Archive for March, 2012

30th March
2012
written by Pete Witte

Well, it’s that time of year again when we start to see media stories come in from across the country that report the results of January 2012 point-in-time (PIT) counts. The Alliance is collecting and mapping these media accounts—or when/where available the Continuum of Care (CoC) reports—in order to provide a sense of the changing homeless situation in communities across the country.


Once again these collected reports are the basis of our new interactive 2012 Counts Media Map. In our map, we examine changes in overall homelessness (increases are noted by a red placemarker and decreases by a green placemarker). At the time of this article, we currently have 14 reports. Fifty percent of the communities (7/14) included in the map show that, locally, there have been increases in overall homelessness. The largest community featured to date is San Diego County, which has seen a 9 percent increase in overall homelessness, going from 9,020 people in 2011 to 9,800 in 2012.

We need your help!

Has a media source or a CoC in your community released a report that shows changes in overall homelessness between the January 2011 and January 2012 counts?

Please let us know. You can email me directly and I’ll be sure to add your community’s results to our interactive map.

The map provides a sense about how homelessness is changing in communities across the country. This is especially important amid current economic and budgetary conversations when local homeless, health care, employment, and other aid programs are increasingly at-risk of being cut.

It is also important to track changes this year as we know that communities’ Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing (HPRP) resources are running out, if they aren’t already gone. As a matter of fact, if you have insight about how the end of HPRP resources is affecting homelessness in your community, let us know about that, too.

We know that the most recent national data as reported in our The State of Homelessness in America 2012 show that homelessness increased by 1 percent between 2009 and 2011. As the national 2012 PIT counts data are not available until later this year, tracking the 2012 PIT counts also provides an opportunity to gain a sense about how much progress is being made with ending homelessness at the federal level since 2011.

So, a big thank you in advance for keeping your eyes peeled looking for media stories and CoC reports to send to us.

We will add reports as they come in, so please keep on coming back to view our 2012 Counts Media Map.

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29th March
2012
written by Kate Seif

The results are in… and you did GREAT!

We are so impressed with all the advocacy efforts we’ve seen over the last few weeks that we wanted to take our weekly blog post opportunity to say “thank you!”  In February, following the release of the President’s Budget Proposal, the Alliance called on all of you to write as many letters as possible to your Members of Congress urging them to support the President’s request for the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants.  We set the goal of sending 500 letters and you blew it out of the water!  In about a month, you were able to send at least 613 letters!! That’s 23% more than our goal – incredible!

During that time, two congressional sign-on letters circulated, one in the House and one in the Senate, about the importance of funding for HUD’s McKinney-Vento programs.  The House letter, circulated by Representative Gwen Moore (D-WI), called for funding McKinney-Vento at $2.231 billion in fiscal year (FY) 2013, as requested by the President.  This letter received a very impressive 65 signatures! That beats all the similar letters from 2010 and 2011! The Senate letter, calling for robust funding for HUD’s McKinney-Vento programs in FY 2013, received 28 signatures!

As you can tell, our partners did an incredible job on McKinney-Vento advocacy. But we’re not done bragging about you yet! A third letter circulating in the House called for $75 million to fund approximately 10,000 new HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing vouchers in FY 2013.  This letter received another impressive 64 signatures from representatives in a very short period of time.

In addition to these signatures, you got many Members to weigh in separately and directly with their colleagues on the Appropriations Committee about the importance of providing increased funding for these and other key homelessness programs.  All in all, we sent a loud and clear message to Congress – these programs serve the most vulnerable in a cost-effective or –efficient way. And more importantly, they work!

So what happens next? As is always the case in Congress, you can never know for sure. But here’s what we think will happen: The House and Senate will each decide very soon how much overall money the HUD Appropriations Subcommittee (in charge of funding for HUD programs) will have to spend.  Once that number is decided, they will move pretty quickly to divide that amount up among each HUD program.  They’re expected to begin releasing and voting on bills as soon as next month in the Senate and possibly shortly afterward in the House.  As you can see, decisions are being made now! It’s important to keep up our involvement and advocacy during these key decision-making times.  Work with us in the coming weeks to keep breaking records, and to keep up the fantastic showing we’ve seen from all of you for these key programs! On behalf of the entire team here at the Alliance, we just want to say THANK YOU for all of your help so far – now let’s keep our momentum going!

