Archive for May, 2012

16th May
written by Kate Seif

When our blog readers think of Washington, DC, they often think of politics (and politicians, of course), soaring monuments, and hopefully, the Alliance’s advocacy efforts.  But in all seriousness, coming to our nation’s capital is a great opportunity to learn what’s happening with federal policy and to make an impact on it.  We talked last week about how to participate in Capitol Hill Day, but our National Conference on Ending Homelessness also offers a great opportunity to learn more about federal policy and advocacy, including messaging and how-tos.

This year, we’ve got a great track of workshops for anyone who wants to better hone their advocacy skills, for seasoned advocates, for Capitol Hill Day participants, or for folks who are just curious.  Here’s a basic overview of some of the great advocacy workshops we’re planning:

  1. Building a Systems Change Movement: Engaging Local Leaders – This workshop will provide attendees with concrete examples and how tips for getting your local community leaders (elected officials or otherwise) to work together to support and affect positive systems change.
  2. Impacting Policy: Making the Most of your Advocacy Meetings – Ideal for Capitol Hill Day participants, this workshop will cover the nitty-gritty of conducting a meeting with your Member of Congress or their staff.  The lessons imparted will also translate to local and state policymakers or other key stakeholder meetings.
  3. The Federal Budget: Update and Impact on Ending Homelessness – There have been many changes to federal funding and the funding process this year, and these changes may have a big impact on key programs working to end homelessness.  This workshop will give you an update and provide an outlook on what’s next for Congress, and what it means for our nation’s efforts to prevent and end homelessness.
  4. Impacting Policy: Developing Effective Advocacy Messaging – Getting the right message for the right audience is a key aspect to effective advocacy. This workshop will offer participants successful strategies for developing a policy agenda and what messages work best for key policymakers.
  5. Election 2012: Engaging Consumers, Candidates, and Your Community – the election season will be in full swing following our conference. Elections offer a great opportunity to get involved in the political process and ensure that candidates are aware of the issue of homelessness in their communities.  This workshop will provide ways in which nonprofits can get involved in the election cycle, the importance of doing so, and legal limitations.

These workshops are all scheduled during different slots so you can attend all of them (and we of course encourage you to do so!) For more information on our conference and what you can expect there, check out some of the other recent and upcoming blog posts.

If you have any questions about how to get involved in advocacy at our conference or elsewhere, please don’t hesitate to contact me!

16th May
written by Sharon McDonald

View Rapid Re-Housing: Ending Family Homelessness in a larger map

On Thursday, the Alliance will host a Congressional Briefing, “Rapid Re-Housing: Ending Family Homelessness.”  The briefing, sponsored by Senator Patty Murray, will provide a glimpse in to how rapid re-housing is revolutionizing how we are responding to family homelessness.

Homeless program administrators across the country provided an enthusiastic (shall we say overwhelming?) response to the Alliance’s request for data to help inform the audience about the impact that rapid re-housing is having.  The compelling data the Alliance received is showing the successes communities are having helping families move out of homelessness with rapid re-housing.  A small sample is included below:

  • Alabama rapidly re-housed 431 persons in homeless families through HPRP grants from the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs with a median of 4 months of assistance. Over 80 percent of families assisted with three months of assistance or more exited homelessness for a permanent destination, as did virtually all families provided with less than three months of assistance.
  • Bakersfield and Kern County, California rapidly re-housed over 500 families. The new HPRP-funded prevention and rapid re-housing resources contributed to a 12 percent reduction in family homelessness between 2009 and 2011 despite a persistent double digit unemployment rate.
  • Palm Beach County, Florida has rapidly re-housed 154 homeless families.  Nearly all (96 percent) of the households were re-housed directly from an emergency shelter or domestic violence program and most (69 percent) were re-housed within 30 days of entering shelter.
  • New York City, New York rapidly rehoused 16,500 families with locally-funded housing subsidies and services supported by HPRP.  More than 90 percent of families assisted with rapid re-housing have not re-entered shelter.
  • Rochester, New York has re-housed 286 families with children with HPRP funds.  Twelve months after receiving assistance, 60 percent remain stable in the same housing unit they moved into and less than 5 percent have returned to homelessness.
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania rapidly re-housed 648 homeless families.  Only 11 households (1.7 percent) have had a subsequent homeless episode.
  • Snohomish County, Washington provided rapid re-housing to 107 homeless families with an average of $1,411 in rental assistance.  Less than 2 percent of families assisted have had a subsequent homeless episode.

