Archive for April, 2011

13th April
written by naehblog

Today’s post was written by Suzannah Young, Communications Officer at FEANTSA (European Federation of National Organisations Working with the Homeless). Suzannah thanks the Alliance for inviting her to write.

FEANTSA, the European Federation of National Organisations working with the Homeless, is an umbrella of NGOs which contribute to the fight against homelessness in Europe.  It is the only major European network that focuses exclusively on homelessness in the European Union (EU).

I’m grateful for this opportunity to tell you about FEANTSA and hope it will be interesting for you too.  Actually, our Director recently took part in a meeting on homelessness involving Australia, Canada, Europe and the USA and enjoyed the opportunity to share best practices.  So, as part of a big sharing exercise, this post should clarify how FEANTSA tries to tackle homelessness in Europe, working with NGOs and other stakeholders in the fight against homelessness: local authorities; national governments; legal and health professionals; the EU institutions; the housing sector (public and private); transport companies; human rights organizations; academics, etc.

The NGOs we work with are largely our members – more than 100 national or regional umbrellas of homeless service providers, operating in areas including housing, health, employment and social protection, in 30 countries.  We have close contact with the EU institutions (mainly the European Parliament[1] and the European Commission,[2]) and have consultative status at the Council of Europe[3] and the United Nations.

One of FEANTSA’s main roles is to promote the exchange of expertise on homelessness.  Another, which has developed over time as it has become the authority on homelessness in the EU, is to advise the EU on how best to tackle homelessness, by recommending the examples of best practice it has gathered through 20-plus years of pooling expertise.

One way in which expertise is gathered is through working groups, which focus on thematic priorities.  Members appointed to the working groups analyse issues like housing, housing rights, employment, health and social protection, data collection and participation.  Other ways are transnational exchange initiatives – side projects which focus on specific dimensions of homelessness – for example Housing Rights Watch, a network of legal professionals committed to promoting and protecting the right to housing for all, and the European Network of Homeless Health Workers.  FEANTSA also has a Research Observatory, uniting academics researching homelessness in most European countries.  We include the research findings in our lobbying.

FEANTSA also organises events, which permit homelessness sector professionals to work together.  We have an annual theme and our discussions lead to policy statements, reports and a conference; this year, FEANTSA is focusing on Quality in Social Services from the perspective of services working with homeless people.  Other events include European seminars on local homelessness issues.   The seminars were an initial response to requests for information on how to tackle homelessness coming from local authorities.  Plus, in 2009, FEANTSA helped launch HABITACT, a European exchange forum on local homeless strategies.

FEANTSA believes homelessness can be ended.  For us, one of the key roles of EU Member States (countries) should be to aim towards this by creating national homelessness strategies.  We also support the development of an EU Homelessness Strategy.  In order to encourage policy makers to embrace this goal, FEANTSA launched a campaign in 2010, and created a Handbook with examples of effective approaches to ending homelessness from across Europe.  Moreover, we recently supported a Written Declaration promoting an EU Homelessness Strategy, which was adopted by the European Parliament.

Our future goals include developing expertise on migration and homelessness and youth homelessness in Europe, two emerging issues.  We will also be monitoring progress towards the development of an EU Homelessness Strategy, the parameters of which were recommended in the conclusions of the European Consensus Conference on Homelessness, co-organised by FEANTSA and held last December.

Thanks for reading about FEANTSA.  Keep up-to-date with our activities on our website, on Facebook and on Twitter.

You can also contact me if you have any questions.

[1] To see the kinds of things we do:

[2] The context in which we work with the European Commission is outlined here:

[3] In particular relating to situations where countries breach the revised European Social Charter on  the right to housing, to the right of the family to social, legal and economic protection and to non-discrimination.

12th April
written by Catherine An

Late last night, congressional leaders released the details of its final fiscal year (FY) 2011 funding bill. The legislation included a total of about $40 billion in cuts compared to FY 2010.

Here’s the good news: despite these cuts, the budget includes funding for a number of key programs related to affordable housing and homelessness, including:

  • $1.905 billion for HUD’s McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants program, a $40 million increase over FY 2010;
  • $50 million for new HUD – VA Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) program vouchers to house an estimated 7,690 additional homeless veterans;
  • No funding for Housing and Services for Homeless Persons Demonstration vouchers;
  • $116 million for Runaway and Homeless Youth Act (RHYA) programs, equal to the FY 2010 level;
  • $18.4 billion for Section 8 Tenant-Based Rental Assistance, enough to fund all existing vouchers; and
  • $3.3 billion for the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), a $650 million decrease from FY 2010.

The full text of the legislation is available here.

The House is expected to vote on the legislation tomorrow and the Senate will likely vote on the bill on Thursday. It’s expected to pass both houses be signed by President Obama.

