The Alliance would like to congratulate Rachel Lynch with New Haven Home Recovery in New Haven, Connecticut for winning the Story Bank drawing for a free registration to the Alliance’s February Conference on Ending Family Homelessness.
Ms. Lynch shared the story of a mother with two small children who experienced a housing crisis while overcoming several hardships. She was able to move into permanent housing by working with New Haven Home Recovery.
The Alliance is collecting stories of rapid re-housing, homelessness diversion, and HPRP application through our Story Bank. You can read more about the collection on our website. Please feel free to submit a story about your program and your successes! If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact Alliance staff.
One Woman’s Story
Sasha: The fire destroyed everything
Sasha’s life changed in the time it took for a fire to flare up in her house and spread through her apartment. She was working the cash register at her job at a dollar store in downtown New Haven when her mother, who was babysitting Sasha’s 4-year-old son, called to tell her that smoke was billowing into the rooms.
The news took a moment to sink in. Then, tears streaming down her face, Sasha jumped on the bus and made it home to find her mother and son on the street, watching flames shoot out of the apartment windows. The fire had started in another part of the house, but it was destroying Sasha’s furniture, her clothes and all of her photographs. “My body was numb,” she said. “I had two kids. What was I going to do? Where were we going to live?”
Sasha, who is 26, had fallen and picked herself up at least twice already. She had completed a drug rehabilitation program to clean up a habit she picked up with an old boyfriend. Another boyfriend beat her up, smacking her face and bruising her arms, landing her in the hospital three times. Once when he was in the bathroom, she ran out of the house and called the police. She got a restraining order and breathed a giant sigh of relief when he was later deported. She thought she was getting back on her feet.
The night of the fire, the Red Cross provided Sasha, her son and her infant daughter with a hotel room, and clothing, food and toiletries, but only for two nights. They spent a few nights at her mother’s apartment across town, but it was so small Sasha and her children had to share a twin bed. Finally Sasha found her way to Life Haven, which provides shelter for women who are pregnant or have young children. “That was hard. I’m not used to living with a bunch of people I don’t know,” she said. But while she was there, she began working with New Haven Home Recovery, which found her a spacious subsidized apartment in Hamden.
Now NHHR case manager Liz V. visits Sasah once a week. Sasha is working part time, looking for a full-time job, planning to go to school for nursing, checking out new doctors and dentists, and getting her son settled in school and her daughter into daycare. She has furniture, bedding, a television set, beautiful old-fashioned china from The Furniture Coop, and lots of toys scattered about. On Easter Sunday, she hosted dinner for family and friends with ham, potatoes and seven desserts, and Easter baskets for all of the children. “I’ve never done anything like that before,” she said. “It made me feel good to have my whole family in a nice place.”
So today, the Alliance had a Congressional Briefing on Family Homelessness.
It was a reasonably packed room – no place to sit for the whole staff, and we invited speakers from all over the country to discuss state, community, and local solutions to end homelessness among families.
So here’s where we start: family homelessness is a problem.
That’s been clear for a while now. News reports have (as of late) fixated on student homelessness – and while youth homelessness is nothing less than a critical problem – there’s usually an entire family there that deserves our attention. Authors of the latest Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress (AHAR) from the Department of Housing and Urban Development will argue that family homelessness is up 4 percent from 2007 – 2008 (that’s the latest data we have).
The numbers are fuzzy, but between unemployment and poverty rates, enrollment in social services, use of food stamps, and other indicators – it’s pretty clear that need is up.
At our briefing, I had the privilege to listen to three representatives from three states:
The experience was tremendous. At the state (Bob), county (Kay) and community levels (Kathy), a housing-centric solutions is what made the difference for families. Stable, permanent housing is a critical component to overcoming other challenges that may be inhibiting families from getting back on their own feet – Leida noted that housing was important to provide a sense of home for her two young children. Not only that, but providing permanent housing freed up room in emergency shelters, decreased the length of stay in shelter, and – as Bob noted – was even cost-effective in the state of Massachusetts.
Which isn’t to say that this seemed easy and dandy. All three community representatives touched upon the economic woes troubling us today, and how that has presented some challenges – especially in the way of increase demand – for housing providers. And while not everyone who needs housing is necessarily receiving it, the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing program (HPRP) funds have provided some much-needed assistance in the financing area.
