Archive for July, 2011
It’s day one of the National Conference on Ending Homelessness in Washington, D.C. and things are off to a great start! Lots of energy and anticipation is floating around the registration area as participants check-in for a three days of workshops, plenary sessions, sharing, and networking.
Already, we have to thank our interns, volunteers, partner organizations, and the 1400 people who came from far and wide to learn how to do their part to end homelessness. (And a special thank you to the people who dropped by the user testing desk to give us pointers on our website!)
Here are a few pictures I snapped of our advocacy team – Swaroop, Kate, and Amanda – hard at work preparing themselves, state captains, and other advocates for the Capitol Hill Day visits this week.
More to come!
We’re in the home stretch!
Alliance staff are already onsite at the Renaissance Hotel to prep for the National Conference on Ending Homelessness.
Here are the numbers thus far:
- Approximately 1400 people registered to attend the conference
- A total of 75 workshops over the span of three days
- 4 plenary speakers including Nan Roman, Dennis Culhane, Sam Tsemberis, and Derek Douglas
- 12 expert roundtables on a variety of subjects on Friday morning
- About165 scheduled Capitol Hill Day meetings with members of Congress
And one day until it all starts!
Hope to see you there!
If you attend the National Conference on Ending Homelessness this week, you’ll meet the newest member of our staff Ian Lisman, Senior Program and Policy Analyst on Veterans Homelessness. And if you can’t join us, you can learn a little about him here.
Hello, my name is Ian Lisman, I’m the newest staff member at the National Alliance to End Homelessness. I am working here as the new Senior Program and Policy Analyst on Veterans Homelessness (try saying that three times fast!).
In all seriousness it is an honor and a privilege to be working here at the Alliance.
Before coming to the Alliance I worked in Denver, Colorado as a case manager, then program coordinator/director, for the Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program (HVRP) grant with the Denver Department of Human Services (DDHS) for the City and County of Denver. I have a degree in Human Services with a concentration in counseling and mental health.
Veterans are disproportionally represented among homeless people and this is a national disgrace, especially considering our country is engaged in several ongoing military conflicts. There will be many more service members returning from combat to civilian life with many challenges facing them (fewer job prospects, family issues, mental and physical health issues, etc.). Ending up on the streets should not be one of those issues.
The Alliance has already sent me to the “front lines” of ending veteran homelessness. Fewer than three weeks in and I’ve already met with VA officials, Hill staffers, DOL representatives, think tanks, and other community providers working on ending homelessness.
I have a special place in my heart for my brothers and sisters in arms. I served in the U.S. Army and am a combat veteran of the first Gulf War. I am a member of the Human Services Honor Society, the American Legion, and the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW).
The new emphasis by the current administration to end homelessness, especially homelessness among veterans, gives me hope that our country can come together on this issue. VA Secretary Shinseki stated: “President Obama and I are personally committed to ending homelessness among Veterans within the next five years. Those who have served this nation as Veterans should never find themselves on the streets, living without care and without hope.”
I agree wholeheartedly.
I look forward to doing my part to ensure that we achieve that goal and look towards a day when all veterans can return to a safe, stable place to call home.
Over the years the Alliance has taken notice of the overrepresentation of LGBTQ youths in the homeless population. In response, the Alliance has convened an advisory committee to address the lack of national policy solutions to this important problem. Deemed the National Advisory Council on LGBTQ Youth Homelessness (NAC), this group of advocates meets annually to discuss best practices and suggest a national policy agenda to end LGBTQ youth homelessness. The Advisory Council’s diverse members are comprised of homeless youth providers and representatives from LGBTQ-specific organizations.
On Tuesday, July 12 (one day before the National Conference on Ending Homelessness) the NAC will meet again. This meeting will include discussion on what is being done at federal, state, and local levels to end LGBTQ youth homelessness what still needs to be done. Additionally, the meeting will include special guests:
- Commissioner Bryan Samuels from the Administration on Children, Youth, and Families (HHS) ,
- Jennifer Ho, the Deputy Director of the U.S. Interagency on Homelessness, and
- Megan Thompson from the Office of Senator John Kerry (D-MA)
Within the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) youth population, homelessness has long been an epidemic; only recently, however, has the issue begun to receive the level of national attention that it deserves. Of the estimated 1.6 million homeless youths today, an estimated 20 – 40 percent self-identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. This is quite disproportionate to the percentage of youth overall who identify as LGBT, which is estimated somewhere between 4 -10 percent. Therefore, though an abundance of research is lacking, youth providers and LGBT activists now see an imperative to address this widespread issue.
