Archive for August, 2012

15th August
2012
written by Kate Seif

This summer, we’ve heard a  lot about how there may not be enough funding in fiscal year (FY) 2013 to cover all Continuum of Care renewals within HUD’s McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants. With the release of the CoC interim rule (HEARTH Regs) and the prolonged August congressional recess and seeming quiet from Capitol Hill, it is easy to forget that this short-funding remains a very real possibility.

Fortunately, there’s still plenty we can do about it! The House’s proposed funding level for the McKinney program of $2.005 billion – aka the increase that isn’t really an increase – is not yet finalized. Anyone concerned about potential funding cuts to their CoC program should act now! Members of Congress are home in their states and districts until Monday, Sept. 10, so advocates and any concerned stakeholders have a perfect opportunity to show them the positive impact these programs are having in their districts!

Conduct a Site Visit!

The Congressional Management Foundation recently reported that Members of Congress rate site visits (tours of or visits to local, federally-funded programs) as one of the most valuable ways to collect constituent views and information. Take this opportunity to join the McKinney Site Visit Campaign and invite your Member of Congress to tour your McKinney-funded program!

To help you plan and execute your visit, we’ve created a website where you can find sample materials and a recording of a webinar held on Thursday, August 2, which included funding updates on the McKinney program and tips and tricks for a successful site visit. Our site visit toolkit includes a checklist to give you an idea of what you might need when planning your visit. In addition, the Alliance is here to help! Just email me with any questions or other requests!

Get on the Map!

To show that this is really a national effort, we have created a map that includes markers on the communities planning or conducting a site visit. A few site visits have already been scheduled! If you’d like to conduct a site visit and get on the map, let me know! If your community or organization is already planning on conducting a visit, but it’s not included on the map, let me know and I’d be more than happy to include it!

We need to make sure that as many Members of Congress understand the great work these programs are doing in preventing and ending homelessness in our community. The best way to do that, and make your case for increased funding for these programs, is to SHOW them!

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15th August
2012
written by Kim Walker

When it comes to coordinated assessment, one of the trickiest questions advocates must consider is how best to serve survivors of domestic violence. The safety and, in some cases, the lives of survivors of domestic violence depend not just on ready access to crisis-oriented services and a safe place to sleep at night, but also on the confidentiality of sensitive information.

We at the Alliance are developing a checklist that will help you ensure that your coordinated assessment system is equipped to meet the needs of survivors of domestic violence, but in the meantime, I would like to share with you what our friend Joyce Probst MacAlpine says staff at provider agencies in her community of Dayton/Montgomery County, OH, are currently doing to integrate their domestic violence (DV) and homeless assistance systems.

In Dayton, their domestic violence shelter is one of the community’s “gateway” shelters to their coordinated assessment system, meaning it is one of the shelters where people experiencing homelessness must go before gaining access to homeless assistance services. Here staff use the same assessment tool and decision tree process for referrals as at all the other gateway shelters, but they do their assessments on paper, not in the Homeless Information Management System (HMIS), a precaution designed to protect the private information of DV clients.

Staff at the domestic violence shelter also conduct a lethality assessment to determine how much danger a DV client might be facing in order to serve them accordingly. Once the assessment process is complete, the client is assigned a number. That number, along with the intervention they scored for, and any other basic, non-identifying information needed for the referral is sent to a centralized waiting list. No identifying information about the household is shared and no information is entered into HMIS.

When an opening becomes available and the client’s number comes up, the DV shelter and the agency to which the DV shelter is referring the client each receive an email. At that point, the client must then give permission to release their assessment information to the agency they’re being referred to. If the client agrees, their paper assessment is released to that agency and the connection between the household and the provider is made.

The staff at this second agency will then engage the client in an intake process for their specific program. If the program is not a DV program and the client signs a data release, the information from that intake process can then be entered into HMIS without compromising or sharing data from the client’s initial entry into the system via the domestic violence system. The information entered into HMIS will show that the client came to the program from shelter, but will not reveal which one.

