Policy and Legislation
Best Practices and Policies for LGBTQ Youth Experiencing Homelessness
Many recommended best policies and practices have been developed for housing and serving lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth. How many check marks would your organization earn for implementing the following policies and practices to increase LGBTQ youth’s potential for increased success?
- Create a welcoming environment where non-discrimination and non-harassment policies are implemented and communicated to all youth, families, and community partners;
- Place youth in safe and appropriate shelter and housing programs based upon both their gender identity and an individualized assessment;
- Make cultural competency training available and mandatory for all employees to ensure that a welcoming and inclusive environment is created;
- Deliver family intervention services that increase family acceptance of their child’s sexual orientation and/or gender identity to decrease youth’s risky behavior;
- Partner with LGBT and/or transgender specific organizations in your community to better provide services and referrals to youth and their families, and participate in coalitions to make other programs aware of services for LGBT youth;
- Improve targeting and outreach for LGBT youth by tailoring street outreach efforts to locales where transgender youth congregate;
- Collect and manage confidential information during the intake process to inform programmatic and policy responses, and to ensure that staff do not violate a youth’s privacy;
- Provide or make available supportive healthcare services that meet the unique health needs of transgender youth to improve their access to proper health care.
Many policies and practices that are effective for preventing and ending youth homelessness, such as targeting and outreach, family intervention services, housing, and supportive services, are the same for LGBTQ youth. Specific adjustments related to a youth’s sexual orientation and gender identity, however, are necessary to address the challenges these youth face and to ensure that homeless LGBTQ youth have a real, meaningful opportunity to leave homelessness behind.
Today, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development (T-HUD) approved its funding bill for fiscal year (FY) 2013. The legislation provides funding for HUD programs, including McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants, Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers, CDBG, HOME, and many other homeless and housing programs. As you may have already seen from our most recent Advocacy Update, out of the legislation comes some good news and some not-so-great news.
The bill includes increased or level funding for a variety of key programs, including increases for CDBG, HOME, Public Housing, and new money for HUD-VASH vouchers. Further details can be found in the House’s press release here. These funding levels are great news for HUD programs under a very difficult budget environment and will have an important impact in meeting the housing needs of many low-income individuals and families.
The legislation also includes $2 billion for HUD’s McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants, which is actually an increase of nearly $100 million over the FY 2012 level. This would ordinarily be fantastic, but by the Alliance’s estimates, due to the increasing cost of renewals, $2 billion actually wouldn’t be enough to funding all CoC renewals and maintain the existing level of Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG) activities (rapid re-housing and prevention activities under the HEARTH Act). As a result, we anticipate that this funding level would result in more than 25,000 people being homeless instead of housed. In the current economic climate, this would of course be devastating.
So what can we do? We can advocate for change! The good news is that this legislation is not yet finalized, and we have an opportunity to make an impact. There are many instances along the way when this bill can be altered, but the best opportunity is right around the corner! The full House Appropriations Committee will review the legislation and have the first opportunity to make changes as soon as next week.
This means that your representatives need to hear from you NOW! We need YOUR help to send a strong message to Congress that HUD’s McKinney-Vento programs need $2.23 billion to cover all CoC renewals, fund ESG activities to begin to balance the loss of HPRP, and make further progress toward HEARTH Act implementation.
Call your representatives’ offices TODAY (congressional switchboard: 202-224-3121), and ask others to call, too! Mention that you are happy to see increases to key affordable housing programs, but are disappointed that the bill would make more than 25,000 people homeless rather than housed. Urge them to support the $2.23 billion funding level requested by the Administration for McKinney. If you have questions about reaching out to your representatives’ offices, let me know!
The bottom line is that we can make an impact, but we need YOUR help! This is a crucial opportunity to ensure congress understands the importance and effectiveness of HUD’s McKinney-Vento programs in our communities. Please take a moment to reach out and help us ensure that all families, children, veterans, and individuals experiencing homelessness have a place to call home.
As regular readers of this blog know, we write fairly often about federal homelessness appropriations – what’s happening, how you can get involved, and what various proposals would mean for your daily work on the ground to prevent and end homelessness. But we haven’t written about appropriations (the federal funding process) in several weeks, so you may be wondering: what’s the latest news?
The House and Senate are both busy working on their fiscal year (FY) 2013 funding bills. We have been tracking three particular bills very closely, so read on for more information on each of those funding measures!
HUD. The Senate Appropriations Committee has approved its FY 2013 bill to fund the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The full Senate has yet to vote on the legislation, though it may do so in the coming months. The Senate’s version included $2.146 billion for HUD’s McKinney-Vento programs – not as much as the $2.231 billion requested by the President, but still a $245 million increase over FY 2012!