We at the Alliance are grateful and excited that, amid all the talk of cuts cuts cuts, Congress recognized the importance of homeless assistance programs. Although these funding levels won’t be enough to adequately implement the HEARTH Act or meet the needs of all the people who require help, this increase in McKinney-Vento funding and the HUD-VASH grants is a testament to the congressional understanding that homeless assistance is imperative.

And finally, we’re grateful for YOUR hard work this year. Without our advocacy team educating Members of Congress about the important these programs, no such increases would’ve made it through the contentious budget process – we’re sure of that! We’re counting on you to keep up the hard work as we begin working on [very shortly!] the FY 2012 appropriations process.

To find out more about the budget and our advocacy team, please visit our website.

Photo courtesy of Ramberg Media Images.

11th April
written by Catherine An

Last week, the government avoided a shutdown when Speaker John Boehner and President Obama reached an agreement on the federal budget. (Here’s a nice summary of what happened.).

Today we await the details of that budget, which cut $38.5 billion as compared to 2010 spending. We (here at the Alliance) are hoping to have enough time to read it, discuss it, and jot down the highlights as they affect homeless assistance funding.

While we both wait, please feel free to follow our thoughts and news on our social networks; we’re on both Twitter and Facebook.

Photo courtesy of Dave Stokes.

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8th April
written by Catherine An

We don’t mean to brag, but it’s been a pretty good news week.

Our new Community Snapshot was featured in a local paper! We’re celebrating the way that Fairfax-Falls Church, VA was able to turn around their rising homeless population numbers by implementing proven best practices.

Our president, Nan Roman wrote about the exciting international meeting we attended with homeless assistance leaders from different countries. The Alliance is proud to be part of a new international alliance to end homelessness – and we’ll keep you posted on the blog about the work that evolves from the partnership.

Congressman Alcee Hasting penned a thoughtful opinion about a congressional briefing on homeless children, youth, and families. The co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on Homelessness rightly announces that homelessness is “a crisis we can no longer afford to ignore.”

Our good friends at Funders Together launched their nonprofit organization! Our congratulations to this great organization for this even greater feat. As we all know, the role of philanthropy is critical in our effort to end homelessness.

And finally, are you interested in health care reform? Lisa Stand, our resident health care expert, is blogging about the relationship between health care and homelessness – and her last post is especially good. Keep your eyes peeled for more great information about health care reform and ending chronic homelessness.

Have a great weekend!

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7th April
written by Catherine An

The Alliance offers our sincere congratulations to Funders Together, a philanthropic organization committed to ending homelessness.

Today, the group launches as an independent organization of private philanthropies supporting housing-based strategies that have been shown to end homelessness among youth, individuals, families, veterans, and other groups.

As a member of the nonprofit community, we know that the role of philanthropy is critical in ending homelessness. Foundations and funders have the ability to turn best practices into plans into reality by providing the resources necessary to implement strategies that lead to outcomes.

We extend our thanks to Funders Together for the brave and courageous step forward in the fight to end homelessness and wish them best of luck as they move forward!

7th April
written by naehblog

We want to know if your community counted homeless youth* in the annual point-in-time count this year.

Take our survey and let us know!

Every year, communities across the nation conduct point-in-time counts of people experiencing homelessness. The Department of Housing and Urban Development requires a count every other year as part of a community’s application for federal funds; many communities, however, conduct one annually of their own accord.

Capitalizing on the yearly ritual, the Alliance launched a youth count campaign, encouraging communities to include youth in their 2011 counts. We put out tools to help communities figure out how to conduct youth and the importance of including this oft-overlooked community.

So we want to know how you did! Did you count youth? How so? And how many?

Take our 5 minute, 5 question survey to let us know and if you have any questions (per usual), don’t hesitate to contact us.

* Youth are those 12-24 years of age.

6th April
written by Lisa Stand

Today’s guest post was written by Alliance senior policy analyst Lisa Stand.

I am a lot more familiar with health care issues than with homelessness and housing. But, now that I’ve been at the Alliance for five months, I’m starting to see the forest and the trees, the big picture of the current State of Homelessness and the amazing talented and committed people who are ending homelessness one person at a time. More often than not, that same person was just the very same one health care advocates had in mind as they worked to pass the Affordable Care Act.

So why, when it comes to implementation, are there sometimes disconnects between housing and health care in the safety net?

One word: Medicaid.

Beginning in 2014, almost everyone with very low incomes ($10,800 for an individual) will be eligible for Medicaid – no matter where they go for treatment or support. That’s going to be a change for those chronically homeless individuals without Medicaid disability coverage or other insurance. Changes may be in store, also, for the programs that care for them. Suddenly, both patients and communities will be able to utilize Medicaid dollars they never had access to before – so Medicaid is the current topic in strategies to serve individuals in permanent supportive housing. The question is how?

