Archive for June, 2011
The National Conference on Ending Homelessness is just around the corner and with it comes our annual Capitol Hill Day.
Capitol Hill Day gives conference attendees the opportunity to sit down with their congressional offices and tell them about all the fantastic work their organization and community has been doing to end homelessness. The goal is to convince policymakers to make ending homelessness a federal priority.
Now that you have all the tools from the rest of the Advocacy How-To series that you need to contact your congressional offices, you have absolutely no reason not to meet with them during Capitol Hill Day 2011!
This year’s Capitol Hill Day will officially be Friday, July 15 from 1:30 to 5:00 pm. However, many states are scheduling meetings for earlier in the week to accommodate their congressional offices’ schedules.
Getting face time with Members of Congress and their staff is a rare opportunity, so you should definitely take advantage of these meetings.
When you sit down with your congressional office you:
- Build necessary relationships with policymakers;
- Educate your Members of Congress on successes and progress at home; and,
- Encourage them to support policies to eliminate homelessness.
How do I get involved?
To participate in Capitol Hill Day, you should get in touch with your State Captain.
State Captains take the lead on scheduling all of the Capitol Hill meetings for conference attendees from their state. You can contact the Alliance to get information about your state’s plans for Capitol Hill Day or contact your State Captain(s) directly using this list.
You can also connect with us during the conference at the advocacy information table next to registration. We will be there to answer all of your questions and provide any further information you may need.
If your state does not have a State Captain, and you would like to volunteer as one, or simply to get more information on Capitol Hill Day, please contact Amanda Krusemark at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo courtesy of citron_smurf.
In Awards Ceremony news, we have a great program for you. Not only are all our honorees lined up (check this blogpost in case you missed it), we’ll be welcoming back the esteemed Judy Woodruff as the night’s emcee. The Ceremony will also include a performance by the Dance Place Step Team, a local youth organization that teaches young people to express themselves creatively through performing arts. Don’t miss out on what promises to be a great night – make sure you get your tickets now.
And we’ve secured a keynote speaker for the National Conference on Ending Homelessness! Sam Tsemberis is the founder and CEO of Pathways to Housing and he is widely credited as the originator of the Housing First model which encourages providing people experiencing homelessness with housing first – and then introducing social services as necessary. We are excited to have such a well-respected and much-admired leader in the field serve as keynote speaker for this year’s conference.
And that’s not all! This year, by popular demand, we’ll also have an internet cafe in Meeting Room 19 of the hotel so you’ll be able to get online between workshops and during down time. Bring your laptop, have a seat, and catch up on all those emails that will be pouring in during your absence! And if that weren’t enough, the Alliance will also be selling brand new T-shirts so you can sport your support for ending homelessness. Our summer interns modeled them so you can take a look!
As a reminder, online registration for the conference closes in one week – on Wednesday, July 6. So hurry over to the conference website and register if you haven’t already.
Can’t wait to see you all!
We’re a little late to this party, but I’m hoping you’ll forgive us. Today, we’re going over the findings in Priced Out, a housing report released by the Technical Assistance Collaborative (TAC) on Monday, June 20.
The report examined Supplemental Security Income (SSI), which is targeted at disabled adults who have limited income and resources. Specifically, SSI is a federal income supplement program funded by general tax revenue to help blind, aged, and disabled people who have little or no income and provides cash to meet basic needs for food, clothing, and shelter.
Unfortunately, as the TAC report found, monthly SSI benefits amount to approximately $674/month. State supplements bring the national average up to $703/month. This is still low enough to be priced out of every single rental housing market in the country for a one-bedroom apartment, according to the report.
Even in more affordable rental markets, even for studio/efficiency housing units, rents are at least 60 percent of total monthly SSI benefits, including state supplements. This is far above the 30 percent mark, which defines of “affordable housing” and even above the 50 percent mark, which is the threshold for experiencing “severe housing cost burden.” As a national average, a person receiving SSI benefits would need to pay 112 percent of their monthly income to rent a modest, one-bedroom apartment.
