Archive for February, 2012

29th February
2012
written by Anna Blasco

Last week I had the opportunity to interview Greg Winter of Whatcom County, Washington about how his community is preparing for the HEARTH Act. Because I discussed using an existing 211 service to start a coordinated entry system in your community last week, I wanted to contrast Whatcom’s coordinated entry process.

Whatcom has been developing a coordinated entry system since 2008, when they formed the Homeless Service Center at the Opportunity Council, the local community action agency. There, they established a coordinated entry system with five service providers in the county. The community was familiar with going to the Opportunity Council’s resource center for help, so running the coordinated entry system out of this single, physical location was a good fit for Whatcom. Additionally, other people in the community are trained to complete the intake process, including a street outreach team run by a local volunteer organization, social workers based in a local hospital, and some staff in the local jail.

In 2011 the Alliance held a  Performance Improvement Clinic (formerly called the HEARTH Academy) with Whatcom, which encouraged them to further develop their coordinated entry system.  Data sharing agreements were signed with providers to allow better coordination between agencies. They adopted a philosophy of services based on vulnerability, rather than first-come first-served. Some organizations that participate in the coordinated entry system no longer run their own waiting lists. Instead, the Homeless Service Center keeps one central “housing interest pool.” Providers have found that this lessens their administrative burden, and helps them concentrate on their housing focused services. Finally, Whatcom adopted Hennepin County, Minnesota’s prevention targeting tool (more on this next week).

The next step for Whatcom is to continue adding service providers in a gradual and deliberate way to their coordinated entry system, and to continue evaluating and improving their system.

Stephanie Reinauer from the Whatcom Homeless Service Center, recently gave a presentation at our February conference on becoming a coordinated homelessness assistance system. Find the slides from her presentation on our website. For more information on Coordinated Entry, read our brief “One Way In: The Advantages of Introducing System- Wide Coordinated Entry for Homeless Families.”

Image courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

28th February
2012
written by Pete Witte

Hello fellow homeless advocates, policy wonks, and friends of data!

It’s been just over a month since the Alliance released The State of Homelessness in America 2012 and in that time the report has been picked up by numerous national and local media sources.

The report’s one-sentence take-away—that homelessness has decreased by one percent nationally from 2009 to 2011 and that this decrease is in large part explained by HPRP, a program funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009—has been the main story line in many of the media articles.

While the national decrease and the reason behind the decrease in homelessness are in the headlines for a reason, I thought it’d be useful to spend some time pointing out some of the data nuggets that you may have overlooked when you paged through the report last month. (And if you haven’t taken a look at the report yet, knock yourself out.)

Today’s data nugget: Homelessness in Metro Areas.

Homelessness in America is disproportionately found at higher rates in metropolitan areas of the country. Nearly 70 percent of the homeless population lives in the 100 largest metro areas, while a comparatively smaller percentage of the general population lives in these areas (65 percent). In Appendix One of the report, overall homeless population data are provided for the 100 largest metropolitan areas for the year 2011. In addition to a look at how many people are homeless in a given metro area at a point-in-time, homelessness rates were calculated.

For this blog post, I put together a “top 20 list” of metro areas with the highest rates of homelessness. While places such as New York, Los Angeles, Boston, San Francisco, and Seattle are each on the short list, none are at the top.

The five metro areas with highest rates of homelessness belong to (1) Tampa, FL, (2) New Orleans, LA, (3) Fresno, CA, (4) Las Vegas, NV, and (5) Honolulu, HI. All of the top five metro areas have rates that are more than twice as high as the U.S. rate of 21 people per 10,000 in the general population.

You might be surprised to see some of the other areas that made the short list and some that are noticeably absent. One notable trend is that among the top 20 list there is not a single metro area from the Census Bureau’s Midwest region (i.e. not Chicago, Detroit, St. Louis, etc.).

Take a look at the table below for a list of the 20 highest rates of homelessness. If you have any thoughts about the list or want to know more, let us know in the comments and I’ll try to respond to you as soon as I can.

