Archive for November, 2011

30th November
written by naehblog

Today’s guest blog comes to the Alliance from Iain  DeJong.

Iain DeJong

Iain DeJong presenting at the 2010 National Conference on Ending Homelessness.

I have the great privilege of working with communities and organizations across North America that are dedicated to ending homelessness. Being the nerd that I am, I feel passionate about using real-time information to link the right intervention to the people who need that intervention. This seems to make sense to a lot of people, but the unfortunate reality is that this is not how many organizations or communities work.

Imagine you have a heart attack. You are rushed to the hospital by paramedics. I now want to give you a choice: you can be seen by a cardiologist or an obstetrician/gynecologist (OB/GYN). Which one do you choose? The cardiologist, of course. Are cardiologists successful with heart attack victims 100 percent of the time? Nope. But that doesn’t prevent us from seeking out cardiologists when we experience a heart attack. They’re heart experts after all.

Here is another choice for you: again, you’ve had a heart attack. The cardiologist and OB/GYN choices remain, but this time I want to add a third choice: an acquaintance who watches a lot of House on TV. Oh, and he used to watch ER, dabbles in Grey’s Anatomy, and loves MASH re-runs. Who do you choose this time? My money is still on the cardiologist.

Here is your final choice: again, you’ve had a heart attack. All the cardiologists are not available. Why? Because they are too busy seeing people with common colds. Now your choice is limited to the OB/GYN or the acquaintance who watches House. I’m guessing you would choose the OB/GYN. It may not be their field of expertise – and your heart condition may have complexities that are outside their field of knowledge – but they likely still have a better chance of keeping you alive until the cardiologist is available than the acquaintance who watches House.

What are the lessons here for homelessness and housing service systems?

The first lesson: Perform common assessment to determine where (which organization) and how (which type of service) assistance should be provided.

I have seen the value of standardized assessment tools (or like this one) used across communities or a coordinated entry process, where the standardization takes much of the guess work out of determining where and how people can be served.

The second lesson: Prioritize highest need cases first.

Services should not be first come, first served. Can you imagine if people who experienced heart attacks were left to wallow in waiting areas? I suspect a lot more people would die waiting for the services they need, when the resources to help exist.

Communities that are serious about ending homelessness have methods for determining which individual/family should be served when and why. It isn’t random. It isn’t luck. It is informed decision-making that matches information gleaned from the assessment with the best available resources.

The third lesson: Capitalize on experts and their expertise.

Homelessness organizations cannot be all things to all people. We don’t want cardiologists to be inundated with people with common colds much like we wouldn’t want Assertive Community Treatment teams or Intensive Case Managers overloaded by people with lower acuity needs.

Oh…and don’t think words like “expert”, “professional” and “expertise” are accidental. Ending homelessness is professional work that draws upon a body of evidence, research, and proven methods. Simply being well-intentioned – without expertise – is code for being ill-prepared or improperly trained which can result in more harm than good. It is analogous to your acquaintance, the House fan, treating heart attacks.

The fourth lesson: Work cooperatively as a homeless assistance system.

The paramedics actually took the heart attack victim to the hospital – it wasn’t a blind referral, it was a warm transfer. In other words, once the paramedics arrived on scene they didn’t just tell the person where the hospital was and hope the person would get there while they moved onto the next heart attack victim. That’s not how paramedics work. They revive. They stabilize. They take people to the location with the expertise to meet their needs. They communicate with the hospital in advance of showing up to make sure that they know they are coming, which also gives the hospital the chance to say they are full or have no cardiologists available. At the hospital the paramedics remain until they directly pass the patient off to the next professional. They also pass every tidbit of information onto that other professional. And they document all that they did.

The fifth lesson: Ask the right questions at the right time.

We need to orient our information gathering towards matching people to the right housing intervention to meet their needs. Once they are involved in the program best designed to meet their needs, more pertinent information can always be collected. A mistake in homeless services that I have seen repeatedly is inundating people with questions to populate databases at the wrong time. Housing is the only known cure to homelessness. Shouldn’t we be orienting our questions towards a housing solution? Asking someone “How can I help you?” allows the conversation to go to any one of a number of different directions, most often related to their present survival needs. Asking someone “How can I help you get housing?” provides a very clear scope and direction and places the individual asking the question at the center of the discussion, which reinforces accountability.

My final point is that people who experience heart attacks are not kept in the hospital indefinitely. When the time is right – based upon professional opinion and further assessment – the person who had the heart attack is discharged from the hospital. The person in many instances is going to be connected to other community resources to help them get healthier and stronger while back in the community.