As people interested in homelessness and homeless programs and policy, we know that severe housing cost burden and poverty put people at risk of experiencing homelessness; it seems that SSI recipients experience both. In order to make this federal program work for the people it serves, we need to respect the dignity of the program’s constituents and not relegate them to a life of poverty.
As of 2010, over 4.4 million non-elderly adults rely on SSI payments. Out of Reach suggests that over 1.2 million non-elderly people live in homeless shelters, public institutions, nursing homes, other care homes, or segregated group quarters. An estimated 700,000 are doubled up with aging parents.
In order to serve these millions of people with disabilities, we need to better assess the housing needs of this community and work to meet them in a productive way. Find out more about this report and SSI by reading the report, available on the TAC website.
Today’s guest post comes to us from Alliance intern Rricha Mathur.
On June 17, I attended the Voices of Youth briefing held at the Capitol. A group of student panelists, who were and continue to be affected by homelessness, lead a stimulating conversation in which they shared their stories of homelessness, perseverance, and triumph. Currently, each speaker is enrolled in a university program. Their stories underlined that there is a lot Congress can do to help them and the millions of other youth affected by homelessness.
Some of the common struggles relayed in the heartbreaking stories by the panelists are basic and can be alleviated through federal policy. For example, many of the panelists suffered from physical and mental abuse by their parents and relatives and were thrown out of their homes. Once on the street, the young men and women struggled to find food, housing, and stability. They found barriers to food stamps due to eligibility criteria and oftentimes could not locate housing because they couldn’t put down deposits or show a credit history. Policy aimed at giving these young men and women better access to shelters and welfare programs would help their situations tremendously.
Furthermore, these students’ testimonies emphasized that education is an essential asset for homeless youth. Education was one of the major avenues these students used to create better futures. The students turned to teachers, coaches, and counselors for the guidance they lacked at home, and they pushed themselves academically to get into college. More funding and resources should be devoted to schools to help counsel and provide opportunities for motivated low income and disadvantaged youth so they can pull themselves up out of the cycle of homelessness.
Finally, the panelists shed light on the issue of child welfare home visits. They discussed in detail that the workers that came to their homes were not interested in what the youth had to say and that oftentimes their parents “staged” the home to make it appear that everything was fine. Reforming the way visits are conducted and how often they are done may help the affected youth be heard and have a more positive childhood experience.
Although the young men and women I met seemed well-adjusted and optimistic, there are too many others who we never hear from, young men and women whose homelessness turned into less triumphant stories. Those are the stories that we can turn around with smart, compassionate federal policy.
For more information about youth homelessness, please check out our website.
More state budgets in the news again: Massachusetts estimates it will have spent $29 million in motel bills for homeless families by June 30, the end of their fiscal year. A new program called HomeBASE is slated to start July 1 which will provide 60 percent of families facing homelessness with housing rather than shelter. Hopefully, the program will prevent family homelessness in the first place, avoid the high cost of homelessness for both the family and the state.
California is considering redefining who is eligible for supportive housing assistance, to make sure the most intensive (and expensive) services are going to those who really need them. This is a great way to help more people with the same resources you already have – we call it “targeting.” You can find out more about targeting at our National Conference on Ending Homelessness – are you coming?
An article about a program taking the housing first approach to ending chronic homelessness in West Virginia included this great quote:
“This was a pretty radical philosophy when we first started because it was different from the way people had always dealt with homelessness. Normally, we expect people to get a job and get sober to get help. What they need is a place to live first and foremost,” said Corey Ingram, development and public relations manager for the Cabell-Huntington Coalition for the Homeless. “With this, we give people a place to live first and then place those support services around them.”
