Conferences and Events
This year’s National Conference on Ending Homelessness is quickly approaching and so are the deadlines! Make sure to register by 10 a.m. ET tomorrow, May 30th for early registration rates.
While you’re registering for the conference, don’t forget to add your Awards Ceremony ticket for a discounted price! The Awards Ceremony will take place Tuesday, July 17at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and will honor individuals and organizations for their contributions to ending homelessness in our nation.
This is the second year the Awards Ceremony will be in conjunction with the conference, allowing individuals from across the country to help celebrate the awardees and their accomplishments. If you’re going to be in town for the conference, make sure you join us Tuesday night!
Today’s blog was written by Iain De Jong, President & CEO of OrgCode Consulting.
Over almost a decade, attendance at the National Conference on Ending Homelessness put on by the National Alliance to End Homelessness in Washington, DC each year has changed my experience in working in homeless programs and services for the better. In this guest blog for the Alliance, I thought I’d tell you all the reasons why you should go…
Why You Should Go to the Summer Alliance Conference on Ending Homelessness
You Are Not Alone – meet other people that do the same thing you do day in and day out. Realizing you are not alone is a good feeling and it can be empowering.
Smart People – I don’t know how they do it, but the Alliance does an amazing job attracting really smart people and speakers year after year.
Realizing You Are Part of A Movement Bigger Than Yourself – maybe where you live people cock their head sideways and think you have completely lost it when you speak of ending homelessness. The people at the conference? They get it.
Agenda is Content Rich – have you seen the agenda for the conference? You won’t find that much amazing content at any other homeless conferences.
DC Is a Great Place for a Conference – with all of the museums, great nightlife, and other sights to see, you’ll find your time pre- and post- conference well spent…and perhaps at the end of each conference day too.
Smart People – come share your brilliance with others and participate in discussions that are defining effective practices.
Newbies – if you are new to the field you won’t get an introduction like this one anywhere else. Deciding which sessions to attend will be the hardest part for you.
Seasoned Vets – stay fresh by opening yourself up to learning, and stay relevant by sharing your experience with people newer to the field. Open your mind to other ways of thinking about and practicing techniques that end homelessness.
Board Members – one of the best ways to find out if your organization is moving in the direction aligned with the greatest likelihood of success in service delivery can be found by attending the conference.
Elected Officials – learn the difference between which services in your community are best aligned with evidence and which ones could be improved where taxpayer dollars are concerned.
Frontline Staff – not only do you get to catch your breath from day to day service delivery, you’ll learn how to be better at your job.
Executive Directors – if knowledge is power, then the conference provides you the knowledge to lead a powerful organization committed to ending homelessness.
Policy Wonks – the bigger picture questions get their time and attention at the conference, working towards amending and shaping policy in the present and future.
Researcher Types – because where else will you find this many people that may open their organizations to have you do research with them? Plus there are sessions about sharing new research too.
Bureaucrats of All Stripes – if ever you have wondered if all you do behind the scenes to make public investment in services to end homelessness is worth it, you will find the answers at the conference.
Advocates – if you want to influence decision-makers, get the best ammunition to do so and chat with like-minded people to advance a unified position to impact change.
Past and Current Clients – every year there are some folks with lived experience that attend the conference and provide an important perspective in the workshops.
Renewal is Priceless – sometimes we need to go slower to go faster and the Alliance conferences sets up an environment for that to occur effectively.
Investing in Future Improvement – time and money spent at the conference now can save your organization, branch of government, foundation, etc. money in the future.
If They Put All This in a Book it Would be a Zillion Dollars – okay, so a zillion may be a stretch, but I don’t know how you quantify the value of not just the conference sessions but the networking, keynotes and pre-conference opportunities.
The Cost of Doing Nothing? – to me, not learning how to improve practice is again to investing the same time and money over and over again and expecting different results.
Are the Presenters Any Good?
World Leaders – one of the strengths about the Alliance Conference is that they attract the best and brightest speakers who are leaders in what they do.
Share and Post Presentations – almost all of the presenters make their materials available on the Alliance website after the conference, and a lot of them pass out materials during their sessions. Save room in your luggage to take a whack of paper back with you.
Dynamic – because the speakers are super-passionate about what they do, chances are you will be moved and anything but bored.
Pragmatic – one of the great things about the presenters is that you will actually gain very practical things that you can take back to your community and apply, rather than the learning just being conceptual or theoretical.
