Archive for April, 2012

30th April
2012
written by Sam Batko

On Thursday, April 26, the U.S. Senate voted to pass S. 1925, the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2011 in a vote of 68 to 31.  This reauthorization, sponsored by Senator Leahy from Vermont and co-sponsored by 61 bipartisan Members of the Senate, has stronger language to help protect LGBT, tribal, and immigrant survivors which gained the bill its 31 “nays” in the Senate and fairly wide media attention.

Perhaps of more importance in the field of homelessness assistance is another provision of the bill, it would provide particular protections for survivors in a variety of HUD programs.  Current law provides survivors with protections from eviction and the opportunity to transfer in Section 8 and Public Housing.  This reauthorization bill would extend those protections to a variety of other HUD programs, including McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance grant, Sections 202 and 811, and the Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program, among others.  And, if transfer is not possible, it requires HUD to establish a policy for how a survivor can access a Section 8 voucher instead.

VAWA was first passed in 1994 and since then has created a number of successful programs to help protect survivors of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking.  One of those programs, the Office of Violence Against Women’s (OVW) Transitional Housing Grants administered by the Department of Justice helps survivors leave abusers and access safe housing with voluntary support services to help the survivor and their family stabilize in housing.  Providers who implement these programs often utilize a transition in place model that provides survivors with the security of permanent housing and a lease in their own name.

Now that the bill has passed in the Senate, it will be taken up in the House where there are three versions of a reauthorization bill introduced all of which have been referred to committee.  A mark-up is scheduled for May 8 for the bill sponsored by Congresswoman Adams (R-FL) which is similar to a Republican alternative to the Leahy bill (S. 1925) that just passed in the Senate.

27th April
2012
written by Andre Wade

Do you know the number of homeless youth in your county or city? Communities across the nation have been conducting targeted youth counts, which the Alliance has gathered and placed on its new Youth Count media map and webpage to answer that question. The map will show you which communities have conducted counts, their results and a brief synopsis of the methodology used. Also, you’ll find a link to the full report to read in its entirety. We hope that this map will encourage your community to conduct a targeted youth count that can be used to inform policy and the scaling of interventions.

We also want to provide resources to communities to help them to either improve their counts or to conduct initial counts of homeless youth. Therefore, you will find resources on our new webpage such as webinars, briefs and a toolkit about counting youth.

There’s a lot more that needs to be done to be able to solve the issue of youth homelessness. What can you do? What can you encourage others to do?

What you can do:

  • Form a committee to find out how youth can be targeted during your community’s next Point-In-Time count.
  • Get involved in your community’s bi-annual Point-In-Time Counts as a youth advocate and/or provider.
  • If you are already counting youth, re-visit your methodology and practices to make room for improvements.

What the Administration can do:

  • The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and HUD should work together to make the Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) the sole database for all homeless providers.
  • HUD should align HMIS’s reporting on age with HUD’s definition of youth, which is between the ages of 18 and 24.
  • HUD ought to have HMIS collect data on sexual orientation and gender identity regardless of age.
  • Additionally, HUD should include in HMIS any additional information that HHS identifies is necessary to be in alignment with its runaway and homeless youth outcomes such as grade completion at entrance, length of stay in foster care and juvenile justice, and physical and mental health status.
  • HHS should produce the national prevalence and incidence study of homeless youth.

What Congress can do:

  • Congress should fund the prevalence and incidence study that was mandated in the Reconnecting Homeless Youth Act of 2008, which reauthorized the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act (RHYA).

If you would like to submit a report of your community’s targeted youth count to be added to the map, please feel free to contact me, André C. Wade at awade@naeh.org.

26th April
2012
written by Kim Walker

Last month, the Center for Capacity Building brought you the Coordinated Assessment Toolkit to help you design, implement, and evaluate an efficient coordinated process at the front door of your system. But, as many successful communities and a few Alliance staff members will tell you, the best coordinated assessment processes incorporate prevention and diversion at their assessment points by screening for eligibility for these strategies and providing the associated services before admitting a household to a shelter, transitional housing, or rapid re-housing program.

This initial screening process can help people salvage housing situations without having to enter shelter, or provide viable temporary housing options outside shelter. Prevention and diversion, in many cases, do not require a major investment of money or resources (and in some cases, as we often hear, require no financial assistance at all), and are therefore quite cost effective compared to an avoidable shelter entry, even more so when you consider that prevention means avoiding robbing another person of a bed that they desperately need.

