In the news over the past couple weeks (because we had a Thanksgiving hiatus):
- As a short follow-up to Youth Homelessness Month, and Andre Wade’s question about LGBTQ youth homelessness, read this article from the San Francisco Chronicle about the experience of being homeless as a transgendered youth.
- The San Francisco Chronicle also published an article this week on family homelessness in the Bay Area, describing how it is easy to forget the families who are homeless and calling this “an invisible problem exacerbated by an inability to accurately count how many there are.” According to San Francisco public schools, there are 2,200 students who are homeless, “enough to fill five or six elementary schools or an entire high school.”
- Even though the recession is technically over, there is still a growing need for food and shelter, as people lose their jobs and unemployment benefits run out for the long-term unemployed. This article in the Washington Post reviews the rising number of “basic immediate needs” calls to Fairfax County, Virginia’s services department.
- An opinion piece in the Juneau Empire eloquently addresses the benefits of a Housing First approach. While the author does not forcefully advocate for the policy, he cites both the responsibility to care for vulnerable members of society and the cost savings that other communities have seen from Housing First programs
- The Alliance is helping to end homelessness in Sarasota County, Florida. The county’s 10-Year Plan is almost complete thanks to five months of workshops and the contributions of more than 600 members of the community.
Previously, on the News Roundup Poll, we asked you if all shelters and affordable housing providers should be required to admit LGBTQ youth.
Previously, on the News Roundup Poll, we asked you if we could end veteran homelessness in five years. The majority of you said that we could:
- The Alliance is observing National Homeless Youth Awareness Month by featuring our policy and program analysts Andre Wade and Sam Batko, as well as other members of our excellent staff, in recent youth-centered blog posts. If you have any questions or concerns about youth homelessness, let us know so we can address them.
- The New York Times reported on the new “supplemental poverty measure” released by the Census Bureau on Nov. 7. The measure includes a number of important non-cash benefits from government programs, such as SNAP (food stamps) and the earned-income tax credit, but also includes expenses, such as child and health care, and taxes. These more focused calculations reveal that more Americans are living in and near poverty than under the official standard, which will still be used to administer programs.
- Part of the benefit of this measure is that it takes into account the “sharp increase in the food stamps program” that has protected those thrown into unemployment by the recession. The program, now known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, has been expanded twice since 2007, doubling the amount of assistance going to needy families.
- For some good news: the Fresno Bee published a story on the success of their Housing First-based plan to end homelessness. The Fresno Housing Authority has been working with nonprofits and matching private donations to place 58 people in housing and prepare for the construction of a 70-unit complex of affordable housing.
Last week we asked if you have ever written a letter to your editor regarding homelessness in your community. The majority of you said you had not:
This week’s poll question, and our news roundup, is below:
- This week we saw a lot of interest in to the role of people experiencing homelessness in the occupy movements. Our President, Nan Roman, weighed in on Monday in the New York Times. “Homeless people, I think, identify with Occupy because it’s about inequities,” she said. “And it’s another group that is trying to live outside. It’s not surprising that there’s a confluence here.”
- There were three major announcements in poverty research this week.
- The census released new data that showed that America’s poorest poor have climbed to a record high of 1 in 15 people.
- This announcement came a week before the Census Bureau is set to release an alternative measure of poverty.
- The Brookings Institution released a report showing that the number of people living in neighborhoods of extreme poverty grew by a third over the past decade. The report explores how extreme poverty develops in pockets. These neighborhoods face a variety of challenges that comes from this “concentrated disadvantage.”
- A New York Times editorial calls for greater investment in homelessness programs.
- Youth homelessness looks to be on the rise in Chicago, which is feeling the strain of state budget cuts.
- Women experience a high rate of violence while experiencing homelessness, a study in Fort Worth, Texas, determined. The best way to protect people from experiencing violence associated with homelessness is to help them obtain permanent, stable housing.
And in Alliance news, we’re featuring two weeks of veterans-specific blog posts. If you have any questions or concerns about veterans homelessness, let us know so we can address them.
Last week we asked, “Do you think the news adequately reflects poverty and homelessness in your community?”
Once again the majority of our respondents were in agreement. Ninety-two percent of you thought that the news was not an adequate reflection of homelessness and poverty in your community.
A follow up question, and the news the week, below:
- The New York Times published an editorial we couldn’t agree more with, arguing that now is not the time to cut funding for the Department of Housing and Urban Development. If you read one article in this news roundup, let it be this one.
- With Veterans Day drawing near, the plight of veterans experiencing homelessness was covered in a number of local papers:
- The experience of homeless female veterans was covered by the Kansas City Star and the Los Angeles Times.
- My alma mater’s radio station, WAMU at American University, ran a short piece on homeless veterans in Washington, DC.