As someone who is (still) relatively new to the idea of homelessness and to the solutions to the problem, this briefing was incredibly beneficial. To learn first-hand from people in the trenches of a community how rapid re-housing really works was so enlightening – and to hear from a consumer herself was all the evidence that I’ll really ever need.
Check out pictures from the briefing on our Facebook page, and let me know what you think. Is your community using HPRP funds? Have you noticed more homeless families where you are?
My Name is Elizabeth Doherty and I am the Admin + Development Associate at the National Alliance to End Homelessness.
I would like to tell you about one of our recent and very exciting development ventures! The Alliance has partnered with Great NonProfits on their 2009 Food and Shelter Awards Campaign. What that means is for the month of December, Great NonProfits is featuring Food & Shelter nonprofits (like us!) and asking YOU to share your experiences and rate the organizations.
Have you ever attended an Alliance conference? Received a scholarship or technical assistance from the Alliance? Donated to support our work? If you answered yes to any of those questions or others, we want to hear from you! Tell us what you think and rate the Alliance on Great NonProfits.
I also invite you to share your experience with local, state or national organizations that do great work but might not get the attention they deserve. This campaign is all about highlighting the great work that organizations in our field do to fight homelessness and hunger.
A little background info on Great NonProfits: It’s kind of like GuideStar meets Yelp. They’re looking to provide information about charities and nonprofits from the point of view of consumers, volunteers and donors – that is, they want YOU to rate charities based on your experiences with them.
Other cool features include:
So as the holiday season is upon us, please take a moment to make sure the Alliance and your other favorite nonprofit organizations get the limelight they deserve and participate in the 2009 Food and Shelter Awards Campaign!
It should come as no surprise that today is World AIDS Day.
It may, however, come as a surprise that there’s an Office of HIV/AIDS Housing at the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). More surprising, maybe, that the Office of HIV/AIDS Housing at HUD runs a program called Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS, abbreviated HOPWA.
Research has shown that it’s hard for people – especially people with more economic challenges – to take the necessary steps to manage HIV/AIDS.
This probably doesn’t come as a galloping shock – managing HIV/AIDS requires a strict regimen of a combination of retroviral agents (often three or more). Many people lack the capacity to access treatment, follow the required schedule, or have psychological and physical limitations that prevent them from properly treating the disease. People are also deterred by the various side effects of the treatment, which include lipodystrophy, dyslipidemia, the risk of birth defects, and insulin resistance. Perhaps most notably, the treatment is quite costly, and prohibitively expensive to most of the world’s HIV/AIDS – afflicted population.
Research has also confirmed that stable housing, coupled with supportive services that are responsive to their complex needs, increases the ability of people living with HIV/AIDS to access and comply with HIV/AIDS treatment. This is especially true for poor and low-income people.
According to the National AIDS Housing Coalition:
It has been estimated that as many as half of all people living with HIV/AIDS will need housing assistance at some point in their illness. For many of those, short-term assistance with rent, mortgage, or utility costs alone will provide the necessary support to remain healthy and in stable housing. But others are struggling with multiple diagnoses of HIV and mental illness and/or substance use. Access to housing assistance and services is often further complicated by histories of incarceration, institutionalization, and homelessness. HOPWA housing assistance helps prevent homelessness and creates access to medical care and support services for individuals and families affected by HIV and AIDS.
This is where a program like HOPWA can really make a difference.
HOPWA is the only federal program that specifically targets the housing needs of people with HIV/AIDS and their families. Established in 1992, HOPWA provides funds to qualified state and local governments to help low-income people with AIDS and their families by providing:
As unlikely as the subject of housing might be in a discussion about HIV/AIDS, it’s clear that stable housing – as well as complementary services and social support – are critical for those afflicted with HIV/AIDS. HOPWA provides qualifying individuals the assistance necessary to find stable housing.
Find out more about HOPWA on the Alliance website.
The time has rolled around again for us to give thanks for all our blessings, and the Alliance thought it might be helpful to take a sharp look at those who are less fortunate. Thanks for reading our wandering thoughts – and have a happy Thanksgiving!