As we look at HEARTH indicators, we know that a system-wide approach to service delivery – rather than a collection of programs – demands that we think critically and strategically about how to get the right information that allows us to get the right individual/family to the right service. This system-based, strategic approach improves coverage of services, reduces length-of-time experiencing homelessness, and reduces recidivism. It also provides terrific opportunities for diversion.

So, let’s help people who are homeless with really complex needs access the resources best able to help them. Instead of just any organization, let’s help them get to the organization with the expertise and resources to have the greatest likelihood of success. Let’s focus on quality interventions rather than a quantity of interventions.

Let’s help people who are homeless with moderate needs access the resources best able to help them. Let us respect and value that not every individual is going to have really acute needs and let us also appreciate that some organizations do phenomenal work at effectively serving people with moderate needs.

Let’s do this across our entire systems of care and across all program areas. And let’s do our best to help people of all presenting needs and acuities access the housing they need.

Iain De Jong is one of the Managing Partners of OrgCode Consulting, Inc. and a long-time – and popular – presenter at Alliance Conferences. He has worked in the non-profit, non-governmental, private and public sectors, from policy development to direct service delivery and program design and evaluation. His work has generated a number of awards for innovation, affordable housing, impact on public policy and service quality. In addition to his work at OrgCode, Iain teaches in the Graduate Planning Programme at York University. If you are interested in learning more about his work or perspectives on ending homelessness, check out Iain’s Blog on the OrgCode website , Like OrgCode Consulting on Facebook or follow @orgcode on Twitter.

29th November
written by Elizabeth Doherty

It is only a few short days since Black Friday and I find myself bombarded with holiday marketing and advertisements even though the December holidays are still weeks away.

In this frenzied time of holiday shopping and pressure to find the perfect gift, I would like to offer an alternative gift that will benefit efforts to prevent and end homelessness– an “End Homelessness” t-shirt.  These shirts are perfect for co-workers, advocates, and supporters of the movement to end homelessness.

The Alliance is currently selling navy blue “End Homelessness” t-shirts for $15.  The shirts are available in men’s and women’s sizes, small through xxxx-large.  Payments can be made using a check or credit card.  Please visit our t-shirt website for further details and to view our current inventory of sizes.

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28th November
written by Andre Wade

Yeah, what about them?

Many questions surround the issue of LGBTQ youth homelessness.

  • Do LGBTQ youth need separate housing?
  • Do LGBTQ youth need specialized services?
  • When solving youth homelessness, can we automatically assume the needs of LGBTQ youth will be brought to the table?
  • What can local communities do to provide services to LGBTQ youth when they have limited resources to provide services to youth at all?
  • What is HUD’s role in providing services to LGBTQ youth?
  • What is FYSB doing to better serve LGBTQ youth?
  • How many LGBTQ homeless youth are there?

Unfortunately, we do not have definitive answers to these questions.

However there is research to suggest that a risk factor for homelessness among youth is identifying as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender or Questioning. LGBTQ youth are more likely to suffer physical abuse in the home, which can lead to ejection from the home and, ultimately, homelessness. This experience is unique to LGBTQ youth; a heterosexual kid isn’t told to leave home because of his or her sexual orientation just like a tall kid doesn’t suffer abuse at home because of his height. Therefore, the unique experiences of LGBTQ youth at home (non-acceptance) and  out of the home (underserved) must be taken into consideration when developing solutions to youth homelessness.

We’ve all seen the statistics and have heard the horror stories of LGBTQ youth being victims of sexual exploitation, being discriminated against at shelters, not feeling safe, and having fewer opportunities because of their identity. But the question remains: what do we do about LGBTQ youth homelessness?

It is imperative that interventions for youth homelessness such as family reunification, crisis intervention, street outreach, targeted outreach, and (of course) housing services, take into consideration the unique needs and experiences of LGBTQ youth when they’re applied to this population. A few recommendations to ensure that LGBTQ youth are afforded inclusive and equal access to services, at the federal and local level are:

  • Incorporate cultural competency in services such as family reunification, connections to mentors, health and life skills development
  • Train staff to be culturally competent in the needs and experiences of LGBTQ youth.
  • Provide LGBTQ youth with the opportunity to connect with their LGBTQ peers in the community who will provide them with a circle of support and positive adult connections.
  • Recognize that LGBTQ youth are at higher risk of suffering from depression and low self-esteem for reasons such as not being accepted at home or at school because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
  • Implement strong non-discrimination policies at shelters and other service provider organizations to protect the safety and well-being of LGBTQ youth.
  • Include LGBTQ youth in Point-In-Time counts; and community youth counts and surveys.
  • Target outreach to LGBTQ youth so that they become aware of services and housing programs that are available to them.
  • Include LGBTQ youth in research agendas to find out what approaches and interventions work best for them in ending youth homelessness.
  • Recognize that LGBTQ youth are at high risk of being victims of commercial sexual exploitation.