If you’d like to get involved, email me at cseif@naeh.org or check out our campaign pages!

28th March
2012
written by Kim Walker

Yesterday, we released our Coordinated Assessment Toolkit (also known as our Coordinated Entry/Coordinated Intake Toolkit)! It’s been a labor of love for the Center for Capacity Building, and we’re very excited to have it out on the website at last.

But…it’s not finished.

Don’t get us wrong – there’s lots of great stuff in there already. The toolkit has four sections: Planning and Assessment, Data and Implementation, Evaluation, and Community Examples and Materials. The Planning and Assessment section has materials to help get you started in thinking about what coordinated assessment is and how it could look and function in your community. Data and Implementation gives you some information on how to collect and share data in an effective way when doing intakes and assessments and making referrals. Evaluation is all about measuring and continuing your success. The Community Examples section provides materials from communities that have done this already and information on how they’ve made everything work.

But we need, and want, more. We know there a lot of communities that have started to plan for and implement this approach, and we want to share your products and lessons learned with everyone else. Send us your checklists, assessment and intake forms, policy and procedure documents, and data reports. And send us your suggestions and feedback as well. Specific information about including domestic violence survivors and youth is also coming but we would like input in these areas as well.

Just like with any other practice or intervention we use at work, the toolkit will grow and evolve. We hope you’ll keep checking in to make sure you’re getting the latest and greatest. And keep your eyes peeled for our companion toolkit on prevention and shelter diversion!

 

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27th March
2012
written by Lisa Stand

On Tuesdays in March, the Alliance has been blogging about the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which was enacted two years ago and is today (literally, today) the center of attention in the U.S. Supreme Court. As we and our partners have pointed out, the ACA is already helping very vulnerable people, including people experiencing homelessness – for instance, through a limited amount of new funding for community health centers. Other changes are coming on-line this year, such as Medicaid health homes, a state option that can help communities do a better job of coordinating health care and homeless assistance.

Still bigger changes are yet to come. If the key Medicaid expansion is upheld as constitutional, chronically homeless and at-risk adults who do not qualify now will have access to Medicaid benefits, starting in 2014. Even then, the promises of the ACA can fall short, if those benefits are not sufficient for people who need housing stability to recover and improve their health status. It is important for homeless advocates to have a voice in designing Medicaid benefits that make that link with concrete solutions when housing is necessary to complete an effective, person-centered care plan.

There is much work to be done. The ACA offers resources and innovative policies. Whatever the outcome in the Supreme Court, homeless advocates will continue to strive for community networks that seamlessly provide supportive housing, primary care and behavioral health services. We know this approach is necessary to end chronic homelessness.

In closing out this month of blogs on the ACA and ending homelessness, let’s give due notice to how the ACA could touch people experiencing homelessness who fit other typologies besides chronic. Two examples come to mind:

  • At-risk young people – Research shows that children who age out of foster care frequently have significant health care needs, especially compared to other young adults. Under the ACA, states are now required to consider access to health care as part of the transition plan for young adults exiting foster care. Starting in 2014, states will have the further requirement of extending Medicaid coverage to these individuals until they reach age 26.   Advocates for homeless youth have a role to play as states implement this new provision. For more information about access to health care for foster youth, a recent blog at Community Catalyst is a place to start.
  • Vulnerable families – The ACA funds the Early Childhood Home Visiting Program, allowing states to target evidence-based programs for children under age 5. These services may be critical to outcomes for children who have experienced homelessness. Homeless service providers are well positioned to help home visiting succeed by informing strategies to target these new resources, and giving valuable feedback about how the program addresses needs of homeless families.

The Alliance will continue to analyze health care reform and its implications for ending homelessness. For more information about homelessness and health, visit our website or contact us at info@naeh.org.

26th March
2012
written by Andre Wade

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has made it clear that it wants to take the lead among federal agencies in promoting equality and inclusion for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community. On January 30, HUD announced new regulations intended to ensure that HUD’s core housing programs are open to all eligible persons, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. These regulations, called the Equal Access to Housing in HUD Programs – Regardless of Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity regulation, makes housing available for everyone by prohibiting discrimination and promoting diversity. There are four basic principles of the policy:

  • General equal access provision. makes housing available and is new in the final rule, and acts as a catch-all for what’s not covered elsewhere.
  • Clarification on the definition of family.
  • Prohibition of inquiry of sexual orientation and gender identity for the purposes of determining eligibility. This provision does not prohibit voluntary and anonymous reporting of sexual orientation or gender identity that can aid in data collection requirements.
  • The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) cannot discriminate. Final rule adds sexual orientation and gender identity

This rule will affect a number of lives across the nation and will cross economic lines as well. It communicates that housing discrimination is not acceptable. For more information, watch HUD’s webinar on the new regulation, below.

