Archive for November, 2011

4th November
2011
written by Anna Blasco

Last week we asked if you have ever written a letter to your editor regarding homelessness in your community. The majority of you said you had not:

This week’s poll question, and our news roundup, is below:

  • This week we saw a lot of interest in to the role of people experiencing homelessness in the occupy movements. Our President, Nan Roman, weighed in on Monday in the New York Times. “Homeless people, I think, identify with Occupy because it’s about inequities,” she said. “And it’s another group that is trying to live outside. It’s not surprising that there’s a confluence here.”
  • There were three major announcements in poverty research this week.
    • The census released new data that showed that America’s poorest poor have climbed to a record high of 1 in 15 people.
    • This announcement came a week before the Census Bureau is set to release an alternative measure of poverty.
    • The Brookings Institution released a report showing that the number of people living in neighborhoods of extreme poverty grew by a third over the past decade. The report explores how extreme poverty develops in pockets. These neighborhoods face a variety of challenges that comes from this “concentrated disadvantage.”
  • A New York Times editorial calls for greater investment in homelessness programs.
  • Youth homelessness looks to be on the rise in Chicago, which is feeling the strain of state budget cuts.
  • Women experience a high rate of violence while experiencing homelessness, a study in Fort Worth, Texas, determined. The best way to protect people from experiencing violence associated with homelessness is to help them obtain permanent, stable housing.

And in Alliance news, we’re featuring two weeks of veterans-specific blog posts. If you have any questions or concerns about veterans homelessness, let us know so we can address them.

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3rd November
2011
written by Amanda Benton

Today’s post comes to us from Amanda Benton (née Krusemark), director of grassroots mobilizing at the Alliance.

Over the last couple of months, the Alliance has been working with the Campaign for Housing and Community Development Funding (CHCDF) to secure the greatest possible amount of overall funding for the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in fiscal year (FY) 2012.

The HUD budget funds programs that offer affordable housing to needy families, assist homeless people into stable living situations, provide block grants to improve communities, among others. The HUD budget has and continues to provide assistance to the lowest-income and most vulnerable Americans who have been hit hardest by our recent economic downturn – and this includes homeless and at-risk veterans as well as their families.

On Tuesday, the Senate passed a bill to provide $37 billion in new funding in FY 2012 for HUD – about 10 percent less than last year. The HUD Appropriations Subcommittee in the House has proposed similar legislation that would cut funding for HUD programs by 7.3 percent. Key senators are already meeting with their colleagues in the House to work out a final, compromise piece of legislation.

Under the spending caps set by the deficit reduction deal passed in August, funding for non-security discretionary spending (as opposed to mandatory spending, like Medicaid) should decline by an average of about five percent relative to last year; in other words, both current House and Senate proposals would hit the HUD budget disproportionately.

These reductions would result in thousands fewer Housing Choice Vouchers and deep cuts to public housing, HOME, CDBG, and other critical affordable housing programs. While funding for HUD’s McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants program would not be cut, it would also not receive the additional resources needed to meet the growing need for homeless assistance resources, implement the HEARTH Act, and achieve the goals of the Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness.

Congress has expressed a bipartisan commitment to ensure that deficit reduction efforts do not happen on the backs of the most vulnerable Americans, but many affordable housing programs have nonetheless seen dramatic cuts. These federal reductions, especially when coupled with shrinking state and local budgets, will further swell the number of people experiencing and at risk of homelessness – making it all the more necessary to provide additional resources to homeless assistance programs.

However, without additional resources for HUD programs overall, the House and Senate HUD Appropriations Subcommittees will be very hard-pressed as they work out a compromise bill to provide increased resources to specific programs and help avoid some of the most painful cuts to affordable housing programs.

So, we invite you to join our effort: contact your Member of Congress today, and ask him/her to work with their colleagues to provide the highest possible amount for HUD programs for FY 2012.For more information or to learn about Alliance advocacy efforts, please email Amanda Krusemark Benton.

2nd November
2011
written by Ian Lisman

Today’s post comes to us from Ian Lisman, program and policy analyst at the Alliance. Ian is is a U.S. Army combat veteran of the first Gulf War.

