Posts Tagged ‘AHAR’

15th July
2009
written by naehblog

So last week I did something new – the release of the Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR), so I thought this week I’d do something old: the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistant Act.

The LAWMAKERS

The McKinney-Vento Act was authored by Stewart Brett McKinney – a Republican Congressman from Connecticut – and Bruce Frank Vento – a Democratic-Farm-Labor Congressman from Minnesota, both of whom were known to their peers as advocates of those less fortunate, and dedicated to finding supportive programs and solutions to homelessness. The bill was signed by President Ronald Reagan, who – ironically – is often accused of contributing to modern-day homelessness by deinstitutionalizing mental health facilities in the 1980s.

The POLICY

The McKinney-Vento Act was a comprehensive, multi-faceted bill that:

  • Established the Interagency Council on Homelessness, a group of representatives from 15 federal agencies charged to design a comprehensive approach to reduce, prevent, and end homelessness in the country, and
  • Created 20 assistance programs administered by nine federal agencies providing a spectrum of services to homeless people, including supportive housing, emergency shelter, emergency food and shelter grants, rental assistance, job training and education, etc.

The original text of the bill firmly establishes that homelessness is a growing social problem that can be addressed by the federal assistance. I found it particularly interesting that they wrote, “the problem of homelessness has become more severe and, in the absence of more effective efforts, is expected to become dramatically worse, endangering the lives and safety of the homeless; the causes of homelessness are many and complex, and homeless individuals have diverse needs; there is no single, simple solution to the problem of homelessness because of the different subpopulations of the homeless, the different causes of and reasons for homelessness, and the different needs of homeless individuals…”.

(It’s as true today as it was then. Maybe even more so.)

THE EVOLUTION

Since 1987, when the Act was enacted, it has been amended four times: 1988, 1990, 1992, and 1994. Most of the amendments have been cosmetic but in 1990, there were more substantial attempts to change the programs.

In 1990, Congress did the following (among other things):

  • Expanded the number of activities eligible for McKinney funding.
  • Expanded the Homeless Children and Youth program, and specified the obligations of state and local communities to ensure that homeless youth and children have access to public education.
  • Created new programs, including the Shelter Plus Care Program and a health care for the homeless program.
  • Renamed the Community Mental Health Services program to Projects for Assistance in Transition from Homelessness program (PATH).


AND NOW…

In May 2009, Congress passed the Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing (HEARTH) Act, which reauthorized the McKinney-Vento homeless assistance programs. It was the first significant reauthorization in nearly 20 years, both making transformative changes to the homeless assistance programs under the Department of Housing and Urban Development, as well as decisively shifting the focus of these programs from managing homelessness to preventing and ending homelessness.

Watch Steve Berg, Vice President of the Alliance, discuss the history and transformation of the McKinney-Vento programs. Note: the sound is a little fuzzy – we apologize in advance! (You can also watch this on our YouTube channel).

Hope this helps!

10th July
2009
written by naehblog

Happy Friday everyone! And welcome to another happy edition of news roundup!

Okay, so first: a little self-promotion. The Alliance was featured in two stories with strikingly similar titles in the New York Times and the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Check ‘em out – they’re pretty good.

So no big surprise – the news industry was buzzing with news of the Annual Homeless Assessment Report released by the Department of Housing and Urban Development yesterday. The upshot: homelessness is flat, but with rising rates of family and chronic homelessness. Still, USA Today (courtesy of our friend Wendy Koch) and the Associated Press found reason to write about these homelessness trends.

The Associated Press also thought it’d be nice to write about the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program (hooray!) – the $1.5 billion program authorized by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act . Evelyn Nieves of the AP writes this great piece about all this stimulus money going to communities across to country so that they can prevent and reduce homelessness in their areas. That’s no trivial sport in this economy.

Also buzzing about the papers is news of the rising tide of homeless female veterans. The Boston Globe reports that the number of female veterans that have wound up homeless after service has nearly doubled in the last decade. Many of these homeless women veterans are younger, and have served in recent conflicts.

I actually got a press call about just this topic this week and ended up chatting with our own resident expert on the topic, Steve Berg (who also happens to be Vice President of the Alliance).

He said that the Globe isn’t off – that female veteran homelessness is, in fact, rising. We have no real, hard data to back up the claim, he offered, but pretty much everyone accepts that to be the case.

What’s more is that the women have a host of different needs than men when they return from service. From family to counseling to job training, women require different resources to help them assimilate back into civilian life.

The Department of Veterans Affairs is attempting to address those needs, though – especially with women still making up only 15 percent of the military – this challenge will no doubt be a tough one.

It’ll be interesting to see how this shakes out – as more and more enter the military, more and more women will require specific services and resources as they finish their service and return to civilian life. Whether or not we’ll be able to provide those resources has yet to be seen.

But you better believe that I’ll be keeping an eye out.

With that, I’m over and out.
Have a great weekend, everyone!

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9th July
2009
written by naehblog

Today, we’ve got some big news. It’s really big. It’s huge. It is [cue music] – the Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR) from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)!!

…It’s really much more exciting than it sounds.