And finally, the Alliance made a little news of our own this week when we released a progress report on the one-year anniversary of Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to End Homelessness. While we applaud the U.S. Interagency Council for their bold ambitions, we observed a distinct lack of real progress in the first year. If we’re going to end homelessness, we have to commit to making the hard changes; investing in affordable housing, economic opportunities, and systems change. It’s hard work but together, we can do it.
As our Advocacy How-To series continues, we want to spend one more week talking about how to contact congressional offices. This is the most important building block of building congressional relationships. Last week, we talked about emailing them; this week we will look at calling.
Speaking directly to someone in a congressional office might seem intimidating, so it is important to have a solid game plan before calling. Make sure you:
- If possible, know the name of the staff person responsible for the issue you are calling about (see last week’s Advocacy How-To blog post for more on this),
- Be able to state your specific “ask” in a few clear and convincing sentences (we can help you develop talking points), and
- Be prepared for questions.
Here are three scenarios you may come across when you call the office:
1. Speaking with the Staff Person
The best case scenario is when you are connected to the people who handle your issue (like housing). Tell them exactly what you want them to do. Be very clear. If they can’t answer right then and there, ask when you can follow up. Be concise. If you don’t know the answer to a question, don’t make something up! Just say you will find the answer and let them know in follow-up. It’s a perfect excuse to keep the conversation going.
2. Getting an Automated Message
If you call the main number and receive an automated message, leave a message.
Be as clear and brief as possible. Say you are leaving a message for the staff person in charge of your issue and mention what you want the office to do. Be sure to leave a call back number and email address for the office to get in touch with you.
Here is an example:
“My name is Jane Doe from Districtville and I’m leaving a message for the staff member responsible for housing. I’d like to urge Rep. Joe Schmoe to support $2.4 billion funding level for McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants. I’d love to talk further with the appropriate staff person on how this program is making an impact in my community and why this funding level is so important for our district’s efforts to end homelessness. I can be reached at 202-555-1234 or email@example.com”
3. Speaking with the Front Desk
If the front desk is unable to transfer your call to the appropriate staff member, try to find out when would be a good time to call back. You may also want to leave a message like the one above, so the office has a record of your call and concerns.
In these situations or others, the Alliance can help! If you have any questions or concerns about contacting your Members’ offices, let us know! We are here to answer your questions and help you every step of the way! And make sure to check out our Advocacy Toolkit for more great information and resources.
Image courtesy of nikitab.
Today is the one-year anniversary of Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to End Homelessness. One year ago, the federal government committed to ending chronic and veteran homelessness in five years; homelessness among families, children, and youth in ten years; and moving the country toward ending all homelessness.
The Alliance released a Progress Report on the federal plan today; the Progress Report reveals that while there was a great deal of activity on the 52 strategies the Plan identified to meet the goals, measurable progress has been made on only 18 strategies. The two-part report assesses the Plan’s success on its own terms, measuring how much progress (none, some, or measurable) was made on each of the 52 strategies identified to achieve the goals. The second part of the report looks at a set of available local counts of homeless people to assess whether or not the number went up or down during the Plan’s first year.
Ultimately, we find that while the member agencies of the USICH have clearly been active, results have not yet started to emerge from the activity. External factors such as the economy and the budget deficit played a role in deterring progress on the Plan but they were hardly the only factor; an emphasis on coordination and information strategies rather than more substantive housing, treatment, and jobs strategies has also hindered progress.
Finally, data show a potential increase in the number of people experiencing homelessness since the time the Plan was released. While not conclusive, an examination of certain point-in-time counts shows a slight increase in homelessness during the Plan’s first year.
Today, USICH is hosting a stakeholder call in which all interested parties are invited to weigh in on the plan, it’s progress, and it’s future. Let them know what you think! We know that the federal plan was a critically important step towards ending homelessness in our nation – but in order to make real, discernable progress, we all need to take bolder steps in creating jobs, affordable housing, and economic opportunity.