- Arlington is one of many communities across the countries that are facing the end of funds from the Homeless Prevention and Rapid Re-housing Program (HPRP). Sustaining rapid re-housing programs after the end of this funding is a topic we have covered in the past.
- Homeless students have a right to attend their original school or a school near their shelter. In New York City, however, only 35 percent of students are being placed appropriately.
- A Housing First approach seems to be working in Buffalo, NY.
- In Obama’s sweep of the West Coast, he announced a program in Las Vegas that would allow homeowners to refinance at lower mortgage rates.
- A familiar debate is being waged in downtown Denver. Despite reductions in homelessness, there are still people living and sleeping outside Denver’s most popular tourist attraction, the shopping street known was the 16 Street Mall. A Denver Post editorial agrees that something must be done, but argues that what is needed is more housing, not the civilization of homelessness.
Yesterday, noted writer Barbara Ehrenreich wrote this piece for Mother Jones about the relationship between the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement and homelessness.
She concludes, “In Portland, Austin, and Philadelphia, the Occupy Wall Street movement is taking up the cause of the homeless as its own, which of course it is. Homelessness is not a side issue unconnected to plutocracy and greed. It’s where we’re all eventually headed—the 99 percent, or at least the 70 percent, of us, every debt-loaded college grad, out-of-work school teacher, and impoverished senior—unless this revolution succeeds.”
In the piece, she writes at length about the challenges that homeless people face – now being discovered, she says, by the Occupiers: the need for food, security, sleep, and a restroom. She references anecdotes from a report, called “Criminalizing Crisis” from our friends at the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, which tell the tales of homeless people trying vainly to receive basic services.
As Ehrenreich sees it, much of the United States has outlawed explicit poverty. From urination in public to loitering to tent cities, Ehrenreich recounts the ways that homeless people are denied not only access to services but the right to exist without harassment.
Noticeably absent in the piece (and arguably in the OWS movement), however, was any discussion about solutions. Ehrenreich chides, while discussing the many laws that implicitly outlaw homelessness, “It should be noted, though, that there are no laws requiring cities to provide food, shelter, or restrooms for their indigent citizens.” While food, shelter, and restrooms are important, the solution to homelessness starts with housing. Should Occupiers take up the issue of homelessness, they should be aware that food and shelter are not the solutions necessary to end homelessness; it’s housing.
Do you agree with Ehrenreich? Is homelessness an OWS issue? And is there a relationship between the OWS cause and homelessness? Have you seen the two parties overlap? Tell us what’s happening in your town by leaving a comment or hitting us up on Facebook or Twitter.
Thank you to everyone who took our poll question in last week’s news roundup. A whopping 81 percent of you said you preferred the short format to our news roundups. To adhere to this request, I will jump right in to this week’s news:
- This week, our President Nan Roman was interviewed by Affordable Housing Finance about the impact of investment and the recession on the numbers of people experiencing homelessness.
- DC announced the opening of a supportive housing apartment for 14 families and five individuals who have been homeless for at least a year, or periodically over the past four years.
- According to a Gallup index, the number of Americans that have access to adequate shelter and has dropped by just 1 percent since the beginning of the recession.
- HUD is paying closer attention to LGBT homelessness.
- “Street” homelessness dropped in Vancouver by 82 percent over one year. In Baltimore, Maryland, homelessness increased by 20 percent over two years.
- The increasing numbers of people seeking food assistance made the local papers in Oneonta, New York, Las Vegas, Nevada, and Salisbury, Maryland.
- New York recently reached an agreement on a lawsuit claiming they allow children to age out of foster care only to become homeless.
- School districts in Pennsylvania and Colorado say they do not have enough funding to serve the growing number of homeless students.
As the title of the post suggest, we are going to start asking you to answer a short poll question at the end of each Friday News Roundup. The results will be posted the following week. Do you have any ideas for future poll questions? let us know in the comments!
Big News! We opened registration for our 2012 National Conference on Ending Family and Youth Homelessness. Sign up soon for discounted registration rates and expect more posts on the conferences as it gets closer.
If you have read our Friday News Roundups in the past, you may have noticed that today’s version is a little shorter than usual. Let us know if you like this shorter, bulletted format better than the usual summery format in the poll question at the bottom of this post!
Now on to this week’s news roundup:
- Chattanooga announced family homelessness has doubled in their community.
- An estimated 40,000 people, half of whom are children, will be cut from receiving welfare benefits in Michigan. Food stamp recipients who have assets of more than $5,000 may also lose their benefits.
- The street newspaper Street Roots looks at how cuts to benefits in Oregon will affect real people.
- The Ali Forney Center released a video on the plight of homeless gay youth.
- Cindy Lauper explains why she gives a damn about lgbt youth homelessness.
- A lack of affordable housing and never ending waiting lists contribute to a shortage in housing for people with mental illnesses in Baltimore County.
