Posts Tagged ‘Affordable Housing’
Congratulations to our friends in New Jersey, who have been working to pass state legislation that would allow them to create housing trust funds for the homeless in their state. Governor John Corzine signed that legislation in to law yesterday.
Governor Corzine was joined by state Senator Dana Redd (D-Camden, Gloucester), Assemblymembers Nilsa Cruz-Perez (D-Camden, Gloucester), Gordon Johnson (D-Bergen), Bonnie Watson-Coleman (D-Mercer), Elease Evans (D-Bergen, Passaic) and Camden Mayor Gwedolyn Faison as he signed the County Homeless Trust Fund into law in a ceremony held on September 8, 2009, at the Cathedral Kitchen in Camden.
An article by the Associated Press briefly outlines the stipulations and ramifications of this bill.
Advocates in New Jersey celebrate the passing of the bill, calling it a signficant step in their efforts to fight homelessness. More information about the Trust Fund legislation and other efforts to fight homelessness in New Jersey can be found below.
While cruising for news today – noticed three articles from three different states about struggles in affordable housing.
Thought I’d share.
Oregon: City affordable housing plan delayed
California: San Jose transitional housing back open
New York: Turning Stalled Projects Into Moderate-Income Housing
Anyone else seeing recession + housing troubles in the neighborhood?
Okay, I’m a little excited! Yesterday, our friends at The Nation published an editorial we wrote for the “Ten Things” series. You can access the article, “Ten Things You Need to Know to End Homelessness,” on the Nation website but – if you’re feeling lazy – you can just read it below!
In July 2009, The Nation published a “Ten Things” piece titled “Ten Things You Need to Know to Live on the Streets.” The provocative and thoughtful piece elicited quite a response. We, however, respectfully disagree with the premise of the piece. Before submitting to the idea that there are things you need to know to live on the streets, we suggest that you consider whether living on the streets is necessary at all.
We’re no strangers to the issue of homelessness–rather, we’re quite well-versed in the subject. Homelessness, as we know it, began in the 1980s and has persisted through the decades. Some see it as an inevitable byproduct of a diminishing affordable housing supply, a lack of well-paying jobs, tumult in the economic sector, and both globalization and urbanization. Many see it as an unavoidable social nuisance. Some don’t see it at all. But here, at the National Alliance to End Homelessness, we see it as a problem with a solution.
The causes of homelessness are many and complex–but the solution to homelessness heads toward one straight goal: housing.
- Plan. It’s simple: our problem is homelessness, and this complex, multifaceted problem requires a thoughtful, carefully concerted plan of attack. The most successful plans are built with the input and support of community leaders, elected officials, lawmakers, business leaders, service providers and residents.
- Collect and examine the data. You can’t know what you’re doing until you know what you’re dealing with. Most communities already have a way to count the number of homeless people in the area; some communities also collect information on how people become homeless, how long they stay homeless, how homeless people interact with agencies of care (it’s called HMIS). Examine these data and learn the characteristics specific to their homeless populations–good data will inform which strategies are enacted, how much those strategies will cost, and how the plans can be implemented and carried out.
- Strengthen emergency prevention. As the old adage goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Most communities have in place an emergency homelessness-prevention program–usually including rent, mortgage, and utility assistance; case management; landlord or lender intervention; and other programs that pull people back from the brink of homelessness. By expanding, strengthening and improving access to these emergency prevention services, communities can curtail homelessness when people come precariously close to the edge.
- Systems prevention. Similarly, we also have a set of systems that help the low- and extremely low-income households. Most people and families who fall into homelessness were already engaged in programs that provide low-income people care and assistance (as most families and people who fall into homelessness are low-income to begin with). Others who fall into homelessness are “graduates” of various state institutions: foster care, incarceration, mental health facilities. If we can strengthen the existing assistance programs and create effective transition programs for those exiting state institutions, we can ensure that those most at risk of experiencing homelessness are kept from it.
- No-strings outreach. A key component of ending homelessness is reaching out to people who live on the street and encouraging them to embrace housing. But it’s often no easy task. Those who live on the street often suffer from mental illness and substance abuse. Persuading this population to accept housing requires an availability of “low-demand” housing–that is, housing that doesn’t mandate participation in treatment programs. While this “no-strings” approach may seem controversial, housing minimizes the ill-effects of street living (including both mental and physical distress), and stable housing creates a sense of safety and security that encourages participation in recovery treatments. While this step may seem distasteful to many, low-demand housing does encourage those needing help to seek it out.