It is clear that rapid re-housing is making a difference for families.  It is succeeding.  It is important that proven, cost-effective strategies that end homelessness like rapid re-housing continue to be supported.  The Alliance hopes that you will ask your congressional representatives to join us for the briefing at 10 a.m. Thursday, May 17.  We also ask that you join us in urging Congress to provide at least $2.231 billion for the McKinney Vento Homeless Assistance Grants Program in FY 2013 so that rapid re-housing programs can continue to serve families

14th May
written by Lisa Stand

“States vary” –  a top research finding in virtually every field studied inside the Beltway. When it comes to understanding how Medicaid is relevant to ending chronic homelessness, we would like to be more helpful. True, Medicaid’s relevance to ending chronic homelessness in your community depends greatly on the profile of your state. Still, success in another state is worth looking at, along with assessing what can be borrowed effectively. A pre-conference session for early arrivals at the Alliance’s summer conference will offer an opportunity to do just that.  The half-day mini-conference is co-sponsored by the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness. We will examine several key facets of how to make Medicaid a stronger partner in programs that house and stabilize people who have been chronically homeless.

  • Homeless Advocates at the Table. One facet is effective engagement at the right time in state health policymaking. How do homeless advocates get the ear of state health care officials before they make decisions that have implications for addressing chronic homelessness in a person-centered way? New York has an inspiring story of supportive housing stakeholders at the table of statewide Medicaid reform — with results that bolster community-based strategies to end homelessness. In Louisiana, supportive housing is now viewed as a core element in Medicaid’s plans for managing care of behavioral health enrollees. In short, policy gaps have been successfully bridged with stakeholder input at high levels.
  • Benefits and Payment Policy. Another facet is how a state defines Medicaid benefits and payment policies. Do these policies promote housing solutions in a plan of care for homeless people with significant behavioral and other health needs? As federal authorities roll out approved benefits and demonstrations, we are seeing how states embrace new community-based services allowed by the Affordable Care Act (ACA). States like Oregon and New York are doing this with a clear view of supportive housing in the domain of health care, at least for those as vulnerable as chronically homeless people. It may be too soon to know how these approaches succeed, but the state policy pieces are evident and intentional.
  • Federal Policy Implementation. A third facet is coordination at the federal level, such as initiatives led by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and various subdivisions of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Which new federal policies and regulatory decisions will have the most impact on ending chronic homelessness by 2015, as the federal strategic plan envisions? Federal Medicaid rules are more favorable to the concept of permanent supportive housing, and HUD is looking for ways to promote access to Medicaid in housing for people with disabilities. Federal policy will continue to drive state and local responses.

These topics will be covered by knowledgeable speakers convening for “Opening Medicaid Doors: State Strategies to Support Homeless Assistance,” on Monday, July 16, in Washington, DC. The half-day session immediately precedes the opening of the National Conference on Ending Homelessness, which takes places July 16-18. Both events are at the Renaissance Washington Hotel. For more information about Opening Medicaid Doors, contact Space limited and pre-registration is highly recommended.

11th May
written by Andre Wade

On May 10, 2012, I had the pleasure of spending the entire day with Cyndi Lauper lobbying on behalf of LGBTQ youth that experience homelessness. Along with Gregory Lewis, Executive Director of Cyndi’s foundation, the True Colors Fund, the Center for American Progress and the Human Rights Campaign we spent the morning briefing Cyndi on how to lobby members of Congress. The three “asks” we covered were:

We all made visits to the congressional offices of Sen. Franken (D-MN), Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO), Minority Leader Pelosi (D-CA), and Senator John Kerry (D-MA). We also met with people HUD, HHS, and USICH. I am pleased to report that everyone was very receptive to Cyndi’s personal experiences and observations with LGBTQ homeless youth and the three asks for the day.

It goes without saying that Cyndi’s meetings and presence on the Hill drew some press! In between meetings and going from office to office, Cyndi had multiple requests to be interviewed by outlets such as CNN, MSNBC and others. It was thrilling to see the behind the scenes action!

