Posts Tagged ‘AHAR’

17th June
written by Anna Blasco

This week HUD released their Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR) to Congress, showing that that homelessness went up one percent overall from 2009 to 2010. Our President Nan Roman was on NPR earlier this week and wrote a piece for The Hill today discussing what this means in light of the recession and proposed cuts to assistance programs.

We noticed a lot of discussion, and rightly so, on the AHAR’s report that people using shelters or transitional housing in suburban and rural areas increased 57 percent from 2007 to 2010. It is great to seen rural homelessness getting some press, because homelessness is often seen as mainly an urban problem. (More on in the next couple weeks.)

In the foreword to the AHAR, Secretary Shaun Donovan pointed to the stimulus funded Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program’s (HPRP) impact. In this blog we pointed out that this three-year program ends next year, leaving a big hole in the budgets of many local homeless assistance programs. The Center for American Progress’ Think Progress blog argued this shows greater investment is needed during economic downturns.

As a final note, the Washington Post covered the great job our neighbors in Fairfax County are doing to end homelessness.

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15th June
written by Catherine An

In case you missed it, HUD released the Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress yesterday, showing that homelessness went up one percent overall from 2009 to 2010. For the major numbers, check out the post from yesterday.

Here at the Alliance, we were surprised that homelessness in the United States did not increase more significantly despite the effects of the recession. We surmise that the flat numbers, in spite of an idling economy, are a testament to improved homeless assistance systems and the adoption of housing-based strategies to end homelessness.

But we’re not out of the woods yet. Like we’ve been saying for months, budget cuts at the federal, state, and local levels could break the dam that’s been keeping increased homelessness at bay for the last couple of years.

And it’s not just budget cuts that we’re concerned about. For the first time, the impact of the federal Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program (HPRP) was included in the AHAR. The $1.5 billion program, funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), offered communities significant new resources to curb homelessness resulting from the recession. And communities used that money – in the first year, HPRP funds prevented and ended homelessness for an estimated 690,000 people. Those funds are also credited with decreasing the length of time people stayed homeless in suburban and rural communities, where the average length of stay in an emergency family shelter declined from 62 days to 40 days.

The three-year stimulus program ends next year and it’ll leave a big hole in the budgets of many local homeless assistance programs – a hole that will only grow wider with the aforementioned budget cuts. Coupled with cuts to mainstream poverty programs, local and state services, and the relentless rise in need, it’s possible that homelessness may rise in the coming years.

So what can we do? Maybe we can’t fix the economy, unemployment, or the housing crisis – but we can make our voices heard. Tell your community leader, your legislator, your Members of Congress that we will not risk increased homelessness in the United States. Let us know you’re interested and we’ll tell you how to get involved.

14th June
written by Catherine An

Hi guys!

If you follow our Twitter or Facebook accounts, you know that HUD released the Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress (AHAR) today. This annual compilation of homelessness data is one of our best barometers of how we’re doing:  is homelessness going up? Going down? Chronic, individuals, youth, families? How are we doing?

Over here, we’re busy reading and digesting and figuring out what all the numbers mean (you can figure it out with us if you want; here’s the report.)

We’ll have a more comprehensive post later but in the meantime, here are the numbers:

According to the findings, levels of homelessness in the United States have stayed flat from 2009 to 2010. Overall homelessness increased by one percent, rising to 649,917 according to the annual point-in-time counts.  The number of homelessness individuals, unsheltered homeless persons, and homeless persons in families all showed marginal increases of 0.75 percent, 2.76 percent, and 1.61 percent, respectively. The number of chronically homeless individuals declined by one percent; the steady and continual decline of chronic homelessness reflects the success of local and federal efforts to implement best practices to serve chronically homeless people.

The report, aside from offering the annual point-in-time counts,  also offers findings from HMIS data and – for the first time – offers insight into the impact of the federal Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program (HPRP).

Visit again tomorrow for more!

28th June
written by Marisa Seitz

When I came to the Alliance, I really did not know anything about homelessness, or those who were experiencing it. I think, like many people, my experience with people experiencing homelessness was only of those collecting change on the streets.

However, since coming to the Alliance and being exposed to the community dedicated to ending homelessness, I have come to understand that this is not a comprehensive picture of homelessness. I think I thought that all people who were experiencing homelessness fell into that category of what I now understand to be chronic homelessness. Turns out I was wrong – there are so many different types of homelessness, most of which aren’t chronic. One type of homelessness that I had not considered before was family homelessness.