That’s why we published our Prevention and Diversion Toolkit yesterday, which we hope communities will use in tandem with the Coordinated Assessment one to develop the most comprehensive and effective front door process they can. As with the Coordinated Assessment Toolkit, we’ll be updating this over time as we learn more and gather more information. The reason we’re able to bring you these resources is that we are able to learn from and connect with communities across the country, so please continue to send us things! We take questions, comments, and feedback as well – please send any of the above to kwalker@naeh.org. Please keep learning and sharing with us!

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25th April
2012
written by Kate Seif

We often write about the appropriations process on this blog, and we try to avoid using too much jargon. But when discussing the federal funding process, it’s hard to avoid using at least a few  terms that don’t come up in normal everyday conversation (unless, of course, you work with us).  They include “appropriations” – a formal word for “funding” – and “mark up” – the process whereby a committee  amends and votes on legislation.  And finally, there are “allocations,” which, to add further confusion, come in both 302(a) and 302(b) varieties.  This blog will hopefully clarify both of those terms and provide a little insight into why these references to an obscure part of the federal budget code matter to your efforts to prevent and end homelessness.

The 302(a) allocation is pretty easy – it’s the amount the House and Senate  say the Appropriations Committees have to spend on all federal “discretionary” programs (see this old blog for more info on discretionary spending), which includes pretty much every single homeless and affordable housing program. The 302(a) can vary between the House and Senate, as it does this year, depending on each chamber’s priorities for federal spending.

Each Appropriations Committee (one in the House and one in the Senate) then divides the single, large 302(a) allocation (to give you a sense of the size, it was $1.043 trillion last year) into twelve pots – one for each of the appropriations subcommittees. The amount that each subcommittee gets …drumroll, please…is called the 302(b) allocation (Whew! We finally got there).

Not every subcommittee gets the same 302(b) allocation. For example, the Defense Subcommittee tends to get the biggest 302(b) allocation, while the Legislative Branch Subcommittee’s allocation is comparatively tiny.

These allocations matter because they are then split up again, into specific programs. The 302(b) ultimately determines how much each federal department can spend on the various programs under its control. For HUD, this means programs like McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants and Housing Choice Vouchers; for VA, it includes SSVF and GPD; for HHS, this includes programs like SAMHSA Homeless Services, RHYA, and so on.

This year, the Senate and House released the following allocations:

Subcommittee House Senate
Transportation, Housing and Urban Development and Related Agencies (T-HUD) $51.606 billion $53.438 billion
Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies (Milcon-VA) $71.747 billion $72.241 billion
Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies (L-HHS) $150.002 billion $157.722 billion

Lower allocations in the House compared to the Senate likely indicate that many programs will receive less funding under the House’s proposal than the Senate’s. The higher the allocation is for each subcommittee compared to the previous year, the more likely individual programs like HUD McKinney-Vento are to receive increases, which is why we made a big push last month to increase the T-HUD 302(b) allocation. It’s worth noting that the levels vary so much between each subcommittee due to the varying size of the departments and agencies each subcommittee oversees.

So, the more we can increase the allocation for each subcommittee, the more likely we can achieve increased funding levels for key affordable housing and homelessness programs – and the more people you can serve in order to make further progress ending homelessness.

24th April
2012
written by Sam Batko

Two weeks ago, we highlighted the importance that housing stability plays in a variety of outcomes for survivors of domestic violence.  Housing stability improved the safety of survivors and their children, the job stability and income of survivors, and the behavioral and educational outcomes of the children of survivors.

Building on that knowledge and on the contributions of numerous experts in the domestic violence field, the Alliance created a toolkit on providing homeless survivors of domestic violence with housing through a rapid re-housing model.  This toolkit reviews the basics of rapid re-housing, including working with housing assessments, working with landlords, and structuring subsidies with particular adaptations to the model for survivors of domestic violence.

Additionally, the Alliance hosted a series of webinars focused on a variety of ways to ensure housing stability for survivors.  The recordings of and resources from those webinars are now all available online:

Moving forward, the Alliance will be continuing to highlight ways for communities and organizations to improve their homelessness and housing responses to survivors of domestic violence.  As communities begin to create coordinated assessment processes and begin to implement rapid re-housing through the Emergency Solutions Grant, the Alliance will be creating products to help communities address the safety and housing needs of survivors.