Evaluated – at the end of the conference you’ll have the chance to provide input on which speakers were the best and who should be invited back again.
Scale – the conference is HUGE.
Top-Shelf Organization – the conference tends to be impeccably well organized.
Best Pollination of Ideas – this conference shares ideas that transcend city, county, state and even country boundaries.
Main Currents of Thought and Practice – the material discussed and presented is in tune with the most current thoughts on ending homelessness and practices to achieve results.
Who Can I Expect to Meet?
Kindred Spirits – meet people who share your passion for ending homelessness and want to network with you regardless of where you are from to share ideas and practices. Do yourself a favor and make an effort to share a table at plenary sessions with people that you don’t normally work with.
Alliance Staff – they are the crème de la crème when it comes to subject matter expertise, facilitating networking, advancing good ideas, understanding policy, practicing advocacy and putting together a phenomenal conference.
USICH Folks – there is a very positive relationship between the National Alliance to End Homelessness and the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness, so you can expect many of the pivotal leaders from the USICH to be in attendance at the conference.
Giants in the Field – from the leading researchers (folks like Dennis Culhane) to national movements focusing on ending homelessness (the amazing Community Solutions) to pioneers of practices that are proven to end homelessness (Sam Tsemberis has been known to be in attendance) to seasoned practitioners that have made a lasting difference in their community, this conference attracts them all.
Technical Advisors that Know Their Stuff – I’ve been to conferences where TA folks are trying to set their targets on new business, and it can feel a bit icky. The TA people that attend the Alliance conferences tend to do so because they have knowledge and strategies to share from their time helping other communities and organizations in the field.
Improved Advocacy – expect to have new data and strategies for advocating with the right people to advance the agenda of ending homelessness.
Smarter – you’ll have way more information than before you went to the conference.
Inspired – feeling part of a bigger movement and connected to people who share their passion for ending homelessness, you’ll feel inspired to do even better when you return home.
Improved Critical Analysis – it has been my experience that attendees of the conference are better able to review their own programs relative to the new information and examples they become privy to at the conference.
Renewed – there is a certain amount of renewal that comes from a few days away from the day to day grind.
Iain De Jong is the President & CEO of OrgCode Consulting and a long-time conference presenter at National Alliance Conferences. He will be making at least two presentations at the conference, and looking forward to learning much more from the other presenters and attendees. You can learn more about Iain at www.orgcode.com or www.facebook.com/orgcode or follow him on Twitter @orgcode
On June 14 at 2 p.m. ET the Alliance is holding a webinar on using family intervention to reunify and connect homeless youth with their parents. Family intervention is a strategy used to link unaccompanied runaway and homeless youth, regardless of age, to their family or a caring adult. It provides an avenue for families in crisis to work on core issues that led to a youth leaving the home, identify extended family members who they’d like to be a part of the process, and learn to identify resources that can mitigate future crises.
A number of strategies fall under family intervention, such as family reunification, family connecting, family finding, and even aftercare services. Family intervention should be made available to all unaccompanied runaway or homeless youth, including:
- Youth over the age of 18,
- Youth that identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or questioning (LGBTQ),
- Youth who access street outreach, basic center, transitional living and other housing programs,
- Youth who are in need of a caring adult in their life, and
- Youth who have the desire to be reunited or connected with their family when it is safe to do so.
There are several evidenced-based family intervention models available for providers looking to implement this strategy. The Support to Reunite, Involve, and Value Each Other (STRIVE) model will specifically be discussed during the webinar. Other models include:
- Strengthening Families Program
- Brief Strategic Family Therapy
- Family Behavior Therapy
- Family Acceptance Project
- Multisystemic Therapy
- Functional Family Therapy
- Family Group Decision Making/Family Group Conferencing
- Intensive Family Preservation Services
To learn more about family intervention, sign up for our webinar on June 14!
This coming July, the Alliance’s National Conference on Ending Homelessness to be held in Washington, DC, will feature a variety of workshops that are designed to help domestic violence service providers find ways to better meet the housing needs of survivors in their programs as well as help homeless service provides better provide safety and services to survivors in their housing programs.
To kick off the conference, the Alliance is hosting a pre-conference session that is intended for homeless service providers who are interested in more effectively addressing the needs of survivors in their housing programs. The session will address increasing safety for survivors, best practices for case managers, and developing successful partnerships that benefit survivors. Speakers in the session will be from domestic violence programs that successfully implement a variety of housing models and are experts in adapting those housing models to survivors. While preregistration for this session is not required, we are asking that interested persons email their intent to attend this preconference session to Samantha Batko at firstname.lastname@example.org so that we can track anticipated attendance.
