Archive for February, 2012

15th February
written by naehblog

Today’s guest post is written by Erin. She blogged from the National Conference on Ending Family and Youth Homelessness.

The moment I walked into the grand Biltmore Hotel, I noticed the energy.  This hotel is full of focus and excitement.  Right away, I met providers, researchers, funders from across the county and more.  In the opening session, I heard the goal to end youth homelessness by 2020.  This challenging goal excites and motivates me.  It signifies that we are ready and charged to address those youth who are struggling with homelessness.

Yesterday I presented about my program, The Groundwork Project: Wraparound with Homeless Youth, to a packed room.  When I asked the audience how many in the room were youth providers, only about five of the 100+ people in the room raised their hands.  That tells me that new providers are intrigued to learn more about strategies that may work with youth in their communities.  Critical wraparound themes of family/relatives as allies, espousing a youth development mindset, and providing continuums of integrated care were weaved throughout many of the presentations and conversations I participated in.

As I pack my bag to leave LA and return to Seattle, I also want to pack with me all these lessons, connections and inspiration from this conference.  This conference has been formative for me as a professional; it has compelled me to seriously consider data, commit to implementing promising strategies, and recharge our wraparound program in Washington State as part of larger national effort to end youth homelessness.

This has been a chance to reflect on the values that guide my work with homeless youth and identify the tools my programs has with which to make an impact on the lives of the youth we serve.  I am grateful to the Alliance and to all those gathered here in LA for joining together to teach, discuss, and advocate for the homeless youth and young adults that we represent.

Erin Maguire works with homeless youth and young adults at Catholic Community Services of Western Washington in Seattle, WA.  She is the manager of the Groundwork Project: High Fidelity Wraparound with Homeless Youth at Catholic Community Services of Western Washington. She can be reached at or 206-327-2474.

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14th February
written by Catherine An

Yesterday, President Obama unveiled his Fiscal Year (FY) 2013 budget.

Despite the difficult budget environment, the President proposed significant increases in funding to several homelessness programs, maintaining the Administration and Congress’ focus on bringing down the number of homeless people nationally.  While these increases will be much needed, belt tightening for housing, employment and other programs will impede progress toward the goal of ending homelessness.

Overall, the president proposed to allocate $2.231 billion to homeless assistance programs at the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD); this is a 17 percent increase compared to the FY 2012. This increase will be needed to fulfill the Administration’s pledge to end homelessness, as outlined in Opening Doors: The Federal Strategic Plan to End Homelessness.

Homeless veterans are also getting a boost in this year’s budget proposal. A total of $1.35 billion has been allocated to prevent and end veteran homelessness, an increase of $333 million compared to the FY 2012 level. This increase in funding is coupled with changes to emphasize permanent and rapid re-housing as well as access to supportive services over less effective methods to end homelessness. These changes will be critical to if the nation is to end homelessness among veterans.

In an effort to focus on employment, the FY 2013 budget also includes $12.5 billion for a new program called the Pathways Back to Work Fund. This program subsidizes jobs for low-income youth and low-income and long-term unemployed adults.

Despite all this good news, there are impending concerns to think about. As we already know, the lingering effects of the recession continue to impact vulnerable and low-income people and families still struggling to recover from economic troubles. Moreover, there’s the sequestration[i] – or some other reduction in funding to address the federal deficit – to think about, which could reduce these numbers in the coming months.

In sum, we recognize that this is an extraordinarily difficult budget year – likely the first of many difficult budget years and here at the Alliance, we are  grateful that the president and his administration have recognized the critical importance in ending homelessness.

In the days and weeks to follow, we will continue to post more information about the president’s budget proposal and it’s possible impact on homelessness and homeless assistance programs. (You can find our official press release here).

Tomorrow, join experts on the Alliance staff for a rundown on the numbers. You can still register for the webinar (which takes place on Wednesday, Feb. 15 at 1 p.m. ET) online.

