Archive for February, 2011

10th February
written by Anna Blasco

We have more information about veteran homelessness than we have ever had thanks to a report released today by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) – “Veteran Homelessness: A Supplement to the 2009 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress.”’

First, some major findings from the report:

  • An estimated 136,334 veterans spent at least one night in an emergency shelter or transitional housing program between October 1, 2008 and September 30, 2009; or 1 of every 168 veterans.
  • Veterans are overrepresented among the homeless population. Approximately 10 percent of all people who experienced homelessness over the year identified themselves as veterans.
  • Minorities are over represented among homeless veterans. Rates of homelessness among veterans living in poverty are particularly high for veterans identifying as Hispanic/Latino (1 in 4) or African American (1 in 4).
  • One-half of homeless veterans on a single night are located in just four states: California (26 percent), Florida (9 percent), New York (8 percent), and Texas (7 percent).

I was very interested to see how much the risk for becoming homeless varied among sub-populations. Veterans, the report noted, have higher median incomes than the U.S. average. But once a veteran slips into poverty, they are more likely to become homeless. Although there are a small number of female veterans, they are even more at risk than male veterans. They are actually twice as likely to experience homelessness than not.

The report also shows that young veterans – those most likely to be discharged from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan – are a high-risk population. There may be a lag time, however, between becoming a veteran and experiencing homelessness, meaning we may see higher rates of homelessness among veterans of these two wars in the future. This will definitely be something to watch.

Top image courtesy of Kate Gardiner.

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9th February
written by Catherine An

I waitressed my way through college and hostessed my way through my first few jobs in D.C. so I picked restaurant server as my job. And while I made it through the month – with a toothache – I attribute my decision-making abilities to the scrappiness I developed as a kid.

What am I talking about? This really awesome new game called SPENT, developed by Urban Ministries of Durham and the aptly-named advertising agency, McKinney. (Why’s the ad agency aptly named? Because the largest federal investment in homelessness assistance is called the < a href=>McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance programs. Cool, right?)

The game asks you to slip on the shoes of a low-income person who has to find a job, take care of a kid, and make the day-to-day economic decisions to ensure that your family stays out of homelessness. Not that it sounds easy – but let me assure you that the decisions are hard. On top of it all – they game throws a few roadblocks along the way: job loss, an unexpected bill, family mishaps. The aim? To make it through to the end of the month without running out of money – and then to do it all over again.

It’s a great experience – especially because it really brings the reality of an at-risk person much closer to home. If you flipped through our latest report, you know that we found that not only did homelessness rise from 2008 to 2009, but those populations at-risk of experiencing homelessness – those housing cost-burdened, unemployed, or in specifically at-risk populations –stayed stagnant or grew as well.

It’s like Urban Ministries of Durham points outs, “Spent is not just a social networking campaign, but an immersive online experience created and donated by McKinney. Raising awareness of the complex issues involved with poverty and homelessness and galvanizing the support needed to address those issues, are important components of our work…”

And if you don’t believe us, you can check out the video (below).

And don’t forget to play the game!

8th February
written by Catherine An

Today, we’re reviewing Kim Walker’s post about the day-long Rapid Re-Housing Clinic because – drumroll! – it’s tomorrow! Our Center for Capacity Building will be hosting the training to educate advocates, providers, and consumers about this excellent strategy to end homelessness.

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 can’t wait to see you there!

7th February
written by Catherine An

The National Conference on Ending Family Homelessness is just around the corner! We can’t wait to meet all of you in Oakland, Calif. – and we hope that you all are looking forward to it just as much as we are!

In anticipation of the big event, I thought I’d highlight just a few extra special features of this year’s conference. You can count on the same great workshops and plenary sessions that we have at every conference but we’ve thrown in a couple new events to keep things fresh!