The Alliance and members of the NAC representing organizations such as Lambda Legal, National Center for Lesbian Rights, and National Network for Youth, published The National Recommendation for Best Practices for LGBT Homeless Youth guide for service providers. Members of the NAC have met with the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH), Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to advocate for policy changes and greater resources for LGBTQ homeless youth. The Alliance hopes to continue this progress at the upcoming meeting and prompt further developments in this field.
A little housekeeping: It’s T – three business days before the start of the National Conference to End Homelessness! All of us at the Alliance are busy preparing to offer informative workshops, inspiring plenary sessions, and a great time overall. We’re all looking forward to seeing you there!
In the news this week: This morning, I ran across an opinion piece Rosanne Haggerty penned in the Huffington Post. The title, “Homelessness is a Solvable Problem” is exactly the message the Alliance has long been trumpeting – that with the right solutions, strategies, and dedication, we can ensure that everyone has a safe, stable place to call home. Our kudos to Roseanne and Community Solutions for reminding us of this simple, radical concept.
Our friend Pam Fessler of National Public Radio showed us people who have experienced homelessness sharing their stories this week. The National Coalition for the Homeless runs a speakers bureau of people who have experienced homelessness and are willing to inform others about the realities people face when confronted with dire economic circumstances and very tough decisions. Often times, Pam notes, the goal of the storytelling is the get people to change their perceptions of homelessness and homeless people.
A similar story came out of South Carolina this week. In The State, writer Adam Beam writes about the growing number of homeless families in Columbia and across the Midlands. He starts the story with a 14-year old boy who asks his father about going back home, to which his father replied, “Son, we don’t have no home.” Adam includes a number of other families faced with homelessness.
This morning, I ran across NYT writer David Brook’s column entitled, “The Unexamined Society.” In it, he encourages investment in understanding human behavior and using that understanding to improve public policies aimed at solving problems like poverty and homelessness. It’s an interesting read, like these others – you should check it out.
With the National Conference on Ending Homelessness and Capitol Hill Day quickly approaching, we’re re-running a post from a Capitol Hill Day 2010 participant. To find out more about Capitol Hill Day 2011, please contact Amanda Krusemark.
Our group was made of roughly 20 people from our state at the conference, and about 8 of us went on hill visits on Wednesday. I was very glad to have had a chance to experience hill visits in April, and knew a little bit what to expect. It did feel as though everyone else on these visits was a seasoned veteran, but at least I had some experience to draw on! We had such excellent packets prepared for us by the NAEH staff — everything we needed to be able to carry out the visit was in there.
We spoke primarily about fully funding McKinney, about Section 8 vouchers, and about the fact that we see growing demand for services and shrinking resources at the local level.
We had a nice mixture of people, including someone from local government (City Office of Housing), someone who works with a large local funder of services and housing for homeless families, a woman who runs survival services in a rural part of the state, and the ED of a private social service organization and day labor agency (which does not accept public funds but sees the urgent need for federal funding and policies that help end homelessness), as well as someone from the major homelessness advocacy group in the County (me). Good range of people to offer their take on these issues to the staffers.
I came prepared to invite both Senators and their staff to specific events in our state during the August recess, and I plan to write a thank you note to each of them that repeats that invitation. I surprised myself by doing something I hadn’t planned to do, namely inviting Senator Murray during the Wednesday morning coffee to attend our backpack-stuffing day for Project Cool for Back-to-School. I did not want to put her on the spot, but it seemed like a nice opportunity to let her know that we appreciated her work on behalf of children who are homeless.
What happened really surprised me — two other constituents who were at the morning coffee came up to say that they wanted to help, too — one was a school nurse in two districts in our County with high numbers of children who are homeless, and one was a psychotherapist in private practice with children and adolescents. They were both visiting with their children and husbands (who were at different conventions in town), and both immediately gave me their contact information. The nurse told me that she struggles when a child comes to her with a stomach ache, and she knows she has to ask when the child last ate something, knowing that in some cases it may be two days ago. Her school sends children home with backpacks filled with food for the weekend, but she wants to do more. And, Sen. Murray’s education staffer was standing right there, so they got to hear that it’s not only the people who came for the NAEH conference who care a lot about this issue. Sarah Bolton was very gracious, and asked me to follow up with her about the invitation to the Senator.