This population of people experiencing homelessness are at particularly heightened vulnerability: due to their age, their sexual orientation, their personal experiences and cause of homelessness. Knowing that, we can apply the right kinds of solutions and housing practices to ensure that they are served in an efficient and effective way. We can end LGBTQ youth homelessness working together and employing the best known practices.

Photo courtesy of

25th November
written by Elizabeth Doherty

The holidays are synonymous with giving and today, Black Friday, is synonymous with shopping.

But what if you could do all of your holiday shopping without driving in traffic, circling for a parking spot, or navigating crowded stores?  I would like to offer you a meaningful and high impact alternative to the Black Friday shopping frenzy: a gift to end homelessness.

You can make a gift to end homelessness without waiting in line or struggling through traffic.  Today, you can give your loved ones a meaningful gift by donating to the National Alliance to End Homelessness in their honor.

The Alliance will send the individual/s honored by your gift a personalized holiday card (pictured above) notifying them of your contribution. The card reads:

May the wonders of the holiday season fill your heart with peace and your home with joy.

In the spirit of the holiday season a gift in your name has been made to the National Alliance to End Homelessness.  This gift was made by___________.

This Black Friday, choose a gift that helps prevent and end homelessness. (Be sure to check the box marked “holiday card” and include the recipient’s address so that we can send them their card.) Your gift to the Alliance will celebrate the spirit of the holidays and contribute to proven solutions that will bring about an end to homelessness in America.

Thank you for your support.  We wish you a happy Thanksgiving and wonderful weekend!

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24th November
written by Andre Wade

Family reunification is one of the many interventions used to end youth homelessness.

Runaway and Homeless Youth Basic Center Programs reunify 80 percent of youth under the age of 18 who need reunification services; Basic Centers are designed to provide counseling and referrals to facilitate the return of homeless youth back home. Case planning with the youth and his or her parents/legal guardians are conducted to assess the safety and well-being of the youth returning home.

This can often be the ideal situation for runaway and homeless youth. Reunifying with the family, with the facilitation of adept case managers, can end homelessness and provide the services needed to repair the conflict that precipitated the runaway episode in the first place.

If one of the main factors that lead to a youth running away is conflict over the youth’s sexual orientation or gender identity, then working with a youth and their family on the subject can be a very sensitive and delicate matter when the family is not accepting. Assessment tools, counseling, and family engagement practices should take into consideration the dynamics of family conflict when the family’s rejection of a youth’s self-identified sexual orientation or gender identity is at the core of the issue. Providers and practitioners should be aware of the symptoms of a family’s non-acceptance, including depression, low self-esteem, and increased risk of HIV and STDs.

To better ensure that youths and their families receive the necessary support and access to resources to address their crisis, we need to ensure that the Basic Center Programs funded by the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act programs are adequately funded. These programs:

  • Implement evidenced-based practices,
  • Implement culturally competent practices and intervention tools,
  • Maintain enough counselors to facilitate family reunification and after care services,
  • Evaluate the success of their interventions to capture outcomes of youth who exit the program.

For more information about family reunification or about other issues affecting homeless youth, please visit the Alliance website.

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23rd November
written by Steve Berg

The news is out: the “super-committee” was unable to make a deal.  What does that mean, particularly for local communities that are struggling with homelessness?

The super-committee was created by the Budget Control Act (BCA) of 2011, the deficit reduction law that Congress passed this past summer.  As a quick review, that law contained two major provisions to reduce federal debt:

  • An overall cap on federal “discretionary” spending (spending that is determined year-by-year through the congressional appropriations process, including virtually all HUD programs and all other targeted homelessness programs), starting in FY 2012. These caps generally keep increases in spending below the expected rate of inflation for the next ten years.
  • Deeper cuts over nine years, beginning in FY 2013, totaling an additional $1.2 trillion in spending reduction.  This second set of cuts could have been avoided had the super-committee proposed and Congress passed legislation to reduce the projected federal debt by $1.2 trillion through other mechanisms.