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23rd March
2012
written by Catherine An

Today, we have a special announcement: I (Catherine) will be leaving the communications position at the Alliance. I hand the reins to many faces you have already seen on the social media networks and the blog (and the website staff page).

The Alliance’s efforts to communicate and interact with you have grown dramatically in the past 3 years.  We’ve:

  • Launched social media networks, including Facebook and Twitter which are now followed by thousands of supporters,
  • Launched a blog, About Homelessness which included content from across the Alliance departments (policy, research, capacity, admin),
  • Improved and updated our website for your better usability, featuring links to our social media networks and our newest publications and reports, including our most popular annual publication, The State of Homelessness in America; and
  • Continued to discuss the importance of federal funding, housing-based solutions, and homelessness research in major media outlets, including the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Huffington Post, and the Christian Science Monitor.

The best part of my tenure here has been creating avenues in which we can connect with you, providers and consumers. So rarely are we afforded the opportunity to really experience how our work impacts the lives and livelihoods of everyday people.  Leveraging these new media tools to create communities has given us a way to keep ourselves focused on what’s really important: ending homelessness for individuals and families.

Thank you all so much for your readership and your commitment to the goals of the Alliance. Working with our ever-growing network of online and offline supporters is what has been most rewarding about this job!

Moving forward, you can direct your communications –related questions to Shalom Mulkey. Or, if you have thoughts, comments, or suggestions about our communications efforts, you can leave them in the comments section or share them on our Twitter or Facebook accounts.

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22nd March
2012
written by Amanda Benton

As you may have seen, the House released a budget plan this week that shrinks the deficit, cuts taxes, and reduces spending on social programs. What you may not have realized, however, is how much this plan would affect the fiscal year (FY) 2013 funding process for key programs for homeless and at-risk people, including HUD’s McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants, Runaway and Homeless Youth Act, and homeless veteran programs.

This plan – officially called a “budget resolution” – is a regular and important part of the federal budget process. It is not law but sets out Congress’ budgetary plans for the year. The most important aspect of the budget resolution is that it lays out the overall amount of funding that will be available to the Appropriations Committee for its annual funding bills. This overall amount is then eventually split up among countless federal programs, including homeless assistance programs.

In theory, the House and Senate should agree on a budget resolution by April 15 of each year. This often does not happen, though. In fact, the Senate does not plan to pass a budget resolution at all this year, since last year’s big debt deal included an agreement about how much funding would be available to the Appropriations Committee this year.

However, the House still plans to pass a budget resolution this year – one that goes beyond last year’s agreement in cutting overall funding for the annual funding bills. The budget resolution released earlier this week includes 2 percent, or $19 billion, less overall for the Appropriations Committee this year than Congress agreed to in the debt deal. The House budget resolution will disproportionately draw those cuts from domestic spending (which include key safety net and affordable housing programs) instead of from defense spending.

The end result of all of this is that the House will be writing annual funding bills that spend less money overall than the Senate’s bills do – especially for domestic programs. This, in turn, will affect how much each program is able to receive in the two chambers’ versions of the bills. And it will make final negotiations between the House and Senate for compromise funding levels a bit more complicated.

We do know one thing for sure, though: Despite the differences in the House and Senate, the Appropriations Committees are expected to move more quickly than usual and release and vote on these bills as soon as next month – which means we need your help right away!

It’s incredibly important to get involved in our FY 2013 McKinney, RHYA, and veterans advocacy campaigns – and the sooner, the better! Members of Congress are starting to make funding decisions, and we want to make sure that ending homelessness is a priority for them.

21st March
2012
written by Norm Suchar

And while we’re on the subject of Alameda County, one of their jurisdictions, the City of Berkeley, was kind enough to share their Substantial Amendment for ESG. [include link to document]. The document was created by the City of Berkeley and EveryOne Home, working jointly with other jurisdictions in Alameda County to develop a coordinated ESG response. They have about $81,000 to spend on their Priority Home initiative, and plan on rapidly re-housing 31 households and preventing homelessness for 5 households. I’ve excerpted sections on program design and performance measures to give a sense of how they are implementing the program, but you can check out the link for the whole thing.