Metropolitan Areas with the Highest Rates of Homelessness, 2011

Source: HRI calculations based on data from HUD and 2010 ACS 1-Year files.
Rate of Homelessness is x homeless people for every 10,000 in the general population.

27th February
2012
written by naehblog

The following is the keynote address delivered by Nan Roman on February 8, 2012 at the National Conference on Ending Family and Youth Homelessness in Los Angeles, Calif.

Welcome to the National Alliance to End Homelessness’ National Conference on Ending Family and Youth Homelessness, and thank all of you for coming. We deeply appreciate that you have taken the time to come here and hopefully it will recharge your batteries, give you some new ideas, reaffirm you in what you are doing that is working, and energize you for the future.

When we first started this families conference it was because, as happy as we were about the progress in framing and elevating the issue of chronic homelessness, we were concerned that homeless families were not getting enough attention. We started holding this conference as part of our strategy to build the case for ending family homelessness: to examine and expand the data and research; to strengthen the network of people working together to advance the goal; to help identify the growing portfolio of best practices and help people adopt them; and ultimately to bring the attention to the topic that was needed to reduce the number of homeless families in the nation.

That was a challenging goal, but I think you have accomplished a tremendous amount. The profile of family homelessness has been raised; a framework for ending family homelessness has emerged and been widely adopted; and despite the difficult economic environment, progress has been made.

With respect to youth, we are in some ways where we were on families eight or nine years ago. Youth homelessness is acknowledged to be a significant and serious problem, but very little progress has been made over the past years in terms of raising its profile, clarifying the path forward nationally, attracting resources, or reducing the numbers. That must change. And we at the Alliance believe that to make that happen, we need to start with a clear framework for ending it that sizes the problem, and lays out the solutions. So at this conference we are going to start that process.

But I will begin with families. This remains a very challenging time for vulnerable families. In addition to incomes going down, housing prices are rising and likely to continue to do so. State and locally funde d support services are being cut, and federally-funded assistance will increasingly also be cut. There have been increases in homelessness among families, but these appear to have been moderated by the availability of the Homeless Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program (HPRP) money.

I want to say a few things about HPRP funds. They are of course almost gone. What did we learn from the $1.5 billion devoted to prevention and re-housing? First, we know that a substantial amount of the money went to prevention. We know very little in detail about the effectiveness of this, and based on what we do know, it does not appear that the funds were always as well targeted as they might have been. The characteristics of people who receive prevention assistance should, logically, mirror those of families that are actually in shelter; otherwise the prevention families probably would not likely have become homeless. And there are too many places where the eligibility criteria for those receiving prevention funds were far too high. On the other hand, the number of homeless families nationally did not go up during HPRP, so overall it seems to have worked even if the impacts might have been greater had we targeted more effectively.

In terms of re-housing, the success of that is clearer. Where there is data, it looks good, with only a small minority of families returning to homelessness after receiving assistance, at least in the short run.

In any case, HPRP is going away, and this gives us great concern for the future. Not only will we lose our HPRP funds, but federal funds generally are also going to start shrinking. Need will remain high and possibly increase as the cascading set of problems associated with the poor economy plays out for families and youth. More are likely to become homeless, and indeed this is already happening in many places.

Based upon what we have learned, how should we think about family homelessness and what to do about it in an era of shrinking resources? Are there things that we can do so that we leave fewer families un-served? Can we focus more on efficiency, effectiveness and targeting; proven ways to improve our impact? Can we do better at assessing more precisely what each family needs? And since we know that it is impossible to precisely assess a family’s needs, can we establish a fall back plan or process so that we catch those families for whom the initial intervention is too “light.” We can try an intervention, and if it works, fine. But if it does not work, we need to be prepared with the next step, and the next step, and the next step until the family is stabilized. There is a name for this process, of course, which is progressive engagement.

These are concepts that many of you will have heard before. At present, I think that they have two major implications.

The first is that we are essentially talking about shifting from a program-level to a systems-level approach. Assessment, assignment of people to particular interventions, the ability to follow up – these are best accomplished at the system level. And of course, this is what HEARTH Act implementation will also be advancing.