Finally, we ended the day at a briefing on LGBTQ youth homelessness, which was hosted by the House LGBT Equality Caucus. The panelists consisted of Cyndi Lauper, Andrew Barnett, Sexual Minority Youth Assistance; Deborah Shore, Sasha Bruce Youthwork; Jeff Krehely, Center for American Progress; and myself. It was moderated by Joe Solmonese, President of the Human Rights Campaign. We all spoke to the need to improve the response to LGBTQ youth homelessness by increasing funding, improving data, and ensuring that family intervention is inclusive of the needs of parents with LGBTQ children and youth.

To learn more about LGBTQ youth homelessness and what you can do to get involved, please visit our website.

Photo courtesy of Washington Blade magazine.

10th May
written by Kate Seif

Capitol Hill Day is held every year in conjunction with the Alliance’s National Conference on Ending Homelessness here in Washington, DC every July.  It allows conference participants to take the opportunity to take advantage of their time in the nation’s capital to meet with their U.S. Senators and Representatives and their staff.  Last year, participants attended nearly 270 meetings with congressional offices from 42 states! Face-to-face time with Members of Congress and their staff is one of the most important ways to take part in federal advocacy by educating Members and describing what’s happening on the ground back in their districts.  These meetings are a critical component to your work in ending homelessness.

By participating in these meetings, you can work to build or establish relationships with the congressional offices, educate your Members on your progress in preventing and ending homelessness at home, and encourage them to support your work.

So how can you get involved?  The first step is to register for our conference, if you haven’t already done so! Early registration closes on May 30, so register now to receive the best rates!  For a closer look at what we’ll be covering at the conference, check out the website or our recent blogs. After registering for the conference, get in touch with your State Captain.  State Captains take the lead in each state scheduling the meetings, coordinating participants, and ensuring the right policy priorities are covered in each meeting. To find your State Captain, click here.

The Alliance works to make your participation in Capitol Hill Day as easy as possible – all you need to do is show up and share your knowledge!  We’ll provide talking points, one-pagers, other information on our policy priorities, and the latest updates from Capitol Hill.  We’ll even provide directions to the Hill! The best part is that Capitol Hill Day doesn’t interfere with the conference! You can participate in all the great workshops and still go to the Hill on the afternoon of Wednesday, July 18. And the Alliance will be there to help you out every step of the way – you can find us at any time throughout the conference for assistance.

It couldn’t be easier! Capitol Hill Day is an ideal time for conference participants to share what they have learned from their on-the-ground experience and at the conference with their Members in order to impact federal policy. It’s up to us to work together to ensure Congress provides the necessary resources to continue preventing and ending homelessness in our communities.  We look forward to seeing you in July!

If your state does not have a State Captain, and you would like to volunteer as one, or for more information on Capitol Hill Day, please contact me, Kate Seif (202-942-8281,

8th May
written by naehblog

Today’s guest blog is from Maddison Bruer, who we will be hearing from periodically on our blog this summer as she updates us on her work with Bridges of Norman. 

Hello everybody! My name is Maddison Bruer and I’ve been given the opportunity this summer to share a little bit about myself and a project I am working on this summer with you on the Alliance’s blog.

First, a bit about myself: I am finishing up my first year at The George Washington University studying International Affairs and Psychology. Home for me is Norman, Oklahoma. When I was in first grade my class had “career day” where every first grader wrote a story about what he or she wanted to be when they were all grown up. I said police officer. Those dreams of serving in the public sector have followed me into my adulthood as I take steps to one day work for the CIA or State Department. If I fail at said aspirations, I’ve vowed that I will move to Miami and join the police academy. I love the heat anyway. Right now, I’m living part of my dream by interning for the Peace Corps and working with a committee to revamp the Volunteer application and delivery system. After months of living and breathing Peace Corps, I’m realizing the vast opportunities that could come from continuing that relationship as a Volunteer myself, after college of course.

Getting to where I am now, however, was not a path without trolls, slimy slugs, and mountains to overcome. After raising me as a single parent, my mother fell into a relationship that led her to become entangled in a situation full of illegal activities. Such a lifestyle landed her in jail and me without a home. I couch surfed for a few months before landing in an abandon trailer trying to support myself and make it to school. After my school counselor noticed a shift in my home life, she offered me information on a youth homeless shelter called Bridges of Norman where I found myself living for three years before coming to college in DC. Bridges offered me experiences and support I will never be able to repay. I’m a strong believer in the notion that it takes a village to raise a child. My entire community helped me raise myself by my bootstraps and fulfill my dream of higher education.