It’s that time of year again.
Pumpkins retreat as the mercury plunges, and we’re seized with the charitable desire to be kind to those less fortunate. Suddenly, those on the economic brink of society – those just “one paycheck away” from homelessness – have taken center stage in our national conscience.
It’s a shift as sure as the season – and this year, it’s one that resonates all the louder. While homelessness has long been the exclusive plight of Americans living in poverty, its reach is climbing up the socioeconomic ladder. Increasingly, middle-class Americans are seeing the distance from one paycheck to the next get shorter and shorter while their incomes – and savings – dwindle. Combined with cash-strapped states cutting back social services and a continued rise in unemployment, the reality of homelessness comes sharply into focus.
This holiday season, there will be far more families living just “one paycheck away.”
The good news: this is not news. The ravaging effects of the economy and it’s impact on those living in poverty has not been wholly overlooked. An important federal stimulus initiative known as the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program (HPRP) is one of the few Congress-funded programs to address the recession by helping the poor rather than the rich.
HPRP does exactly what the name suggests: it gives families money to stay in their houses, or if they do become homeless, quickly gets them back into homes. It has been effective, but is not large enough to protect all those who will be threatened. (In fact, the Alliance predicts that as many as one million more Americans will experience homelessness as a result of the recession.)
This holiday season, the stakes are precipitously high. As politicians and pundits across the cable shows have said, this is the worst economic turndown that the country has seen in decades.
Now is the time to gather as a national community and make sure that our well-intentioned hearts espouse a sense of urgency. Let’s call upon our national leaders and make sure they don’t forget what we’re enduring now. This holiday season, let’s truly make a difference in the lives of those less fortunate.
Let’s make sure that the legacy of this recession is not a new generation of homelessness.
Two days out from Thanksgiving and the Alliance staff held it’s last pre-Thanksgiving 2009 staff meeting to go over what’s happening around the house.
The Alliance continues it’s preparations for the February Families Conference in Los Angeles, California. As the Alliance lines up advocates, practitioners, community leaders, and experts to speak at the Conference, we encourage you to sign up soon! Early registration ends Friday, December 7.
The Homelessness Research Institute’s Quarterly Newsletter went out last Friday, November 20. In it: an emphasis on veterans homelessness, a Q+A with Robert Rosenheck, and research on affordable housing – don’t miss out!
The Alliance will host a Congressional Briefing on ending family homelessness on Friday, December 4. We’re encouraging partners and interested parties to call upon their members of Congress to attend of send staff, and all interested parties are welcome to attend. More on this next week!
Funders Together, a collaborative of philanthropists dedicated to providing leadership and strategic funding to end homelessness in America, launched their brand new site! You can find out more about them at http://funderstogether.org/.
Last night, around 7 p.m., I found myself in a brightly painted community room surrounded by camera operators, photographers, and a bunch of boisterous, energetic young people (alarmingly nonplussed by the presence of all the media).
It was quite the motley crew.
I was at the Sasha Bruce House in Washington, D.C. The homeless youth shelter was playing host to legendary rap band Public Enemy, who – with the assistance of Virgin Mobile USA – was paying a visit to the shelter to raise awareness about youth homelessness.
The Alliance – as a leading authority on homelessness policy, trends, and research – was invited to attend and give a few remarks.
In preparation to attend this event, I tried to brush up on my facts. How many homeless youth are there? Who are they and where do they come from? How do they become homeless? What can we do about it? What are the best strategies to make sure that our youth remain safe and housed?
Turns out, there’s some discord about this particular topic in the homelessness field.
There’s a noticeable dearth of information about youth homelessness and upon giving it some more thought, it’s not hard to understand why. Some of the most accomplished advocates and researchers gathering data on homeless people will testify to its trying difficulty. Collecting data on homeless youth, then, is likely only harder, as youth are even less likely to seek out or be aware of social services available to them. Between that reality, and the fact that the definition of the term “youth” tends to vary widely by organization, the picture of youth homelessness is a bit fuzzy.
But here’s what we do know:
There approximately 50,000 street-dependent youth in the United States every year, and are up to two million youth experience an episode of homelessness during the course of a year.