HUD doesn’t currently require that communities have one comprehensive coordinated assessment system that incorporates DV and other homeless assistance providers, though HUD is seeking comment on the interim Continuum of Care regulations on this issue. Using one assessment process instead of two certainly does seem to have its advantages in terms of coordination, and the Dayton example shows that it is possible for communities to accomplish such coordination without compromising the safety or privacy of survivors.

We’re sure there are plenty of other models out there, and we’d love to hear how other communities are working to connect and coordinate their domestic violence and homeless assistance systems. For more information on how to work with domestic violence survivors, make sure you check out our Domestic Violence page. To see the latest materials we have on coordinated assessment (including the checklist, once it’s available), read through our Coordinated Assessment Toolkit.

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13th August
2012
written by naehblog

Today’s post was written by Edward J. SanFilippo, Youth Policy Fellow for the Alliance.

Over the last few years, host homes have gained traction as a means of housing youth experiencing homelessness in rural areas. Host homes entail a formalized, mutual agreement between a community member and a service provider. The community member provides shelter, food and sometimes transportation for youth, while the provider delivers case management services. Community members typically receive a small stipend and undergo training and background checks.

One of the great strengths of host homes is their flexibility, since communities can adapt the model to fit localized needs and budget limitations:

Example 1

The Family and Youth Services Bureau (FYSB) initiated the Rural Host Home Demonstration Project to serve youth who live in rural areas not served by shelter facilities. In this program, youth under age 18 can receive:

  • Shelter for up to 21 days;
  • Transportation;
  • Counseling;
  • Assistance staying connected to their school; and
  • An aftercare plan with continuing support upon exiting the program.

Example 2

Youth Advocates of Sitka, Inc., in Sitka, Alaska, implemented a resource home program through their Transitional Living Program (TLP). Youth up to age 21 can receive:

  • Housing for up to 18 months;
  • Active resource parent involvement through age 18;
  • Mentoring to develop independent living skills through age 21;
  • Counseling and case management; and
  • Access to housing vouchers and affordable housing.

Resource homes receive:

  • A stipend of $30 per day per child; and
  • Extensive training opportunities, including open invitations to staff training sessions.

The benefits of host homes are significant:

  • They are more economical
    • No physical facility needed
    • Cost savings of paying ‘resource/host parents’ rather than extensive support staff
      • They overcome a local lack of affordable rentals for permanent living spaces;
      • They allow youth to build stronger relationships and interpersonal skills, experience stability in their home life, learn positive life skills that will help them transition to independence, and help motivate them to attain this quality of life in adulthood.

How can your community use host homes for youth experiencing homelessness?

13th August
2012
written by naehblog

It has been almost a month now since the Alliance’s National Conference on Ending Homelessness, and we have been doing our best to make sure that you have access to as much of our conference materials as possible. All the workshop materials that presenters provided to us have been placed on our website here, where they are available for download. We will continue to update the page as we receive materials.

Finally, we have already received numerous requests for the keynote remarks that our CEO and President Nan Roman delivered at the conference, so we thank you for your patience. We have finally published them on our website, and we are including them in this blog post below.

 

KEYNOTE ADDRESS

NATIONAL CONFERENCE ON ENDING FAMILY HOMELESSNESS

NAN ROMAN

President and CEO

July 16 2012

Good afternoon and welcome to the 2012 National Alliance on Ending Homelessness. I want to extend our most heartfelt and deep thanks to all of you for being here today. We have over 1400 people in attendance – a record! Most of you are here because you have a burning desire to learn from your colleagues what you can do to improve your own approaches to ending homelessness. You want to know about the most effective practices and the most promising innovations that will work for you. Many of you have traveled far and put a lot of resources into making it here to D.C. for our conference, and we want you to know how deeply we appreciate that. I promise you that the Alliance staff has put tremendous effort into making sure that you have plenty of content here to chew on.

My job today is to tell you what we at the Alliance see as the current lay of the land: where we stand, what has worked, what has not, and what the future holds. I think we are at a pivotal moment on the issue, because things are very difficult now.