The second is that at both program and systems levels, we have to reassess whether we have the proper array of models; whether we have enough of each of the models (or can get there); and whether we are efficiently disbursing these models. This brings me to HPRP, shelter, resources, and transitional housing.

We learned a few things from HPRP about rapid re-housing. One was that it works. It is not perfect, and there has to be programming for those for whom it is not adequate. But it is inexpensive and it works for the majority of people who receive it. It often works as well or better, in terms of outcomes, than other types of homeless programs which are also considerably more expensive. More expensive programs might be preferable or worth considering, of course, if their outcomes were better, but this does not appear to be the case.

It is certainly true that we do not have extensive national data on rapid re-housing – rather the data tends to be from individual cities (although its costs and outcomes are consistent). Further, some say that the families being served by rapid re-housing programs are the easier-to-serve families that communities think will benefit from a lighter touch. And I believe that is sometimes the case. But this is also true of transitional housing, which tends to have a high threshold for entry, and a low tolerance for non-compliance with services, both of which work against serving high-need families.

The point of this discussion is to say that in rapid re-housing we have a new intervention that works to end homelessness for families, apparently very effectively and cost efficiently. In fact, it outperforms the current system in many respects. The last thing we should do, as the HPRP money runs out and we resume funding entirely from HUD Continuum of Care/HEARTH and demand goes up, is to drop something that works well and serves more people and resume doing things that are more expensive and less effective and threaten to leave more and more families un-served.

Where we can, we should be looking for places to shift resources and activities to the rapid re-housing model, and many places and programs are already doing this. Traditional transitional housing programming might then be used as a second stage for higher-need people for whom rapid re-housing has not worked, in a progressive engagement system. It is likely too expensive to be an initial or post-shelter intervention.

I want to mention one other reason it is important to be thinking about this. The recent AHARs and point-in-time counts have identified around 40 percent of homeless people as being unsheltered. We are not now meeting need and the need is going to go up. We cannot leave more people out of our programs, especially if we think we have a way to help them. I would also like to say that this is why we at the National Alliance to End Homelessness are not in favor of HR 32, the bill the would expand the definition of homelessness to include all families that are low income and doubled up. These families do have housing needs, but they are not literally homeless and we already have more literally homeless families than we can help.

There are a few other observations I would like to make about rapid re-housing. First, it will change and get better as we learn more about it.

Second, there certainly has been an inclination in communities to provide rapid re-housing money only to those who had a job or otherwise seemed able to get right back on their feet. Families with more problems were screened out. However, there is increasing evidence that more complicated families do just fine with rapid re-housing. Third, there is no disconnect between doing rapid re-housing and providing people with services. There are many models for linking rapid re-housing with services – transition in place, critical time intervention, ongoing case management, etc. Rapid re-housing and services are not opposing goals. They are congenial.

The bottom line, as we move forward with HEARTH, the new ESG and tightening money, we have an effective new tool with rapid re-housing and we should do more of it, not less; we should do this in the context of a progressive engagement system so that there are options like transitional housing immediately on hand for those for whom rapid re-housing does not work; and we should use the savings to help more families and provide better services. The idea is to be smarter, better, and leave fewer families behind – not to do less and let families fail. We can do better.

I would like to turn now to homeless youth. While good work has been done on youth homelessness, we are not where we want to be on the issue.

We have not had information about the size of the homeless youth population; we have not had a typology; and we have not had evidence as to what interventions worked better and for whom. As a result we have not been able to create the will to go to scale and have not been able to increase resources appreciably. Whether we have had any impact on the number of homeless youth is unclear, as we lack the data to make such an assessment. This situation cannot continue.

I want to present to you a first attempt at a framework that can describe the scope of the homeless youth problem. But first, I have a disclaimer. The numbers I am going to present are not nearly as strong as we would like them to be. We know that they will improve and that as they do we will have to refine this framework. So we welcome feedback and see this is a first step.

How many homeless youth are there? The number you have probably heard over the years is 1.7 million. This number comes from the NISMART – the National Incidence Studies of Missing, Abducted, Runaway and Throwaway Children. The 1.7 million number, which was based on a 1999 survey, includes children under 18 who are reported to be gone from home, but who are not precisely homeless as we understand that word.