Additionally, the upcoming National Conference on Ending Homelessness in Washington, DC on July 16-18 will feature an extensive track on meeting the needs of survivors as well as a 3 hour pre-conference session specifically on keeping survivors safe, best practices for service provision to survivors, and how to build partnerships to address both the housing and service needs of survivors.

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23rd April
2012
written by Amanda Benton

Last week, I attended a conference in Columbus put on by the Coalition on Housing and Homelessness in Ohio (COHHIO). The program included a wide slate of workshops on topics like diversion and coordinated intake, along with an entire set of workshops devoted to advocacy (including a session led by yours truly on how to engage one’s congressional delegation).

Perhaps what struck me most was the keynote address given Tuesday morning by Mark Johnston, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Special Needs Assistance Programs at the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Although it might not be immediately clear from his extremely long title, Mr. Johnston plays a critical role at HUD: he oversees the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants programs, among others. He is one of the most important people at HUD advancing the effort to prevent and end homelessness.

He spent much of his keynote address explaining why, despite a grim budget outlook for HUD programs over the next few years, he is still confident that we can meet the goals laid out in the Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness, including ending chronic and veteran homelessness by 2015. Mr. Johnston made it clear to conference attendees that it won’t be easy, and we will have to make tough decisions and use every dollar wisely, but he believes we can truly end homelessness.

In his remarks, Mr. Johnston explained why the tight fiscal constraints mean we as participants in the movement to end homelessness need to carefully weigh each and every program and ensure that we are using precious resources as efficiently as possible. He emphasized the need to reallocate our resources, when need be, toward programs that have the best outcomes for the lowest costs. He specifically mentioned the fact that research on homelessness prevention is not yet quite strong enough to accurately predict who will become homeless, whereas we know that rapid re-housing is an extremely effective, and inexpensive, intervention. He shared that most communities are seeing that 85-95% of people served by rapid re-housing remain housed a year or two later. Given limited resources, he encouraged communities to prioritize investment of their limited Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG) resources in rapid re-housing over prevention.

Throughout the remainder of the conference, I heard numerous presenters and attendees speaking to the fact that they had come to the same conclusion in their own communities. Based on lessons from the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program (HPRP), these communities, like many others, intend to spend the vast majority of their new ESG funds on rapid re-housing.

Hearing from Mr. Johnston and these leaders and practitioners from across Ohio, I found the conference extremely inspiring. Communities are not only fighting hard against funding reductions, they also recognize that people experiencing homelessness are depending on us to make the most we can out of the resources that are available.  These communities are taking the opportunity to reexamine their homeless assistance systems, ensuring they are squeezing the most out of every last dollar so we continue making progress toward our goal of ending homelessness once and for all.

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20th April
2012
written by Norm Suchar

We trade a lot of ideas and information with our Canadian partners. One thing the Calgary Homeless Foundation recently shared with us is a case management accreditation process that they’ve developed. I know of a few other communities that have developed case management standards, but nothing quite this detailed. You can download the PDF here.

The first part deals with the accreditation process, so you may want to skip to page 59 where the case management Standards of Practice section begins. If you have similar documents or manuals to share with us, please email them to us at thecenter@naeh.org.

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19th April
2012
written by Amanda Benton

This morning, the Senate Appropriations Committee is expected to approve its fiscal year (FY) 2013 funding bill for programs within the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). And the highlights are pretty exciting.

First and foremost, we at the Alliance were happy to see that the bill includes a $245 million increase to HUD’s McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants – the largest one-year increase in nearly 20 years! According to our estimates, the McKinney-Vento funding level of $2.15 billion would fund all renewals and provide $286 million for the new Emergency Solutions Grant program. It’s still about $80 million less than the level proposed by the President, so we hope you’ll work with us to thank your senators but urge them to work throughout the rest of the annual funding process to provide the full increase requested by the President.

The draft legislation also includes funding increases or maintains flat funding for many critical affordable housing programs, including:

  • $19.4 billion for Housing Choice Vouchers, including $75 million for approximately 10,000 new HUD-VASH vouchers;
  • $9.6 billion to renew all Section 8 project-based contracts for a full 12 months;
  • $4.6 billion for the Public Housing Operating Fund, an increase of $629 million from FY 2012;
  • $1 billion for HOME, which represents flat funding from FY 2012; and
  • $3.1 billion for the Community Development Block Grants (CDBG), an increase of $152 million over FY 2012.