Additionally, throughout the conference, participants will find content on better serving survivors in a number of sessions, including, but not limited to those focusing on:
- Successful partnerships between domestic violence serving agencies, homelessness assistance programs, and employment programs,
- Overarching strategies for ending family homelessness and rapid re-housing for survivors,
- Research on homelessness prevention and rapid re-housing,
- Development of and implementation of a coordinated entry system,
- Landlord engagement and rental assistance stratagies,
- Using a voluntary services model, and
- Partnering with public housing authorities to end homelessness.
These workshops and other content of survivors of domestic violence are strategically placed throughout the conference to allow attendees to attend as many sessions on survivors as possible. This will truly be a conference not to be missed for anyone working to end homelessness for survivors of domestic violence in their community.
IMPORTANT NOTE: 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.
Image courtesy of NoVa Hokie.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
“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 email@example.com. Space limited and pre-registration is highly recommended.
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, firstname.lastname@example.org).
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.
The Alliance is thrilled to announce that online registration for the upcoming National Conference on Ending Homelessness is now open! There is a lot in store for this year’s conference and everyone at the Alliance is eager to see returning and new attendees join us in Washington, DC in just a few short months.
The Conference will be held July 16-18, 2012 at the Renaissance Washington DC Hotel. People from across the country will gather to share successes and challenges, to learn the results of research, and to understand coming changes in policy, practice, and context. Approximately 70 workshops will be offered where national and local experts will share how they are working to end homelessness for chronically homeless individuals, veterans, families and youth; and lunchtime plenary sessions will feature engaging and informative keynote addresses. Speakers will cover numerous topics: rapid re-housing, re-tooling your homelessness system, advocacy, and much more.
There is more in store this year than workshops.On Monday evening, July 16, there will be a fun, informal Meet and Mingle reception with cash bar and light fare, at the conference hotel. This will give attendees an opportunity to meet others in the field and relax after a long day of workshops. Additionally, attendees may purchase tickets to attend the National Alliance to End Homelessness 22nd Annual Awards Ceremony, which will be held at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts on Tuesday, July 17. The Awards Ceremony is an opportunity for the Alliance to honor organizations and individuals who have made significant contributions to ending homelessness in our nation. Awards are presented in the following categories:
- Private Sector Achievement
- Public Sector Achievement
- Nonprofit Sector Achievement
- The John W. Macy Award (The Macy Award is given in certain years for outstanding individual achievement)
Conference attendees who purchase Awards Ceremony tickets online at the time they purchase their conference registrations will receive a discounted rate on Ceremony tickets. Please note these purchases need to be made at the same time.
We look forward to seeing you, hearing from you, and learning about what is happening in your community this July. Learn more about the conference and register online today!
The following is the keynote address delivered by Nan Roman on February 8, 2012 at the National Conference on Ending Family and Youth Homelessness in Los Angeles, Calif.
Welcome to the National Alliance to End Homelessness’ National Conference on Ending Family and Youth Homelessness, and thank all of you for coming. We deeply appreciate that you have taken the time to come here and hopefully it will recharge your batteries, give you some new ideas, reaffirm you in what you are doing that is working, and energize you for the future.
When we first started this families conference it was because, as happy as we were about the progress in framing and elevating the issue of chronic homelessness, we were concerned that homeless families were not getting enough attention. We started holding this conference as part of our strategy to build the case for ending family homelessness: to examine and expand the data and research; to strengthen the network of people working together to advance the goal; to help identify the growing portfolio of best practices and help people adopt them; and ultimately to bring the attention to the topic that was needed to reduce the number of homeless families in the nation.
That was a challenging goal, but I think you have accomplished a tremendous amount. The profile of family homelessness has been raised; a framework for ending family homelessness has emerged and been widely adopted; and despite the difficult economic environment, progress has been made.
With respect to youth, we are in some ways where we were on families eight or nine years ago. Youth homelessness is acknowledged to be a significant and serious problem, but very little progress has been made over the past years in terms of raising its profile, clarifying the path forward nationally, attracting resources, or reducing the numbers. That must change. And we at the Alliance believe that to make that happen, we need to start with a clear framework for ending it that sizes the problem, and lays out the solutions. So at this conference we are going to start that process.
