Archive for January, 2011

14th January
written by Catherine An

As you know, it was a big week for us! On Wednesday, we released The State of Homelessness in America at a press conference at the National Press Club and we had our fingers-crossed that people would care – and respond.

And to our delight, they did!

Our new friend Henri Cauvin at the Washington Post does a great job in summing up the major findings of the report (which you can also find here) and noting the major trends that go through the report. One of the important concerns, Cauvin notes, is the unease moving forward as strapped state budgets try to serve more people with fewer resources – which is probably exactly why Governing magazine ran the story as well.

Doubled up was the story for the Huffington Post. Reporter Laura Bassett points to housing prices and unemployment as key motivators of the 12 percent increase in doubling up; something that Susan Campbell also pointed out in the Hartford Courant.

Nan got an opportunity to voice her own thoughts about the report – not just on CSPAN but as an editorial contributor for the DC paper, The Hill. In it, she waxes positive, noting: “With adequate and well-targeted federal policy and resources to support local ingenuity and determination, we can ensure that increased homelessness is not another sad legacy of the economic recession.”

And the truth is, that is the right moral of the story. While the data may shown a grim picture, the point – dear friends – is that we have the information necessary to prevent and end homelessness right now.

Did our report get covered in your paper? Let us know – we might’ve missed it! And we’ll be sure to include it in our clips!

13th January
written by Catherine An

So here’s the headliner: the recession contributed to an increase in overall homelessness from 2008 to 2009, and family households experienced the largest percentage increase. The increases, coupled with worsening economic and demographic indicators of homelessness, paint an austere picture of The State of Homelessness in America.

Other Major Findings:

  • The nation’s homeless population increased by approximately 3 percent from 2008 to 2009. The largest percentage increase among subpopulations was in the number of family households experiencing homelessness, which increased by over 4 percent. In Mississippi, the number of people in homeless families increased by 260 percent.
  • The doubled up population increased by 12 percent to more than 6 million people from 2008 to 2009. In Rhode Island the number increased by 90 percent; in South Dakota the number more than doubled.
  • Nearly three-quarters of all U.S. households with incomes below the federal poverty line spent over 50 percent of monthly household income on rent. Forty states saw an increase in the number of poor households experiencing severe housing cost burden from 2008 to 2009.
  • California, Florida, and Nevada – states known to have been disproportionately impacted by the recent housing crisis – have high rates of homelessness and high rates of unemployment, foreclosure, housing cost burden, lack of insurance, and doubling up.
  • People in doubled up living situations, released from incarceration, and aged out of foster care are twice as likely to experience homelessness than the average poor person; these populations are twenty times as likely to experience homelessness as the average American.

So the verdict is: the state of homelessness isn’t great.

In fact, Nan points out, “These findings project what depressed wages, stagnant unemployment, unrelenting housing cost burden, and the lagging pace of economic recovery really means: increases in homelessness and heightened risk of homelessness for more and more Americans.”

Which is why it’s time for us to renew our commitment to ending homelessness.

As the new Congress and the Administration work to revitalize the American economy, it’s our job to make it clear that must include homelessness interventions in the recovery strategy – clearly, as these data show, curbing and ending homelessness is a critical part of economic recovery.

Want more? Check out the report online.

12th January
written by Catherine An

If you weren’t there, you missed it big!

The Alliance hosted a press conference this morning to release The State of Homelessness in America, a first-of-it’s-kind comprehensive examination into homelessness counts, economic indicators, demographic factors, and policy recommendations.

We were delighted and honored to be joined by Senator Jack Reed (D – RI) and consumer advocate Ebony Roscoe of Community of Hope. Both were able to provide unique perspectives on homelessness – and the solutions to this social problem.

Photos from the event will be up on our Facebook page soon and you can access the report online. And you better believe that in the weeks to come, we’ll be dissecting findings, themes, and trends from the report on this blog!

Stay tuned!

11th January
written by Catherine An

Hello blog buddies!

As a very special treat, we’re giving you the scoop – so listen up.

The Alliance is very pleased and very proud to present The State of Homelessness in America, a thorough, in-depth, first-of-its-kind examination into homelessness across the country.

And it’s not just another Counts report – we’ve taken it to the next level! This year, not only do we review the changes in homelessness at the national and state levels from 2008 and 2009, we’ve also thrown in some indicators.

Acknowledging the interest in the recession’s impact on homelessness, the considerable roles that economic factors play in homelessness, and the existence of specific demographic groups at increased risk of homelessness, we’ve also analyzed factors associated with homelessness. They include: severe housing cost burden, real income, unemployment, foreclosure, lack of insurance, doubling up, youth aging out of homelessness, and release from incarceration.