VA. The Appropriations Committees in both the House and Senate have approved their FY 2013 funding bills for programs within the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) – including targeted homeless veteran programs. Both bills would provide the Administration’s requested 33 percent increase to $1.35 billion for VA’s homeless veteran programs, including $300 million for the Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) program. The full House may vote on this legislation this week.
HHS. Each year, one of the most difficult bills to pass is the one that funds programs like the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act (RHYA ) programs within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) – largely because it is such a big bill and includes such a huge range of programs. As a result, it’s often one of the latest to be released. So far, neither the House nor the Senate has released its proposal for the FY 2013 HHS funding bills, and no timeline has been announced for doing so. We’ll keep you posted as we learn more!
As you can see, Congress is definitely making progress with these bills, though nothing has been finalized yet. As of now, Congress is not expected to finalize any of its FY 2013 funding bills prior to the start of the fiscal year on October 1. Instead, Congress will likely pass one or more stopgap funding measures (called continuing resolutions) until after the election before finalizing their funding decisions.
So, there is still plenty of time to get involved! Though in most cases, the Appropriations Committees have released their decisions, when the legislation goes to the House or Senate floor, every vote counts! Your Members of Congress need to hear from YOU on the importance of these programs and how they make a difference in the lives of people at risk of or experiencing homelessness. If you would be interested in getting involved in any of our campaigns to provide funding for homelessness programs, please let us know!
Image courtesy of 401K.
The Alliance and its partners have formed the Homeless Veteran’s National Advocacy Working Group. This group is dedicated to ending homelessness among veterans through sensible policy and targeted programs. Among other things, the group is putting on a series of Congressional briefings. The first one was this last Wednesday, May 23. This was a joint briefing for both Houses of Congress and both parties. It was sponsored by Senator Richard Burr (R-NC), who also provided opening remarks. Attendees included staffers from the House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committees and the MilCon-VA and T-HUD Appropriations Subcommittees, as well as non-Congressional staff.
Antonia Fasanelli, chair of the American Bar Association Commission on Homelessness and Poverty, acted as moderator and introduced our panel. She spoke to the need for continued funding of these programs, and introduced Senator Burr. The Senator spoke to the need to use data-driven resources wisely, but to never forget the human faces of the people that these programs serve. Barbara Poppe with USICH covered a brief overview of veterans homelessness, and progress in the federal government’s five-year plan to end veterans homelessness; and expressed an impassioned plea to keep the plan on track through continued funding and support.
The HUD-VASH program overview was briefed by Vince Kane with VA’s National Center on Homelessness Among Veterans. Vince brings a broad perspective, showing the evidence-based, pragmatic approach to properly targeting the higher-cost, case-management-intensive intervention of VASH.
The SSVF grant was discussed by John Kuhn, National Director of Homeless Evaluation and Supportive Services for Veteran Families. John explained how the SSVF grant represented a new approach to ending veterans homelessness by focusing on prevention, rapid re-housing and expanding VA’s reach to include children and spouses of the veteran. SSVF provides a whole array of services not traditionally offered by VA. The panel addressed the need for community partnerships, acknowledging that VA can’t end veteran homelessness alone, and its community partners have the relationships with clients and knowledge of the community to help VA leverage its resources.
The final speaker was Eloise Wormley, an SSVF consumer from the Community Council for the Homeless at Friendship Place in Washington, DC. She gave a moving speech about her experiences and how the program helped her. The difference that being housed made in her life was evident. The pride having her own apartment and being self-sufficient, with a little help from the SSVF grant, was apparent to everyone in attendance.
The takeaway is that these programs work, and as a responsible society, we must continue to fully fund and support these sensible and much-needed interventions. Staffers got a good sense of how these programs operate, why they make sense and their place in the critical mission of ending homelessness among our nation’s heroes.
On Thursday, May 17, the Alliance hosted a Congressional Briefing, “Rapid Re-Housing: Ending Family Homelessness.” The briefing was sponsored by Senator Patty Murray, and provided a glimpse into how a couple of communities are using rapid re-housing to revolutionize how they are responding to family homelessness as well as the critical important role that federal funding plays in continuing the success of these programs.
In addition to the Alliance’s own Nan Roman, the speakers included:
- Matt Minkevitch, Executive Director of The Road Home in Salt Lake City, UT, who discussed how they have used rapid re-housing to prevent an increase in family homelessness during the recession by helping over 1,000 families move out of shelter and back into their housing using both TANF and HPRP funds;
- Nan Stoops, Executive Director of the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence, in Seattle, WA , who shared the important benefits they have seen for both survivors and their families as well as to providers through the work they have been doing with the support of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to provide grants and technical assistance to providers that help survivors get rapidly re-housed or safely stay in their own housing; and
- Kelly Thompson, from Humility of Mary Shelter, Inc. in Davenport, IA, which has just begun to implement a rapid re-housing model with a grant from the Supportive Services for Veterans Families Program and has already seen the impact it has had on both the families it has served and their own capacity to serve families they were not able to before.