Recently I won the 2012 J.B. and Maurice C. Shapiro Public Service Award that awards $5,500 for tuition to a student who proposes a quality internship undertaking and demonstrates a passion for public service. In a way to give back to my community, I have decided to become an intern for Bridges conducting research on graduates of the program. Thus, hopefully I will be able to get an insight on students’ success in the long run after enduring such conditions. In addition, I hope that my presence will be a positive influence for those students currently in the program and enable to help the Bridges staff, my community, and other students with stories similar to my own.

Until next time,


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7th May
written by Sam Batko

In February, at the first ever National Conference on Ending Family and Youth Homelessness, the Alliance introduced a brand new framework for ending youth homelessness.  Springboarding off the introduction of that framework, the Alliance is featuring a wide variety of content at the upcoming National Conference on Ending Homelessness to be held July 16-18 in Washington, DC, including, but not limited to:

  • Systems-level outcome measures and approaches for communities working to end youth homelessness,
  • Family intervention strategies to successfully prevent youth from becoming homeless and reunite youth who have become homeless with their families,
  • Strategies for engaging and maintaining high need youth in housing programs,
  • Improving outcomes of youth aging out of the child welfare system and those exiting the juvenile justice system to prevent homelessness,
  • Scattered site housing models for youth,
  • Improving employment outcomes for youth, and
  • Creating welcoming and safe environments for LGBTQ youth to get these youth off of the street and keep them safe while in care..

These workshops are strategically placed throughout the conference to allow attendees to attend as many sessions on youth as possible.  This will truly be a conference not to be missed for anyone working to end youth homelessness in their community.  The early registration rate for the conference is only available online until  10am EST on Wednesday, May 30, 2012.  Or, you may mail in your registration form postmarked by Wednesday, May 30, 2012.

4th May
written by Sam Batko

I used to work in the Alliance’s Center for Capacity Building and spent a lot of time in local communities working with providers and local governments to implement rapid re-housing programs.  About a year and a half ago I shifted to our policy team and the amount of time I spent in communities doing trainings decreased significantly.  I spend much more time up on the Hill now—educating Congressional staff and analyzing federal programs and policies to try and improve the national response to homelessness.  This week provided me with the opportunity to get back out in the field and talk to providers about a topic I am particularly passionate about—making sure that survivors of domestic violence are able to safely access the housing they need to move forward in their lives.

Yesterday, I presented at the Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness’ (CCEH’s) 10th Annual Training Institute in Meriden, CT.  Approximately 300 attendees representing homeless service providers and government agencies from throughout Connecticut attend the training institute to learn about what is happening on the federal and state level as well as learn about successful strategies being implemented by other communities in the state.

I was joined in my session by Shakeita Boyd from the District Alliance for Safe Housing (DASH) in Washington, DC and we presented on the basics of the rapid re-housing model, survivor specific adaptations to the model, examples of successful programs, and systems level considerations to make the homelessness assistance system more responsive and safe for survivors.  At the start of the presentation, no one in the room was currently using rapid re-housing to serve survivors and, in fact, some programs were actively screening survivors out of their rapid re-housing programs.  But, by the end of the presentation, I think we had them convinced: rapid re-housing is a successful model for ending homelessness for families and individuals and that it can be just as effective and intervention for survivors of domestic violence as non-survivor households when implemented properly.

The Alliance has a variety of resources available online that communities can use to begin to implement a rapid re-housing model for survivors, including a 45 minute video training, sample safety planning tools for staff and survivors, and case studies of successful programs.  Additionally, DASH has a Housing Resource Center that has extensive online resources.  The presentation Shakeita and I gave yesterday will be available on the CCEH website as well.

3rd May
written by Kate Seif

The Alliance will be busy this month up on Capitol Hill with three different congressional briefings with which we’re involved.  These briefings are intended to give Members of Congress and their staff details on key programs working to end homelessness as well as an overview of the solutions for certain subpopulations.  Briefings are an opportunity to showcase successful programs for all Members of Congress as well as an opportunity for consumers to share the personal impact that programs funded by Congress have.