It seems that 2008 and 2009 should have been the most difficult years with respect to homelessness, with the huge spikes in unemployment, plummeting family incomes, a massive number of foreclosures, and painful cuts in state and local budgets. Many nonprofits lost big chunks of their budgets, and many households found themselves either on the brink of, or falling into, homelessness. These were, indeed, bad years, but we had some things going for us. We had the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Rehousing Program (HPRP), and housing costs were going down. And when you have less to work with, you are spurred to innovate, to work harder, to try new things. It may have been a frightening time, but the sense of urgency it inspired was a shot of adrenaline that pushed us forward.

I fear that today is, in some ways, a more dangerous time. We may have arrived at a new status quo. I fear that the sense of urgency has diminished, and that the mood of the nation has taken an alarming turn. Politics have become ugly. Bipartisanship, once seen as something to be aspired to, is now reviled as an indication that one or the other side must have “given in.” Our sense of mutual responsibility is diminishing, perhaps because people are increasingly fearful about their own financial security. Rather than compassion towards people who live in poverty, there is animosity or contempt. There is little acknowledgement that our futures are bound together.

And we still have high unemployment, foreclosures, falling incomes, and budget cuts, although this time those cuts are threatened from the federal government as state and local budgets start to level out. Housing costs are going up, and we are losing HPRP, a program that has done so much to address the problem of homelessness and improve the lives of hundreds of thousands of people.

These are alarming developments, but we are not powerless to affect them. If we believe that a defining value of our nation is the conviction that the most vulnerable people among us should be supported and treated with compassion, we must stand up and say that. If we believe that our nation, which remains the richest nation in the world in spite of its current economic woes, has the capacity to provide children, veterans, people with mental illness – indeed, anyone in need – with food, clothing and a place to call home, we must stand up and say that.

And of course, now is the perfect time. We are in an election cycle. Whatever political party you belong to, now is the time for you to make yourself heard. Now is the time to make sure that people who share your convictions do the same. You are the ones who care the most about poor people and solving their problems. If you do not speak up about it, who will? So make sure to vote; make sure you participate; and, most importantly, make sure that everyone you work with, especially consumers, is registered to vote and participate.

If you want to know how to do that, we have a workshop here that can show you. The Alliance for Justice and the National Coalition for the Homeless both have tables outside where you can get information. Everyone should be registered to vote, and should vote. Your participation will make a difference.

Lately there has been a great deal of discussion in homelessness assistance field about new strategies and how we can do things smarter. That’s a discussion we need to have, because the reality is that we are likely going to learn how to do more with less. Already 40 percent of people who are homeless are unsheltered, according to the most recent HUD Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress, and the Alliance expects the number of people experiencing homelessness to rise. We issued a report late last year estimating that, based on increases in deep poverty, homelessness might be expected to increase a minimum of 5 percent over the next few years. Because of the fiscal perfect storm that threatens 2013 – the end of the Bush-era tax cuts, the sequestration of federal spending, and the approach of the debt ceiling – we may have fewer federal resources to draw upon in the future.

So the key thing to keep in mind here is that, if we want to keep families and children and youth and vulnerable people off the streets, we are going to have to be smart about it. If we can do something that is equally effective and costs less, we need to do that. And that means change.

Our experience with HPRP has taught us that rapid re-housing linked with services works better and is more cost-effective than interventions like transitional housing. Don’t expect, however, to get more money for rapid re-housing. Instead, we will need to re-allocate funding from other interventions such as transitional housing to rapid re-housing.

We also need to think about effective targeting. Over the past few years, using the permanent housing set aside, HUD-VASH and other permanent supportive housing funding, we have created a lot of permanent supportive housing. Between 2007 and 2011 the nation’s permanent supportive housing inventory increased by 40 percent, or nearly 60,000 units. Chronic homelessness went down, but its decline was not commensurate with that increase in housing inventory.