Family homelessness has been in the news a lot lately, especially because of the Annual Homelessness Assessment Report (AHAR) which found that the number of families seeking shelter has increased in the last year. Also, the new Federal Strategic Plan to End Homelessness, called Opening Doors, set a specific goal of ending family homelessness in 10 years. These developments have pushed the issue into the spotlight so, in an effort to educate myself more about this group, I asked around the Alliance and did some research to get a clearer picture of family homelessness.

So what is family homelessness? It’s exactly what one would think: families who are not able to afford housing, and as a result experience homelessness. Roughly 30 percent of those experiencing homelessness are families.

What do families experiencing homelessness look like? In truth, families experiencing homelessness aren’t different than other poor families. So what usually happens is this: there’s a poor family that’s just getting by and then something happens – an injury, a job loss, a car crash – and some unforeseen cost derails the family’s hard-strapped finances. At some point, they’re unable to make rent and fall into homelessness.

The majority of families who experience homelessness are homeless for fewer than six months. Chronic family homelessness – though it happens – is rare, because in those situations (repeated homelessness or in the case of illness or disability), children are usually removed from the situation.

So what are we going to do about it?Ending family homelessness is really contingent on investing in homelessness prevention and rapid re-housing – which is why we’re really happy with the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program (HPRP), the $1.5 billion stimulus-funded federal program. The program was intended to curb homelessness resulting from the recession by quickly getting families back into housing (that’s the rapid re-housing part) or by connecting families with resources with they become at-risk of losing their housing (that’s the prevention part). It’s being implemented in communities across the country right this very second – and some communities are showing results already. We’re tracking progress in 13 communities across the country – you can see our latest report here.

There are several resources that families can use to help them acquire housing. Unemployment Insurance is available for those who qualify, as is Supplemental Security Income (SSI) for people with disabilities.

But the one program you’re going to hear about most when talking about poor families is Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).

TANF – sometimes called welfare – is intended to provide poor families with temporary cash assistance as they work towards independence. And this program has been the focus of some legislative action.

In February 2009, Pres. Obama signed into law the TANF Emergency Contingency Fund (ECF) which was meant to help states continue their TANF program. At the height of the recession, it was projected that more families would be turning to public benefits and states would struggle to meet the needs of their residents. The federal government created TANF ECF and allowed states to use the fund to cover up to 80 percent of their TANF expenditures (the states had to come up with the other 20 percent on their own).

The Emergency Contingency Fund is set to expire – but a renewal is being considered in the Senate as part of the Tax Extenders Bill.

But more on that tomorrow!

For more information about family homelessness – including what you and I can do to help out, check out our website.

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16th June
written by naehblog

Big, big news. (It’s been a big news week).

Aside from the now-announced but still-anticipated release of the federal strategic plan to end homelessness – called Opening Doors – there’s even more news to digest!

Today, the Department of Housing and Urban Development released the Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR).

And it’s pretty wild.

Headlining the report is the fact that homelessness is marginally down. Despite the worst recession this country has seen since the Depression, we’ve managed to avoid an increase in the number of people experiencing homelessness. That may seem like a little thing, but persistent unemployment rate and the erosion of housing affordability we talked about on Monday, it’s a pretty great thing.

Among the highlight is a ten percent reduction in chronic homelessness(!!). There’s little doubt that the hard work of communities to implement housing-based strategies and prevention practices was key in that that reduction. For decades, the Alliance has lead the way analyzing research and best practices around chronic homelessness – and we’re so excited to see the results!

Such speculation is only further validated by the dramatic shift in the inventory of shelters beds in the United States. For years, emergency shelter and transitional housing beds dominated the supply. This is the first year that permanent supportive housing beds have topped the charts – and we hardly think it’s a coincidence.

But the news isn’t all good. As was noted this morning in the papers, there was a slight increase in the number of families seeking shelter this year.

And we think it has a lot to do with the recession. As job losses hit families, we imagine that they’re moving through their available resources and then finding themselves in shelter. In fact, our own Doubled Up report indicates that more families are staying with others as they work their way through financial hardships. This is the first AHAR that gives us an indication of what’s happened as a result of the recession – and it looks like families are being hit pretty hard.