Medicaid is unlike any other program, in so many ways. To mention one, it really does have its own language – an entire system of terms and concepts.

Here is an example: “Provider.” For someone steeped in Medicaid and unfamiliar with housing, “provider” – unless it’s an institution – has nothing to do with where people spend the night. In Medicaid-ese (and the rest of the health care world), a “provider” has a Medicaid number and offers mostly primary health care for the majority of under-65 enrollees – who number in the tens of millions. My point is that in the context of a conversation about Medicaid, it’s good to assume that “provider” means something very specific.

Another example: in the mainstream health care world, “outreach” tends to mean public education or large-scale targeting to defined segments of the population – for enrollment or to encourage healthy behaviors. Without experience working with strategies for housing homeless people, “street” outreach is not a top-of-mind concept in the mainstream health care world, including much of Medicaid.

These and other topics will be covered in a series of webinars the Allinace is hosting to help walk through the effects that health care reform will have on communities, agencies, and people assisting homeless – and especially chronically homeless – people and families.

The first of this series will take place on May 4 at 2 p.m. ET: “Talking Medicaid: First Steps in Building Effective Homelessness – Health Care Partnerships.” The webinar will provide a basic introduction to the Medicaid program.

Click here for more information and to register.

Image Courtesy of London Vision Clinic

4th April
written by naehblog

Today’s post comes from the Director of the Homelessness Research Institute, Bill Sermons.

As a researcher, my work can be boiled down to a combination of sharing what I know and learning new things. My time at the National Low Income Housing Coalition’s 2011 Annual Housing Policy Conference last week was a excellent chance to do a little of both.

On the sharing side, I gave a presentation in a workshop on Monday entitled, What Do We Know About Homelessness. There, I was able to share many of the findings of HRI’s most recent major publication, The State of Homelessness in America. When asked by an audience member preparing for last Wednesday’s lobby day for a particular finding that congressional leaders might find compelling, I pointed to the portion of The State of Homelessness that illustrates the high odds of experiencing homelessness faced by young adults aging out of foster care (1 in 6 annually), doubled up individuals and families (1 in 10 annually), and people released from jail or prison (1 in 11 annually).

On Tuesday, it was my time to learn something new. I attended a presentation by Stephanie Ettinger de Cuba of the Children’s Health Watch given during the Connecting Housing to Food Access and Children’s Health Issues workshop. She presented on a new study of the negative impacts on health and food security of being behind on rent. Some of the results were not that surprising. They found, for example, that stably housed families are better off than either homeless families or families behind on rent in terms of health and food security. However, I was surprised to learn that the families behind on rent were considerably more likely than homeless families to experience food insecurity and to make trade-offs to pay medical bills or to forego health care. While I was fully aware that high rent burdens place families at risk of homelessness, this result highlights the health and well being toll faced by cost-burdened families.

For more information, please visit the website.

4th April
written by Catherine An

We’re so delighted to release the latest in our Community Snapshot series: Fairfax-Falls Church!

Our research team has been working with colleagues in Fairfax County to evaluate their progress toward ending homelessness asking, “Where are the numbers going? What strategies and practices have been implemented? How have they affected the community? What should we look toward next?”

And the news is great! Thanks to an emphasis on permanent housing, the creation of a centralized intake system, and their commitment to their ten year plan to end homelessness, the Fairfax-Falls Church community reduced homelessness.

In sum: Overall homelessness decreased by 11 percent between 2009 and 2010 to 1,544 people. Family homelessness decreased by 16 percent between 2009 and 2010 to 892 people—the lowest level ever documented in the community.

To check out the Fairfax-Falls Church Community Snapshot – as well as our other snapshots highlighting the great work of individual communities – check out our website.

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1st April
written by Catherine An

So, I could tell you that the week’s news has been about budgets and housing – again. I could tell you that writers from Providence, RI and Passaic County, NJ and Los Angeles, CA are discussing the role that budgets will play on housing for low-income people. And that there was a pretty cool opinion piece penned by VA Assistant Secretary for Public and Intergovernmental Affairs L. Tammy Duckworth about assisting women veterans returning from service.

But it’s pretty much the same old, same old so I’ll tell you about some cool things the Alliance is doing.

  • We’re publishing a series on “Notes from the Field” on the blog – you may have caught the first and second postings. The CAP team at the Alliance wants to share with you things that they’ve found while working on-the-ground with communities.
  • We’re administering a survey! Help us out my taking this 5 minute, 10-question survey about advocacy around homelessness issues – and pass it on to a friend!
  • Check out the library. We’re always updating our website with new documents, resources, and tools to help communities end homelessness. Items of note: our new domestic violence brief, information about health care reform, and the Advocacy Toolkit.
    • Check them out!