Chronic homelessness is a complex problem, so there could be several causes for that discrepancy. The one thing we can be certain about, however, is that people experiencing chronic homelessness are not receiving enough of the permanent supportive housing. If we are going to have the impact we want – if we are going to end chronic homelessness – we need to target these units at the most vulnerable people. We need to identify and house the people with the greatest need and the longest spells of homelessness. We have seen, in community after community, that this sort of deep targeting is what brings the numbers down. So we must target the less intensive interventions at the people who are the easiest to serve, and save the most intensive interventions for the people who are the hardest to serve. And we must do this on a community-wide level.

There are two other issues I want to talk to you about today: youth experiencing homelessness, and the crisis system.

While good work has been done on youth homelessness, we are still not where we should be. We still lack crucial information about the size of the population of youth experiencing homelessness; we still lack a definitive typology; we still do not know which interventions work best and for whom. As a result we have not been able to generate the will to go to scale; we have not been able to increase resources appreciably; and we have not made much progress.

At the Alliance, we took a preliminary stab at remedying this by sizing the population and identifying its segments. We used federal survey data and academic typologies. The data are weak, but segments of the population have emerged in our research, and we have arrived at some ideas about how to move forward. Here is what we found.

  • A great many youth between 12 and 24 become homeless every year. The number is somewhere around 1.9 million. But the vast majority – 70 percent or 1.3 million – experience homelessness for a relatively short period of time.
  • The rest stay homeless longer, but they eventually return home or find housing rather quickly; and those under 18 remain connected to family or school.
  • About 80,000 youth have more serious problems, and about half of those have disabilities.
  • About 60,000 of these youth are the heads of young families of their own.

Admittedly, this typology is based on less than perfect data, and it does not tell us everything. We still need more research and more data on the population of LGBTQ kids, and on the causes and effects of the sexual exploitation of homeless youth. And the child welfare system still requires our attention: it remains unclear why anyone under 18 is homeless, given that minors are the responsibility of the state child welfare system.

What does this typology tell us? Well, just as in the population of adults experiencing homelessness, the population of youths experiencing homelessness can be divided into two groups: a large group with less intensive needs and a much smaller group with more intensive needs. For the first group, we clearly need a more robust crisis system. These youth may not be homeless for very long, but bad things can happen to them even in a few hours. And for the youth in that group who eventually return home, we need to focus more on family intervention to ensure that their return happens as quickly and safely as possible.

For the second group, where the need is the greatest, we should focus on ending their homelessness by targeting Runaway and Homeless Youth Act resources at them and ramping up housing and services. The number of high-need youth is small, making this a very solvable problem. Nevertheless, youth in this group are often screened out of programs.

When it comes to young homeless families, we need to add developmental programming and family intervention to the general homeless family system, which is where most members of young homeless families receive services.

This typology also has many policy implications. For instance, it shows that we must obtain data faster, and include youth experiencing homelessness in the 2013 point in time count. It also underscores the fact that homeless providers, advocates and researchers still lack a single, definitive management information system for the collection and reporting of outcomes on the size and characteristics of the homeless population, which means that we should merge the Runaway and Homeless Youth Management and Information System (RHYMIS) with the Homeless Management Information System (HMIS). We also should incentivize existing homeless youth providers to serve the highest need kids. We can scale up the family intervention services provided by child welfare, juvenile justice and the Runaway and Homeless Youth (RHY) Act. And we must engage to improve our child welfare and family support programs, because much of the problem of youth homelessness can still be traced back to large holes in this vital safety net.

The problem of youth homelessness will be a big issue for us in the year ahead, and we already have great partners like the National Network for Youth who are committed to making a big push to end youth homelessness.

The other issue that we at the Alliance have been examining is the homeless crisis system: how it should be sized and what it should look like. For many years now the design of the crisis system has largely been neglected, and the idea of emergency shelter as a solution has been demonized, and characterized as inadequate, as a mere “Band-Aid.”