Thank you to the NAEH conference folks for helping to offset the costs of registration for me. It made a big difference for our small organization to be able to afford to send me to my first NAEH conference.
The Alliance is pleased to announce that Sam Tsemberis, CEO of Pathways to Housing, and Derek Douglas, Special Assistant to President Barack Obama, will give keynote addresses at the National Conference on Ending Homelessness.
As many people in the homeless assistance industry already know, Dr. Tsemberis founded Pathways to Housing in 1992 based on the belief that housing is a basic human right. He also pioneered the Housing First concept, suggesting that people experiencing homelessness need to be stably housed before the address other challenges preventing them from maintaining housing (mental illness, medical problems, etc.). Dr. Tsemberis is a clinical-community psychologist and serves on the faculty of the Department of Psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center. He will deliver keynote remarks on Wednesday, July 14 at the conference.
Mr. Douglas leads work on urban and metropolitan policy issues for the White House Domestic Policy Council. As Special Assistant to the President on urban and metropolitan issues, Mr. Douglas helps examine and find ways to improve the way federal resources are spent in cities. Prior to joining the Administration, he worked for the Center for American Progress and served in the Office of the Governor in New York. He will deliver keynote remarks on Thursday, July 15 at the conference.
On Tuesday, June 21, 2011, Bergen County Community College’s Institute for Public Policy (Paramus, New Jersey) hosted the event which featured an expert panel of presenters including:
- Dr. Sam Tsemberis, founder & CEO, Pathways to Housing;
- Lisa Stand, senior analyst for program and policy, National Alliance to End Homelessness (NAEH);
- Tom Toronto, president, Bergen County’s United Way; and
- Julia Orlando, director, Bergen County Housing, Health and Human Services Center.
- Dr. Ron Milon, Vice President, Bergen Community College, welcomed the audience and Clark Lamendola, president, LaMendola Associates, moderated the expert panel.
Permanent, affordable housing was the dominant theme of the panel presentations. Dr. Tsemberis stressed that small scale solutions are not enough to end homelessness and instead, the Housing First model – affordable housing without the prerequisite of treatment for substance abuse and mental health issues – is the solution.
Lisa Stand highlighted communities across the country that have had success in ending family homelessness by using the rapid re-housing model – moving quickly to get families immediately back into affordable housing. Family homelessness increased slightly last year but more alarmingly, the problem is moving from the cities to the suburbs.
Tom Toronto talked about his visit to the Pathways to Housing program in New York City and how the Housing First model could successfully be implemented in New Jersey.
And lastly, Julia Orlando described how the Bergen County Center works locally to end homelessness in the County. The agency’s first goal is to obtain permanent housing – everyone who walks through the Center’s doors is evaluated for housing.
Attendees responded to the panel with a variety of questions.
The forum was prompted by College President Dr. G. Jeremiah Ryan’s shock and dismay over the lack of attention given to homelessness in one of America’s most affluent counties. Bergen County, New Jersey is the 21st most affluent county in the U.S. Yet, over the course of last year, an estimated 942 Bergen residents – our neighbors – went to sleep without a roof over their heads.
You can view videos from the event on the Monarch Housing website.
We saw a great story in CQ Politics that trumpeted President Obama’s success at keeping the number of people experiencing homelessness down. You may remember that during the release of the last Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress, the Department of Housing and Urban Development remarked that the marginal increase was a notable success (we mentioned it in our own press release as well). This sentiment seems to have gathered traction, according to CQ.
Just yesterday, the story about housing for veterans in Los Angeles continued (we wrote about the beginning three weeks ago). The LA Times offers insight about legislation taking shape in the Senate that will ensure that homeless veterans can access housing.
The Washington Post, on the other hand, takes serious issue with Section 8. Though the writer at the Post seems to suggest that the housing vouchers are a “golden ticket to pricey suburbs” for people who might not otherwise be able to afford housing, we know that housing vouchers are often the solution to homelessness for people in poverty. Our friends at the National Housing Conference offered their thoughts about this article on their blog.
The New York Times seems to understand that people in poverty shoulder “an unfair burden” in this economic climate. An NYT editorial points out that critical social service programs – including Medicaid, unemployment benefits, food aid, and TANF – are on the chopping block during this age of austerity which would disproportionately affect people who are financially vulnerable already. While this is an astute and worthwhile observation, I only wish that the NYT would’ve seen fit to add “housing” to that list.
Something to think about poolside.