So with the super-committee process having produced no alternative, the additional $1.2 trillion in cuts is scheduled to take place, beginning in January 2013.  These cuts will come from domestic programs as well as defense and security programs.  They include some “mandatory” (as opposed to “discretionary”) programs but most mandatory programs that affect low-income people are exempt: Medicaid, SSI, Social Security, TANF, SNAP (formerly called food stamps).  All VA programs are exempt from cuts as well.

However, HUD programs, as well as Health Care for the Homeless, SAMHSA homelessness grants, education for homeless children and youth, RHYA programs, and other targeted homelessness programs, are not exempt.

One thing to note – by January 2013, FY 2013 will have already begun, so for that year the Budget Control Act requires a “sequester:” an across the board cut to all non-exempt programs below the level that Congress appropriated for FY 2013. For FYs 2014 to 2021, appropriators will, from the beginning, base their work on the deeper discretionary caps.

To give some idea of the scope, let’s look at the total amounts of federal discretionary spending for a few select years (thanks to OMB Watch for the figures, which are estimates):

2010 — $1.089 trillion (enacted)

2011 — $1.049 trillion (enacted)

2012 — $1.043 trillion (mandated by step 1 of the BCA)

2013 — $953 billion (mandated by step 2 of the BCA)

The cuts beginning in FY 2013 are obviously extreme. Between FY 2012 and FY 2013, discretionary funding will be cut by nearly 9 percent.   If HUD receives a proportionate share of this cut, it means FY 2013 spending on HUD programs would drop by nearly $4 billion, compared to the $1 billion that HUD programs are losing in FY 2012 compared to FY 2011.

Congress and the President, of course, have the authority to throw out the spending caps that were in the BCA or to suspend them in any way they see fit.  This could happen before or immediately after the 2012 election, perhaps as soon as the new Congress comes into office in January 2013.

There is a good deal of talk on Capitol Hill about doing just that, although President Obama is discouraging it.  The second set of BCA cuts was designed as an incentive for the super-committee to come up with an agreement, not necessarily as good policy in its own right. In fact, if the top priority goal of overall domestic policy right now is more jobs, then short-term cuts in federal spending are exactly the wrong thing to do.

But it would probably not be a good idea to count on Congress reversing these cuts.  For some time to come, competition for limited federal discretionary resources will likely be extreme.  On the other hand, “no deal” means the historic Medicaid expansions scheduled for 2014 are still the law, SNAPS and SSI can expand if the number of people in poverty continues to rise, TANF will stay intact, and no harmful changes are planned to the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit or the Earned Income Tax Credit.  At least that’s the law for now.  Work to end homelessness will need to take account all of these changes, relying less on increases from HUD and more on the large antipoverty entitlement programs.

At the same time, it will be important to make the strongest available case for HUD resources, while getting the most we can out of existing funds.  Together, we will have to focus on efficient and cost-effective solutions, while convincing Congress to prioritize funding for the most vulnerable Americans.

These are things we are more than capable of doing.  The Alliance looks forward to continuing to partner with you to get the best possible results for homeless people.

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22nd November
written by Sam Batko

Continuing our series on homeless youth, today we are going to take a look at the primary federal programs that currently serve this vulnerable population.

The only federal program that is exclusively focused on homeless youth is the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act (RHYA) program administered by the Department of Health and Human Services.  The RHYA program is made up of three components:

  • Street Outreach consists of outreach workers connecting youth living on the street to housing programs, hygiene kits, food, and other necessities; Basic Centers provide short-term (up to 21 days) emergency housing for youth under the age of 18 while working on reunification with their family or finding an alternative long-term housing option; and
  • Transitional Living Programs (TLPs) provide up to 18 months of housing and supportive services youth ages 16 to 21, including youth who are pregnant and/or parenting.  TLPs manifest in a variety of models from congregate facilities to scattered site apartments with flexible rent assistance to host homes where youth live with a volunteer or subsidized family in the community.

While tens of thousands of youth are served annually by the RHYA programs, the need far outweighs the program’s capacity, which means that some homeless youth need to be served by McKinney-Vento homeless assistance programs administered by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

For youth ages 18 and older, the McKinney Vento programs are the only federal funding source for emergency housing.  Moreover, many youth, particularly a large number of young parents, are served in transitional housing programs funded through the Continuum of Care grants process, which is also a part of the HUD McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance programs.

