Archive for December, 2010

30th December
2010
written by Catherine An

Okay, so there aren’t ten of them and they’re not really resolutions. Actually they’re the Alliance’s Policy Priorities for 2010.

But in this season of resolutions and top ten lists and the general consideration of things that have happened and things to come, I thought we could see them as simply this: things we can do to end homelessness.

Fully implement Opening Doors, the Federal Strategic Plan to End Homelessness

This year, the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness did an amazing thing – they wrote Opening Doors: The Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness. The document outlines strategies and goals to end veterans’ homelessness, ensure every child and family has permanent affordable housing, finish the job of ending chronic homelessness, and end youth homelessness.

If we’re able to turn each of these goals and strategies into real, effective programs, we’ll be well on our way to eradicating homelessness in the United States.

Fund HUD Homeless Assistance Grants program at $2.4 billion in FY 2011

You already know that about the the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants, the federal government’s largest investment in ending homelessness. And you already know about the HEARTH Act, the first significant program reauthorization in 20 years passed in 2009. The HEARTH Act changed funding calculations and made significant improvements to the McKinney-Vento programs, which will now provide more money for prevention and assistance to families, to rural programs, and for administration.

Meeting the $2.4 billion mark will enable communities to implement the changes mandated by the HEARTH Act and also maintain the same level of funding for new projects, including permanent supportive housing and rapid re-housing.

Fund the Administration’s Housing and Services for Homeless Persons Demonstration

This innovative new proposed program is for two voucher assistance initiatives serving people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. The program would provide 6,000 vouchers for families that are linked with services within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Department of Education, and 4,000 vouchers that are linked with Medicaid case management and substance abuse and mental health services. In addition to ensuring that people experiencing homelessness are linked with both housing and social services, it would also help agencies streamline their efforts to serve people more effectively.

Provide $1 billion to expand the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program

You’ve heard the stories: communities testify to the efficacy of HPRP. Our own quarterly reports indicate the difference that HPRP dollars are making in our Leadership Council communities.

In order to adequately address the increases in homelessness caused by the recession and potentially prevent and end homelessness for an additional 200,000 households and create an additional 2,500 jobs for housing search and stabilization specialists, we must continue to invest in this program.

Increase access to permanent, affordable housing for extremely low-income families

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: homelessness is largely a function of the inability to afford housing. In order to increase access to housing for the most vulnerable communities, we can:

Increase the availability of services linked to housing for people experiencing homelessness

With the right services coupled with housing interventions, we can increase the likelihood that people experiencing homelessness gain stability and that people at risk of experiencing homelessness don’t fall into it. There are a number of programs – including the Projects for Assistance in Transition from Homelessness (PATH) program and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) administered by HHS, that can assist vulnerable people and families.

Increase the capacity of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA) and HUD to prevent and end homelessness among veterans

Luckily for us, a lot of this is really happening. The Department of Veterans Affairs is actively working to make good on its pledge to end homelessness in five years.

We can keep up the work and the progress by enacting some bills that were being considered by Congress (before it went on recess), including: the Homeless Veterans and Other Veterans Health Care Authorities Act of 2010 (S. 1237) and the Homes for Heroes Act (S. 1160 / H.R. 403).

End homelessness for 50,000 unaccompanied youth through supportive housing, rental assistance, and services for street youth

If there’s one population that’s gained some serious traction in the last months of this year, it’s youth homelessness. We’ve noted here – and I’m sure you have too – the rapidly increasing number of stories about youth and student homelessness in communities across the country.

And while the attention is important, there are really things that we can do, including:

  • Encouraging Congress to include $165 million for the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act grant programs within HHS to expand Transitional Living opportunities and rapid re-housing activities, and to achieve enhanced family reunification through the Basic Center Programs.
  • Encourage Congress to reauthorize the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) to increase rapid re-housing and family preservation activities.
  • Encourage Congress to increase funding by $20 million within HUD in FY 2011 for the Family Unification Program to offer housing support to youth-in-transition from foster care.
27th December
2010
written by Catherine An

Happy, happy holidays!

Since we missed Friday news roundup last week, I thought we’d do a makeup today.

Legendary reporter, former chief international correspondent for CNN, and host of ABC News’s This Week Christiane Amanpour spoke with journalist Bob Woodruff about veteran homelessness.