Nevertheless, this is the source of this number and it is an annual number.

Looking in more depth at that number, we find that of this 1.7 million, 300,000 kids are home within 24 hours and 1 million more are home with a week. That leaves 400,000, broadly defined, who are homeless longer than a week.

Do we or should we concern ourselves with the 1.3 million who quickly return home? Certainly some of these youth currently get assistance from our homeless youth programs, but they can serve only about 50,000 youth a year. One way to analyze these numbers would be to say that we have a gap in services, and that we need to be able to assist an additional one-and-a-quarter million young people every year. An alternative way to look at it might be that 96 percent of these young people are going home more or less on their own within one week. We certainly could do a better job helping them; and we certainly should do a better job helping them. But the more intensive focus of our attention should probably be on those 400,000 who need more help to go home, or who cannot go home, since clearly the 1.3 million are going to go home no matter what we do or do not do.

Accordingly, we focused on the 400,000 who needed more help. To understand the population better, we applied a new typology created by Dr. Paul Toro, a prominent researcher on homelessness among children and youth. I should be clear that although Dr. Toro developed the typology, the decision to apply it to the NISMART numbers was ours, and the framework that follows is the responsibility of the Alliance. For those of you who want to know more, Dr. Toro will present the typology and Samantha Batko from the Alliance will present the framework at a workshop following this plenary.

Applying the typology to the 400,000 single unaccompanied youth, and adjusting so that the typology is consistent with the annualized NISMART data, we arrived at the following:

  • 85 percent, or 327,000, of the youth are still connected to school or home. We called them “temporarily connected.” Two-thirds of them will return home within a month.
  • The remaining 15 percent (about 55,000) are “unstably connected” to school or home, or “unconnected” (about evenly split). What should we do to end homelessness for these youth?

While the Alliance often focuses on housing as a solution to homelessness, housing does not appear to be the primary solution for many under-18, unaccompanied youth. Since many of them will return home within a month, and since all youth need some connection with a caring adult, it appears to us that a primary strategy is to reconnect them to family. This family may not be the one they had been living with and of course it must be safe. It does not appear to be a good idea to capture them into housing programs, because this delinks them from the adult connections they already have. The youth are going to go “home”; we should help them get there quickly and safely.

The small percentage of youth who have no connection to school or family and who will not be able to go home also tends to have more significant disabilities. For them, permanent housing or permanent supportive housing is probably a good option, recognizing that adult connection will still be needed.

The typology and data described above relate to single unaccompanied youth under 18 years old. With respect to single unaccompanied youth aged 18 to 24 years, a different approach and a different set of data are required. We sized this group using adjusted HMIS data. By this means we identified 150,000 youth, but as this is the sheltered population only we believe the number to be an underestimate. In terms of a typology, we applied the single adult typology developed by Dr. Dennis Culhane to this population to see the dimension of the need. Using this method, we found the following:

  • About 80 percent, or 122,000, will have short, non-recurring spells of homelessness.
  • About 20 percent will have episodic or long stays, about half of each. This is about 28,000 youth.
  • For all these youth, although they are older, family intervention and reunification would still be an important strategy, since they are still developing.
  • With respect to housing, for the short term group rapid re-housing is likely a good approach.
  • For the longer-term episodic and chronic groups, rapid re-housing may also be appropriate but many will need more intensive housing interventions. For the 10 percent, or 15,000, who are “chronically” homeless, transition-in-place housing or even permanent supportive housing should be considered.

Finally, we considered homeless families in which a parent is under 24. Such families generally use the adult homeless family system.

Approximately 25 percent of homeless families in a year have a parent who is under 25. We can estimate that at around 150,000 people per year (this includes children, so not all of these are technically youth). While the adult family system largely meets their needs, maintaining connection to adults is still critically important. Also, the Alliance has been working with several groups here in Los Angeles and elsewhere on a young families initiative funded by the Hilton Foundation. This project has made it apparent that specialized programming that young parents – who are themselves still developing – need is rarely if ever available. We could do a much better job of programming for this significant group.