[i] Earlier this year, as the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction was unable to reach a bipartisan agreement on how to reduce the federal deficit, sequestration came into effect. Sequestration mandates that an initial 9.1 percent across-the-board cut is applied to all discretionary spending programs. For more:

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14th February
written by naehblog

Today’s guest post is written by Ankita Patel. She blogged from the National Conference on Ending Family and Youth Homelessness.

I’m currently at the National Conference on Ending Family and Youth Homelessness in Los Angeles, where a lot of creative thinkers are sitting together, learning from each other, and sharing creative solutions to reach the common goal of housing families and youth in the right way and the shortest amount of time.

There seems to be a few points are emerging:

  • Shift program-based thinking to systems-based thinking.
  • •Systems, and not just programs in isolation, must address issues including the lack of affordable housing, limitation of shelter space, and long waiting lists for public housing. The key is to form inclusive partnerships which employ effective strategies to change the way a homeless assistance system responds to families in crisis.
  • Track and use data to your advantage. Data is the cornerstone of evaluation; without it, we cannot understand the  performance of the system and whether the system is meeting the goals of the program.
  • Rapid re-housing/prevention works for the majority of families. It’s not just about housing; it includes wraparound services. The services may be “light touch services” (where someone needs assistance to pay off an old debt) whereas others may need advocacy from beginning to end.

We, as domestic violence advocates, cannot ignore the issues of homeless families, just as housing advocates cannot ignore the fact that domestic and sexual assault, as well as domestic sex trafficking, impacts the ability to gain and retain safe and stable housing.

I am extremely energized by the positivity and creativity, as well as the commitment that everyone has to end homelessness on a national level. Thank you, National Alliance to End Homelessness for hosting this conference.

Ankita Patel works for the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence (WSCADV) in the Fatality Review and Domestic Violence Housing First projects. She is an alumnus of Seattle University School of Law and has been with WSCADV since 2008.

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13th February
written by naehblog

Today’s guest post is written by Iain DeJong, who blogged from the National Conference on Ending Family and Youth Homelessness.

Focusing on ending youth homelessness requires improvements in data to understand and better dimension the issue.

As discussed in the plenary sessions of the day, a framework is beginning to emerge thanks to the work of the Alliance and research from Dr. Paul Toro from Wayne State to better understand the number of youth that experience homelessness and the length of time that they experience homelessness. It is an exciting time to have renewed energy and focus of attention on such an important issue.

In the afternoon session focused on Effectively Collecting, Coordinating and Using Youth Data, Andre Wade from the Alliance moderated an informative and thought-provoking session featuring Mark Silverbush from the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, Peter Connery from Applied Survey Research, and Shahera Hyatt from the California Homeless Youth Project. Passionate and informed speakers, they collectively raised the bar in how we need to think about data in the pursuit of ending youth homelessness.

Right-sizing interventions and costing out the appropriate response requires that we know how many youth experience homelessness and the depth of their support needs.  Runaway and throwaway youth number 1.7 million; but that research does not focus on homeless youth exclusively. General point-in-time counts need improvements if they are going to effectively account for the number of homeless youth. Some jurisdictions have focused on youth specific counts; this is an encouraging practice, especially given that HMIS data is often incomplete or oblivious when it comes to youth.

Youth are not a homogeneous group. New efforts to improve data capture related to youth homelessness needs to appreciate the heterogeneity within the youth population. For example, strategies to meet the needs of LGBT youth may be very different than the needs of a youth that has had a recent argument at home; youth aging out of foster care may be different than youth that find themselves homeless as a result of intergenerational homelessness in their own family. Obviously there are overlaps across these populations. However, isolating specific needs will result in better knowledge and hopefully improve youth-specific interventions.

Peter Connery suggests that a two-step process can be helpful for better understanding the homeless youth needs in any community. The first step is an observation study. The second step is a more detailed survey conducted with a sample of the youth population. Surveys are administered by youth peers.