A troubling 76,000 homeless veterans are homeless on any given night in the United States. While that number may seem daunting, we at the Alliance are confident that we can end veteran homelessness. Already, as a result of the cooperation between the Departments of Veterans Affairs (VA) and Housing and Urban Development (HUD), we have made strides in understanding the characteristics and size of the homeless population.

If we utilize the right strategies from the start, we can slowly and surely decrease this number until we end veteran homelessness. The challenge facing us now is implementing those strategies. Fortunately, through great work being done all across the country, we’ve been able to identify many of them:

Prevention

A problem is usually easier to prevent than solve – and homelessness is no different. The VA and other agencies have recognized this fundamental logic with the release of the Supportive Services for Veterans Families (SSVF) grants and the VA / HUD joint venture Veterans Homelessness Prevention Demonstration Program (VHPD).

These grants offer lower cost interventions that help veterans from becoming homeless in the first place by offering short term cash assistance (including help with rent and utilities). This model recognizes that for many veterans homelessness is a one-time, short term event.

Housing

That being said, there are many veterans who are already homeless and may have severe barriers to obtaining permanent housing (including disability, mental illness, substance abuse issues, and service-related trauma). These higher need veterans are better served by a more intense intervention: permanent supportive housing (PSH).

To this end the VA has partnered with HUD to create the HUD-VASH housing voucher program. This program gives chronically homeless and other higher-need homeless veterans access to the one thing they need: affordable permanent housing. The vouchers are similar to Section 8 vouchers but include case management for the veteran. This program also espouses a Housing First approach in some instances, whereby the veteran is afforded housing before other considerations are made or treatments take effect. The idea being that stable housing is the foundation necessary to address any other personal challenges. Although this solution is more costly than other interventions, it saves money over time by reducing and removing costs associated with long term homelessness (including incarceration, emergency room visits, high shelter use, and the like). And most importantly, permanent supportive housing ends homelessness.

Temporary Services

Between prevention and housing, there is a middle ground approach which includes shorter-term housing and supportive service programs, of which the Grant and Per Diem (GPD) program is a good example.

These are programs that provide temporary housing along with other services (mental health, employment, and life skills, among others) that allow the veteran to stabilize and get the skills he or she needs to move out of homelessness and into housing stability. These programs are most effective when tied to a more clinical setting treating a specific disorder (including mental health conditions or substance abuse issues). These programs are quite popular, although not as successful as prevention and permanent housing programs.

All of these models have their place and purpose in the spectrum of ending veteran homelessness. The key is properly targeting the right veteran for the right service. With careful screening, each homeless veteran can be provided the services and tools that are carefully tailored to his or her specific needs.

While the challenge may loom large, the cause is more than worthy. In this month of November, with Veterans Day right around the corner, the Alliance encourages you to get involved with ending homelessness by engaging with us or with your local homeless assistance provider. For more information about how to get involved, please contact us.

For more information about veteran homelessness, please visit our website.

1st November
2011
written by Catherine An

It’s that time again! November rolls around and here at the Alliance we are starting to gearing up for the end of the year. Messages about giving, advocacy alerts, and blogs/tweets/Facebook posts hurry out of the office to coincide with the holiday season.

For the next two weeks, in honor of Veterans Day, the Alliance will be focusing on veteran homelessness. This vulnerable population will dominate our conversation on the blog, on our social networks, and in our other communications avenues until Veterans Day on Friday, Nov. 11. We’ll try to cover the issue from as many perspectives as possible and feature our resident experts on data, policy, solutions, strategies, and capacity building. We’ll ask: how many homeless veterans are there? How can they be assisted? What specific challenges do they face? What legislation exists for to help veterans readjust to civilian life? What’s going on with the five year plan to end vets homelessness?

We ask and encourage you to get involved. Send us questions, comments, ideas, feedback – you can leave them here (in the comments section), on our Facebook account, via Twitter, or send us a good old fashioned email.

This year, we are offering a special giving opportunity in honor of our veterans. In the month of November, you can honor a veteran by making a donation to the Alliance on their behalf; we’ll make sure to send a card to the veteran you specify to inform them of your generosity.

For more information about giving, please visit our giving pages or email Elizabeth Doherty.

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