  • The rapid re-housing clinic
    On Wednesday, Jan. 9, the Alliance’s Center for Capacity Building will host a day-long clinic on rapid re-housing techniques and strategies. This intimate training (capped at the first 100 registrants) will go over the definition and core components of rapid re-housing, housing search and location strategies, service provision strategies, and keys to good program design and implementation. The clinic is only open to conference attendees. For more information about the rapid re-housing clinic, please contact us.
  • Classic Cable Car Sightseeing Tour
    What’s more perfect than touring the beautiful city by the bay in a classic cable car with your conference friends and colleagues? The Alliance is offering a tour at the end of the first day of the conference for an additional $35. For more information about the Classic Cable Car Sightseeing Tour, please contact the Alliance.
  • Mayors Jean Quan and Tom Bates
    The newly elected mayors of Oakland and Berkeley, respectively, will offer remarks to welcome participants of the annual National Conference on Ending Family Homelessness on the first day of the conference.
  • Former U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert Reich
    Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor under President Bill Clinton, and current Chancellor’s Professor at the Goldman School of Public Policy at UC Berkeley, will be offering keynote remarks at the Alliance conference. Reich has long supported an economy based around America’s “human capital” and encourages policy makers to invest in lower-income communities, expand access to education, and professional and skill development.
  • Meet the Alliance!
    Ever wonder what the heck we actually do all day long? Here’s your chance to find out! For the very first time, the Alliance will be host a “Meet the Alliance” breakfast the morning of Friday, Feb. 11. Grab some coffee and sit down with staffers from the Alliance and feel free to ask away. If you’re feeling shy, go ahead and send us a question via Twitter or Facebook and we’ll make sure they get answered!

We can’t wait to see you there!

4th February
written by Catherine An

So the biggest news today was the new unemployment figures. News media shouted from the rooftops: unemployment fell to 9 percent but the economy only added 36,000 jobs (actually, the AP put out a nice little video announcement – below!). And while this may seem like good news to many, The Atlantic suggests that it may have more to do with people giving up looking for work than the number of unemployed people actually dropping.

The news that really caught my eye were the local news stories about cuts to social services. You might’ve caught our post a couple days ago about Washington state’s decision to kick 5,000 families off their TANF program. Like we forecasted, it’s not just Washington – just this morning, we saw news from Hawaii, California, and South Dakota about cuts to state and local social services. And while concerns about state budgets and burgeoning deficits should be considered, I [personally] have concerns about the families being kicked off welfare programs. I’m pretty sure that withholding assistance isn’t going to solve the economic problems of these families – and I’m pretty sure that the chances they might experience homelessness and other misfortunes is high. (What do you think?)

And you might have stumbled across stories about the Affordable Care Act (along with stories about Egypt, Mark Kelly, and the Superbowl). Here at the Alliance, we’re working to clarify the ways that the ACA will impact people experiencing or at-risk of homelessness (that is, provided it doesn’t get repealed by the Supreme Court!) In the meantime, check out some articles from MSNBC and NPR to get a better understanding of how it might impact you.

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3rd February
written by naehblog

Today’s post comes from André C. Wade, program and policy analyst at the Alliance.

As many of you may have seen last week, 20/20 recently aired a segment on homeless youth.

This important episode looked into the lives of four teenagers:
- George, who was “thrown away” by his mother,
- Rebecca who “couch surfed,”
- June, a transgender male to female youth who ran away from a home where she didn’t feel safe with her brothers,
- and Dakota, who “doubled up” with a friend before she became emancipated from her biological mother and obtained housing on her own.

Unfortunately, these stories are all too real.

Most children who experience homelessness return home and require family preservation services, but some youth do not return home; instead they seek shelter and are often placed into transitional living programs. Still other youth remain on the street and are continuously at risk of being exploited (research has shown that youth experiencing homelessness are at higher risk of experiencing violence, abuse, and exploitation than their adult counterparts.) A small number of youth, like Dakota, are able to obtain stable housing through the help of federal, state and or local housing subsidy programs.

Youth homelessness is a nationally overlooked phenomenon that affects too many of our country’s young people. And as a result, many communities face a dearth of information and services targeted at young people.

This year, the Alliance is committed to increasing awareness about this critical problem and finding effective, efficient ways to better serve the young people in our nation facing homelessness. You can count on us to look into the federal programs available for youth, including the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act (RHYA) programs, the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program (HPRP), and the Family Unification Program (FUP). And we’ll look at local programs too, to see if there aren’t innovative new ways to serve homeless youth germinating from the ground up.

But in the meantime, we’re counting on you to be additional sets of eyes and ears. If you know of programs serving homeless youth – in your community or a ways away – please let us know! We’re eager to coordinate and collaborate with the local and national leaders in the field to prevent and end youth homelessness and ensure that all young people have a safe place to call home.