It’s true that the shelters ALONE are not the solution, but it is equally true that the majority of people who become homeless are single, able-bodied adults for whom the interventions of permanent supportive housing and transitional housing are too intensive. As we do with other human service programs, we tend to think of the crisis system in terms of the people who stay there the longest. But in reality, the majority of people who enter emergency shelters quickly move in and then move on. For them shelter is an effective short term solution – as it was designed to be.

For most people, the shelter serves its purpose as a temporary place to stay while they work out whatever kind of housing crisis they are experiencing. Most people do not stay in the system long, and they typically do not come back, or only come back once.

The crisis system also serves a vital sorting function. People enter the system when they need to, but because it is so bare bones and so unpleasant, they have little incentive to stay longer than is absolutely necessary. In this way the system sorts the people with the greatest need, the people who require the most intensive interventions, from the majority of people who are experiencing a crisis that they can handle more or less on their own.

To design a good shelter or crisis system, we must answer the following questions.

  • What should it do?
  • What should be its overall size?
  • What types and number of specialized beds should be available? Most jurisdictions have a good number of beds for single adult men, but have few or none for couples, youth, people with pets, or for people who have active substance abuse issues.
  • Who should manage the shelter system, and who should be responsible for determining how many and what kind of beds are needed, and who gets each bed?
  • What is the relationship between shelter, detox and rehab, and what should it be?
  • What should be the length of stay?
  • How should the shelter system link to the back door?
  • Do the centralized one-stop-shops and campuses really work? Are they more effective or less effective than a decentralized approach?
  • If you want to fix your shelter system, where do you start? What is the first thing to take on, what is next, etc.?

Today we recognize that, if we are to end the problem of homelessness, we must transition from a program-based approach to a systems-based approach. Figuring out what the crisis system should look like is a crucial part of that, because it is sure to remain the front door and the point of assessment for further interventions. Re-tooling this system is absolutely critical, and something we are anxious to explore with you over the next year. But if you thought I would have answers to the questions above – not yet! We do, however, have a few ideas.

We firmly believe that the time a person spends in shelter should be very short. One key goal set by the Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing (HEARTH) Act is that no one experience homelessness for a period longer than 30 days. Ideally, people should move through the shelter system fast. The faster people leave, the greater the turnover rate, the fewer the number of beds needed, and the greater the likelihood that the quality of shelters can be addressed, which is important, because right now the quality of shelters must be improved. In many places the standards remain very low.

To accomplish this, shelters should be a place of assessment, and shelter personnel should have a variety of tools to draw upon in order to provide the help people need to move on. More rapid re-housing tools would certainly facilitate this process, and people in the shelter system could be connected to community-based service slots. In short, shelter personnel could probably empower people in the shelter system to accomplish on their own many of the things that transitional housing and other back end interventions currently do for them.

These are some of the many things that we, at the Alliance, have been thinking about recently: how to target our resources better, how to retool programs to increase their effectiveness, how to move forward on ending youth homelessness, and how to improve our crisis systems.

Of course, I want to re-emphasize how important it is that we continue to advocate for meeting the needs of poor and homeless people, and how important it is that we make our voices heard. There is a national political debate going on about the role of government, and part of that debate concerns our mutual responsibility for each other and for the least among us. It is easy to feel like a mere observer in this debate. And if all you do is observe, that’s all you’ll be.

As I said earlier, if the people who care the most about this issue don’t speak out, who will? To make your voices heard you do not have to lobby. You do not have to be an expert on all the details of legislation. You just need to be able to express your concerns and those of your community. At present, our voices and our concerns are not being heard. If you speak up, your voice may not have an immediate impact. That’s why we need to keep speaking up, because if we don’t, I can guarantee you that we will not get anything for the people we care about.

Thank you so much for being with us at the National Conference on Ending Homelessness. The conference is going to be terrific, and it is because of all of you. We at the National Alliance to End Homelessness are tremendously grateful, and as always we are deeply honored to be your partners in the effort to end homelessness.

