Archive for December, 2012

4th December
written by Edward SanFilippo

As the founder of the consulting firm Asset Building Strategies (ABS), Heather McCulloch, notes in her primer “Asset Building 101,” “Income enables families to get by. Assets enable them to weather financial crises, invest in their children and their community, plan for a secure retirement, and pass resources on to future generations.”

Assets, as you probably already know, can be anything from cash savings to home equity, and as you probably also know, it’s really important for your financial health to have them. But it might seem strange to talk about asset building for people who are experiencing homelessness or who are at risk of falling into homelessness, as they tend to have few, if any, assets.

Nonetheless, in many instances asset building can be an effective tool for preventing or shortening the length of an episode of homelessness. That’s because of the opportunities that assets provide for banking, for business and for home ownership.

Asset building can serve as an effective intervention:

  • When someone’s inadequate financial literacy (poor budgeting or a poor understanding of credit and financial instruments) leads to an episode of homelessness; and
  • When someone is unable to open bank accounts due to poor credit and/or a lack of a physical address (a situation that could worsen if the individual must resort to costly check-cashing venues for financial transactions).

Obviously, that’s far from an exhaustive list. There are many other of cases in which asset building can come in handy, and you can learn about them on Wednesday, December 5, when the National Alliance to End Homelessness hosts, “Asset Building and Financial Literacy for Populations Experiencing Homelessness.”

This webinar will explore how Louisville, Ky., and Seattle, two members of a coalition of municipal governments committed to improving the financial health of their residents (Cities for Financial Empowerment), are working to incorporate asset building and financial literacy components into their homeless service delivery systems.

The webinar also will cover policy recommendations by the CFED (Corporation for Enterprise Development)for more effectively integrating these initiatives into service delivery.

Speakers will include:

  • Tina Lentz, Executive Administrator of Louisville Metro Community Services and Revitalization;
  • Jerry DeGrieck, Senior Policy Advisor to Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn; and
  • Edward SanFilippo, Economic Development Policy Fellow at NAEH.

Please consider participating in the webinar on Wednesday. You can register here.

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3rd December
written by Sharon McDonald

In July, The White House recognized Frank Cirillo, Director of the Mercer County Board of Social Services (MCBOSS) in Trenton, NJ as a “Champion of Change” for his work on ending family homelessness. It was well deserved recognition.

Cirillo’s agency, which administers the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program, has taken a leadership role in the effort to end family homelessness in Mercer County. The agency’s efforts have paid off. Over a two year period, the number of families experiencing homelessness on any given day in Cirillo’s county decreased by 20 percent. The number of families receiving a motel voucher because they had nowhere else to stay declined by 66 percent.

How did this happen? It happened because this TANF agency and its partners focused on helping families in the Mercer County homeless service system exit homelessness faster by providing:

  • Temporary rental assistance;
  • Help negotiating with area landlords;
  • Assistance finding employment; and
  • Supportive Services.

When families move out of homelessness faster, the numbers of families in shelters each day decline. That means that the county doesn’t need to rely as heavily on motels when shelters are full. This strategy can free up funding, which can be used to help families move back into housing.

Leaders of the TANF agency were so pleased with the results that they decided to expand rapid rehousing capacity in the community by creating an in-house rapid re-housing unit. The agency staff of this unit help families look for housing in the community, negotiate with landlords (often achieving rent reductions), and ensure that families access employment services, so they can transition from temporary rental assistance to paying their rent independently.

It was the work of homeless advocates that led TANF leaders to make this investment in rapid re-housing. The Mercer Alliance to End Homelessness engaged TANF agency leaders and other local funders in an exploration of how the county’s homeless assistance system could be improved, which led to a commitment by funders to supporting rapid re-housing.

On Thursday, December 6 at 3 p.m. EST, the National Alliance to End Homelessness will host a webinar that will explore how homeless advocates and service providers are effectively partnering with TANF leaders in their communities to promote rapid re-housing.

The webinar will explore the rapid re-housing models in use in three communities and how the local leaders on homelessness successfully built partnerships with their local TANF agency leaders to rapidly re-house families.

Speakers will include:

  • Herb Levine of the Mercer Alliance to End Homelessness
  • Michelle Flynn of The Road Home in Salt Lake City, and
  • Greg Morris of CATCH, Inc. in Boise.

Please consider participating in the webinar on Thursday. You can register here.

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