Here’s part of the program design section:

Priority Home is designed on a “progressive engagement” model, intended to provide as little support as needed to divert or re-house households quickly and reserve resources as much as possible for other households, while leaving the door open for increased assistance if needed… [H]ousehold’s entering will receive either  1) deposit only 2) a full or partial  deposit and one month rent, intended for household’s with a source of income, employment or disability or retirement benefits, sufficient to cover rent after re-housing but with need for initial support to securely transition to housing, 3) full or partial  deposit and a short-term subsidy to temporarily bridge the income gap, typically restricted to six months but with  extensions permitted with authority approval; 4) services only to locate suitable housing with no or low rent. Households entering at one level needing more assistance can be transferred to a higher level or out of the program to more intensive supports.

And here’s part of the performance section:

The City of Berkeley participates in the EveryOne Home “Measuring Success and Reporting Outcomes” initiative which has established performance measures and benchmarks for all components of the homeless service system. All providers in the Priority Home Partnership will be contractually expected to meet or exceed performance Standards.

- Targeting  those who need the assistance most:  In designing Priority Home, the community has developed Targeting criteria to maximize the chances that assistance is given to those who are already homeless or most likely to become so. As all agencies must be agreed to this targeting structure to participate, this performance measure will be monitored at a program-wide level through review of HMIS data and as a compliance measure during provider monitorings.

- Reducing the number of people living on streets and in emergency shelters: Approximately 76% of those anticipated to be served in the ESG funded portion of priority Home will be homeless upon entry. The other 24% are expected to be very likely to occupy a shelter bed if it assisted. Through review of HMIS data, Priority Home will track where people enter the program from, and EveryOne Home will compare this information to point in time count data collected annually. Because the demand for shelter currently far outstrips the resources, we do not anticipate immediate reductions in those sheltered but do anticipate increased turnover in shelter beds, allowing for more people to be sheltered instead of unsheltered.

-Shortening the time people spend homeless: a primary goal of the EveryOne Home performance Standards is reducing lengths of stay in homelessness. Rapid rehousing is expected to occur within 45 days of homelessness, and prevention assistance within 14 days for households who are not moving, and 45 days, for households who are.

- Ensuring assistance provided is effective at reducing barriers: the greatest barrier to housing for most clients is lack of income. Two performance standards for programs in Alameda County address this barrier; 1) percent of households leaving with employment income and 2) percent of households entering with no income that leave with an income.  

Another demonstration of effectively having reduced housing barriers is whether people assisted later return to the system as homeless. Alameda County has a system wide goal that less than 10% of households assisted return to the homeless system within 12 months.

Good stuff!

You can find a copy of the Berkeley ESG Plan Amendment on our website.

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21st March
2012
written by Anna Blasco

We at the Alliance spend a lot of time training communities to prepare for the HEARTH Act. We work with communities to assess performance, revamp governance structures, and facilitate community planning. What we have found may not surprise you – changing the way homelessness assistance systems work is not an easy task. Most difficult is moving beyond action plans and hypotheticals to actual, concrete changes that make a difference in how quickly and effectively programs move people into permanent housing. Last week I discussed Alameda County CA’s prizes for high performing programs. Today I look at their recently announced “EveryOne Housed Academy.”

This is how the “EveryOne Housed Academy” will work: programs send a team including executive management, middle level management, and front line staff for a two day training that enables each team to translate best practices such as housing first, harm reduction, and trauma informed services into policies and procedures that will work in their programs to permanently house people more quickly. Teams will have the opportunity to evaluate everything about their operations, including signage in program spaces, shelter rules, case management approaches, job descriptions, etc., and they will leave the Academy with rewritten policies and a plan of action.

The EveryOne Housed Academy is being developed by an eight-person design team that includes providers, consumers, funders and EveryOne Home staff.  Programs will have to apply for the Academy, with priority going to programs that serve the largest numbers.  They hope to hold the first Academy in June, the second in September and eventually work with ten different agencies.