To take this complex picture and try to summarize:

  • Many youth leave home every year, but most of them go back more or less on their own.
  • It appears that somewhere around 550,000 single, unaccompanied youth do not go home so quickly.
  • Of those, however, around 450,000 remain connected in some way to family or school, and in any case their homelessness episode will be reasonably brief. That episode could be even shorter if they had help re-connecting with their families.
  • For nearly 100,000 unaccompanied youth, issues are more serious. Their connection to home or school is more tenuous or non-existent. About 40,000 of them probably have some disability or more serious problem. These youth also would absolutely benefit from help to connect with their families. The more chronic ones probably also will require more permanent housing subsidies.

In short, the picture on unaccompanied homeless youth is similar in some ways to that of homeless adults – most of those who become homeless go home fairly quickly, but a minority has more serious problems and stays homeless longer. The difference between adults and youth appears to be in the solution.

With respect to young homeless families, we know that we are already failing to meet the needs of all families, but the responses I discussed earlier, with the addition of developmental programming and family intervention will help these young households.

There are a few other important things I want to mention about homeless youth. First, it seems clear that LGBTQ kids have some different problems, that very little programming meets their needs, and that generally we are doing an extraordinarily poor job of assisting them. Second, this typology does not really address the sexual exploitation of youth as both a cause and effect of their homelessness. Both of these are areas in which a tremendous amount remains to be done, and the Alliance is committed to addressing them.

It must be noted that it is of particular concern that such a large number of young people under 18 are homeless, given that there are large federal and state child welfare systems that have the responsibility for these children. I know that many people at HHS are also very concerned about this and working to improve that response. We will hear more from them during the conference.

Finally, I want to reiterate the data on which we are building this framework is weak. We have consulted quite a few researchers and they generally believe that our numbers are far too large. I hope that they are right. Some of you may feel that they are too small. The bottom line is that we must have better data. You are the source of better data. Get involved in your Point-in-Time Counts. Use HMIS. Collect data on young families. Push your Continuums to collect more data. We need knowledge to move forward.

To close, thanks to all of you who are prevailing in the most incredibly difficult and challenging time. You are striving to improve your programs in a time of high demand and shrinking resources, with little certainty about the future. We do have a steep hill ahead of us, as I think things will get worse as HPRP ends. However, I see ways to move forward.

Because of your hard and incredibly innovative work, every year we are discovering new things that work better. We can build and implement a framework on how to end youth homelessness. We can adopt smarter strategies to help families. We can move from program to systems approaches so that we use our resources as wisely as possible. We can gather and use more data and research – information is a strong weapon for us, and we will definitely be doing battle over the coming years.

I know that we can prevail, because we must prevail. Thank you for being with us.

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23rd February
2012
written by Amanda Benton

As we mentioned before, the President released his fiscal year (FY) 2013 Budget Proposal last week, and it included a whopping 17 percent increase to HUD’s McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants, raising the funding level to $2.231 billion. This would be the largest one-year increase to homeless assistance in nearly 20 years!

As you can imagine, there was a lot of excitement at the Alliance when we saw this. This funding level would allow communities to continue their existing activities, expand the rapid re-housing and prevention efforts through the Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG), and continue HEARTH implementation while funding new permanent supportive housing through the Continuums of Care.

But the President’s Budget Proposal is not law, so we still have to convince Congress to follow through with the Administration’s recommendations before they’re official – still, the President’s Budget Proposal initiates the discussion about funding priorities and thereby raises our chances that Congress will consider increasing funding for HUD’s McKinney-Vento programs. As such, we’ve already launched an effort to leverage the Administration’s request and educate Congress on the importance of making these programs a priority in FY 2013.

So what, you may ask, can you do to help? Well, for starters, join our FY 2013 McKinney Appropriations Campaign! We need as many people as possible to send letters to their Members of Congress in the next several weeks. In fact, we’ve set a goal of working with our partners across the country to send at least 500 letters to Members of Congress in support of the $2.23 billion funding level by March 20.

