to grow GDP bigger—which can have the effect of leaving behind our least fortunate, such as people experiencing homelessness, but instead should seek to become better—developing and improving the well-being and access to opportunity for all Americans.

In short: America needs to consider other measures to conceptualize human development.

A recently released report, The Measure of America 2010-2011: Mapping Risks and Resilience, offers an alternative with the American Human Development (HD) Index.

The HD Index measures health, education, and income. Released by the American Human Development Project of the Social Science Research Council, the report presents easy-to-understand and compelling data broken down by geography at the national, state, and congressional district levels, as well as data by groupings of people (i.e. women and men, ethnic groups, etc.).

Some of the data findings paint a stark picture of disparities between groups of Americans, including:

  • The average U.S. infant mortality rate is 7 deaths in 1,000 births; the rate in Tensas Parish, Louisiana is 45 in 1,000;
  • Whites living in Washington, D.C. live an average of 12 years longer than African Americans living in Washington, D.C.;
  • In Nevada, 30 percent of 3- and 4-year olds are enrolled in preschool; In New Jersey, that number is 70 perecnt;
  • A mere 54 percent of adults over 25 have completed high school in the Houston area;
  • The median income among women is $11,000 less than men;
  • An African American worker in Maryland earns $16,000 per year more than the typical African American worker in Louisiana.

If you’re like me, these statistics lead to an obvious question: “So what now?”

And for me, the answer lies somewhere around acknowledging the disparity in opportunity. What’s eminently clear after reading this report, after serving as an urban planner, while learning about homelessness, while conducting research about housing and the economy and race and poverty is that not everyone is born into the same circumstances. And that disparity – that disparity of opportunity – can dramatically affect a person’s life.

And homelessness is no exception. Study after report after survey have found that the stability that a permanent home offers is the foundation for a person’s potential; it’s the basis for family, for employment, for recovery. And in the homelessness field, it’s up to us—advocates, social service providers, policy- and decision-makers, journalists and bloggers, and researchers alike—to continue to work toward promoting better opportunity for those that have fallen behind and those that are experiencing homelessness!, no matter the circumstance.

We can end homelessness. It’s not “smart,” it’s better.

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12th November
written by naehblog

This week we conversations across the country turned to a topic we all too often neglect: the folks who have served our country. When we paused to take stock of the state of our veterans this past week, we realized just how much more we owed our nation’s heroes.

The Center for American Progress (CAP), for example, posted a by-the-numbers roundup that sheds light on the myriad difficulties facing our service members.

An excerpt:

  • 107,000 veterans are homeless on any given night, according to 2009 estimates from the Veterans Administration.
  • About one-third of homeless adult Americans are veterans, even though only about one-tenth of all adults are veterans.
  • Foreclosure rates in military towns increased at four times the national average in 2008.

The stress that our veterans are under financially no doubt adds to their staggering rate of suicide. As CAP reports, “data from the Department of Veterans Affairs shows that each month there are an average of 950 suicide attempts by veterans under the care of the VA.” NPR also shed light on this tragic trend, citing the more than 120 U.S. Army troops who have killed themselves this year.

Although these statistics are truly appalling, it is important to remember that solutions  to veteran homelessness exist. Which is exactly what our President, Nan Roman, pointed out on the Huffington Post yesterday.

Between the Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness and Secretary Shinseki’s pledge to end veteran homelessness in five years, we are well on our way to making a critical improvement in the lives of those who have served our country. We are, as Nan says, in “a unique position to put an end to veteran homelessness.” She concludes, “We cannot allow this opportunity to pass. Homeless veterans, their families, and their communities are counting on us to persevere.”

And persevere we must. It’s always in this season – as the holidays approach – that we pause to show gratitude for the things we have and generosity to people who are not as fortunate. And however inspiring the holiday spirit can be, we remind ourselves that there should be no specific season for kindness and understanding.

Thanks for your time, guys! We’ll check in again next week!

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