The panel also included the voice of a father who experienced homelessness with his family after unexpectedly losing his job. He detailed the challenges he, his wife, and his children faced while trying to navigate homelessness and the dramatic difference that rapid re-housing provided in the lives of himself and his family. His daughter has returned to school and he happily reported that he is going to take it easy on her, despite her getting a “93 on an English test.”
This briefing highlighted what we know to be true across the country: rapid re-housing is working to end homelessness for families, it is helping them get their lives back on track and helping providers serve more families in need, but HPRP funding is disappearing, and without federal support, the great progress made by these programs is in danger.
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!
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On Thursday, the Alliance will host a Congressional Briefing, “Rapid Re-Housing: Ending Family Homelessness.” The briefing, sponsored by Senator Patty Murray, will provide a glimpse in to how rapid re-housing is revolutionizing how we are responding to family homelessness.
Homeless program administrators across the country provided an enthusiastic (shall we say overwhelming?) response to the Alliance’s request for data to help inform the audience about the impact that rapid re-housing is having. The compelling data the Alliance received is showing the successes communities are having helping families move out of homelessness with rapid re-housing. A small sample is included below:
- Alabama rapidly re-housed 431 persons in homeless families through HPRP grants from the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs with a median of 4 months of assistance. Over 80 percent of families assisted with three months of assistance or more exited homelessness for a permanent destination, as did virtually all families provided with less than three months of assistance.
- Bakersfield and Kern County, California rapidly re-housed over 500 families. The new HPRP-funded prevention and rapid re-housing resources contributed to a 12 percent reduction in family homelessness between 2009 and 2011 despite a persistent double digit unemployment rate.
- Palm Beach County, Florida has rapidly re-housed 154 homeless families. Nearly all (96 percent) of the households were re-housed directly from an emergency shelter or domestic violence program and most (69 percent) were re-housed within 30 days of entering shelter.
- New York City, New York rapidly rehoused 16,500 families with locally-funded housing subsidies and services supported by HPRP. More than 90 percent of families assisted with rapid re-housing have not re-entered shelter.
- Rochester, New York has re-housed 286 families with children with HPRP funds. Twelve months after receiving assistance, 60 percent remain stable in the same housing unit they moved into and less than 5 percent have returned to homelessness.
- Philadelphia, Pennsylvania rapidly re-housed 648 homeless families. Only 11 households (1.7 percent) have had a subsequent homeless episode.
- Snohomish County, Washington provided rapid re-housing to 107 homeless families with an average of $1,411 in rental assistance. Less than 2 percent of families assisted have had a subsequent homeless episode.
It is clear that rapid re-housing is making a difference for families. It is succeeding. It is important that proven, cost-effective strategies that end homelessness like rapid re-housing continue to be supported. The Alliance hopes that you will ask your congressional representatives to join us for the briefing at 10 a.m. Thursday, May 17. We also ask that you join us in urging Congress to provide at least $2.231 billion for the McKinney Vento Homeless Assistance Grants Program in FY 2013 so that rapid re-housing programs can continue to serve families
On May 10, 2012, I had the pleasure of spending the entire day with Cyndi Lauper lobbying on behalf of LGBTQ youth that experience homelessness. Along with Gregory Lewis, Executive Director of Cyndi’s foundation, the True Colors Fund, the Center for American Progress and the Human Rights Campaign we spent the morning briefing Cyndi on how to lobby members of Congress. The three “asks” we covered were:
- Increase funding for the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act (RHYA) by $12 million.
- Support the Reconnecting Youth to Prevent Homelessness, which was introduced by Senator Kerry last year, a section of which would establish a demonstration project to increase family acceptance of their LGBTQ children and youth in order to decrease risky behavior of children and youth. The demonstration project would be based upon the work of the Family Acceptance Project.
- Add LGBT language to future RHYA reauthorizations: First, add a general statement of nondiscrimination for RHYA that includes sexual orientation and gender identity, prohibiting grant recipients from discriminating against LGBT youth. Second, require RHYA grant applicants to include LGBT youth in any planning documents that are currently needed to qualify for a grant.
We all made visits to the congressional offices of Sen. Franken (D-MN), Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO), Minority Leader Pelosi (D-CA), and Senator John Kerry (D-MA). We also met with people HUD, HHS, and USICH. I am pleased to report that everyone was very receptive to Cyndi’s personal experiences and observations with LGBTQ homeless youth and the three asks for the day.
It goes without saying that Cyndi’s meetings and presence on the Hill drew some press! In between meetings and going from office to office, Cyndi had multiple requests to be interviewed by outlets such as CNN, MSNBC and others. It was thrilling to see the behind the scenes action!
