Archive for August, 2011

31st August
2011
written by Catherine An

Monday was the six year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina’s landfall on southern Louisiana. Today – six years later – people in the Gulf Coast are still struggling to recover from the devastating effects of the storm.

National Public Radio ran a couple pieces this week about the struggle of some communities to secure housing. In one story, the reporter discusses the plight of people along the Mississippi coast – communities that were overlooked by state agencies and federal aid. While some assistance is reaching them now, some posit that the help is both little and late.

In a second NPR story, a reporter profiles Pamela Landry, a woman who built a house with two sheds after her mobile home was destroyed by the hurricane. The makeshift home was a step up from the FEMA trailer that she lived in for two years following Katrina but still lacks insulation and heating, among other amenities.

Earlier this year, the Alliance re-examined homelessness in the Gulf Coast, explicitly noting the great increases in homelessness in Louisiana/Mississippi region, largely attributable to people left vulnerable to housing instability after Katrina came through the area. On this, the 6th anniversary of that terrible natural disaster, we remind ourselves of the damage the storm caused to so many communities and the vast number of people out there still awaiting the aid necessary to rebuild their lives. (To see the insert about Hurricane Katrina in The State of Homelessness in America, see page 10.)

It is up to us to ensure that people are not left behind again. In the wake of some unusual natural disasters in the country(a mid-Atlantic earthquake and Hurricane Irene come to mind), we realize that the unexpected can strike at any time, causing chaos and havoc for ordinary citizens. We urge local, state, and federal agencies to commit themselves to help people affected by disaster – we can work to ensure that their lives resume normalcy as quickly and efficiently as possible.

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30th August
2011
written by naehblog

A special post today: this is a summary of an email sent out by the Department of Housing and Urban Development announcing that the FY 2011 Notice of Funding Available for Continuum of Care Homeless Assistance Programs is out. For more information, please visit the HUD website.

HUD’s Office of Special Needs Assistance Programs (SNAPS) has published the FY 2011 Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) for the Continuum of Care (CoC) Homeless Assistance Programs. The CoC NOFA is posted on the Funds Available page of the HUD website. Information is also available on the HUD Homelessness Resource Exchange (HRE) website in the “What’s New” section at the bottom of the page.

Programs included in the CoC NOFA are: the Supportive Housing Program, Shelter Plus Care, the Section 8 Moderate Rehabilitation for Single Room Occupancy Program.

The CoC application and the project application are available online through e-snaps. The application submission deadline is Friday, October 28, 2011 at 7:59:59 p.m. ET.

Policy and technical questions for the FY2011 CoC competition should be submitted to the
Virtual Help Desk (VHD) on the HUD HRE website. The VHD accepts question submissions every day all day. However, responses are usually provided between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. ET, Monday through Friday, excluding federal holidays.

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HUD
29th August
2011
written by Catherine An

As you already know, last week was the week of TANF.

15 years ago, President Clinton signed the welfare reform act changing ADFC to TANF and creating new goals for the program. We blogged about it this week and the week before and there’s been no shortage of commentary from experts and pundits. Through the Alliance lens, TANF plays a critical role in preventing family homelessness. TANF, and other social programs like it, provide the support that the lowest-income families need to stay stably housed. Investing in social programs for the lowest-income Americans is an investment in preventing homelessness before it starts.

In other news:

Our friend Donna Kimura at Affordable Housing Finance wrote an astute piece about supportive housing in the United States, the Washington Post gave some well-deserved credit to northern Virginia’s efforts to end homelessness, and the San Francisco Chronicle reported on a rejected plan to house young people who age out of the foster care system (something we’ve been thinking about lately as well).

A couple more stories of note: In Washington state, Senator Patty Murray – longtime champion of our cause and supercommittee member continued her work responding to the voices of veterans seeking jobs and housing. And in Winston-Salem (NC), homeless people won the right to serve on a council addressing homeless issues. We’ll see how both these stories pan out moving forward.

If you have great stories about homelessness from your community, please share them with us. You can connect to us on Facebook, on Twitter, or you can always leave a comment here.

Photo courtesy of dnhart.

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26th August
2011
written by Anna Blasco

Our Friday news Roundup is broken down today by some of the issue areas the Alliance works on:

Chronic Homelessness

Families

  • The Reading Eagle out of Pennsylvania took an in-depth look at the rise in family homelessness, and the barriers some families face in finding affordable housing.
  • Annie Lowrey suggests one way to help the long-term unemployed is to bring back the Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF) Emergency Contingency Fund (ECF). The program expired last September, which this very blog called “a low down dirty shame.”

Youth

  • This week, the Annie E. Casey Foundation released a report finding that the child poverty rate increased 18% between 2000 and 2009, returning to the level of the early 1990s.
  • Monday will be back to school for many students across the country. The Tallahassee Democrat looks into what that means for students who don’t have a place to call home.

Did we miss any important news this week? Tell us in the comments!

25th August
2011
written by naehblog

Today’s post was written by Assistant to the President Kate Seif.