10th August
2012
written by naehblog

The following blog post is adapted from “Tackling Veteran Homelessness with HUDStat,” the lead story of the summer issue of Evidence Matters, a publication by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

More than 2.4 million American soldiers have served in Operation Iraqi Freedom/New Dawn and Operation Enduring Freedom since September 11, 2001.2 Hundreds of thousands of these men and women have returned from Iraq, and many more will be returning from Afghanistan in the next few years.

“Soldiers are returning with higher rates of injury after multiple deployments with severe economic hardships,” says John Driscoll, president and chief executive officer of the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans. Studies show that nearly 20 percent of returning Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have experienced a traumatic brain injury, and 10 to 18 percent suffer from posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

A recent Pew Research Center survey showed that post-9/11 veterans found the transition to civilian life harder and had higher rates of post-traumatic stress than veterans who served in previous wars. Rates of military sexual trauma, which is associated with an increased risk of developing PTSD, are high among female veterans, who make up more than 11 percent of veterans of these two wars. For both male and female veterans, PTSD is linked to an increased risk of depression and substance abuse, which exacerbate social isolation and make employment difficult.

The economic downturn and high unemployment rates add to the challenges these soldiers face on returning from active duty. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that veterans between the ages of 25 and 34, who make up more than half of post-9/11 veterans, had a 2011 unemployment rate of 12 percent, compared with 9.3 percent for nonveterans. Among veterans aged 18 to 24, the unemployment rate is much higher — 30.2 percent.

All of these factors contribute to an increased risk of homelessness for returning veterans, even though they have higher education levels (62 percent of veterans over the age of 25 have at least some college compared with 56.4 percent of nonveterans) and higher median incomes compared with the general population. Female veterans and younger veterans are more than twice as likely to be homeless as their nonveteran counterparts.

According to HUD’s 2011 Point-in-Time (PIT) Estimates of Homelessness, veterans constitute 14 percent of the homeless population, although they represent only 10 percent of the U.S. adult population. This PIT count documented 67,495 homeless veterans on a single night in January, a number that is 12 percent lower than a year earlier. Throughout the entire year that ended in September 2010, nearly 145,000 veterans were homeless for at least one night.

Ending homelessness among veterans is a top priority for the White House, HUD, and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). This commitment is reflected in the nation’s first comprehensive plan to prevent and end homelessness, Opening Doors. Released by the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) in 2010, the federal plan sets the goal of ending veteran homelessness by 2015.

To achieve this goal, Opening Doors calls for breaking down institutional silos, increasing collaboration among and within all levels of government, and improving data collection and analysis. Accordingly, HUD collaborates with other federal agencies to collect data and target assistance programs to move veterans from the street into permanent supportive housing — a critical component of the USICH plan.

To learn about how HUD is tackling veteran homelessness with HUDStat, a new data-driven performance management tool, see the 2012 issue of Evidence Matters.

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9th August
2012
written by naehblog

Today’s blog is from Jeni Gamble, the Alliance’s Director of Development and Communications.

As a new member of the Alliance team, and someone who is relatively new to the housing first movement, I wanted to get a better understanding of what advances advocates believe have had the greatest impact in our fight to end homelessness. Last month, I sent out a short survey to the 2012 Annual conference presenters and scholarship recipients, more than 200 individuals in total. The survey was designed to garner qualitative responses regarding the improvements and changes we are seeing in housing and homelessness, and to help us learn what these leaders in the field saw as being essential to our progress.

Like many of you, I entered this field somewhat by accident. I started in an emergency shelter in the late 1990s where I worked with domestic violence survivors and their families. Often a client would spend months in an emergency shelter before moving on to transitional housing, where she would stay for nearly a year, and only then, after months of appointments, applications and interviews, would she receive a voucher for housing assistance. Needless to say, Housing First was not the approach we used back then.

I am only beginning to review the 44 unduplicated responses and identify themes, but one thing is clear, the use of data in decision-making is one of the most significant advances in the field.

So, if you have ever felt overwhelmed by reporting requirements, frustrated by HMIS or a database, or disheartened by the numbers, take comfort in knowing that the data being generated is in helping  shape solutions and drive advocacy efforts, and that the people like you, who are capturing and analyzing the data, are doing crucial work.