Here’s a summary of what we’ll be covering in our briefings this May:

  • Homeless LGBTQ Youth. A briefing on May 10 will cover LGBTQ youth homelessness and what we need to do to prevent and end homelessness for this vulnerable population.  The briefing will feature Cyndi Lauper from the True Colors Fund, André Wade, Youth Policy Analyst here at the Alliance, Debbie Shore from Sasha Bruce Youthwork and others. The panel will be focused on the experiences of LGBTQ homeless youth, the FY 2013 RHYA appropriations ask, advocacy for the addition of a non-discrimination clause into RHYA, as well as the Reconnecting Youth to Prevent Homelessness Act that was introduced last year by Senator John Kerry.
  • Rapid Re-Housing. A May 17 briefing, organized by the Alliance, will discuss the success of rapid re-housing in helping families transition quickly out of shelter and back into housing.  The goal of the briefing is to impart the positive impact rapid re-housing is having on the lives of children and families and why we need more to end homelessness in the United States. The briefing will explore the positive outcomes rapid re-housing models are having on program outcomes, family well-being, cost-savings, and more.  The briefing will feature Nan Roman of the Alliance, Nan Stoops of the Washington Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Matt Minkevitch of Salt Lake City’s Road Home, and others.
  • Veteran Homelessness. On May 23, the Alliance is co-hosting, with a number of partners, a briefing on homelessness among veterans.  Speakers, which will include veteran service providers, policymakers, and advocates, will explore programs such as Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) and the joint HUD-VA Supportive Housing voucher program (HUD-VASH) in further detail.  The briefing is designed to show the positive outcomes, good policy, and sensible investments that are being made to meet the federal government’s goal to end veteran homelessness within five years through practice implementation and proper targeting.

As you can see, we have a full slate, but we need your help making sure these key messages get across to Members and their staff.  As a constituent, it would be fantastic if you could take a moment to invite your Member of Congress and/or his/her staff to attend one (or all!) of these briefings.  To find out more details on these briefings and who to invite/how to invite them, please contact Kate Seif at

Stay tuned to the blog on May 11, May 18, and May 25 to hear more about these briefings!

2nd May
written by naehblog

On our new weekly blog series, Field Notes, we have talked about the experiences of Alameda County and Whatcom County with our Performance Improvement Clinics (previously called the HEARTH Implementation Clinic). Today I wanted to share the experiences of the people who conduct these Clinics. Katharine Gale, an independent consultant from Berkeley, California with 20 years experience in the fields of homelessness and special needs housing, helped design the Performance Improvement Clinic and has presented at a number of clinics in communities large and small. Below are Katharine’s words about why she enjoys being a part of these clinics.

I enjoy being part of the Performance Improvement Clinic team because the give and take is always so great and I learn so much.  The Clinic helps communities grapple with the importance of a performance measurement perspective, and it supports them to make concrete plans to work together to improve outcomes across the system. Some of this work is a little scary because it’s a different framework than most of us are used to — one in which we are holding ourselves and each other accountable for our combined impact on the problem. But I find that everyone is pretty excited and willing to engage in lively debate! 

Working with communities across the country has given me a great opportunity to see what we all share and where we face different challenges. It’s interesting to me how often people think their community has so much less housing than anywhere else or much more troubled people. That feeling seems to be universal – which makes me glad that we are learning how to rehouse people quickly and securely without having to wait for permanent subsidies for most of them. On the other hand, communities face unique realities around funding, politics and historic relationships which mean each place has different potential paths to improvement. Communities that make progress identify where they have inroads to build on: some have developed strong relationships with mental health services, some with their public housing authority, some with the education system. They see that to transform to a housing crisis resolution system means lightening our touch and relying more on other systems of care to do their jobs.

I think our field is at an important crossroads – we have much better information about what works and we finally have the local data to begin to ask what outcomes we are achieving and how can we deploy available resources to improve them. But we also have existing infrastructure, agencies, programs and experience and we don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater!  Identifying how to use our data, our existing resources and our historic infrastructure strategically is what is going to move us all forward. Everywhere I go I find amazing local players who are quietly doing what it takes to change their organizations and their systems, and I am fortunate to get to go and share their stories with others.