Archive for October, 2011
Big News! We opened registration for our 2012 National Conference on Ending Family and Youth Homelessness. Sign up soon for discounted registration rates and expect more posts on the conferences as it gets closer.
If you have read our Friday News Roundups in the past, you may have noticed that today’s version is a little shorter than usual. Let us know if you like this shorter, bulletted format better than the usual summery format in the poll question at the bottom of this post!
Now on to this week’s news roundup:
- Chattanooga announced family homelessness has doubled in their community.
- An estimated 40,000 people, half of whom are children, will be cut from receiving welfare benefits in Michigan. Food stamp recipients who have assets of more than $5,000 may also lose their benefits.
- The street newspaper Street Roots looks at how cuts to benefits in Oregon will affect real people.
- The Ali Forney Center released a video on the plight of homeless gay youth.
- Cindy Lauper explains why she gives a damn about lgbt youth homelessness.
- A lack of affordable housing and never ending waiting lists contribute to a shortage in housing for people with mental illnesses in Baltimore County.
- Affordable housing for everyone is short in the Twin Cities and in Billings, MT.
Last week, we told you about the Super-Committee and why we need to ask them to protect homeless assistance programs. Last month, we told you what the Super-Committee needs to know about ending homelessness. Today (and tomorrow), we need you to pass that message along to the members of the Super-Committee.
Specifically, we’re talking about Medicaid. The Medicaid Coalition, led by Families USA, will be having call-in days today, Thursday, October 13 and tomorrow, Friday, October 14. We’re asking you to call the Members on the Super-Committee and urge them to reject any cuts to Medicaid. Medicaid is a critically important part of the social safety net that protects homeless and other vulnerable people.
Why tomorrow? Because tomorrow is the deadline for congressional committees that work on Medicaid to relay their expert recommendations to the Super-Committee. All committees that work on Medicaid – on both the House and Senate sides – have the opportunity to send the Super-Committee their thoughts on how the Super-Committee should approach Medicaid tomorrow.
This is another great chance to contact your Members of Congress, build upon your emerging relationship with lawmakers, and make a difference in the lives of those suffering most in this economic climate. Reaching out to your Members on this issue is an important step in letting congressional leadership know that homelessness programs like Medicaid, TANF, the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants and other low-income housing and homelessness programs are key to stabilizing millions of families across America.
The Coalition has offered their toll-free number for the Capitol Switchboard which can connect you to your Member’s office: 1-866-922-4970
In addition, Families USA has made talking points and other fact sheets available through the following links:
Medicaid, Deficit Reduction and the “Super Committee”
Cutting and Restructuring Medicaid Should Not Be Part of Deficit Reduction
Medicaid’s Impact in the States: Helping People with Serious Health Care Needs
The Alliance has talking points specifically tailored to strategies for ending chronic homelessness through Medicaid and the need for the Super-Committee to preserve this key program.
Today’s guest post comes to us from Alliance policy and program analyst André Wade.
Senator Leahy is responsible for the reauthorization of the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act in 2008, a federal program that serves homeless young people.
The HighLow Project is a collaboration between photographer Ned Castle and the Vermont Coalition of Runaway and Homeless Youth Programs. The collection of photographs tells the compelling stories of youth in Vermont based on real “high” and “low” points in the lives of these youths. The photographs are a sobering reminder of the realities that many vulnerable youth experience.
Luckily, we can change the lives of these young people by changing the “highs” and “lows” that impact their lives. We can influence the direction that their lives take through responsible federal policy and accessible social services:
- Ensure programs, such as the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act (RHYA), are fully authorized and appropriated at levels that increase the amount of services and housing options for youth. Underfunded or defunded programs deny youth the opportunity to seek education, employment, and self-sufficiency. Currently, RHYA is not fully authorized and is funded only at $116 million.
- Encourage policymakers and decision-makers to learn about the realities of youth homelessness. Access to affordable housing, higher education, employment, and other social services are necessary to prevent and end youth homelessness. When at-risk and homeless youth are marginalized or ignored, the do not have the opportunity to rejoin society in a productive and fulfilling way.
- Raise awareness of America’s at-risk and homeless youth through advocacy. By becoming part of the solution through civic engagement and public policy, we can make a meaningful, positive impact on this vulnerable population.
Photo courtesy of the HighLow Project.
In the veterans supplement to the AHAR last week, we learned that the point-in-time count of veterans experiencing homelessness rose one percent to 76,329 from 2009 to 2010. In the same time period, year-round counts of homeless veterans seeking services decreased by 3 percent, to 144,842.