Another federal program that serves both unaccompanied homeless youth and homeless youth and children who are still attached to their families is the Department of Education’s Education for Homeless Children and Youth (EHCY) program.  This program provides legal protections for homeless children and youth to remain in their current school when they become homeless, providing stability that supports educational attainment. The EHCY program provides for transportation to and from said school for homeless students.  The program also funds dedicated staff for both local public school districts and in the state department of education so that schools can identify homeless children and youth and refer them and their families to community housing and service resources.

What we know is that, despite all of the great work all of these programs are doing, they do not have the capacity to identify and serve all the homeless youth in the country. We need to scale up our efforts prevent youth homelessness from occurring by supporting families as a whole, address youth homelessness when it occurs with rapid reconnection to family and effective housing options.  Only then will we be able to truly  end youth homelessness.

For more information on federal programs serving homeless youth and program models being implemented with these funds, visit

22nd November
written by Elizabeth Doherty

“What are you thankful for?”

That is the question that seems to circulate everywhere as Thanksgiving  approaches: on social networks, television ads, blogs, and in conversation. As I sat down to answer this question for this week’s blog, , many things came to mind.

The short answer is, “The Alliance has a lot to be thankful for.”

In the face of stubbornly high unemployment and the continued impact of the recession, the community of people working to end homelessness showed unyielding resilience. Despite waning state and local assistance, rising need among vulnerable families, and challenges created by the lackluster economy, our community has demonstrated its willingness to capitalize on new opportunities, use the best possible practices to prevent and end homelessness, and serve people who have been hit hardest and whose unmet needs are most severe.

That is why I would like to take this opportunity to say: thank you.

Thank you to the local direct service providers who are on the front lines, helping people at risk of and experiencing homelessness, creating innovative new ways to meet increasing demand with decreasing resources.

Thank you to our grassroots advocates who write to Members of Congress, make phone calls to your networks, and conduct Hill visits to ensure that the most vulnerable among us do not bear the brunt of federal budget cuts and partisan politics.

Thank you to our generous donors.  We are honored by your commitment to ending homelessness. Your financial support allows the work of the Alliance to continue.

Thank you to our wonderful volunteers; from our board leadership to our conference volunteers who willingly give their time to assist the Alliance.

And lastly, thank you members of the Alliance networks.  Your participation in our newsletters, blogs and social networks helps inform our work and spread the message that ending homelessness is possible.

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18th November
written by Sam Strike

Previously, on the News Roundup Poll, we asked you if we could end veteran homelessness in five years. The majority of you said that we could:

This is good.  It would be pretty depressing if most of you had said no.

In the news recently:

  • The Alliance is observing National Homeless Youth Awareness Month by featuring our policy and program analysts Andre Wade and Sam Batko, as well as other members of our excellent staff, in recent youth-centered blog posts.  If you have any questions or concerns about youth homelessness, let us know so we can address them.
  • The New York Times reported on the new “supplemental poverty measure” released by the Census Bureau on Nov. 7.  The measure includes a number of important non-cash benefits from government programs, such as SNAP (food stamps) and the earned-income tax credit, but also includes expenses, such as child and health care, and taxes.  These more focused calculations reveal that more Americans are living in and near poverty than under the official standard, which will still be used to administer programs.
  • Part of the benefit of this measure is that it takes into account the “sharp increase in the food stamps program” that has protected those thrown into unemployment by the recession.  The program, now known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, has been expanded twice since 2007, doubling the amount of assistance going to needy families.
  • For some good news:  the Fresno Bee published a story on the success of their Housing First-based plan to end homelessness.  The Fresno Housing Authority has been working with nonprofits and matching private donations to place 58 people in housing and prepare for the construction of a 70-unit complex of affordable housing.

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18th November
written by Steve Berg

Two days ago, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees finished their negotiations and published a final fiscal year 2012 funding bill for HUD, among other agencies.  This is a conference committee report, meaning that it goes for an up-or-down vote in the House and Senate, no amendments allowed.  Every indication is that it will pass Congress and be signed by the President this week.

As we pored through its contents Monday night and Tuesday morning, the bill set off mixed emotions, starting with a letdown that our efforts to get an increase in homeless assistance had not worked but relief that homeless assistance grants had escaped any cuts and that HUD-VASH had been expanded.  This was followed by shock at the extent of the final cuts in some HUD programs and intense frustration with the overall state of federal affordable housing policy.

Here’s our take on what the HUD funding bill means for ending homelessness.