Last month, almost 1,400 people came to Washington, DC for the Alliances National Conference on Ending Homelessness. As part of the agenda, more than one-in-four participated in Capitol Hill Day. Nonprofit providers, public officials, private sector representatives, consumers, and other key stakeholders visited their Members of Congress on Capitol Hill to update them on local progress in ending homelessness and urge them to make ending homelessness a federal policy priority.

Based on what happened in their more than 270 congressional meetings, we have assembled a 2011 Capitol Hill Day report. The report highlights the unprecedented success of this year’s Capitol Hill Day. This year, more than 360 participants, went on more than 270 meetings.  Four states, including Montana, Nevada, West Virginia, and Rhode Island, had a 100 percent participation rate, meaning that every person from the state who registered for our conference participated in Capitol Hill Day.

Of the more than 270 congressional meetings, almost 50 of those meetings were held with a Member of Congress himself/herself. Advocates made the case for increased funding for McKinney-Vento programs in an astounding 246 of those meetings! Other policy recommendations discussed include the importance of providing additional funding for Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers, SAMSHA Homeless Service programs, and Runaway and Homeless Youth Act programs. The latter – RHYA funding, was really taken up by advocates this year, who raised the issue with at least five times as many offices in 2010.

Not only was Capitol Hill Day an amazing effort by advocates from around the country, but it has already had a measurable impact on federal policy on homelessness.  For example, Capitol Hill Day outreach helped to increase the number of signatories on a recent McKinney-Vento congressional sign on letter circulating in the Senate calling for robust funding for the program.  A total of 29 senators signed on to this letter, which is more than a similar letter circulated last year.  This is an amazing development, particularly given the difficult environment around increased federal spending.  Many of these signatures came as a direct result of conference participants connecting with their senators and their offices. In light of the current political and economic environment, this is really a huge success!!

The best part is that we haven’t seen the full results yet, because Congress has yet to release specific HHS or HUD funding proposals, though they are expected this fall. The success of this year’s Capitol Hill Day wouldn’t have been possible without participants from around the country joining together. The individual effort of each person, and particularly the volunteer State Captains who spent countless hours organizing each state’s efforts, allowed this year’s Capitol Hill Day to be one of the most successful yet. We will keep everyone updated on the continued impact these more than 270 meetings had on federal policy.

Thanks again to all our wonderful advocates and for another fantastic Capitol Hill Day!

Photos courtesy of the Bread for the World Flickr stream.

24th August
2011
written by Catherine An

Yesterday was the 15th anniversary of welfare reform. Fifteen years ago, on August 22, 1996, President Bill Clinton signed into law the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act which instituted Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) to replaced Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC). This cash assistance program was designed to encourage employment and self-sufficiency by requiring program participants to work, placing time limitations on benefits, encouraging marriage and discouraging out-of-wedlock births, and enforcing child support.

We at the Alliance know that TANF is an important program to prevent homelessness. Cash assistance, food stamps, Medicaid – all the programs that keep poor families afloat are the same programs that keep families stably housed. Without that limited assistance, families could be at real risk for experiencing homelessness.

So how’s the program been working? Well, there’s been no shortage of commentary this week.

Experts at the Brookings Institution suggest that welfare reform has succeeded in reducing poverty despite the sting of the recent recession. Others at the Center for American Progress note how TANF has failed to keep up with rising need among lower-income and poor families. Noted scholar Barbara Ehrenreich and RNC Chairman Michael Steele debated the finer points of welfare reform earlier this week on National Public Radio.

For our part, we were particularly interested in the research of the Urban Institute. They released a publication earlier entitled “What Role is Welfare Playing in this Period of High Unemployment?” (We wrote about this report earlier on the blog, here. ) Similarly, experts at the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities released information about how “TANF’s inadequate response to recession shows weakness of block grant structure.

Both the Urban Institution and CBPP suggest that the marked reductions in the number of people receiving TANF benefits and TANF expenditures doesn’t mean the poor familiar are faring any better than they did 15 years ago. To the contrary, publications from both institutions show that, even amidst the persistent recession, TANF rolls have hardly kept up with the rates of unemployment, suggesting that many of the poorest families are suffering through the recession without any assistance. (Ezra Klein observed the same on his blog yesterday. )

While some may cringe at the idea of providing limited assistance to the very poorest people and families, the investment into poverty programs is an important one to make. If we can effectively and efficiently provide enough aid to prevent homelessness and encourage self-sufficiency, we can ensure that all Americans have the opportunity to build a strong, safe future for themselves and their families.

Charts courtesy of the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities and the Urban Institute.

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22nd August
2011
written by naehblog

On Friday, our dear federal policy intern Rricha left us to go back to law school. But before she left, we asked her to list some things she learned during her time at the Alliance.