March 20 is the deadline for representatives to submit their official list of FY 2013 funding priorities, called programmatic requests, to their colleagues on the Appropriations Committee. Senators have just a few extra days, until March 23. After that, the Appropriations Committee will look at the priorities and start to craft the HUD appropriations bills based on those requests. So, we must act now to ensure that Members of Congress recognize that they should prioritize funding for homeless assistance this year.

We need your help! You can use this sample letter to send letters, and then ask your partners and colleagues to send letters, too.  Make sure to let us know if you have any questions and how many letters you send, so we can keep track to see if we reach our goal. Keep us in the loop or get more information by emailing Amanda Benton at abenton@naeh.org.

22nd February
2012
written by Anna Blasco

In many communities, the best way to find help if you are experiencing a housing crisis is to start with a long list of phone numbers. You start from the top, and hope that you fit the requirements, that they have enough resources to serve you, that they are open on Tuesdays. It is exhausting work for the household and an inefficient use of resources for the providers.

Some communities have moved to centralize the process households use to access services. This is called coordinated entry, and it has many advantages, like improving the efficiency of a community’s homelessness assistance system and improving its ability to perform well on HEARTH Act outcomes. Additionally, in the interim rules for the new Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG) program, HUD explains that it will include in an upcoming rule for the Continuum of Care program, a requirement for communities to develop and implement a coordinated entry system.

As guest blogger Iain DeJong mentioned last week, the Center for Capacity Building at the Alliance held a training during our February conference on Coordinated Entry, the materials from which are now online. During the training, a number of communities had questions about training 211 operators in their communities to handle intake, assessment, and referrals to services. This may be a good model for larger communities, or those without transit systems that make it possible for households to travel to a centralized location.

Alameda County in California is one example of a community that has used their 211 line as a part of a decentralized coordinated intake. People experiencing a housing crisis can call 211 for help, which conducts an initial screening before referring a person to one of eight Housing Resource Centers (HRCs) that can provide prevention, rapid re-housing, and other services. All HRCs use the same assessment tool, data collection methods, and targeting strategy for financial assistance, case management, prevention, rapid re-housing, and other housing services. Staff from the HRCs meet monthly for in-person meetings and also communicate online.

The slides from the coordinated entry training can be found on our website, as well as our brief about coordinated entry, “One Way In: The Advantages of Introducing System- Wide Coordinated Entry for Homeless Families.”

Is your community looking at implementing a coordinated entry system? Let us know in the comments!

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17th February
2012
written by Catherine An

It’s been a big week at the Alliance!

We wrapped up the loose ends from our Los Angeles conference and we followed the release of the President’s Budget Proposal, trying to analyze how proposed funding levels and changes to regulations would impact our goal of ending homelessness. Make sure you didn’t miss any of the following:

And in traditional news:

Obama Budget Splits Homeless Advocates, Huffington Post
Homeless Advocates Divided Over Bill Aimed at Helping Kids, Huffington Post
Obama’s 2013 budget would boost Veterans Affairs funding 10.5%, Washington Post
Economic Reports Show a Brightening Outlook, Associated Press

Happy Friday!

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17th February
2012
written by naehblog

Today’s post was written by Mike Shore.

As communities redouble their efforts to achieve the goals of Opening Doors, one thing is abundantly clear: we need all hands on deck to truly end homelessness in this country.

This includes our partners at public housing agencies (PHAs) both as providers of mainstream housing resources and as key collaborators within our existing systems of care.  As we continue to focus on permanent solutions like permanent supportive housing and rapid re-housing strategies, we must expand the tools and resources available to support these efforts.  This includes broadening and deepening our connections with our PHA partners.

This past week’s National Conference on Ending Family and Youth Homelessness saw some of the most exciting and influential thinkers in the field come together in Los Angeles. On Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) convened public housing agencies and Continuums of Care (CoCs) from targeted communities for a special pre-conference session to highlight the ways in which communities have successfully worked across HUD programs to create more opportunities for housing and services targeted towards persons experiencing homelessness.

The session began with a roster of terrific speakers. USICH Director Barb Poppe reminded us that while we have seen progress in reducing overall homelessness, especially among the chronic and veteran populations, additional collaboration and new partnerships are needed to significantly move the needle to meet the goals of Opening Doors.