The findings from the survey conducted across multiple cities are illuminating. Gender breakdown from Peter’s research shows almost a 50-50 split amongst males and females (2 percent transgendered), and more are between the ages of 18 and 24. The top five factors that contributed to homelessness amongst youth were: conflict with parents/guardians, financial issues, emotional abuse, addiction and physical abuse. One in five of the youth surveyed indicated that their parents currently are or were homelessness. Almost 50 percent had parents or caregivers that abused drugs or alcohol when they were younger. More than a quarter had an instance of foster care.

Again, almost a quarter had their own children and almost 50 percent had their children living with them. Almost one in five do not seek services for fear of CPS and 15 perecnt do not seek services for fear of contact with their families. More than a third indicated they share sex, drugs, or both for a place to stay. Food insecurity was the top need of the youth surveyed. Counter to many misconceptions, almost 9 out of 10 of homeless youth surveyed stay in the same county year round. As Peter described “home grown and staying put….it isn’t a tourism problem.”

Shahera Hyatt offered a state-level perspective on homeless youth data. She explained that state-level data is important because funding is based on data and resources are limited. Measuring change over time is critical for state policy. Because data collection is inconsistent and unreliable, especially when it comes to homeless youth, the needs of homeless youth are under-represented. The data that does exist can be inaccurate, even fictitious, and that doesn’t help policymakers. Shahera explained the need for a State Interagency Council on Homelessness, a statewide task force on youth homelessness data, the need to coordinate existing state-level homelessness data collection among state agencies, coordinating with existing federal and local homelessness data collection efforts, modifying and utilizing existing statewide surveys and research and establishing uniform approaches to collecting data. There is also value in promoting and distributing a “best practices” toolkit with CoC jurisdictions.

Mark Silverbush offered insights into the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority’s efforts to get better youth data through specific youth counts. Very practically, Mark walked through the “nuts and bolts of conducting a successful homeless youth count” in an effort to offer insights into how other communities may go about doing their own successful homeless youth count. While Los Angeles admittedly has more youth service providers than other parts of the country, they do not have the capacity to meet the demand given the size of the issue in the CoC (3,959 homeless youth and most in the 18-24 year old category  - roughly the same number of all homeless people in Oklahoma;), and the sheer geographic size that the CoC covers.

Mark explained the need for buy-in from youth-serving agencies to conduct a youth specific count. He further explained the need for role clarity, so that partners involved in the county have an understood purpose during the count. The strength of each partner helps make the count successful. Furthermore, through a revision of approach, they found that they got better count results when providers were counting in their own service area. Youth outreach workers have proven to be especially effective from planning through to implementation.

Work remains to be done to improve youth data. But the speakers in the session demonstrated some very promising approaches and thinking about making practical improvements. Following through on some of the approaches suggested may help improve youth homeless data across the country.

Iain De Jong is the President & CEO of OrgCode Consulting, Inc. He has been working with many communities to help them improve their housing programs in advance of HEARTH. He is a frequent and popular speaker at Alliance Conferences. You can see him at the Conference in February in Los Angeles. Iain is also the chief blogger, tweeter and FaceBook persona for OrgCode. Take a look at or @orgcode

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10th February
written by Catherine An

This week, there were several news articles about homelessness – a handful that even referenced the National Alliance to End Homelessness specifically (like this Scientific American piece about chronic homelessness, this editorial about the National Conference on Ending Family and Youth Homelessness from San Jose Inside, and this story about the Alliance’s effort to end homelessness in the state of Virginia from the Richmond Times Dispatch) – but I thought it would be fun to highlight some great tweets and Facebook posts from the National Conference on Ending Family and Youth Homelessness taking place right now in Los Angeles, CA!

To see these posts on your own accounts, make sure to follow the Alliance on both Facebook and Twitter.

FamilyHomeless: Did you miss yesterday’s Tweet & Greet at #NAEH12? No worries – just join @ThinkT3 today in the lobby at 2PM PT! @naehomelessness

jillf50: Activist/writer Barbara Ehrenrich on #homelessworkers & “the myth of the poverty payoff” @gatesfoundation @HuffPost @naehomelessness

UMOM: @naehomelessness this session is great! Learning great tips and strategies for using sm 2 end homelessness! #NAEH12 @hardlynormal

khanlon: A #ff to D’Arcy Klingle @naehomelessness for her amazing months of prep work for #naeh12! Thank you!