I will continue to review the responses and share the themes as they are uncovered. Until then, here are a few raw, unedited responses from the survey.

Survey Question: What are the most significant improvements you have seen in this field?

“The shift from managing homelessness to overcoming and ending homelessness.  Huge increase in data, data analysis and use of data to help determine successful programming.” – 16 years in the field.

“Focusing on strategies that work — following the lead of research.” – 22 years in the field.

“The most significant improvement has been the use of data to establish evidenced-based practices and provide measurable client-based outcomes to assist in determining whether our clients are better off because of the services we are paying for.” – 14 years in the field.

“Reliance on data, willingness to question sacred cows, focus on outcomes, solutions-orientation.” – 14 years in the field.

“The advent of research for this field, documentation of best practices, documented evidence based practices, HPRP, and cost analysis of specific housing and service interventions.  The above noted items helped start shift, but some other significant improvements are happening but less publicized or accessible, such as tracking cost per permanent housing outcome, tracking one time homeless vs multiple users, dissecting the use patterns of the homeless population, and models for transition of program models.” – 22 years in the field.

“A cost benefit analyses, HMIS, clearer best practices.” – 16 years in the field.

“Increased openness to new models, and acceptance that we need to focus on performance outcomes in order to keep up support for homelessness programs.” – 10 years in the field.

“Data and leadership.” – 17 years in the field.

“An increased focus on data and evidence based solutions.” – 2 years in the field.

To all of our readers, I would like to now pose the question to you. What are your thoughts about data as an improvement in the field? How has data in housing changed our work? We would love to hear your thoughts and encourage our readers to submit comments through this blog post.

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7th August
2012
written by Kim Walker

Over the past few months, we at the Center for Capacity Building have been releasing short modules devoted to various aspects of rapid re-housing. Here is the third in our five-part series, which covers how to structure and pay for rental subsidies.  (If you’d like to learn more about the first two modules in the series, please see Kay’s blog post).

Clearly subsidies are a big part of any successful rapid re-housing program, but many providers remain skeptical. For instance, some providers are doubtful that any subsidy short of a Housing Choice Voucher will be enough to end someone’s homelessness. However, our data show that this is not the case. Temporary, short-term, or medium-term subsidies are often enough to lift households out of homelessness.

Another frustrating part for providers is the matter of figuring out how much each household should be receiving. The trick here is to be flexible. No two households are the same, and programs need to devote time to assessing each household’s needs, or at the very least be prepared to adjust the amount of financial assistance they offer, especially if a crisis arises.

A successful program is one that stabilizes the household with the minimum amount of money possible, while also standing ready to increase the amount of assistance provided if such an increase should become necessary.

I’ll save the rest of our subsidy wisdom for our module. I hope you enjoy this latest installment. Keep your eyes peeled for the remaining two on supportive, voluntary services and outcomes!

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7th August
2012
written by Andre Wade

January 2013 will be here before you know it. And what does that mean? In January many communities across the country will be conducting point in time (PIT) counts of persons experiencing homelessness.

Why Are PIT Counts Important?

  • Collecting and using data on both sheltered and unsheltered unaccompanied youth experiencing homelessness can help communities improve policies and programming;
  • Data can provide communities with a baseline of the number of unaccompanied youth to determine if there are increases or decreases over time;
  • Data can be used to help with requesting funding through the grant process;
  • Results of the PIT count can raise awareness of the issue of youth homelessness.

Why is Including Youth Important?

  • Historically, unaccompanied youth are undercounted during PIT counts; therefore, many communities do not have an accurate estimate of the prevalence and nature of youth homelessness.
  • Annually, HUD is mandated to submit a report to Congress called the Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR). The report describes the number and characteristics of all people experiencing homelessness across the nation. If youth are left out, then Congress is not provided with that data within the report and they will have less information to make informed decisions about funding and resources at the federal level.

Alliance Tools and Resources

The Alliance has developed tools and resources to help communities purposefully include youth in their PIT counts. Over the next few months we will do even more to help everyone plan, organize and execute a successful count.