Sandra Henriquez, Assistant Secretary for HUD’s division of Public and Indian Housing, reminded us that while the targeted McKinney Vento homeless programs provide significant solutions, they do not represent the entire solution.  Sandra strongly encouraged PHAs to examine their current operations in both the Housing Choice Voucher and conventional public housing programs to determine how they can further increase access and expand opportunities for those experiencing homelessness in these mainstream housing programs.  Finally, we were incredibly fortunate to have Estelle Richman, Acting Deputy Secretary for HUD, echo this encouragement.  Estelle brings a tremendous breadth of knowledge and experience in the public health and social services arena for vulnerable populations to HUD.  She passionately spoke of the importance of housing as a stabilizing force for individuals and families facing challenges with chronic health conditions and mental health needs on their path to recovery and economic self-sufficiency.

After a rousing kick-off from our partners at the federal level, panelists from two bright spot communities, Salt Lake City and Fresno, provided some examination of innovative PHA activities in their communities.  The Housing Authority of the County of Salt Lake has been instrumental in the creation of permanent supportive housing by project-basing significant numbers of Housing Choice Vouchers and Shelter Plus Care rental assistance for new developments for homeless individuals and families in their community.  The Fresno Housing Authority has created set-asides of vouchers for homeless individuals and families in their community through the establishment of local preferences in their Housing Choice Voucher program. The Fresno Housing Authority also cited their leadership role in their local 100,000 Homes Campaign initiative, Project P4: People, Place, Public Partnerships, as an excellent example of how to effectively target those in their community with the most severe housing needs.  Both of these PHAs are actively involved in their local CoCs, a point that has clearly been essential to their success in tackling homelessness.

Following the panel, staff from USICH, HUD, the Corporation for Supportive Housing (CSH) and Community Solutions facilitated small group discussions around topics related to PHAs effectively serving households experiencing homelessness.  Topics included:

  • PHA administrative policies (admissions and occupancy) as they relate to homeless/vulnerable households
  • Creating and operationalizing local preferences
  • Project-basing Section 8
  • Building/service provider partnerships
  • Strategies for using public housing
  • Serving homeless families
  • Serving chronically homeless
  • PHA participation in CoC activities and programs

These discussions provided an excellent opportunity for practitioners and policy makers from communities throughout the country to share and learn from one another.  Challenges were acknowledged, but the focus of these breakout sessions truly centered on solutions and opportunities to explore new strategies.  Many committed to exploring these solutions upon their return to their communities, and plans are underway to form several new affinity groups and learning communities.

In her remarks to the group, Sandra Henriquez acknowledged that her plea for further collaboration and partnership for many in attendance was a little like singing to choir.  She implored us, though, to lift our collective voices so that they rippled beyond the choir and throughout the land. Together, she insisted, our voices could transform this country’s response to homelessness.  I like the sound of that music.

Mike Shore is the Western U.S. Field Organizer for the 100,000 Homes Campaign, a national movement of change agents working together to house 100,000 vulnerable and chronically homeless individuals and families by July of 2014. Mike also leads HOM, Inc., a leader in permanent supportive housing and innovative solutions to end homelessness for individuals and families in Maricopa County, Arizona.

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16th February
2012
written by naehblog

Today’s guest post comes to us from Shahera Hyatt.

I would first like to start off by thanking the Alliance for explicitly including youth in this year’s conference on ending homelessness. For those of us who work day in and out on this issue, it was great to be with others to share our knowledge, experience, and passion for this work.

There were a few themes over the course of the conference regarding youth homelessness, with the first being the need for more timely and consistent data on this population. Not only was there a workshop on this topic, but Nan Roman gave considerable time to the issue in her plenary speech on the first day of the conference. She stated that even though the current data on the size and scope of youth homelessness is severely lacking (and I whole-heartedly agree), moving forward with the data we’ve got is absolutely critical.