(Yup – it’s a hefty read).

In the days following, we’ll be digging deeper into our findings and the implications of those findings. You can follow this series of posts by clicking on “The State of Homelessness” category below. But until then, enjoy this special, exclusive, for-our-blog-readers-only advance of the report. You can find it online here.

10th January
written by Catherine An

During a meeting today, Nan mentioned, “homelessness isn’t divorced from all of this.”

And by “all of this,” Nan primarily meant the recession but she also meant the environmental factors that we all witness: rising unemployment, weakened job market, depressed wages, rising housing costs, and all those other economic and social factors that may or may not be a part of an overall recession.

And of course this is true. Not only are all these factors associated with homelessness (they, in fact, contribute to homelessness) but people experiencing homelessness – and those at-risk of homelessness – face these factors just like all people. In fact, the impact of these factors often weigh most heavily on our more vulnerable friends and neighbors who have fewer economic means and a much smaller safety net than other Americans.

As many of you know, the Alliance is preparing to launch a new report entitled, The State of Homelessness in America analyzing homelessness counts and trends from 2008 to 2009. Asides from our regular counts data, we’ll be including four economic indicators and four demographic drivers in the report, including:

  • unemployment
  • severe housing cost burden
  • real income
  • foreclosure
  • doubling up
  • aging out of foster care
  • lack of insurance
  • discharge from incarceration.

We found, as you might imagine, a number of interesting trends when analyzing these factors but one of the key morals of the story is just the point Nan made this morning: homelessness does not exist in a vacuum. It is far from the foreign, alien phenomenon that affects the indigent and incompetent.

It is a tragedy that exists as one part of our community – and one that we can end.

For more insights – and to see what exactly we found out about those factors – don’t’ miss the Alliance’s release of The State of Homelessness in America. For a sneak peek, check out our website.

7th January
written by Catherine An

Happy New Year, friends! We’re so excited to be back!

So – first and foremost we’ve been asked to tell you this little nugget of news: on Tuesday, Jan. 11, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is hosting a webinar at 3 p.m. ET on the requirement for the 2011 point-in-time counts. Speakers will also discuss federal partnerships and participants will be able to ask questions. But to get on the call, you have to register.

In other industry news, as many of you know, the Alliance is releasing a new report on homelessness on Wednesday, January 12. If you want a short summary of the report, check out the recording of our webinar. If you want to join us for the press conference unveiling the awesome new document, let me know on our Facebook page.

And that’s the business end of things.

In the news media world, both the Dallas Morning News and KARE 11 in Minnesota, MN wrote about new faces of homelessness: the first about families and the second about a community-wide increase in people experiencing homelessness. It goes to show that regardless of what they might say about the recession, there are still people in need across the country.

In other news, the good people of New Jersey have proposed a fee system to raise money for homeless assistance services. The Record wrote a great article in support of the County Homelessness Trust Fund Act where they note: “Homelessness costs society. We pay for it one way or another, whether through higher health insurance rates to cover emergency room visits or higher taxes to cover jail costs. And it isn’t just financial. We pay for it through the lost potential of homeless children with uneven schooling, the lost production of homeless workers who have to skip work and the lost security of a once-healthy neighborhood whose residents have been kicked out by the banks. In the face of all that, skip the latte and pay the fee.”

And could we go this week without mentioning Ted Williams? The man experiencing homelessness was discovered by the a videographer for the Columbus Dispatch and since then, he’s been offered voiceover jobs by the Cleveland Cavaliers and Kraft Foods, been on the Today show, “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon”, and “The Last Word With Laurence O’Donnell”.

And while the story is certainly a beautiful and unlikely one, it seems most media sources have missed the moral here. As our own Nan Roman remarks, “Ted Williams’ story of bad luck and bad decisions is shared by other homeless people; and the solutions to his homelessness – a job and a home – would equally work for them.”

Hear hear! For more information about Ted, check out the NYT piece.

Photo courtesy of the Associated Press. Taken from the Republican.

5th January
written by naehblog

Today’s post comes to us from Kim Walker.

It’s that time again! It’s T – five weeks (!) until the Alliance’s National Conference on Ending Family Homelessness, set this year in Oakland, Calif.

For you veterans out there, you know that the Alliance strives to make the conference as informative, interesting, and useful as possible, chock full of workshops, meetings, plenary sessions, and group discussions. (Seriously – check out this year’s agenda.)

And we’re not planning on disappointing in February! In fact, the Alliance’s Center for Capacity Building is taking it up a notch and offering a day-long Rapid Re-Housing for Families clinic at the February conference.