- Affordable housing for everyone is short in the Twin Cities and in Billings, MT.
This week our President, Nan Roman, penned an opinion piece in the Huffington Post about Opening Doors Across America, a new initiative of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) to encourage communities to align their plans to end homelessness with the federal plan. This piece came out just a few days before USICH released their first annual update to the federal plan. In the Huffington Post piece, Nan reflects on the progress and setbacks we have experienced since we released the original Ten Year Plan roadmap in 2000.
In reading the news this week, I saw the progress and setbacks Nan discussed. Communities continue to adopt Ten Year Plans “to really end homelessness — not just manage it, not just shelter people, but find them permanent homes,” in the words of the United Way of Missoula County CEO Susan Hay Patrick. States like Massachusetts are rolling out large programs focused on proven strategies like rapid re-housing. One representative of this project said, “The Commonwealth now has the ability to offer alternatives, as opposed to just sheltering people. We believe this is a viable and effective response.’’ Hear, hear.
However, the economic obstacles we face still loom large. The Center on Budget and Policy priorities summed up today’s jobs report in stark graphs illustrating that recovery remains elusive. The New York Times looked at Reading, Pennsylvania, this week, which was recently cited as having the largest share of its residents living in poverty. They also published a personal report by a homeless Afghan war veteran, Matt Farwell, who wonders if fighting on the front lines beats living on the streets in the U.S. Finally homelessness, two local newspapers tell us, is a rural and suburban problem, not just an urban one.
Despite these obstacles, I know homelessness advocates have not thrown in the towel. This week, the Alliance and the Campaign for Housing and Community Development Funding hosted National Call-In Week. In order to prevent projected increases in homelessness, you picked up the phone this week and called your representatives to tell them we need to increase federal funding for essential programs like the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants. Thank you to all of the advocated out there who made calls. If you haven’t yet participated in National Call-In Week, you still have time. Find out how, here.
Before we dive into the news of the week, I thought it might be helpful to do a quick refresher on the homelessness stats as we know them right now. (Because it never hurts to go over the facts.)
According to the last available Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress, released in June of this year and reflecting 2010 data, there are:
- 649,917 people experiencing homelessness on any given night (up 1 percent since the year prior),
- 407,966 of those people are individuals; 241,951 of them are people in families,
- 109,812 of those people are experiencing chronic homelessness; 246,974 of those people are unsheltered.
Yesterday (on to the news portion of this post), the Alliance released a brief based on Census poverty data projecting that an additional 74,000 people would experience homelessness as a result of the rise in deep poverty and the impact of the recession. This rise would constitute a significant, five percent increase in the homeless population. Our thanks to both Mother Jones and the Chicago Reporter for covering this important news.
Poverty, it comes as no surprise, is associated to homelessness. As people have fewer and fewer resources, their housing stability often becomes jeopardized. As USA Today reported this week – and as we’ve discussed before – the number of people experiencing poverty is at historic levels leaving more and more people vulnerable to financial challenges – including homelessness. (Doesn’t help that, despite the people suggest about a softening housing market, affordable housing still eludes many).
The Washington Post reported that despite an extension to TANF that passed the Senate fairly unnoticed last week, the social safety net that protects our lowest-income and most vulnerable friends and neighbors is fraying dramatically. And if Congress and the supercommittee are unable to come together on the federal budget, the consequences could be dire.
But we can help each other. We can work to ensure that federal programs that benefit the vulnerable and poor are protected, even in this fraught political climate. If you’re interested in learning more about federal policy and advocating for homeless assistance programs, let us know! You can email us or check out the website to learn more.
The Census Bureau released the latest poverty numbers last week, announcing that one in six Americans lived in poverty. Since then, there’s been an onslaught of related articles and local articles about the topic, from Connecticut to New York to Wisconsin to California. And while we may tend to think of poverty as an urban phenomenon, recent news articles suggest that poverty is spreading quickly in suburban areas across the country.
Why do we care? Because most people who experience homelessness were, before they were homeless, really poor. In fact, there is a relationship between the number of people living in deep poverty (living at below half the poverty line) and the number of people who experience homelessness. What that means for us is that the same programs that alleviate poverty for Americans also prevent homelessness. We’ve written before about protecting social services that benefit families at risk of experiencing homelessness like TANF and Medicaid; this is exactly what we were talking about.
Luckily, there are people who are thinking carefully and strategically about poverty. Alliance president Nan Roman was among them when she went to Texas last week to attend the first National Poverty Summit hosted by Catholic Charities. With other leaders in the field, she discussed ways to better serve the too many American people living in poverty.
We’re working on it. We’ll be discussing poverty and its relationship to homelessness – and what we can do about it – in the weeks to come. In the meantime, feel free to contact us with questions or comments or find us on Facebook and/or Twitter.