Finally, we ended the day at a briefing on LGBTQ youth homelessness, which was hosted by the House LGBT Equality Caucus. The panelists consisted of Cyndi Lauper, Andrew Barnett, Sexual Minority Youth Assistance; Deborah Shore, Sasha Bruce Youthwork; Jeff Krehely, Center for American Progress; and myself. It was moderated by Joe Solmonese, President of the Human Rights Campaign. We all spoke to the need to improve the response to LGBTQ youth homelessness by increasing funding, improving data, and ensuring that family intervention is inclusive of the needs of parents with LGBTQ children and youth.
Photo courtesy of Washington Blade magazine.
The Alliance will be busy this month up on Capitol Hill with three different congressional briefings with which we’re involved. These briefings are intended to give Members of Congress and their staff details on key programs working to end homelessness as well as an overview of the solutions for certain subpopulations. Briefings are an opportunity to showcase successful programs for all Members of Congress as well as an opportunity for consumers to share the personal impact that programs funded by Congress have.
Here’s a summary of what we’ll be covering in our briefings this May:
- Homeless LGBTQ Youth. A briefing on May 10 will cover LGBTQ youth homelessness and what we need to do to prevent and end homelessness for this vulnerable population. The briefing will feature Cyndi Lauper from the True Colors Fund, André Wade, Youth Policy Analyst here at the Alliance, Debbie Shore from Sasha Bruce Youthwork and others. The panel will be focused on the experiences of LGBTQ homeless youth, the FY 2013 RHYA appropriations ask, advocacy for the addition of a non-discrimination clause into RHYA, as well as the Reconnecting Youth to Prevent Homelessness Act that was introduced last year by Senator John Kerry.
- Rapid Re-Housing. A May 17 briefing, organized by the Alliance, will discuss the success of rapid re-housing in helping families transition quickly out of shelter and back into housing. The goal of the briefing is to impart the positive impact rapid re-housing is having on the lives of children and families and why we need more to end homelessness in the United States. The briefing will explore the positive outcomes rapid re-housing models are having on program outcomes, family well-being, cost-savings, and more. The briefing will feature Nan Roman of the Alliance, Nan Stoops of the Washington Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Matt Minkevitch of Salt Lake City’s Road Home, and others.
- Veteran Homelessness. On May 23, the Alliance is co-hosting, with a number of partners, a briefing on homelessness among veterans. Speakers, which will include veteran service providers, policymakers, and advocates, will explore programs such as Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) and the joint HUD-VA Supportive Housing voucher program (HUD-VASH) in further detail. The briefing is designed to show the positive outcomes, good policy, and sensible investments that are being made to meet the federal government’s goal to end veteran homelessness within five years through practice implementation and proper targeting.
As you can see, we have a full slate, but we need your help making sure these key messages get across to Members and their staff. As a constituent, it would be fantastic if you could take a moment to invite your Member of Congress and/or his/her staff to attend one (or all!) of these briefings. To find out more details on these briefings and who to invite/how to invite them, please contact Kate Seif at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stay tuned to the blog on May 11, May 18, and May 25 to hear more about these briefings!
On Thursday, April 26, the U.S. Senate voted to pass S. 1925, the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2011 in a vote of 68 to 31. This reauthorization, sponsored by Senator Leahy from Vermont and co-sponsored by 61 bipartisan Members of the Senate, has stronger language to help protect LGBT, tribal, and immigrant survivors which gained the bill its 31 “nays” in the Senate and fairly wide media attention.
Perhaps of more importance in the field of homelessness assistance is another provision of the bill, it would provide particular protections for survivors in a variety of HUD programs. Current law provides survivors with protections from eviction and the opportunity to transfer in Section 8 and Public Housing. This reauthorization bill would extend those protections to a variety of other HUD programs, including McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance grant, Sections 202 and 811, and the Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program, among others. And, if transfer is not possible, it requires HUD to establish a policy for how a survivor can access a Section 8 voucher instead.
VAWA was first passed in 1994 and since then has created a number of successful programs to help protect survivors of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking. One of those programs, the Office of Violence Against Women’s (OVW) Transitional Housing Grants administered by the Department of Justice helps survivors leave abusers and access safe housing with voluntary support services to help the survivor and their family stabilize in housing. Providers who implement these programs often utilize a transition in place model that provides survivors with the security of permanent housing and a lease in their own name.
Now that the bill has passed in the Senate, it will be taken up in the House where there are three versions of a reauthorization bill introduced all of which have been referred to committee. A mark-up is scheduled for May 8 for the bill sponsored by Congresswoman Adams (R-FL) which is similar to a Republican alternative to the Leahy bill (S. 1925) that just passed in the Senate.