Basically, the AHAR is a comprehensive review of homelessness counts and trends in 2008. But before we delve into the magical world of data and statistics, there’s something you should know about this year’s report [cue suspense music]:

This year, there were TWO kinds of data collected: point-in-time counts and year-long data. Point-in-time counts are pretty much raw numbers. They tell us how many homeless people and what kind. Year-long data give us a little more detail about the demographics of these counts. Year-long data is also a bit newer than the point-in-time counts. This is the second year in a row that HUD collected year-long data, and we’re really pretty excited about the increase in data availability and analysis. (Yes, because we’re nerds.)

So without further ado…

This year’s AHAR shows that, overall, homelessness is flat compared to last year. Numbers vary slightly between the point-in-time count and the year-long data, but the Alliance concludes that the changes, if any, are marginal.


What’s much more interesting than the total number of homeless people is the information about specific types of homelessness – most significantly, chronic homelessness and family homelessness.

AHAR shows that chronic homelessness is up just a bit (under one percent) compared to last year.

Not really news by itself, but when you look at the 2008 point-in-time number compared to the 2005 point-in-time number, you get a much bigger picture of the landscape of chronic homelessness. These numbers show that while chronic homelessness decreased by almost 30 percent from 2005 to 2007, that same number crept upwards between 2007 and 2008!

From our vantage, that means that the great strides we had been making in addressing, preventing, and reducing chronic homelessness not only came to a screeching halt, but that we’ve regressed, gone backwards.

And then the families. Examining the numbers for family homelessness is a little harder because there’s a bigger disparity between the point-in-time count and the year-long data: the point-in-time count shows a marginal difference between 2007 and 2008 while the year-long data shows a 9 percent increase.

So which side are we on? We’re still working it out. But our conclusion is the same either way.

Family homelessness didn’t see the decrease that chronic homelessness did in the last few years, but it wasn’t far behind. Point-time-counts showed that family homelessness decreased by almost 20 percent from 2005 to 2007. So whether family homelessness is up by 9 percent or just hovering around the same number, what we ultimately see is a halt in the progress of reducing family homelessness and perhaps even a reversal in the count trends.

This year’s year-long data does provide an even fuller picture of family homelessness. When we looked more closely at the specs, we saw some new trends. Compared to last year, more homeless families are new to homelessness this year – these aren’t the same families we see over and over again in these annual counts.

And these newly homeless families aren’t coming to homelessness from transitional housing or other “at-risk” situations. The newly homeless families are coming directly from stable housing.


What’s up with that? Our money’s on the economy.

This kind of “new homelessness” may suggest that these families are victims of the economic crisis. In general, family homelessness is caused by some unforeseen financial obstacle that pushes them over the edge of financial stability. And in these days, as more and more families are struggling with unemployment and trying to make ends meet, it seems the toll is being felt by the whole family.

So in sum: mixed bag. It’s not like we haven’t been suspecting these figures all along, but it’s sobering to see some of the information confirmed. But we’re hopeful, though, that we’ll get back on track as some stimulus money starts trickling into communities. In any case, we’re keeping our fingers crossed and our eyes wide open.

If you’re interested in learning more, HUD will post the report on their website today – and keep an eye out for developments and interpretations from other homeless advocacy biggies!

Whew – that was a major low-down. Take your time, read it twice, and don’t hesitate to shoot me an email or jot down a comment if you have questions or reactions!

8th July
2009
written by naehblog


I noticed an article in the news today from Sawyer County, Wisconsin. Admittedly, I noticed it because they use a statistic from our research (“744,313 people experienced homelessness in one night in January 2005”), but the article was an intimate look into homelessness in a quiet, suburban, all-American town: Hayward, Wisconsin.

Hayward, WI is a city in Sawyer County, Wisconsin. The population of Hayward city as of the 2000 census was 2129 people, including 960 households and 529 families. Hayward is a popular vacation and fishing population due to the many lakes in the area.

But in last week’s Sawyer County Record, the local newspaper, reporter Kathy Hanson examines homelessness in the picturesque city, noting that there is more than meets the eye.

Hanson’s article about Hayward touches on several themes that are being felt around the country: an increased request for social services and housing assistance (including Section 8 housing vouchers, shelter beds, and financial support), an increase in homeless families and the number of homeless students, and more and more people relying on family and friends to get by. Hanson also talks with the growing number of direct service providers and local programs who are overwhelmed by the rise in need.

While the city of Hayward is a unique and notably small example (there are more homeless people in the state of Wisconsin – 5658 as of January 2007 – than there are residents of Hayward), the homelessness challenges that it faces are consistent with those being felt in big cities and small towns alike.

Tomorrow, the Department of Housing and Urban Development is expected to release the Annual Homelessness Assessment Report (AHAR), which will analyze the homelessness numbers and trends from 2008. The Alliance expects to learn how the numbers have changed since 2007, and what the implications of the recession may be, or will be.

In the meantime, the country continues to work through the added challenges of an economic turndown and the existing problems of homelessness and housing.

Here’s to keeping my fingers crossed.

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