Some of our own American heroes, as Amanpour discusses, are returning stateside to homelessness and poverty. And while the Department of Veterans Affairs and Secretary Eric Shinseki did pledge to end veteran homelessness in five years, this piece shows us how real the problem is and how much work lies ahead. Read the full article (plus video!) and check out the Alliance’s resources on veterans homelessness.

Up next: families. Maria Foscarinis, executive director of the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty and good friend of the Alliance offered her perspective on the perceived increase in the number of homeless families experiencing homelessness and what we can do to alleviate and curb this worrisome problem. Check out the article on NPR and learn more about solutions tofamily homelessness.

And now, zooming in: the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program (HPRP) has been a great program offering cash-strapped states, programs, and communities a way to provide financial assistance, housing programs, and other necessary tools to curb and end homelessness resulting from the recession. But as the Denver Post rightly points out, the funds won’t last forever. And when HPRP finishes it’s thee-year run, there will still be people and families in need of our assistance. Check out the article and help us out: what can we do after HPRP to continue our work toward ending homelessness?

And finally –a confession: I’m a podcast junkie. And Chuck and Josh of Stuff You Should Know did their last episode on “How Homelessness Works.” And – let me tell you right know – there’s plenty of stuff they get wrong but they get the major points across: homelessness is largely a function of housing affordability, homeless people are not all addicts and ill, and (most importantly!) we can end homelessness together. If you have a free half hour, check it out!

22nd December
2010
written by naehblog

The Alliance’s development department is very busy this time of year!

Not only is this the height of giving season, but the Alliance was rated as a four star charity – the highest possible rating – for the fifth year in a row by Charity Navigator, a well-known and highly regarded charity watchdog organization. (Find the Alliance’s Charity Navigator profile here.)

Yet, this holiday season arrives at a time of continued economic uncertainty. In many places across the country families and individuals are threatened with homelessness in greater numbers.

We at the Alliance know that now is the time to be innovative, creative, and find ways to do more with less. Austerity, as the newsmakers say, is the name of the today’s game – and the Alliance is stepping up to the plate. We’re investing in best practices, effective strategies, and the tools necessary to really make a dent in the numbers and a difference in the lives of those experiencing homelessness. With your help, the Alliance will continue to ensure that despite the challenges that face us, homelessness will be ended.

This year, you can 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 given on behalf of a special relative or friend. Recipients will receive a personalized holiday card notifying them of your generosity.

Gifts can be made online or by mail using our donation form (PDF).

Thank you so much for your kindness and generosity this year. Your gift to the Alliance celebrates the spirit of the holidays and contributes to proven solutions that can and will bring about an end to homelessness in America. For more information, please visit the Alliance website.

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21st December
2010
written by naehblog

Today’s guest post comes to us from Alliance research associate Pete Witte.

Today, the United States Conference of Mayors released their annual report, the 2010 “Hunger and Homelessness Survey.”

Overall, homelessness increased by 2 percent across survey cities and family homelessness increased by 9 percent.

Moreover, 27 percent of homeless people who needed assistance in the last year didn’t receive services. And given the persisting economic circumstances facing these cities, officials in over 70 percent of survey cities expect the number of homeless families to increase in the coming year.

Which is why the report’s insights on strategies, or best practices, to prevent and end homelessness, may be the most important. A number of effective strategies are outlined in the report – and the big success story mentioned over and over again is HPRP. Eleven cities noted that HPRP was effective in addressing homelessness problems in their communities.

Some key findings:

Hunger:

  • Every city surveyed reported that requests for emergency food assistance increased over the past year, and those requests increased by an average of 24 percent across the cities.
  • Among those requesting emergency food assistance, 56 percent were persons in families.
  • Unemployment led the list of causes of hunger cited by the survey cities, followed by high housing costs, low wages, poverty, and lack of access to SNAP/food stamps.

Homelessness:

  • Among households with children, unemployment led the list of causes for homelessness cited by city officials.
  • Providing more mainstream assisted housing led the list of actions needed to reduce homelessness in the survey cities.
  • Officials in 48 percent of the survey cities expect resources to provide emergency shelter to decrease over the next year.

Picture courtesy of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

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21st December
2010
written by Catherine An

Today is a big day.

It’s the first day of winter, the winter solstice, and – coincidentally – a day a lunar eclipse will be visible from North America.

It’s also National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day – one day a year when we honor those people who have died while experiencing homelessness.