That being said, it’s still a waiting game. As Nan’s pointed out before, “homelessness is a lagging economic indicator” and we haven’t even begun to see the effects of the federal Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program.

So keep those fingers crossed. But in the meantime, take a look at the full report.

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6th October
written by naehblog

Hello, everyone!

Apologies for the hiatus over the last week.

But today, we make it up to you by launching our very first video fact sheet.

A lot of times, we get asked this question: How many homeless people are there?

And while that may seem like a simple question to answer, it’s actually more complicated than it seems. It’s not easy to count homeless people, so there are a lot of estimates. It depends on how you define “homelessness”. It depends on the groups you’re interested in – most people think of single adult men when they picture homelessness, but there are also families and children and veterans.

There’s also different methodology – the Department of Housing and Urban Development requires that all communities count homeless persons in their area every other year, but people count in different ways, so the number should account for that.

And we get variations of the question, too. How many people are homeless in a specific community? How many people who are homeless have a serious disorder? How many people are disabled? How many are youth? How many qualify for federal assistance – and of those, who’s accessing federal assistance?

So it’s actually a pretty complicated answer – and sometimes it can be hard to understand.

But luckily for you, the director of the Homelessness Research Institute – M William Sermons – put together this great video fact sheet explaining the numbers in an easy, understandable way.

Check it out. And hey, we want to do more of these in the future so if you’re hankering for an answer to a homelessness-related question, feel free to give us a shout!

28th September
written by naehblog

Today, we have a great guest post from our friends in Minnesota. It discusses data, and the importance of that data in approaching homelessness effectively and responsibly. As a member of our own Homelessness Research Institute at the National Alliance to End Homelessness, the importance of good, solid data is something I’ve learned very, very well. Hope you get the message too.

Between October 1, 2007 and September 30, 2008, nearly 13,000 people stayed in the emergency shelter and transitional housing programs that participate in Minnesota’s Homeless Management Information System (HMIS), according to a recent report from Wilder Research. HMIS participating organizations have about 3,400 beds per night designated for people experiencing homelessness, about 57 percent of the state’s total capacity.

The report, Homeless Service Use in Minnesota: Emergency shelter and transitional housing, federal fiscal year 2008 provides numbers and characteristics of people who reside in HMIS-participating emergency and transition housing. It uses aggregated data submitted annually to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for its Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR) to Congress.

A companion report presents detailed tables for each of Minnesota’s 13 HUD-related ‘Continuum of Care’(CoC) regions. (As we’ve discussed on this blog before, a CoC is the administrative unit in charge homeless programs.)

Minnesota has among the highest AHAR participation rates in the county. In addition to strengthening HUD’s report and providing useful information at the local level, high AHAR participation helps secure funding for homeless programs throughout the state.

Homeless Service Use in Minnesota is an important step toward informing policymakers, service providers, advocates, and others about the use of services designed to meet the needs of people experiencing homelessness in Minnesota. This report is planned to be released annually, with the quality of information improving as participation in HMIS grows.

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22nd September
written by naehblog

Good afternoon, all!

These really aren’t notes from the Board Room, as much as they’re notes from the newsletter that’ll go out today (you can sign up for our newsletter on our website) but I thought you might find them interesting anyway!

  • We published our latest Community Snapshot! Our Community Snapshots are a series of community profiles. Every so often, we identify one community that’s had some noticeable decrease in homelessness, and we go see what they’re doing right. Our latest: Quincy, MA.

  • Online trainings are available for those who will be providing information to the Department of Housing and Urban Development for the Annual Homeless Assessment Report. These trainings are available for those communities who have never participated in the AHAR, and will cover essential and basic elements.

  • The Alliance has posted plan summaries from those participating in the Rapid Re-Housing Demonstration. This pilot program, approved by Congress to the tune of $25 million, offers funds to 23 communities to participate in a program designed to serve homeless families. These pilot communities will use these funds to provide short and medium term rental assistance, housing location assistance, and home-based case management. Each community has developed a centralized intake process and will conduct examinations of their program. We’re actually pretty interested in the project, and will keep you up to date on how it goes.