There were a number of other observations and statistics presented in the report, which covered
- estimates of homelessness among veterans
- demographic characteristics of sheltered veterans
- risk of homelessness among veterans, examining gender, race/ethnicity, age, and disability status
- location of homeless veterans
- veterans’ access and use of the shelter system
- permanent supportive housing use by veterans
Among the many findings presented in the report, I was struck by two in particular, both pertaining to the risk of homelessness among veterans.
First is the widely-reported idea that female veterans are at higher risk of homelessness than their male counterparts. The report suggests that the wide reporting is based on fact, suggesting that female veterans are twice as likely as their non-veteran counterparts to experience homelessness. Poor female veterans are three times as likely to experience homelessness as their non-veteran counterparts living in poverty. In fact, it can be said that military service heightens the American woman’s risk of experiencing homelessness.
I was also taken by the racial breakdown of risk. As the Alliance has observed before, African Americans are strongly overrepresented in the homeless veterans population. African Americans make up approximately 35 percent of the homeless veteran population but only 10 percent of the veteran population (and only 13 percent of the American population). Likewise, Latino/Hispanic veterans constitute 12 percent of the homeless veterans population but only 8 percent of the veteran population.
But I also noticed that Asians, while being underrepresented in the homeless veteran population (only 0.5 percent of the homeless veteran population and just over 1 percent of the total veteran population) were at particularly high risk of experiencing homelessness. At higher risk, according to the chart presented, than either their African American and Latino/Hispanic counterparts.
For more information about this report on veterans or to access it online, please click here.
This week our President, Nan Roman, penned an opinion piece in the Huffington Post about Opening Doors Across America, a new initiative of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) to encourage communities to align their plans to end homelessness with the federal plan. This piece came out just a few days before USICH released their first annual update to the federal plan. In the Huffington Post piece, Nan reflects on the progress and setbacks we have experienced since we released the original Ten Year Plan roadmap in 2000.
In reading the news this week, I saw the progress and setbacks Nan discussed. Communities continue to adopt Ten Year Plans “to really end homelessness — not just manage it, not just shelter people, but find them permanent homes,” in the words of the United Way of Missoula County CEO Susan Hay Patrick. States like Massachusetts are rolling out large programs focused on proven strategies like rapid re-housing. One representative of this project said, “The Commonwealth now has the ability to offer alternatives, as opposed to just sheltering people. We believe this is a viable and effective response.’’ Hear, hear.
However, the economic obstacles we face still loom large. The Center on Budget and Policy priorities summed up today’s jobs report in stark graphs illustrating that recovery remains elusive. The New York Times looked at Reading, Pennsylvania, this week, which was recently cited as having the largest share of its residents living in poverty. They also published a personal report by a homeless Afghan war veteran, Matt Farwell, who wonders if fighting on the front lines beats living on the streets in the U.S. Finally homelessness, two local newspapers tell us, is a rural and suburban problem, not just an urban one.
Despite these obstacles, I know homelessness advocates have not thrown in the towel. This week, the Alliance and the Campaign for Housing and Community Development Funding hosted National Call-In Week. In order to prevent projected increases in homelessness, you picked up the phone this week and called your representatives to tell them we need to increase federal funding for essential programs like the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants. Thank you to all of the advocated out there who made calls. If you haven’t yet participated in National Call-In Week, you still have time. Find out how, here.
Recently, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) released the second annual veteran-specific supplement to the Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR). This report provides one-day and one-year estimates of the number of veterans experiencing homelessness in the United States, as well as the demographic characteristics of the veterans experiencing homelessness.
The report found that veteran homelessness in 2010 changed only slightly from 2009. The one-day estimate, called a Point-in-Time count, increased by 1 percent, from 75,609 homeless veterans on a single night in 2009 to 76,329 homeless veterans on a single night in 2010. The one-year count of sheltered veterans decreased by 3 percent between 2009 and 2010, from 149,635 to 144,842.
The demographic characteristics of homeless veterans were also largely unchanged. Homeless veterans in 2010 were slightly older, slightly more likely to be white, and slightly more likely to be disabled than they were in 2009.
One aspect of this report was particularly worrisome considering the Obama Administration’s plans to bring home large numbers of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan. According to the report, young veterans (between 18 and 30) are more than twice as likely to be homeless than non-veterans, and young veterans living in poverty are almost four times as likely to be homeless as non-veterans. Veterans about to return from our current conflicts will face a difficult economy and job market and may need extra support to ensure they don’t experience poverty or homelessness as they rejoin civilian life.
Finally, while all states have homeless veterans, four states account of 50 percent of homeless veterans in the country: California, New York, Florida, and Texas.
You can find the report here: http://www.hudhre.info/documents/2010AHARVeteransReports.pdf
The McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, passed in 1987, provided children without a “fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence” some stability in the form of school.