Youth typically become homeless because of some kind of family disruption – divorce is one example, abuse is another. Youth also tend to become homeless after they exit state-run programs, namely the foster care and juvenile justice systems. Young people discharged from those programs rarely have access to a transitional program that provides them the skills and knowledge necessary to secure employment, find housing, and become productive members of society. As such, young people coming out of these programs often fall into homelessness.
While most youth who experience homelessness quickly return to family or friends, some do experience long-term homelessness. For those that do, street-dependent life presents great dangers. Homeless youth encounter a high incidence of violence, exploitation, and sexual assault while living on the streets.
Another something we know: there are things we can do. The Alliance advocates for three distinct tracts to prevent and end youth homelessness: 1) an increase in early intervention and family reunification services for homeless youth, 2) an expansion of long-term housing options consistent with young people’s developmental needs, and 3) after-care support to end homelessness for youth exiting foster care and correctional settings. These are strategies that show success in preventing and ending youth homelessness.
Surrounded by the cheerful, bright young residents of Sasha Bruce House, it’s easy to forget that they all somehow found themselves in a homeless youth shelter. Hopefully, with the help of private sector partners, the hard work of community leaders, and the energy of the young people themselves, we’ll find a way back home.
In recognition of Homeless Youth Awareness Month and the work of Virgin Mobile USA – the Alliance’s 2010 recipient of the Private Sector Achievement Award – a few words from Dan Schulman, CEO of Virgin Mobile USA.
All of us at Virgin Mobile USA are honored to accept the 2010 Private Sector Achievement Award from the National Alliance to End Homelessness, recognizing the strides that Virgin Mobile has made over the years to raise awareness for the issue of youth homelessness. The Re*Generation, established in 2006 with the support of Virgin Unite, Virgin Group’s charitable arm, is Virgin Mobile’s initiative to address the issue of youth homelessness and empower a generation to help its own. http://www.virginmobileusa.com/regeneration.
Virgin Mobile has been a consistent voice in raising awareness of this issue by fundraising and implementing easy ways for the public to engage and show support since the launch of The Re*Generation. In June 2007, we worked with legislators from both the House and Senate to have Congress officially declare November as National Homeless Youth Awareness Month with the support of singer-songwriter and former homeless youth, Jewel.
Over the past three years, Virgin Mobile has continued to expand its efforts in this area and, in light of the current economic situation in the U.S., we decided to make our annual Virgin Mobile Festival free this past summer. The energy surrounding FreeFest was inspiring and we expanded on this positive energy by announcing the Free I.P. program in which we asked people to volunteer in order to upgrade their FreeFest ticket to a V.I.P. ticket. Through this program, more than 30,000 hours of community service were donated by volunteers throughout the country, more than $80,000 was raised, 1,000 pairs of sneakers were donated, and 7,000 hygiene kits were produced for distribution to homeless youth organizations. The Free I.P. program was an acclaimed success and we hope to continue this program at future festivals and other events.
We have also provided the public with simple and direct ways to get involved in the movement to help homeless youth with our short code mobile campaigns Txt2Clothe and Txt2Donate. More than 200,000 items of clothing have been made available to homeless youth through our Txt2Clothe initiative and $35,000 through our Txt2Donate program. To date, Virgin Mobile has committed more than $3,000,000 of marketing and direct investment support to our charitable partners including $180,000 from Virgin Mobile Festival ticket sales.
To celebrate the three-year anniversary of National Homeless Youth Awareness Month, we hosted a special concert by Public Enemy on November 18th at George Washington University’s Lisner Auditorium with all ticket proceeds benefiting Sasha Bruce House, a non-profit shelter for homeless youth in Washington, D.C. Working in conjunction with the “One Warm Coat” initiative, led by Serve DC – The Mayor’s Office on Volunteerism, fans were encouraged to bring new or gently used coats to receive V.I.P. seat upgrades the night of the show. All coats collected were provided to the Sasha Bruce House.
We are very grateful to the Alliance for recognizing the work of Virgin Mobile, our dedicated staff and partners, and everyone who has helped to raise awareness for this issue along the way. This has been an incredible journey and one that still has many steps to accomplish. Virgin Mobile and Virgin Unite are passionate about moving closer toward the goal of ending youth homelessness in the United States. Our thanks go out to the Alliance for all you do and for your generous recognition of our work.