  1. Runaway and homeless youth are especially susceptible in falling victim to commercial sexual exploitation.
  2. Thirty years ago, homelessness wasn’t as big of a problem as it is today- it is possible to end homelessness with clear and directed federal policies.
  3. Don’t bring an [empty] travel mug with you to the Capitol Visitors Center – they will throw it away (even if it’s new and from Starbucks!)
  4. We need better data on how many homeless youth there are in this country so we can shape policies that most affect and empower this population.
  5. It is much cheaper to house a homeless person than to pay the costs of incarceration or medical expenses over his or her lifetime.
  6. The phones at the Alliance are very musical.
  7. Foster care children who age out of the child welfare system are at high risk for becoming homeless.
  8. Making a personalized google map isn’t as difficult as it sounds!
  9. All the programs related to helping homeless populations have a sustainability component – a long term plan to keep them off the streets.
  10. Andre Wade, youth policy analyst, cannot function without his iPad.
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19th August
2011
written by naehblog

Just a quickie Friday News Roundup for today:

There were two interesting stories from National Public Radio (NPR) this week: the first one was about a study that came out of Urban Institute about the role that the Temporary Aid for Needy Families played during the recession (we wrote about it yesterday). We know that it’s mainstream welfare programs like TANF that keep very low-income families from sliding into homelessness – an important fact to think about when considering welfare policies.

The second is an article about housing for minorities.

Interestingly, a study found that African Americans and Latinos live in very different neighborhoods than white or Asian Americans with comparable incomes; in fact, African Americans and Latinos tend to live in poorer neighborhoods than their Asian American and white counterparts. The story goes on to explore the different reasons why and the role of Section 8 Housing Vouchers.

The Washington Post this week published an article about doubling up – noting that [unsurprisingly] the recession has caused an increase in the incidence of relatives to live with each other. Doubling up is an economic indicator of homelessness that we examined last year and revisited again when we published The State of Homelessness in America. Check our interactive map on doubled up for more information.

And finally, there were a couple of articles about veterans in the news. The Associated Press wrote about disability status among exiting troops and how a new exit system has caused some delays for veterans being discharged. While the new process is meant to expedite and streamline the process, it’s currently causing periods of time when a disabled veteran doesn’t know where he’ll end up, when he’ll be discharged, and how much he’ll receive in disability benefits. There was an article in TIME Magazine that discussed unemployment among veterans and how to help young veterans find work post-service.

These questions are important ones for veterans, especially as we know that veterans are at risk of experiencing homelessness when they return from conflict. With the VA’s commitment to end veteran homelessness in five years, we must take particular note of the transition process to ensure that veterans have a smooth and productive shift into civilian life.

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18th August
2011
written by Catherine An

This month, our friends at the Urban Institute released a brief on the role of TANF during the recession.

The news is not so good.

According to researchers Sheila Zedlewski, Pamela Loprest, and Erika Huber, TANF did not play a significant role in keeping families economically stable during the recession. In fact, there were many states in which the number of people enrolled in the TANF program declined (this study specifically looks at years 2007 to 2010) while unemployment rose dramatically. Of particular note is the state of Arizona, where TANF rolls declined by 48 percent while unemployment in Arizona rose by 134 percent.

The finding is curious. TANF is meant to assist poor families with cash assistance and promote self-sufficiency and work. Why then, during a time of economic turmoil and high unemployment, would poor families not take advantage of TANF benefits?

Reduced TANF use has left a number of families in dire financial situations, what the writers of the brief call “disconnected.” “Disconnected” families have no earnings of cash government assistance of any kind. The writers found that in 1996, one in eight low-income single mothers was disconnected; that jumped to one in five disconnected single mothers from 2004 to 2008.

And this is the kind of economic vulnerability that leads to homelessness.
Mainstream welfare programs, like TANF, are often a bridge for many poor people and families between homelessness and housing. Most poor people – and people who become homeless are typically poor people – have scant resources. Depriving a family of even one of those resources can lead the family to tumble into homelessness.

At the end of the brief, the Urban Institute recommends policy measures that could improve the utility and effectiveness of the TANF program, especially during recessionary periods. Among the recommendations are:

  • encouragement of subsidized job programs
  • allowing training and job education to count towards work activity requirements during times of high unemployment
  • permitting federal block grant funds to rise automitcally for states experiencing high unemployment

And finally, the brief concludes with a sentiment that is often felt in our offices. While the temptation to cut such social programs, especially in this fiscal environment, may loom large, we must not forget the role that these precious programs play in the lives of people who have few if any other resources.

To read the full brief by the Urban Institute, please visit their website.

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17th August
2011
written by Catherine An

Next month, Catholic Charities will host the 2011 Poverty Summit in Fort Worth, TX and the Alliance is proud to be a part of this important conversation including people from across the country discussing ways to alleviate and eliminate poverty.

As their website states, the Poverty Summit aims to (we’re quoting here):

  • Inspire active participation in a national movement to reduce poverty in America,
  • Re-imagine the way America addresses poverty,
  • Strategically identify, design and implement innovative and measureable tactics towards the common goal of reducing poverty in America.

The Alliance’s own president and CEO Nan Roman will join a national panel of experts on poverty reduction including David Beckmann of Bread for the World and Andrea Levere of the Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED) to take place on Monday, September 19. Other sessions included in this year’s summit include breakout sessions on a variety of topics and keynote addresses including Mark Shriver of Save the Children and Rev. Larry Snyder of Catholic Charities USA.

For more information about the Summit and how to register, please visit their website.

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