100khomes: Nan Roman introduces Mark Johnston of HUD: “He has so much integrity, and so much trust.” #NAEH12

funderstogether: RT @naehomelessness: “Rapid re-housing has been an unqualified success” for ending family homelessness – Mark Johnston at #NAEH12

fbxyouth: “Working together, we have the ability to change the world around us.” Susan Baker of @naehomelessness at #NAEH12 Conference. Let’s do this!

USICHgov: @USICH’s Zeilinger moderates wkshop #NAEH122:30pm Innovative Partnerships w/PHAs. Innovative models being used to end #homelessness
@Anacapa: Really great points about helping people w/cognitive issues. @AscenciaCA’s outreach case managers help tremendously with that. #NAEH

jill_remelski: RT @lostawareness: Mistakes will happen. Be transparent. Be honest. Add humour. Mark Horvath @#naeh12

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9th February
written by naehblog

Today’s guest post is written by Iain DeJong, who is blogging from the National Conference on Ending Family and Youth Homelessness.

Kicking off the Family and Youth Conference was a pre-conference session on coordinated entry.  Led by Kim Walker, Capacity Building Associate with the Alliance, the room of approximately 50 people was engaged in a lively presentation examining the key areas of success in approaching coordinated entry for a homeless service system.

The concept of coordinated entry has been an area where the Alliance has been investing more time as of late. This is not only because it is a good idea, but because communities are being required to think in terms of systems, not a collection of projects. It has also been top of mind for a number of communities across the nation, communities that are grappling with how best to meet consumer needs while leveraging the unique talents of service providers.

What are some of the necessary ingredients to make the coordinated approach successful?

-          An open HMIS that allows for better communication between providers

-          Data sharing agreements

-          Buy-in by service providers

-          Strong emphasis on diversion

-          Programs that deliver what they say they deliver

-          Accountability and communication across providers

-          Common assessment tool used in the community

-          Focus on getting the right person to the right program at the right time

-          No “side doors” to service access (an individual or family going directly to a service provider rather than through the coordinated access)

While further evaluation is necessary to refine coordinated entry approaches, early evidence from several communities that have been engaged with this type of work demonstrates effectiveness compared to uncoordinated access.

It has been my experience (such as my recent work in Detroit) where some providers have seen the concept of coordinated entry as a challenge. It does propose a change in the way that programs work within the broader service system. And it can require designing a service system that is focused on the consumer of services rather than demands by funders, which requires brave and focused discussion. But coordinated entry is not a loss of autonomy for the service provider. Rather, it is an opportunity for agencies to complement each others’ strengths; each agency can play their unique part in ending homelessness. It reminds me that “some of us will always be smarter than one of us.”

Ultimately it is the consumer of services that is the central focus of coordinated entry. Coordinated entry improves their access to the programs that will be most beneficial to ending their homelessness quickly. Coordinated entry isn’t only more efficient, it is a more just way of delivering services.

Iain De Jong is the President & CEO of OrgCode Consulting, Inc. He has been working with many communities to help them improve their housing programs in advance of HEARTH. He is a frequent and popular speaker at Alliance Conferences. You can see him at the Conference in February in Los Angeles. Iain is also the chief blogger, tweeter and FaceBook persona for OrgCode. Take a look at or @orgcode

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8th February
written by Catherine An

Our 2012 National Conference on Ending Family and Youth Homelessness kicks off tomorrow in sunny Los Angeles! We told you how to follow the conference online on Monday, but we wanted to introduce two of our guest tweeters. This year Shalom Mulkey, Chief Operating Officer, and Kate Seif, Assistant to the President, will be tweeting live from the conference about workshops, plenaries, speakers, and events, using the hashtag: #NAEH12.