To that end, she presented data from the NISMART-II in a new way, stating that about 96 percent of runaways under the age of 18 return home within one week (although many cycle in and out of homelessness). Policy Analyst Samantha Batko translated the data in a way that hasn’t been done before by identifying characteristics about the trajectory of youth homelessness in the hopes to shed new light on where interventions should be targeted.

This information indicates that supporting crisis interventions to help facilitate the process of returning home is essential. While in the case of the 400,000 who are unable or unwilling to return home for various reasons such as abuse or parental incarceration, utilizing housing strategies such as transitional living or permanent supportive housing would be most useful. While many of us wonder how the NISMART data holds up today, we hope that there are still valuable lessons to be learned that can be applied and implemented immediately.

The second theme was the need for a variety of different housing strategies for homeless youth and young adults to get them into stable living conditions. There was a particular emphasis on rapid re-housing, a model that has been successful for other segments of the homeless population.

The third theme was the heterogeneity of the homeless youth. This was repeated time and again by various presenters. The workshop on creating a blueprint to end youth homelessness focused largely on creating a new typology that recognizes these differences, subtly urging the audience to consider the unique needs of each youth in determining interventions. This typology identified three groups: the temporarily disconnected (this population generally retums home on their own), the unstably connected (for which family reunification may be most helpful), and the chronically disconnected (best served by permanent supportive housing or transitional housing).

I look forward to seeing how these ideas continue to evolve both in policy and in practice.

Shahera Hyatt is the Director of the California Homeless Youth Project where her focus is translating research on homeless youth for the legislative audience. Hyatt is also the co-chair of the Sacramento Gay & Lesbian Center’s Homeless Youth Initiative, and is a member of the Alliance’s National Advisory Council on LGBT youth.

16th February
2012
written by Amanda Benton

On Monday, the Administration released its fiscal year (FY) 2013 Budget Proposal. This is the start of the Alliance’s advocacy season and we’re excited by some of the numbers! This year is a great time to start getting involved with advocating for homeless assistance programs – join us today!

If you’re wondering what the President’s Budget Proposal is – and why it’s important –  you’re not alone. This big document is released every year by the Administration in early February . It officially kicks off the federal budget process for the upcoming fiscal year, which will start on October 1.

A couple of weeks ago, we discussed why this proposal matters. The President’s budget Proposal is not law. It’s meant to serve as a guide for Congress as it makes its own decisions about appropriations and the federal budget.

The President’s FY 2013 Budget Proposal includes suggested funding levels for many key programs targeted toward low-income or homeless people. This year, we at the Alliance were really excited to see some impressive increases proposed to homeless assistance programs:

These increases of about $330 million to VA’s homelessness programs and HUD’s McKinney-Vento programs each (not to mention funding for additional HUD-VASH vouchers) are a clear sign of the Administration’s commitment to implementing the HEARTH Act and the Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness – even in a time of extremely tight budgeting.

The Budget Proposal also included flat funding (the same as in FY 2012) for countless other federal programs, including many that are important to homeless and at-risk people:

In addition, it proposed some cuts to key programs, including Project-Based Rental Assistance, Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA), Section 811, and the Emergency Food and Shelter Program.  For more details on the Administration’s proposed funding levels, click here.

So, what happens next? Congress has already begun to hold hearings on the Budget Proposal, and soon they’ll start to craft their own proposals. The Alliance is planning to launch major advocacy campaigns around several high-priority funding issues, including for HUD’s McKinney-Vento programs, RHYA programs, and VA’s Zero Homelessness Initiative. If you are interested in participating in any of these campaigns, please contact us!

15th February
2012
written by Anna Blasco

Yesterday, the Administration released its fiscal year (FY) 2013 Budget Proposal. The proposal included increases in funding for some programs that are key to ending homelessness for veterans. One of these, the the Grant and Per Diem (GPD) program, would increase from $224 million to $235 million. Currently, GPD assistance is limited to transitional housing and services. VA is planning to propose legislation that would allow GPD grantees and subgrantees to utilize a ―transition in place model and provide permanent housing. Below is an interview with Ian Lisman, Program and Policy Analyst at the Alliance, about these proposed changes to the GPD program. More resources on the President’s Budget and what this means for homelessness assistance programs can be found on the our website.

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