But I will begin with families. This remains a very challenging time for vulnerable families. In addition to incomes going down, housing prices are rising and likely to continue to do so. State and locally funde d support services are being cut, and federally-funded assistance will increasingly also be cut. There have been increases in homelessness among families, but these appear to have been moderated by the availability of the Homeless Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program (HPRP) money.
I want to say a few things about HPRP funds. They are of course almost gone. What did we learn from the $1.5 billion devoted to prevention and re-housing? First, we know that a substantial amount of the money went to prevention. We know very little in detail about the effectiveness of this, and based on what we do know, it does not appear that the funds were always as well targeted as they might have been. The characteristics of people who receive prevention assistance should, logically, mirror those of families that are actually in shelter; otherwise the prevention families probably would not likely have become homeless. And there are too many places where the eligibility criteria for those receiving prevention funds were far too high. On the other hand, the number of homeless families nationally did not go up during HPRP, so overall it seems to have worked even if the impacts might have been greater had we targeted more effectively.
In terms of re-housing, the success of that is clearer. Where there is data, it looks good, with only a small minority of families returning to homelessness after receiving assistance, at least in the short run.
In any case, HPRP is going away, and this gives us great concern for the future. Not only will we lose our HPRP funds, but federal funds generally are also going to start shrinking. Need will remain high and possibly increase as the cascading set of problems associated with the poor economy plays out for families and youth. More are likely to become homeless, and indeed this is already happening in many places.
Based upon what we have learned, how should we think about family homelessness and what to do about it in an era of shrinking resources? Are there things that we can do so that we leave fewer families un-served? Can we focus more on efficiency, effectiveness and targeting; proven ways to improve our impact? Can we do better at assessing more precisely what each family needs? And since we know that it is impossible to precisely assess a family’s needs, can we establish a fall back plan or process so that we catch those families for whom the initial intervention is too “light.” We can try an intervention, and if it works, fine. But if it does not work, we need to be prepared with the next step, and the next step, and the next step until the family is stabilized. There is a name for this process, of course, which is progressive engagement.
These are concepts that many of you will have heard before. At present, I think that they have two major implications.
The first is that we are essentially talking about shifting from a program-level to a systems-level approach. Assessment, assignment of people to particular interventions, the ability to follow up – these are best accomplished at the system level. And of course, this is what HEARTH Act implementation will also be advancing.
The second is that at both program and systems levels, we have to reassess whether we have the proper array of models; whether we have enough of each of the models (or can get there); and whether we are efficiently disbursing these models. This brings me to HPRP, shelter, resources, and transitional housing.
We learned a few things from HPRP about rapid re-housing. One was that it works. It is not perfect, and there has to be programming for those for whom it is not adequate. But it is inexpensive and it works for the majority of people who receive it. It often works as well or better, in terms of outcomes, than other types of homeless programs which are also considerably more expensive. More expensive programs might be preferable or worth considering, of course, if their outcomes were better, but this does not appear to be the case.
It is certainly true that we do not have extensive national data on rapid re-housing – rather the data tends to be from individual cities (although its costs and outcomes are consistent). Further, some say that the families being served by rapid re-housing programs are the easier-to-serve families that communities think will benefit from a lighter touch. And I believe that is sometimes the case. But this is also true of transitional housing, which tends to have a high threshold for entry, and a low tolerance for non-compliance with services, both of which work against serving high-need families.
The point of this discussion is to say that in rapid re-housing we have a new intervention that works to end homelessness for families, apparently very effectively and cost efficiently. In fact, it outperforms the current system in many respects. The last thing we should do, as the HPRP money runs out and we resume funding entirely from HUD Continuum of Care/HEARTH and demand goes up, is to drop something that works well and serves more people and resume doing things that are more expensive and less effective and threaten to leave more and more families un-served.
Where we can, we should be looking for places to shift resources and activities to the rapid re-housing model, and many places and programs are already doing this. Traditional transitional housing programming might then be used as a second stage for higher-need people for whom rapid re-housing has not worked, in a progressive engagement system. It is likely too expensive to be an initial or post-shelter intervention.
I want to mention one other reason it is important to be thinking about this. The recent AHARs and point-in-time counts have identified around 40 percent of homeless people as being unsheltered. We are not now meeting need and the need is going to go up. We cannot leave more people out of our programs, especially if we think we have a way to help them. I would also like to say that this is why we at the National Alliance to End Homelessness are not in favor of HR 32, the bill the would expand the definition of homelessness to include all families that are low income and doubled up. These families do have housing needs, but they are not literally homeless and we already have more literally homeless families than we can help.