For over 30 years, Community of Hope has provided health care and housing with supportive services to low-income and homeless families and individuals in Washington, DC. In 2010, we served 279 families in our housing programs and over 3,600 patients in our clinic.
On June 23, 2011, we will be joining forces with six Adams Morgan restaurants to host our first Happy Hour for Hope from 5 – 8 pm. A portion of proceeds from food and drink sales will be donated to Community of Hope.
Do us a favor and go drink for a cause! Participating restaurants include:
- Bardia’s New Orleans Café (2412 18th St NW),
- Bukom Café (2442 18th St NW),
- Madam’s Organ (2461 18th St NW),
- The Reef (2446 18th St NW),
- Savour (2406 18th St NW), and
- Sutra Lounge (2406 18th St NW).
This will be a fun night of food, drink, and good company – all for a great cause! Help us spread the word about this event, and we hope to see you on June 23!
A big thanks to all the local businesses for helping end homelessness in the district.
For more information, check out Community of Hope’s website.
It’s that time again! Summer is here and with the new season, we welcome two new interns to the Alliance staff.
Hello! My name is Rricha Mathur and I am one of the Youth Policy Interns for the summer here at the Alliance. I am originally from California and completed by Bachelors degree at the University of California-Davis in International Relations. Currently, I am a rising second year law student at the University of Pittsburgh. I am interested in employment and discrimination law and hope to work for a progressive organization or government agency, here in Washington D.C., when I graduate.
This summer I will be analyzing legislation related to youth homelessness. I am very excited to be working on this issue at the national level. Throughout most of my undergraduate years, I worked at the grassroots level with an organization at UC Davis called Help and Education Leading to the Prevention of Poverty (H.E.L.P) where I helped put on community meals for the underprivileged members of the community, mentored and tutored children in the foster care program and organized fundraising events to fund the organization’s programs. Seeing the daily struggles of the homeless population in my community inspired me to pursue a career in public interest. For the Alliance, I will be writing briefs, compiling information on youth homeless counts, attending hearings and coordinating meetings at the Hill, as well as helping with the Conference in July. I believe working here is an excellent way for me to learn about how the government and other organizations and agencies are working together to combat this problem.
I am thrilled to be in Washington D.C. for the summer. I really enjoy visiting the Smithsonian museums, walking around the monuments and attending concerts and events throughout the city. I absolutely love being surrounded by politics and like minded people who are interested in serving the nation. In my free time I enjoy cooking, biking, reading, working on craft projects and visiting historical sites.
I am a native of the metropolitan Baltimore area, the son of two NYC-born hippies who made me the queer, feminist activist that I am today. Last summer I interned at the Upper Manhattan Career Development center and volunteered at the Ali Forney Center for Homeless LGBT Youth, experiences that instilled in me the desire to fight to end poverty and homelessness, specifically for youth populations. Coupled with my interest in federal policy and advocacy, this led me to the Alliance, where I am focusing on LGBT youth policy.
Fun fact: I also once had coffee with Blake Lively!
This week HUD released their Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR) to Congress, showing that that homelessness went up one percent overall from 2009 to 2010. Our President Nan Roman was on NPR earlier this week and wrote a piece for The Hill today discussing what this means in light of the recession and proposed cuts to assistance programs.
We noticed a lot of discussion, and rightly so, on the AHAR’s report that people using shelters or transitional housing in suburban and rural areas increased 57 percent from 2007 to 2010. It is great to seen rural homelessness getting some press, because homelessness is often seen as mainly an urban problem. (More on in the next couple weeks.)
In the foreword to the AHAR, Secretary Shaun Donovan pointed to the stimulus funded Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program’s (HPRP) impact. In this blog we pointed out that this three-year program ends next year, leaving a big hole in the budgets of many local homeless assistance programs. The Center for American Progress’ Think Progress blog argued this shows greater investment is needed during economic downturns.
As a final note, the Washington Post covered the great job our neighbors in Fairfax County are doing to end homelessness.