Rapid re-housing is a strategy focused on returning people experiencing homelessness to permanent housing as quickly as possible by eliminating their barriers to obtaining and retaining permanent housing. Doing this effectively requires the careful implementation of a number of strategies, including effective housing search and location, landlord engagement, and home-based case management.

Needless to say, it’s not always easy – and that’s where we want to help. Our clinic will review the nuts and bolts of rapid re-housing and include interactive activities and discussions to ensure participants leave with a clear idea of how to make their rapid re-housing program more successful.

We’re capping registration at 100, so be sure you register now! We think that this clinic will be a great way to kick of the conference (it’s slated for Wednesday, Feb. 9 starting at 9:30 a.m.) and really get participants energized for the workshops and sessions to come! And as a note: all clinic participants must be registered for our conference before signing up for the clinic.

If you have any questions about the clinic, feel free to send them to Kim Walker. We can’t wait to see you there!

4th January
written by naehblog

This January, every Continuum of Care (CoC) in the United States will be conducting a point-in-time count of their homeless population. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) wants an accurate count of all people experiencing homelessness in a community – so they require communities to submit a count when they apply for homeless assistance funding.

Trouble is, we’re not getting the full picture. All too often, unaccompanied youth (kids not with their parents), get overlooked during these counts.

Communities have found that young people (under the age of 25) don’t behave like their adult counterparts: they don’t congregate in the same areas, they don’t always access the same services, they just can’t be found in the same places. So to get an accurate count of the total homeless population, communities must develop a strategy specifically targeting unaccompanied homeless youth.

Why, you ask? That’s a great question. Because we know that point-in-time counts are no picnic. We know communities are already expending tremendous resources to conduct counts. We know that asking communities develop yet another program to count specifically unaccompanied youth can seem cumbersome. We get it, we know, it’s not easy.

But they’re our kids. We all know they’re out there, we all know they need our help. Research has demonstrated that youth experiencing homelessness are at higher risk of experiencing violence, abuse, exploitation, and a host of other dangers. But we still don’t have enough evidence to back it up; in order to make the case that resources are needed to serve unaccompanied children and youth, we need better data.

After all, in order to find a solution, you first have to understand the problem.

So we put it to you: this January, take the extra step to ensure that you count unaccompanied youth. Engage local nonprofits serving at-risk and vulnerable youth, work with schools and other organizations connected with young people. Make sure to tap into the resources that are already out there; people and groups already interacting with this population.

Counting homeless youth may not be easy – but it’s an imperative part of ending homelessness. If you need help or more information, don’t hesitate to contact us. It’s why we’re here!

Photo courtesy of Orin Zebest.

3rd January
written by Catherine An

I’m dreading going to the gym today.

At the beginning of every year, packs of “resolutionaries” flood my gym with their new year’s goals to get fit and stay in shape. As a long-time disciple of the church of exercise, my mind silently hurls obscenities at these fair-weather fretters counting their inches and pounds and crowding the cardio machines and classes for as few as four weeks.

But resolutions, when they’re manageable and achievable and honest, can be excellent goals to guide the year. With tenacity and perseverance, resolutions can help us make real, lasting changes in our lives.

So here’s what the Alliance is proposing for our new year’s resolution: we resolve to be at the table.

At a meeting hosted by our friends at the National Housing Conference late last year, I had the opportunity to listen to liberal and conservative experts discuss the midterm elections. They discussed how it was reported in the news, who won and who lost, what issues were most salient, and what it means for the future of the country. Leaders in the housing field were present to ask questions and seek insight and solicit guidance.

And while rhetoric and reason alike floated around the room, there was one comment that stuck in my mind. A conservative analyst (and I’m paraphrasing here) said this: “the housing community was simply not at the table.”

And what I think he meant was that we had not done our job to make housing and homelessness a relevant national issue.

When we consider the big issues of our day – civil rights, immigration, terrorism, environmentalism, health care – does housing and poverty pop up on that list? When you skim the news for snippets on pressing national matters, do you find an article about supportive or affordable housing? When debating with your friends about the issue that the new Congress should address first, do they mention homelessness?

I’m gonna guess no.

And yet, homelessness and housing affect everyone. Over half a million people experience homelessness on any given night; countless more experience homelessness over the course of a year. And the net gets even wider when you include people at risk: people experiencing housing cost burden, doubling up with family and friends, and facing unemployment.

It is our job, as advocates and leaders in the field, to show our friends, neighbors, and leaders that this is an issue that needs to be on the national agenda. This is an issue that faces all Americans. This is an issue in urgent need of our attention.

This year, at the Alliance, we resolve to do better. We resolve to do our part to make homelessness and housing a real, national priority. This year, we resolve to do our part to end homelessness in America.

Photo courtesy of Amodiovalerio Verde.