Happy Monday, everyone!
Here at the Alliance, a bunch of us are coming down from our big push of the new Data Update to the veterans report (see Sarah’s post). We had terrific time working with local leaders and direct service providers, hosting our very own press call about the release of the report, and – over the course of the last week – seeing the fruits of our labor. There’s nothing that can take away the fact that there are 131,000 homeless veterans in the United States on any given night – but thanks to the hard work of our partners, community members, and some very dedicated reporters, hopefully you have a better idea of what the problem is and what you can do about it (again, see Sarah’s post).
It’s one of the perks of working in the research department of the Alliance – we get to put out data and watch as people consume that information. Occasionally, we’re privileged to see how our work inspires action – action that can make a tangible difference in the lives of people across the country: an improved rapid re-housing program, federal legislation expanding homeless services, a well written, thoughtful perspective on solutions to homelessness in your local paper.
In that spirit, the Alliance has engaged in two new partnerships this year that I hope you notice:
This awesome new site follows in the footsteps of standard-bearers like Guide Star and Charity Navigator. CEO Perla Ni, the founder of the Stanford Social Innovation Review, offers an engaging and user-friendly approach to searching for nonprofits by location, topic, even needs.
The Alliance is proud and delighted to join with Great Non Profits to host a week on Food & Shelter organizations. As Thanksgiving brings the holiday season ever nearer, we’re reminded – especially in this economic climate – that not everyone is blessed with the hearth that some enjoy.
Share your review of programs and places that you’ve encountered. Your review will direct traffic – and ultimately, funding – to the different organizations featured on the website.
Through its RE*Generation program, Virgin Mobile USA has introduced several marketing initiatives to raise awareness, increase volunteerism, and provide critical resources and funding to local homeless agencies.
For its leadership and innovation in motivating the public to play a more active role in confronting the issue of homelessness, Virgin Mobile USA and Virgin Unite will receive the 2010 Private Sector Achievement Award.
This Wednesday (yep, WEDNESDAY), Virgin Mobile will host Public Enemy in a reception at the Sasha Bruce House in Washington, DC to bring awareness to the existing and persisting problem of youth homelessness. A concert featuring the rap band will follow at the Lisner Auditorium at George Washington University.
For more information about the Public Enemy concert on Wednesday, please visit An Evening With Public Enemy.
Check out the RE*Generation website to find out more about the campaign to end youth homelessness.
In honor of Veterans Day, the Alliance rallied our troops to engage in a national media campaign! We encouraged all our partners to reach out to local press to share their community efforts towards ending homelessness for veterans, as well as to announce the Alliance’s release of a data update to the veterans homelessness report.
Sarah Kahn, Director of Field Mobilization, lead the charge on this campaign. She writes about it below.
Great work everyone! Last week’s media campaign was a great success!
Thirty-two Alliance partners from across the country participated in the media release of the 2008 Data and Policy Update to Vital Mission: Ending Homelessness Among Veteran. So far, our collective media outreach efforts have achieved around 100 national and local press hits, including published articles, editorials, and TV and radio news segments. What’s more is that many of these articles went beyond the regular data post – several articles made references to policy solutions, explored the causes and effects of veterans homelessness, and called on elected officials to take action to attack this problem.
So, what’s next?
We now have an opportunity to leverage our accomplishments as Congress considers key policy issues in the coming weeks.
How do we do that?
Show them that homelessness is an issue that’s important to your community; show and send them the articles about veterans homelessness in your state. Email the Senate offices pointing them to the veterans media coverage, and urge them so co-sponsor the Zero Tolerance for Veterans Homelessness Act, S. 1547, which is currently being considered in the Senate.
Veterans homelessness is something that we can end together – encourage your elected members to be a part of the solution to this national tragedy.
Send letters to Senate offices and attach veterans articles from your state.
Call and follow up with staff to ask your Senators to co-sponsor S. 1547.
Contact Sarah (firstname.lastname@example.org / 202-942-8259) to report on any follow up you’ve done.