HUD homelessness funding – With the homelessness-specific programs, it’s important to be clear about two things to start:

  • HUD-VASH continues to grow each year, building on unified support.  The bill includes $75 million for new HUD-VASH vouchers, enough to house another 11,500 homeless veterans or more.  Earlier this year, there were serious questions about whether the new Congress would continue to support this program.  These questions have been put to rest, at least for now.
  • In light of what turned out to be substantial cuts in HUD spending, maintaining level funding for homelessness assistance, one of the larger programs at HUD and the one that serves the most politically powerless constituency, is a remarkable achievement.

These results are testament to the hard work of many people, especially our partners all over the country.  After last fall’s election, people embraced the important work of building relationships with decisionmakers who were either new to Congress or new to leadership positions, and convincing them that solutions to homelessness are worth investing in and are in the interests of Republicans and Democrats both.  This work is something to build on next year and in years to come.

At the same time, the economy remains bad, the number of homeless people (especially children) is going up, and the number of people teetering on the brink of homelessness is going up a lot.  Level funding for homeless assistance programs is not enough.   A substantial increase in homelessness remains a grave possibility.   We still have a lot of work to do in order to deal with this threat of increased homelessness at the local and state level and to convince political leaders that they need to be partners in our effort.

HUD Overall – The overall HUD budget did see a cut, for the second year in a row.  In the area of housing, the oft-repeated promise that federal budget problems will not be resolved on the backs of the poor has not been fully borne out.

Although it is too early to tell for sure, one apparent cause for relief is the protection for existing Section 8 vouchers.  Section 8 vouchers are funded at close to full renewal level, and if PHAs with large monetary reserves use some of that money, we may get through the year with the voucher program housing as many people as it does today.  Meanwhile, beside the new HUD-VASH vouchers, there is also some “tenant protection” money to replace demolished public housing.  Funding for PHAs to run the programs, however, remains a concern.

Meanwhile, three large programs were cut severely, accounting for the bulk of the reductions for HUD:

  • CDBG – Cut by over 11 percent, on top of much larger cuts last year, leaving CDBG funding at the lowest level in many years.  Because CDBG largely funds one-time capital costs of new projects, Congress tends to regard it as something that can be reduced in tight budget years.  Unfortunately, though, 20 percent of CDBG funding is used for administration, often paying salaries for city and state government employees who work locally on homelessness.
  • HOME – Cut to $1.0 billion, from $1.6 billion last year and $1.825 billion in FY 2010.  HOME is an important resource for affordable housing development.  This cut will mean less new affordable housing.
  • Public Housing – Cut by over 12 percent from last year. Last year there was also a large cut in public housing capital expenditures, softened by money for public housing in the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (commonly referred to as the “stimulus”).  This year, Congress piled on and cut even more, especially for operating expenses.  It is hard to see how PHAs can absorb this cut without maintenance backlogs, more uninhabitable apartments, and fewer people housed.

To be clear, it’s not like there is any other version of a HUD budget that could start with this little money and somehow get substantially better results.  The problem here is bigger, and there are two parts to it:

1) Because of the deficit reduction deal reached earlier this year and the push in the new Congress to cut spending, the overall amount of money in the budget is low; and

2) Within those constraints, housing for low-income people has not turned out to be a high enough priority for many decisionmakers.

The overall budget constraints are expected to be even tighter over the next few years, especially if the super-committee process either fails to produce legislation, or produces legislation that causes further problems for low-income Americans. On the bigger budget issues, it seems clear that Congress will have more to say before anything is finalized for FY 2013.

The probable situation over the next few years, however, is that there will be a whole range of things Congress can no longer afford to do.  In the past, such decisions have been moderated by a determination to pick out some relatively small initiatives and continue to grow those – expanding funding for new permanent supportive housing in 2005 and 2006, while many other programs were being slashed, is an example.

Will Congress abandon efforts to end homelessness?  Or will it pick the initiative back up in the coming years?  The stakes will grow higher as more and more people experience or live in danger of homelessness.

Fortunately, the work our community has already done with the new Congress, and the substantial assets we bring to bear, make this a challenge we can meet.  New decisionmakers are increasingly getting the message that money spent on homelessness produces tangible and profound results, moving toward solutions to a problem that very few people, only a few years ago, thought could be solved.  Our commitment to achieving better results every year, and to sharing those results with the people who make decisions, has given us the ability to generate support for homelessness programs in any political or fiscal environment.  We’ll need to build that support and be more vocal about how other HUD programs contribute to our success.

We’re going through a tough period now, and it will require us, working together, to continue to do remarkable things. But remarkable things are the stock in trade for the community of people around the country working to end homelessness.  At the Alliance, we are proud to be a part of this community and we are confident that together, we will succeed.