There are a few other observations I would like to make about rapid re-housing. First, it will change and get better as we learn more about it.
Second, there certainly has been an inclination in communities to provide rapid re-housing money only to those who had a job or otherwise seemed able to get right back on their feet. Families with more problems were screened out. However, there is increasing evidence that more complicated families do just fine with rapid re-housing. Third, there is no disconnect between doing rapid re-housing and providing people with services. There are many models for linking rapid re-housing with services – transition in place, critical time intervention, ongoing case management, etc. Rapid re-housing and services are not opposing goals. They are congenial.
The bottom line, as we move forward with HEARTH, the new ESG and tightening money, we have an effective new tool with rapid re-housing and we should do more of it, not less; we should do this in the context of a progressive engagement system so that there are options like transitional housing immediately on hand for those for whom rapid re-housing does not work; and we should use the savings to help more families and provide better services. The idea is to be smarter, better, and leave fewer families behind – not to do less and let families fail. We can do better.
I would like to turn now to homeless youth. While good work has been done on youth homelessness, we are not where we want to be on the issue.
We have not had information about the size of the homeless youth population; we have not had a typology; and we have not had evidence as to what interventions worked better and for whom. As a result we have not been able to create the will to go to scale and have not been able to increase resources appreciably. Whether we have had any impact on the number of homeless youth is unclear, as we lack the data to make such an assessment. This situation cannot continue.
I want to present to you a first attempt at a framework that can describe the scope of the homeless youth problem. But first, I have a disclaimer. The numbers I am going to present are not nearly as strong as we would like them to be. We know that they will improve and that as they do we will have to refine this framework. So we welcome feedback and see this is a first step.
How many homeless youth are there? The number you have probably heard over the years is 1.7 million. This number comes from the NISMART – the National Incidence Studies of Missing, Abducted, Runaway and Throwaway Children. The 1.7 million number, which was based on a 1999 survey, includes children under 18 who are reported to be gone from home, but who are not precisely homeless as we understand that word.
Nevertheless, this is the source of this number and it is an annual number.
Looking in more depth at that number, we find that of this 1.7 million, 300,000 kids are home within 24 hours and 1 million more are home with a week. That leaves 400,000, broadly defined, who are homeless longer than a week.
Do we or should we concern ourselves with the 1.3 million who quickly return home? Certainly some of these youth currently get assistance from our homeless youth programs, but they can serve only about 50,000 youth a year. One way to analyze these numbers would be to say that we have a gap in services, and that we need to be able to assist an additional one-and-a-quarter million young people every year. An alternative way to look at it might be that 96 percent of these young people are going home more or less on their own within one week. We certainly could do a better job helping them; and we certainly should do a better job helping them. But the more intensive focus of our attention should probably be on those 400,000 who need more help to go home, or who cannot go home, since clearly the 1.3 million are going to go home no matter what we do or do not do.
Accordingly, we focused on the 400,000 who needed more help. To understand the population better, we applied a new typology created by Dr. Paul Toro, a prominent researcher on homelessness among children and youth. I should be clear that although Dr. Toro developed the typology, the decision to apply it to the NISMART numbers was ours, and the framework that follows is the responsibility of the Alliance. For those of you who want to know more, Dr. Toro will present the typology and Samantha Batko from the Alliance will present the framework at a workshop following this plenary.
Applying the typology to the 400,000 single unaccompanied youth, and adjusting so that the typology is consistent with the annualized NISMART data, we arrived at the following:
- 85 percent, or 327,000, of the youth are still connected to school or home. We called them “temporarily connected.” Two-thirds of them will return home within a month.
- The remaining 15 percent (about 55,000) are “unstably connected” to school or home, or “unconnected” (about evenly split). What should we do to end homelessness for these youth?
While the Alliance often focuses on housing as a solution to homelessness, housing does not appear to be the primary solution for many under-18, unaccompanied youth. Since many of them will return home within a month, and since all youth need some connection with a caring adult, it appears to us that a primary strategy is to reconnect them to family. This family may not be the one they had been living with and of course it must be safe. It does not appear to be a good idea to capture them into housing programs, because this delinks them from the adult connections they already have. The youth are going to go “home”; we should help them get there quickly and safely.