These proposed funding increases will go a long way toward keeping or placing many low-income families and individuals in affordable housing and preventing or ending their homelessness. However, this proposal comes as many communities are seeing an increased demand for homeless assistance resources, even as the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program (HPRP) is set to expire. Given the tight budgetary constraints facing the Appropriations Committee, we were glad to see that the Committee emphasized the importance of affordable housing and homelessness programs, though additional resources are still needed for many of these key programs.

So, where does this leave us? The truth is that this is just one step in a long process before final legislation is produced and sent to President Obama for his signature – probably after the election. First, the full Senate is likely to vote on this legislation, and the House is expected to release its own proposal later this spring.

These proposed increases are the result of your weeks of hard work; we truly could not have seen such an impact without your efforts. Help us make these proposals a reality! You can still impact the process by making calls and sending letters.  For details on how to get involved, email Kate Seif at cseif@naeh.org or check out our FY 2013 McKinney Campaign Page.

18th April
2012
written by Anna Blasco

Kim Walker Presenting at a Performance Improvement ClinicOver the past year, the Alliance has been presenting an intensive one-and-a-half day clinic to help communities prepare for changes made by the HEARTH Act. The clinic focuses on improving community performance by analyzing community data and shifting to strategies that better achieve the HEARTH Act’s performance expectations.

We will continue to offer these clinics, although we’re changing the name to the Performance Improvement Clinic (we used to call them HEARTH Implementation Clinics). The name change reflects the fact that the clinic mostly focuses on the performance aspects of the HEARTH Act and also to distinguish it from the many other types of HEARTH Act assistance that will be available from HUD and other organizations over the coming months.

The Performance Improvement Clinic will continue to include group discussions, system design and modification planning sessions, and presentations on best practices. Clinic participants will also receive hands-on technical assistance with data analysis and system assessment in preparation for the Clinic and follow-up support. While the overall goals and structure of the clinic are the same, it is constantly updated with new information and customized to the conditions in each community.

On our weekly blog series, Field Notes, we have talked about the experiences of Alameda County and Whatcom County with the clinics, and the work they are doing to improve their homelessness assistance system as a community. In the next few weeks we will continue to bring you their stories and lessons learned, as well as the voices of our staff and consultants who have conducted clinics. For more information about the Performance Improvement Clinics in the meantime, please email the Center for Capacity Building at thecenter@naeh.org.

17th April
2012
written by Ian Lisman

As we have discussed on this blog many times, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has set a clear goal of ending homelessness among veterans by 2015.

The recent fiscal year (FY) 2013 VA budget proposal shows a strong commitment to this mission of ending homelessness among veterans. As part of a recent webinar on the budget proposal, I went over VA’s ask for a 33 percent increase in its budget for homeless veteran programs. This remarkable increase fully funds the transitional housing Grant and Per Diem (GPD) and permanent supportive housing (HUD-VASH) programs, as well as tripling in size the rapid re-housing and prevention model program, Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF).

This budget proposal takes a hard look at what it will take to end veteran homelessness over the coming years and lays out concrete funding recommendations for these programs at a scale that will accomplish this. VA is the only agency so far to so clearly lay out its year by year goals and propose funding to achieve those objectives. By expanding SSVF, this budget takes into consideration the large number of new veterans expected to return to our communities, and the resources needed to assist these returning heroes. By continuing to fund HUD-VASH, it also provides funding for chronically homeless and the most vulnerable veterans from previous conflicts.

As I have mentioned in previous blogs, the VA’s model consists of implementing a broad spectrum of programs directly through its own healthcare system, as well as through community based organizations. By directly providing assistance through its Health Care for Homeless Veterans (HCHV) programs at local VA medical facilities, administering HUD-VASH housing vouchers, and partnering with community organizations to distribute GPD funding and SSVF grants, VA programs cover the range of services, housing, prevention, and rapid re-housing. All of this adds up to the full range of interventions needed to reduce and ultimately end veteran homelessness.

We at the Alliance commend VA for its leadership on this issue, and advocate for Congress to fully fund this budget, as well as provide future funding that that will make homelessness a thing of the past for veterans. VA has projected what it will take to end homelessness among veterans by 2015 and this budget reflects a solid plan to do just that.


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