Communities across the country get involved. From Asheville, NC to Ventura County, CA to Albany, OR to Jersey City, NJ, communities across the country are taking time to remember our failings and commit to doing better in the future. In Minneapolis, the community has already held a memorial, attended by hundreds in the area.

If you’re interested in holding your own service, you can visit the National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day page on the website of the National Coalition for the homeless and download a how-to manual. But as you’re doing that – and definitely do – remember that it’s up to us to remember people experiencing homelessness more than once a year.

Every night, there are approximately 640,000 people experiencing homelessness in the United State and while the winter nights might be especially hard, summer weather doesn’t make homelessness acceptable. The onus is on us to ensure that all people have a roof over their heads and the opportunity to lead fulfilling, productive lives. Make sure to stay engaged every day of the year – connect with us and stay on top of the things you can do for to end homelessness in your community, in your state, in the country.

Photo courtesy of smif.

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20th December
2010
written by Catherine An

Last week, I had the opportunity to meet with members of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness – brand new research director Kristy Greenwalt (formerly of ICF International and communications director Jason Kravitz.

We did a lot of talking about communications.

It’s always the same questions: what are the best methods to share information with lots and lots of people? How do we get information to where people are? How do we know what information to give them? How do people consumer information nowadays? And (my personal favorite) what if the information they want isn’t the information we want them to want?

Basically the same topics that haunt any thoughtful communications officer in her sleep.

But despite my fears of the 24-hour news cycle, the unwieldiness of social media, the impact – or lack thereof – of newsletters and email campaigns, I generally try to come back to two main guiding principles (fingers-crossed): a) the goals of the organization and b) the information I want to share.

And I find when I keep that in mind, my work becomes clearer.

I try to push out the great resources we have to share: our counts data, our best practices, our community snapshots, our interactive tools. We consider our audience, the ever-shortening time span of the average consumer, the best and most concise tools we have. We blog to clarify the information we send out, we link to other articles, briefs, and notes we think are useful, we comment on news that other organizations put out.

And I feel like pushing and clarifying and pushing and sharing and pushing and explaining and pushing has really helped people understand not only what we’re all about – but what we have to offer.

And the more people are able to hone their understanding of the National Alliance to End Homelessness, the more they turn to us for assistance that can really make a difference: how do I practice prevention? Who’s doing great with rapid re-housing? What federal policies are going to impact me? How do I get started with targeting?

(Questions like these make me so happy!)

And together, we move closer and closer to achieving the goal: to end homelessness in the United States.

All that to say, feel free to throw us your questions: on Twitter, on Facebook, on the blog, through good old-fashioned email. We’re always eager to answer your questions and share what we know about homelessness – and ending homelessness – with you.

You ask – and we’ll do our best to answer.

Photo courtesy of Chiceaux.

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17th December
2010
written by Catherine An

It’s a mixed bag, today, guys. And I just found out – not half an hour ago.

The good news: The VA has announced that funds are available for prevention and rapid re-housing for homeless veterans. This is the first Notice of Fund Availability (NOFA) for the Supportive Services for Veteran Families Program.

Now, you know as well as I do that the VA has been working hard this year (and last) to end veterans homelessness. Secretary Shinseki told us all about it at our Annual Conference in July, he issued a great video about it online, and made a public commitment to end veterans homelessness in five years. This move – preventing veteran homeless and utilizing rapid re-housing strategies – is a step in the right direction. You can check out the official language in the Federal Register.

The not-so-good news: The Senate omnibus appropriations bill fell apart. This legislation, which would’ve funded the federal government for FY 2011 and allocated appropriate resources to homeless assistance programs, was gaining traction only yesterday but later in the evening – dead in the water. Instead, Congress will pass a short-term continuing resolution until they can reach a decision about appropriations (likely early next year). For more information, check out our Advocacy Alerts.

The informative: Los Angeles is back in the news about their plan to end chronic and veteran homelessness. Their ambitious plan embraces some of the best practices known to curb and end homelessness and we wish them the best of luck as they move forward to implement the plan.

Steve Berg, our VP of Programs and Policy, explains the federal homeless assistance programsto theAtlanta Journal Constitution’s PolitiFact column. A Republican legislator noted that redundancy in homeless assistance programs, to which Steve countered that there’s a reason why each program exists. That and, considering homelessness still exists all across the country (just as LA), there’s clearly need for a little redundancy in these programs. Trust me, it’s more complicated than it seems.