2nd February
written by naehblog

This morning, a little news clip from the Spokeman Review (WA) caught my eye. The title read: “State assistance terminated for 5,000 families.”

For months now, the Alliance and like-minded interest groups had warned against the impact of the recession on state budgets. (In fact, Nan discussed it in the Washington Post after the release of The State of Homelessness in America.)

States, already feeling pressure on their financial resources, strained to meet the needs of the increasing number of people and families seeking public assistance as they experienced job loss, unemployment, and other economic distress as a result of the recession.

And now, at least in Washington state, it seems that the pressure has finally come to a hilt. The state has decided to reduce their TANF program by 15 percent – cutting nearly 5,000 families off welfare.

Clearly this is exactly the wrong time to deny struggling families the resources they need to avoid economic turmoil – like homelessness. While the recession may be over in theory, communities across the country can testify to the increased – and sometimes still increasing – number of people seeking charitable as they continue to struggle.

And frankly, we all saw it coming. The Alliance examined state budgets in the research newsletter last fall, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities published a number of briefs about TANF and the Emergency Contingency Fund, and on this very blog, we asked you to support the extension of TANF ECF, a small, effective, and efficient federal program helping people find jobs, avoid homelessness, and support their families. Certainly, we could’ve headed this off with the right programs.

Because Washington will not be the last place where families are denied public assistance because the state can no longer provide it. Indeed, Washington will likely be the first of many states to turn families away, leaving those families at risk of homelessness and more economic misfortunes.

This is precisely why we need your help! You can start by reading  more about our advocacy work and signing up for our action alerts.

Photo courtesy of billaday.

1st February
written by naehblog

Our post today comes from Alliance research apprentice, Shambhavi Manglik.

As we all know, the largest takeaway from The State of Homelessness in American is that homelessness is up—and the increase is largely due to the recession. That’s why I think that while homeless counts data are interesting and invaluable, the section of the report that I was most drawn to was the chapter on economic indicators.

While all of the indicators discussed in the report help inform our understanding of what the recession truly means for families at risk of experiencing homelessness, I found the findings related to unemployment and housing cost burden to be most illuminating.

Unemployment, unfortunately, is the most glaring, and painful results of the recession. The nationwide increase in the number of unemployed persons from 2008 to 2009—nearly 60 percent— is pretty shocking in and of itself. And while losing a job will create hardship for just about anyone, it has real and significant consequences for families who are already struggling to make ends meet and unfortunately, that’s the experience of most people at risk of experiencing homelessness; they’re already just barely getting by.

And why’s that? Well, one reason is severe housing cost burden. The Alliance defines severe housing cost burden as households who are in poverty and spend 50 percent or more of their monthly income on rent. And it’s no surprise that, like unemployment, severe housing cost burden increased from 2008 to 2009 by 9 percent. The number of severely cost burdened households in 2009 was estimated by the report to be close to six million.

Six million!

It’s pretty clear to imagine what happens if someone already spending more than 50 percent of his or her income loses their job. However, severe housing cost burden is also a significant challenge for low-income workers and can contribute to housing instability for this population. A previous Alliance brief, “Working Poor People in the United States” shows that working poor people are far more likely to experience severe housing cost burden than the general working population. We learned in The State of Homelessness report that wages for this group also decreased from the 2008 to 2009 period – even more than wages decreased for the general working population.

Between severe housing cost burden and disproportionately decreased wages – not to mention unemployment! – it’s clear not only how homelessness increased during the recession, but why.
What’s also clear is that homelessness is largely an economic problem – and one that can be remedied by making housing more affordable. As team HRI put the report together, we observed (over and over) that housing cost burden was closely associated with homelessness and that those states with an above average increase in housing cost burden also saw an above average increase in homelessness too.

The flip side of that observation is that more access to affordable housing can quell homelessness, curb homelessness, end homelessness. It’s a tune we’ve been singing for some time now – that housing is the solution to homelessness. Housing is the cornerstone of recovery, of employment, of education. By increasing access to affordable housing, we can end homelessness together.

For more about The State of Homelessness in American, our research, or homelessness, please visit our our website.