Please be sure to share thoughts of your own! Use the hashtag and feel free to post your thoughts, pictures, videos, and feedback on all the Alliance networks: blog, Facebook, and Twitter. We look forward to hearing from you about your experience at this year’s National Conference on Ending Family and Youth Homelessness.

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8th February
written by Anna Blasco

Last week we showed you an interview with Kay from our Center for Capacity Building about the new Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG) program.  The Alliance has been investigating how the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-housing Program (HPRP) and other initiatives were implemented in numerous communities. We recently published a brief distilling these findings into six recommendations for implementing the new ESG program.

This week we focus on two of these recommendations, which were to prioritize rapid re-housing, and target prevention assistance to people who are most likely to become homeless.

7th February
written by Catherine An

If you read our newsletter today, you know President Obama will be releasing his budget proposal right after the National Conference on Ending Family and Youth Homelessness. We’ll be hosting a webinar on the budget on February 15 – you can register up now.

Every year, before the appropriations season begins in earnest, the president submits a budget proposal to Congress. In it, he outlines how he thinks the country should allocate federal resources – in short, it’s one way the president conveys his thoughts, priorities, and ideas to the members of Congress.

The release of the president’s budget proposal is an event that will focus  a lot of the Alliance’s resources: we’ll issue briefs, blogs, advocacy opportunities, a press release, and our analysis of what the president’s budget could mean for homeless and  low-income people in a webinar. To prepare for the whirlwind, you might want to go over some of these blogs as a refresher on the president’s budget.

The President’s Budget Proposal – What It [Could] Mean

What Does the Federal Budget Mean for HEARTH Act Implementation?

The Budget is Out!

The Final HUD Budget: Implications and Next Steps

What Does “No Deal” From the Super-Committee Mean?

What Does the Debt Deal Mean for Homelessness?

And for a little context:

State of Homelessness in America 2012: Major Findings

Poverty Increases Lead to Fear of Increased Homelessness

Make sure you stay connected with us as we prepare to study the president’s budget proposal! Sign up for the newsletter, find us on Twitter and Facebook, and make sure to keep visiting the blog!

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6th February
written by Catherine An

In three short days, the Alliance will kick off the National Conference on Ending Family and Youth Homelessness in Los Angeles, California. The event – expected to host about 700 direct service providers, advocates, experts, researchers, community leaders, and others – will feature workshops, keynotes, and plenaries about ending family and youth homelessness in the United States.

This year, we’re encouraging our more web –savvy friends and colleagues to join us online and give us thoughts, critiques, comments, and questions about the content at this year’s conference! Below, find four ways to engage with the Alliance online during this year’s west coast conference:

  • Tweet us using #NAEH12
    At last year’s National Conference on Ending Homelessness, we were excited to see so many people using #NAEH11 to discuss workshops, Nan Roman’s keynote speech, plenary sessions, and other features of the conference. This year, we’re encourage all our Twitter friends to do the same! Use #NAEH12 to talk to us and about us at the National Conference on Ending Family and Youth Homelessness.
  • Send us your pictures
    Share with us your smiling faces at this year’s conference! Shoot them over to us via email or Facebook and we’ll be sure to add them to our album – make sure to include your name, organization, and note whether or not you’d prefer us to keep your picture private.
  • Blog for us
    We’re on the lookout for some great guest bloggers specifically from this year’s conference. What did you think of the keynote? The plenary speakers? Which was your favorite workshop and why? Which speakers were the most compelling? How was the conference like for a first-time, a veteran? How can the Alliance conferences be better? What was the best part of the conference? How is our conference informing your work on the ground? We want you to tell us all about your experience in a guest blog post for For more information, please email me.
  • Send us video
    If you happen to have a webcam or a Mac at the conference, share with us short video clips about your experience. Try answering the question, “How will the conference inform your work  serving homeless people?” or “Why do you come to Alliance conferences?” Shoot them over to us via email and we’ll be sure to post them on our YouTube page.

Have questions, comments, suggestions? Let us know by email.

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