The small percentage of youth who have no connection to school or family and who will not be able to go home also tends to have more significant disabilities. For them, permanent housing or permanent supportive housing is probably a good option, recognizing that adult connection will still be needed.
The typology and data described above relate to single unaccompanied youth under 18 years old. With respect to single unaccompanied youth aged 18 to 24 years, a different approach and a different set of data are required. We sized this group using adjusted HMIS data. By this means we identified 150,000 youth, but as this is the sheltered population only we believe the number to be an underestimate. In terms of a typology, we applied the single adult typology developed by Dr. Dennis Culhane to this population to see the dimension of the need. Using this method, we found the following:
- About 80 percent, or 122,000, will have short, non-recurring spells of homelessness.
- About 20 percent will have episodic or long stays, about half of each. This is about 28,000 youth.
- For all these youth, although they are older, family intervention and reunification would still be an important strategy, since they are still developing.
- With respect to housing, for the short term group rapid re-housing is likely a good approach.
- For the longer-term episodic and chronic groups, rapid re-housing may also be appropriate but many will need more intensive housing interventions. For the 10 percent, or 15,000, who are “chronically” homeless, transition-in-place housing or even permanent supportive housing should be considered.
Finally, we considered homeless families in which a parent is under 24. Such families generally use the adult homeless family system.
Approximately 25 percent of homeless families in a year have a parent who is under 25. We can estimate that at around 150,000 people per year (this includes children, so not all of these are technically youth). While the adult family system largely meets their needs, maintaining connection to adults is still critically important. Also, the Alliance has been working with several groups here in Los Angeles and elsewhere on a young families initiative funded by the Hilton Foundation. This project has made it apparent that specialized programming that young parents – who are themselves still developing – need is rarely if ever available. We could do a much better job of programming for this significant group.
To take this complex picture and try to summarize:
- Many youth leave home every year, but most of them go back more or less on their own.
- It appears that somewhere around 550,000 single, unaccompanied youth do not go home so quickly.
- Of those, however, around 450,000 remain connected in some way to family or school, and in any case their homelessness episode will be reasonably brief. That episode could be even shorter if they had help re-connecting with their families.
- For nearly 100,000 unaccompanied youth, issues are more serious. Their connection to home or school is more tenuous or non-existent. About 40,000 of them probably have some disability or more serious problem. These youth also would absolutely benefit from help to connect with their families. The more chronic ones probably also will require more permanent housing subsidies.
In short, the picture on unaccompanied homeless youth is similar in some ways to that of homeless adults – most of those who become homeless go home fairly quickly, but a minority has more serious problems and stays homeless longer. The difference between adults and youth appears to be in the solution.
With respect to young homeless families, we know that we are already failing to meet the needs of all families, but the responses I discussed earlier, with the addition of developmental programming and family intervention will help these young households.
There are a few other important things I want to mention about homeless youth. First, it seems clear that LGBTQ kids have some different problems, that very little programming meets their needs, and that generally we are doing an extraordinarily poor job of assisting them. Second, this typology does not really address the sexual exploitation of youth as both a cause and effect of their homelessness. Both of these are areas in which a tremendous amount remains to be done, and the Alliance is committed to addressing them.
It must be noted that it is of particular concern that such a large number of young people under 18 are homeless, given that there are large federal and state child welfare systems that have the responsibility for these children. I know that many people at HHS are also very concerned about this and working to improve that response. We will hear more from them during the conference.
Finally, I want to reiterate the data on which we are building this framework is weak. We have consulted quite a few researchers and they generally believe that our numbers are far too large. I hope that they are right. Some of you may feel that they are too small. The bottom line is that we must have better data. You are the source of better data. Get involved in your Point-in-Time Counts. Use HMIS. Collect data on young families. Push your Continuums to collect more data. We need knowledge to move forward.
To close, thanks to all of you who are prevailing in the most incredibly difficult and challenging time. You are striving to improve your programs in a time of high demand and shrinking resources, with little certainty about the future. We do have a steep hill ahead of us, as I think things will get worse as HPRP ends. However, I see ways to move forward.
Because of your hard and incredibly innovative work, every year we are discovering new things that work better. We can build and implement a framework on how to end youth homelessness. We can adopt smarter strategies to help families. We can move from program to systems approaches so that we use our resources as wisely as possible. We can gather and use more data and research – information is a strong weapon for us, and we will definitely be doing battle over the coming years.
I know that we can prevail, because we must prevail. Thank you for being with us.