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20th March
2012
written by Lisa Stand

It has been two years since passage of the Affordable Care Act. Next week, key parts of the ACA will be debated in Supreme Court oral arguments. The nine Justices will hear from lawyers on both sides – those who are challenging and those who are defending the law. Yet it could be several months (at least) before we know how the highest court in the land decides.

Whatever happens, there is no denying that the ACA has been helping people, as we noted in our March 6 blog. As we also noted, some of the ACA’s greatest promises are still unfolding for the nation’s most vulnerable people who still lack health care coverage. The Medicaid expansion, for instance, will not take effect until January 1, 2014 – assuming this part of the law is upheld by the Supreme Court. Even so, progress is being made.

For this week’s ACA blog, the Alliance asked some of our national partners how they view the impact of the ACA. Here’s what we heard:

From Barbara DiPietro of the National Health Care for the Homeless Council:

“Homelessness is hazardous to your health.  Poor health causes homelessness, and in many cases, the experience of homelessness creates new health care conditions and exacerbates existing ones.  It is very difficult to become stable in employment or housing when there are untreated health care conditions.

Under the ACA, serving the most vulnerable homeless people will require more capacity in community health centers, especially Health Care for the Homeless (HCH) projects, as the graph below indicates. Nationally, there are currently 1,130 health center grantees that saw 20 million patients in 2010.  Of these, 223 are HCH grantees, which saw 805,000 individuals.”

The ACA allocates $11 billion over 5 years to health centers, with a goal of doubling the patients seen by 2015 to 40 million people. Unfortunately, to date, Congressional appropriations have not fulfilled these goals.  For fiscal year 2011, there was no increase.  In fiscal year 2012, there was a $200 million increase.

Using the modest increases to date, HRSA has issued 67 new access point grants that would create new sites for patients to access—16 of these were specifically to HCH grantees.  In total, these new access grants will facilitate service capacity for an estimated 262,000 new patients, most are very low income.

As the ACA is implemented, the need for health center investments intensifies.  If we can’t expand capacity, those with Medicaid cards won’t have a timely and reliable place to call their health care home. The ACA not only helps people access health insurance, but it also facilitates a growth in non-profit, privately administered, community health care services. Health centers directly employ 130,000 people, but there are many, many indirect jobs as well (contractors who clean buildings, provide maintenance, do contractual services, etc.). In this way, the ACA health center investments help further two national goals:  grow health care capacity and increase employment rates at the local level.

From Peggy Bailey at the Corporation for Supportive Housing:

“Years of living on the streets often leave people battling chronic medical conditions. When they find a home in supportive housing, they can need significant health care service–beyond those available in standard medical benefit packages. Health reform gives states the opportunity to provide comprehensive and integrated benefits to their most vulnerable citizens, giving them access to the breadth of services they need. Thanks to the Affordable Care act, hundreds of homeless people who previously had no health insurance are now Medicaid eligible in DC, CT, MN and WA. That’s progress that improves lives while helping service providers lower uncompensated care costs.”

From Andrew Sperling at the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI):

“One of the four issues that the US Supreme Court will consider next week when it takes up the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act is whether or not it is within Congress’s limited powers to require states to expand Medicaid eligibility up to 138Q% of the federal poverty level.  This expansion of Medicaid eligibility is a critical provision for homeless individuals living with serious mental illness.  Once Medicaid expansion becomes effective in 2014, in most states these individuals will no longer have to meet the very high eligibility standard for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) in order to qualify for Medicaid.”  (NAMI recently signed onto a “Friend of the Court” brief urging the Supreme Court to uphold lower court rulings rejecting challenges to the Medicaid expansion.  You can view this brief online. )

If the Court upholds these rulings and allows Medicaid expansion to go forward in 2014, NAMI, NAEH and our allies will face a new challenge – convincing states to include appropriate benefits in the “benchmark” plans that will be made available to this new “expansion population” in Medicaid.  For example, it will be critical for these plans to include intensive case management services (including assertive community treatment) and services in supportive housing to ensure that the complex needs of single individuals with mental illness and a history of chronic homelessness are met.

Thanks from the Alliance to Barbara, Peggy, and Andrew – for your thoughts on the ACA and for being great partners, with your organizations, in ending homelessness! Please visit their websites and ours to learn more about how health care reform can change the way you work to end homelessness in your community.

 For information about advocating for affordable, high-quality health care in general, you might visit Families USA and Health Care for America Now. To find out about the ACA in your state, check out these resources from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. 

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