Thanks to McKinney-Vento, children have the right to stay in their school of origin, despite the upheaval of homelessness. This means that even if kids have to move out of their original school district (because, for example, assistance is not available in that original district), students experiencing homelessness are able to continue attending their school. Because research has shown that students perform better when their school environment is stable, McKinney-Vento requires that school districts must provide transportation for the homeless student to the school of origin.
In recent recessionary years, the cost of bussing homeless students from shelter to school has been debated. States like Massachusetts have declared that they can no longer afford the cost of bussing; others have stopped paying for it outright. The National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty recently released a report, “Beds Not Buses: Housing vs. Transportation for Homeless Students,” arguing that a focus on housing will benefit the student and community more, while also cutting the high cost of bussing.
More specifically, the report calls for communities and schools to work together to create more affordable housing, which will prevent children from becoming homeless in the first place. The Law Center analyzed data from the Seattle area and found that “the costs to house unaccompanied homeless youth in supportive housing, or to place a homeless family in a two bedroom apartment with a Section 8 voucher, are less than or equal to the likely costs associated with providing special transportation.”
This shifting focus requires collaboration from a number of key stakeholders, including school administrators, local government officials, students and parents, and affordable housing and homelessness prevention advocates.
But the benefit is real. Not only will school districts be able to stretch their limited funds farther, but investing in affordable housing measurably and practically ends homelessness for individuals and families.
Image by Asim Bharwani
The House and Senate are making decisions right now that will have a critical impact on funding for homelessness assistance programs. In order to prevent projected increases in homelessness, we need to increase federal funding for essential programs like the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants. That is why we teamed up with the Campaign for Housing and Community Development Funding (CHCDF) to sponsor a National Call-In Week happening now.
First, some background information:
With the passage of the debt ceiling bill, Congress began work in earnest on fiscal year (FY) 2012 spending. Currently, the House and Senate are in the process of making final decisions on key programs such as McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants. These final decisions are happening in conjunction with ongoing concerted efforts to cut spending and reduce the federal deficit. While homelessness programs have been fortunate enough to not have been cut, proposals so far have been to simply flat fund many of these programs, including the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants. While we are grateful that these programs are unlikely to be cut, flat funding is simply not enough. As our recent report indicates, increasing federal funding is the only viable way to prevent an increase in homelessness.
The House and Senate Appropriations Committees will be working over the coming weeks to come to an agreement on funding levels for HUD and other programs before final legislation is passed. If the final legislation includes flat funding for McKinney-Vento Grants, there won’t be enough resources to effectively support the many Americans who are among the rising numbers of those experiencing homelessness.
What You Can Do
Contact your Members of Congress this week and urge them to give as much funding as possible to HUD, including an increase to HUD’s McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants. The goal of our call-in week is to convince Members of Congress to provide as much funding for HUD as possible in the short time that is left before they make final funding decisions.
It’s important that Members of Congress, especially those on the Appropriations Committees, request moving enough additional money into the FY 2012 HUD funding bill to provide for an increase in homelessness funding, and the more of their constituents that they hear from, the more likely they are to act.
For more information, or if you have questions, email Kate Seif at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Some Helpful Resources:
Today’s guest post comes to us from Whitney Hicks, Communications and Events Manager at Community of Hope.
Join supporters of DC-based housing organization Community of Hope this Thursday, Oct. 6 from 6 to 8:30 p.m. for the event Feeding the Soul, Strengthening the Community. The reception will benefit the health care and housing programs for low-income and homeless families and individuals.
The event will showcase Community of Hope’s efforts to improve the health and quality of life of low-income, homeless, and underserved families and individuals in Washington, DC. A Community of Hope client will be at the event to share her story, and Lesli Foster, WUSA Channel 9 Anchor and Honorary Chair of the Host Committee, will be attending as well.
This event is made possible through the generous support of Gold Sponsors A+ Government Solutions, Inc., Freddie Mac Foundation, National Air Traffic Controllers Association, and National Association of Manufacturers.
Feeding the Soul will take place at Carmine’s, located at 425 7th St NW, Washington, DC 20004. Tickets are $75 per person or $125 per couple. Sponsorships start at $500, tickets included.
You can find more information on our website.
For 30 years, Community of Hope has provided hope and stability to low-income and homeless adults and children in DC. Our holistic range of programs – from healthcare to housing with supportive services and programs promoting strong families – helps underserved residents create stable lives for themselves and promising futures for their children.
For additional questions, please contact Community of Hope at (202) 407-7754 or by email.
Photo courtesy of the Community of Hope website.