- Shorten homelessness. Shelter living is not the answer to homelessness, but it is an existing tool that can assist people temporarily. One of our goals is to shorten shelter stays as much as possible and move people quickly into housing. Strategies to shorten homelessness include incentivizing quick placement in permanent housing and holding shelters and similar service providers accountable for their past and present clients.
- Rapid re-housing. One of the hardest parts of a housing-focused strategy is finding affordable housing that low-income or very low-income families can access. As affordable housing becomes a rarer and rarer commodity, fewer and fewer landlords see cause to rent to people with lower incomes, little savings, credit problems or spotty rental history. But there have been success stories–even in the most difficult areas (like LA and NY). What success requires is an investment from community leaders and a talented group of dedicated personnel to forge relationships with stakeholders, meet with prospective landholders and lay out the case for housing everyone.
- Services. Once households are successfully re-housed, families and individuals should have rapid access to services: therapy, medical support, family assistance and other, similar services. These services can help families stabilize, promote individual and family well-being, and encourage self-sufficiency. Luckily, these services already exist through mainstream government programs–including TANF, SSI, Medicaid – and many others. The key is to link housing services with these existing social services.
- Permanent Housing. Permanent housing comes in two forms: affordable housing and supportive housing. Most people–especially families–need only the former. Some homeless people–especially the chronically homeless – require supportive services along with permanent housing. While housing challenges will persist for those with low and extremely low-income until the supply of affordable housing increases substantially, local communities and neighborhoods are making concerted efforts to spur the development of affordable housing and to encourage state and local participation in securing affordable housing for the homeless.
- Income. The last step to achieving self-sufficiency. As with services, there are government programs that can assist the formerly homeless, especially those with disabilities. Many formerly homeless people can benefit from longer-term, career-based employment services as well as cash-assistance programs. The faster that people can access those kinds of programs, the shorter their route to permanent stability.
As always, we want to know what you think! Anything you think we left out?
I thought I’d share this article because we get this question a lot: Do we support tent cities? What can we do about them? Are there any good ideas/best practices to deal with these communities?
Writer Jennifer Levitz writes about cities’ responses to the ever-rising number of tent cities. According to Levitz, some are not only allowing tent cities to form and persist, but are furnishing these makeshift areas with portable toilets, security, and social services. Nashville, TN is one such city.
In fact, Levitz writes that even cities that had previously had ordinances against tent cities or sleeping in cars are changing their mind. City officials in Lacey, WA allowed a tent city in the parking lot of church; the city council in Ventura, CA revised a law allowing people to sleep in their cars overnight.
But this doesn’t mean that all cities are hopping on this bandwagon.
New York – with its ever-precarious relationship with homeless people – is staying steadfast. New York City recently shut down a tent city in Harlem, the article notes.
Here at the Alliance, we know what the landscape looks like – and we know that between the recession and state budget cuts, resources are scarcer and scarcer as need rises higher and higher.
It seems that any way you slice it – tent cities are a lose-lose for everyone. All parties involved in this push-pull around tent cities are undoubtedly frustrated: residents don’t have any place to go, city officials can’t offer any solutions, law enforcement gets stuck in the middle and ends up the bad guy.
And frankly, there are no easy answers.
While the Alliance doesn’t have a definitive recommendation on tent cities, we remain steadfast that the solution to homelessness is housing. While we recognize that the recent action of city officials is a gesture of compassion and kindness, permitting tent cities to exist is just another way of managing the homelessness problem. Portable restrooms and medical services are important – but at the end of the day, a man in a tent city is still a man without a home.
Affordable housing and/or permanent, supportive housing – these are the approaches that will ensure that we end homelessness for everyone and not just in the short-term.
Study after study and program after program have proven that housing is the right answer. In fact, several studies have shown that providing permanent supportive housing to the chronically homeless – the population most likely to stay homeless even after the recession – not only gets these homeless people safely off the streets, but turns out to be more cost-effective for taxpayers.
As the recession subsides – when unemployment dips to a comfortable number, when jobs start returning to the market – the country will still be home to millions of homeless people. And I wonder if the matter will be so salient then – or if city officials will be as sympathetic to those who don’t disappear with a strengthening economy.