In Seattle, Judy Lightfoot at CrossCut wrote a long-form article on the state of homelessness in King County, WA. Read it to find out more about King County’s strategies – and what Nan thinks about their progress.

Happy Friday and be well!

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16th December
2010
written by naehblog

Today’s guest blog post comes from Abe Oudshoorn, RN, PhD(c), Year 4 Coordinator, School of Nursing, The University of Western Ontario.

After spending three years on a Dissertation research study about homelessness and health care, I realized that I nearly missed the point.

I am a registered nurse by trade, and my clinical background is working with people who are experiencing homelessness in a community-based clinic. Based on my observations of the importance of healthy client-provider relationships, I set out to study these relationships, and particularly how power comes into play in health care relationships.

I had a lot to work with going into the study: I knew that people who are experiencing homelessness face the worst morbidity rates in Canada, I knew that homeless persons face multiple barriers to accessing health care, and I knew that negative attitudes of health professionals have consistently been identified as the primary barrier to care for homeless people.

So I did my study, and – sure enough – I heard and saw much conflict in client-provider relationships. But when I set about to write, my committee members asked about how policy impacts on my findings.

And this is what I almost missed: Indeed, health providers do use and abuse control with homeless clients, but much of the workplace context is beyond their control.

For example, in the clinic I was studying, there were very limited resources (socks, bus tickets, food and clothing) and providers were expected to police these resources. And the limited resources weren’t just a local policy issue; they reflected broader budgeting practices and what is valued in terms of demonstrating cost-effective health outcomes.

Therefore, rather than concluding that health professionals just need to be nicer in working with people who are experiencing homelessness, I believe we all need to reflect more on the health and social policies that frame our work. The policy context will always define what we can do and how we can do it, so we need to make sure that this policy context is optimally suited to doing the type of work that we know is best with our clients. Therefore, I believe that all health professionals need to be engaged in social and political action, creating or refining policies to shape the practice context we want to see.

For more information and reflections, Abe blogs regularly at www.abeoudshoorn.com/blog, or you can follow Abe on twitter @abeoudshoorn.

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15th December
2010
written by naehblog

Yesterday, the Senate Appropriations Committee released a draft proposal for fiscal year (FY) 2011 appropriations, which includes funding for many homeless assistance programs.

The Senate proposal includes the following:

In short: this is great news for the homeless assistance programs we want to support!

The Senate is expected to vote on this package this week – possibly as soon as tomorrow, so we need your help!

What You Can Do:

  1. Call your senators TODAY. In case you can’t find it online, you can find congressional office phone numbers by calling the switchboard at 202-224-3121.
  2. Ask to speak to the person who works on housing and tell the housing staff person to urge his/her boss to support the funding levels for the homelessness assistance programs listed above.
  3. Email any responses to Kate Seif (or call: 202-942-8281).

Background
You know the story: Congress is trying to figure out how to allocate federal dollars – it’s commonly known as “appropriations”. It’s a legislative battle every year – and we’ve asked for your help before. We’ve asked you to support McKinney-Vento funding, assistance to homeless veterans, extension of the TANF Emergency Contingency Fund, and lots of other really important programs.

And right now is exactly the time when we can make a difference. Congress must complete the appropriations process by Saturday, Dec. 18 – it’s when the government technically runs out of money.

So act fast! This is our moment. And, of course, thanks for all your help!

Photo courtesy of the Michigan Municipal League (MML).

14th December
2010
written by Catherine An

Today is the last day to contribute to the Alliance through the http://www.cfcnca.org/!

If you are a federal employee, please consider supporting the Alliance through the CFC, #10022. The Alliance is participating in this year’s campaign under the Human Care Charities of America Federation. Look for our listing, “Homelessness, National Alliance to End,” #10022 in your CFC pledge book and on your local campaign website.

While each holiday season brings an influx of generous contributions, this year is especially important. The flailing economy has produced the winds of a perfect story: increasing need and diminishing resources. Advocates, services providers, friends, and colleagues have all shared with us the same stories – increased use of shelter, food banks, and assistance programs. Increased incidence of doubling up, unemployment, and unsheltered homelessness. Decreased availability of state funds, charitable donations, and financial supports.

This is the time to do what we can to provide for those less fortunate than ourselves.

Please do what you can to support the Alliance. For more information about giving to the Alliance – or to find other ways to give – please visit the website.

We couldn’t do our work without you – thank you so much!

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