Toolkit: The toolkit outlines six recommended steps to include youth in PIT counts.

Webinars: There are two webinars available. The first emphasizes the importance of improving the quality of data we have on the prevalence of youth homelessness. The second webinar features an in-depth case study of the specific actions San Jose, CA took to include youth in its PIT counts.

Practice Briefs: Profiles of San Jose and Washington, D.C. provide information about the planning, implementation, methodology, and use of data of each community’s targeted youth PIT counts.

Map:  A map was developed for educational purposes, to indicate which communities across the U.S. have completed targeted youth counts. The map includes the results of the counts and the methodology used.

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6th August
2012
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.

Hi ya’ll! It seems the longer I stay here in Oklahoma, the more my southern roots take over. I hope all of you are having a fantastic summer, as I have been. One of my part-time jobs this summer is working under the supervision of a Geography professor at Oklahoma University doing research on one of the predominant Native American tribes, the Chickasaw, and how tobacco use impacts their nation.

The reason I mention this is twofold, one being that it has taught me a lot about research methods, which I believe is important for my work on the youth homelessness front, two being that while visiting the small town of Ada, Oklahoma (the capital of the Chickasaw Nation) to conduct some field research, I stumbled upon a youth shelter. At first glance, I was astounded to have found another youth shelter. As many of you probably know, youth shelters here are few and far between.

I asked my team to stop and I hopped out to do some investigating. The building was very new looking and well maintained, but I must say I was slightly shocked to see babies of all ages just sitting on the sidewalks, half clothed, and some crying.

This was the first difference I noted between this place and Bridges (the nonprofit I lived in that takes in homeless youth who wish to continue their education), but after speaking with the director I soon realized there were huge differences between this shelter and the one I had once called home.

This Ada shelter only housed up to eight youth, ages ranging from 0 to 18, and would only accept youth who were checked in by the courts or a parent or guardian. Basically, one has to be a ward of the court or willingly given up by a parent to gain access to this shelter. Another large difference derives from the shelters’ priorities; Bridges’ focus is on education, while the Ada Area shelter’s focus is on providing shelter, no more, no less.

I also have spent the summer working with Debra Krittenbrink, the executive director of Bridges.  She and I have been tapping into our inner Batman and Robin by tackling the misconceptions of youth homelessness in our community. Throughout the summer we have spoken to a few organizations to spread the word about the growing number of homeless teens in our state as well as the ways Bridges helps these individuals.

One of these organizations was the student congress of my former high school, Norman High School, which has led to Bridges being selected as the recipient of its annual fundraiser, called Tigerpalooza. This is fantastic news for Bridges and will certainly lead to a more connected and informed community; something both Debra and I are very excited about.

If my working with Bridges and the University of Oklahoma has taught me anything, it’s that information is key. So get out there and spread the word about what you care about, it could bring about unforeseen opportunities.

I’ll be back in D.C. soon, folks, but until then stay cool up there!

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3rd August
2012
written by Emanuel Cavallaro

Here at the Alliance we have a lot of multimedia sent to us all the time – music, films, artwork – all of it in support of our mission of ending homelessness. It’s heartening to us that people feel strongly enough about the issue of homelessness to make it the subject of their art, and that they have a high enough opinion of our organization to want to share it with us.

So now we’d like to share with you a few items that have recently come to our attention: two videos and a song.

The first was brought to us by John McGah, a presenter at our July conference who has also written guest pieces for the blog you’re reading right now. He directs the Give US Your Poor initiative and is a Senior Associate at the National Center on Family Homelessness.

This is the music video for the song “Poorhouse” by Great American Taxi.

You can see Vince Herman, singer-songwriter of Great American Taxi, talk about his own brush with homelessness here.

The second song is called “Housing First.” It’s hard to imagine someone taking a concept like housing-first and turning it into a catchy, slickly produced folk-rock song, but that’s exactly what singer-songwriter Daniel Paul Nelson did.

Click here to listen to it on Soundcloud.

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