It’s pretty crazy. Just now, I’m typing up some of the usability results from the Alliance’s Annual Conference on Ending Homelessness, and I’m remembering that a handful of users suggested that we share fundraising ideas on our website.
And then, I get this email from our Development Director, Beth Roche: Here are some new grant opportunities that do not seem to be a good fit for the Alliance, but that I thought some folks might be interested in knowing more about to pass along to other nonprofits and colleagues.
Well, Beth! I’m sure there are some people who might be interested! Here you go, folks:
- The 14th Annual MetLife Awards for Excellence in Affordable Housing is open for entries. Enterprise Community Partners and the MetLife Foundation have focused this year’s competition on best practices in the area of affordable independent senior living and environmentally responsive housing.
- A program of Civic Ventures, the Purpose Prize annually provides five awards of $100,000 each to people over 60 who are working to address society’s biggest challenges.
- The SEVEN (Social Equity Venture) Fund, a nonprofit organization that works to promote enterprise-based solutions to poverty, has published its second annual open Enterprise-based Solutions to Poverty Request for Proposals. The fund’s Request for Proposals is limited to research in economics, government policy, and business strategy, insofar as the research bears directly on questions in enterprise-based solutions to poverty.
Best of luck if you choose to pursue these funding sources! Thanks for all the great feedback you gave us at the conference, and we’ll be sure to keep you up-to-date if new funding ideas come along.
The Secretary’s entourage and his security detail came by at 7 a.m. today. Herds of the 1200+ attendees of the conference mingled around the doors of the ballroom for a half hour to get a peek of the Secretary. The day began in a VERY exciting way!
And just after 8 a.m. – Secretary Shaun Donovan himself.
His remarks were inspiring and thoughtful: an emphasis on creating more affordable housing, the relationship between health care reform and the homeless, a persistent theme of the moral responsibility of our country to care for the least among us. The necessity of cooperation between the Department of Housing and Urban Development and Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’s Department of Health and Human Services in providing services + housing for the homeless. It was everything that the audience needed to hear: a federal promise to keep investing in preventing and ending homelessness.
It’s no wonder he got a standing ovation.
We’ll be posting the Secretary’s remarks shortly, keep an eye out on our blog and website. But for the time being, a few pics.
Next up – in under an hour! – new White House Director of Urban Affairs Policy: Adolfo Carrion.
Homelessness has been around pretty much since there were more people than homes (read: a long, long time). A number of national and economic events (anyone remember the Great Depression?) prompted bursts of homelessness from time to time, but local and federal authorities usually answered the need. Homelessness as we know it today surged around the 1980s.
Why the 80s? Good question.
Perhaps the most sensationalized – and one of the more controversial – cause of modern-day homelessness is deinstitutionalization.
The 1950s and 1960s saw a wave of activism against mental health institutions as reports of neglect, abuse, and mistreatment in such facilities became commonplace. The goal of deinstitutionalization was to move people who are mentally ill and disabled from these institutions into community-based health centers, where they would be fewer restrictions on patients and a lesser financial burden to federal and state coffers. (Popular opinion seems to fault President Reagan for deinstitionalization, but my own research has not validated that opinion.) Many argue that the effort has been unsuccessful, and that people who are mentally ill are now housed in the criminal justice system or are homeless altogether.
As a result, some say that deinstitutionalization, coupled with decreasing availability of affordable housing and economic fluctuations (and a plethora of other factors), caused the homeless population to rise considerably in the late 20th century.
As the homeless population grew, places where people were freely allowed to roam became more restricted: churches, public restrooms, libraries, museums – these places all closed their doors, hired security, and/or otherwise made efforts to reduce the number of homeless people in their buildings. This forced the homeless population to bridges, tunnels, parks, sidewalks – many of the places we see them today.
That’s the bad news.
The good news is that since the 1980s, there have been efforts – though fragmented – to address, prevent, reduce, and ultimately end homelessness. And the even better news is that these fragmented efforts have started producing real results. Between 2005 and 2007, homelessness fell 10 percent. This is because we’ve finally started figuring out what works. We know how to end homelessness and sometimes how to prevent it altogether.
How, you ask? That’s another post.
In the meantime, let us know what you think about the role of deinstitutionalization on the homelessness population. How has it contributed to homelessness? Was it good/bad/horrible idea? What can we do about it – and the chronically homeless population?
Feel free to let us know.