  • The Center for Economy and Policy Research (CEPR) recently published a paper entitled “Half in Ten: Why Taking Disability into Account is Essential to Reducing Income Poverty and Expanding Economic Inclusion.” One of the more interesting the paper finds is that people with disabilites are more likely to face food insecurity, fail to receive needed medical or dental care, and struggle to pay rent, mortgage, and utility bills compared to other people – even while controlling for income and other characteristics.

Down from the Board Room and back to work!

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21st August
written by naehblog

On Friday, April 14, McClatchy Newspapers published a story about the economy’s affect on the number of students receiving free or reduced cost meals at their public schools.

Since the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) released their Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR) outlining the rates of homelessness over the course of the last year, the media has paid noticeably more attention to both family and youth homelessness. In fact, in just the last 10 days, the Washington Post ran three pieces about homelessness, including a story about the “new face of homelessness,” profiling an African American single mother and her children. (To be frank: not really a new story.)

The McClatchy story presents the family homelessness dynamic from a new angle – looking at the relationship with schools, and the rate at which students are enrolling into nutrition programs. In his article, writer Tony Pugh projects record enrollment – which he interprets as a sign of rising homelessness and financial pressures on families. Nan Roman, president of the Alliance, echoed the writer’s thoughts and agreed the family homelessness may very well keep rising. In fact, the Alliance projects that approximately one million more people may experience homelessness before the economy fully recovers.

Pugh also presented the side of the schools – already struggling under tightened state budgets and trying to accommodate the needy children in their classrooms. Pugh notes that schools receive federal government assistance for nutrition programs servicing children in need, but also noted that the average cost of a school meal was more than the government subsidy per meal. While haggling with the federal government to increase funding for nutrition programs, the schools are trying – in the meantime – to figure out how to keep the nutrition budget in the black and provide for all their students.

You can read the whole article online.

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17th July
written by naehblog

Welcome to another edition of the Friday news roundup!

So, in the news: aftershock of the AHAR report, rising veteran homelessness, and – evidently – a survey of the cities that are “meanest” to homeless people.

But one article in particular stood out to me – and it has nothing to do with reports, veterans, or mean cities.

It has to do with a little bill called SEVRA: the Section 8 Voucher Reform Act.

Section 8 is a housing assistance program administered by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

It works like this:

  • You’re a low-income family, and you qualify for Section 8.
  • You go out and find an apartment that works for you.
  • You pay 30 percent of your household income towards your rent and your local public housing authority takes the money that HUD gave them to cover the rest.

A couple caveats:

  • You have to qualify for public housing assistance
  • You can’t pick a crazy-expensive apartment, and
  • The apartment has to meet HUD quality regulations.

The goal of Section 8 is to give low-income families more housing options, that is, outside the limits of public housing. The Section 8 program assists more than 1.4 million households with housing costs. For more on Section 8, check out the HUD website.

Of course, like all federal programs, Section 8 has it’s problems.

For one, there’s a HUGE waiting list for most Section 8 programs. Last year, the Washington Post reported that 57,000 families were on the Section 8 wait list in the District alone. What’s more, there’s some controversy over how much Section 8 money goes where. HUD decides who gets what (that is, how much money Philly gets for the Section 8 program versus San Francisco versus New York…it’s a limited pot, people) and some places use all theirs up and need more, other places don’t need so much, etc.

So SEVRA seeks to work out some of these problems. There’s a new formula to decide who gets how much, there’s some language about making more vouchers available to families, and an effort to streamline the process so it’s more efficient. Changes that, according to the Alliance, would be mostly positive.

Last week, the House Financial Services Committee began reviewing SEVRA, and Congressman Tom Price (R-GA), introduced an amendment to prohibit firearm regulations in federally assisted housing.

As it stands, state and localities have the authority to regulate firearms in federally assisted housing: some states regulate against guns, some states don’t.

The House Financial Services Committee adopted the amendment.

On Wednesday, the New York Times published a strongly-worded editorial about the firearms amendment, encouraging members of the committee to stand up against it.

The editorial board hammered pretty hard, in my opinion, saying “…the gun amendment was approved 38 to 31 in the House Financial Services Committee, with 13 Democrats nce more opting for the gun lobby’s zealotry over the cause of public safety.”

While the Alliance doesn’t take a stance on non-housing related issues, we do firmly believe that SEVRA is important legislation and necessitates careful consideration and deliberation.

Check out the editorial, okay? It’s a good read.