Posts Tagged ‘Federal Plan to End Homelessness’

17th April
written by Ian Lisman

As we have discussed on this blog many times, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has set a clear goal of ending homelessness among veterans by 2015.

The recent fiscal year (FY) 2013 VA budget proposal shows a strong commitment to this mission of ending homelessness among veterans. As part of a recent webinar on the budget proposal, I went over VA’s ask for a 33 percent increase in its budget for homeless veteran programs. This remarkable increase fully funds the transitional housing Grant and Per Diem (GPD) and permanent supportive housing (HUD-VASH) programs, as well as tripling in size the rapid re-housing and prevention model program, Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF).

This budget proposal takes a hard look at what it will take to end veteran homelessness over the coming years and lays out concrete funding recommendations for these programs at a scale that will accomplish this. VA is the only agency so far to so clearly lay out its year by year goals and propose funding to achieve those objectives. By expanding SSVF, this budget takes into consideration the large number of new veterans expected to return to our communities, and the resources needed to assist these returning heroes. By continuing to fund HUD-VASH, it also provides funding for chronically homeless and the most vulnerable veterans from previous conflicts.

As I have mentioned in previous blogs, the VA’s model consists of implementing a broad spectrum of programs directly through its own healthcare system, as well as through community based organizations. By directly providing assistance through its Health Care for Homeless Veterans (HCHV) programs at local VA medical facilities, administering HUD-VASH housing vouchers, and partnering with community organizations to distribute GPD funding and SSVF grants, VA programs cover the range of services, housing, prevention, and rapid re-housing. All of this adds up to the full range of interventions needed to reduce and ultimately end veteran homelessness.

We at the Alliance commend VA for its leadership on this issue, and advocate for Congress to fully fund this budget, as well as provide future funding that that will make homelessness a thing of the past for veterans. VA has projected what it will take to end homelessness among veterans by 2015 and this budget reflects a solid plan to do just that.

13th April
written by naehblog

Today’s blog comes from Jennifer Ho, Deputy Director at the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness.  She writes today about USICH’s initiative to update the Federal Strategic Plan to include further content on youth experiencing homelessness and educational outcomes of homeless or at-risk youth.

Secretary Sebelius

Almost two years have passed since we launched Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness. With the help and support from thousands of stakeholders across the United States we have made progress against the bold goals of the Plan by increasing investment in solutions, adopting proven tools to prevent and end homelessness, breaking down silos, and improving data collection, analysis, and reporting. We remain committed to the goals of Opening Doors and to the comprehensive approach described in the Plan.

For this year’s update to Opening Doors, we are responding to requests that additional content and clarity would be helpful in two key areas: early childhood learning and educational outcomes for youth and children experiencing homelessness; and broad strategies on unaccompanied youth up through age 24.

Barbara Poppe and I have toured many youth-serving programs across America since the release of Opening Doors. We have talked with many youth, as well as leadership from providers and advocacy groups. We have also convened an interagency dialogue across the many federal agencies that have youth-specific responsibilities. We have been focused on what is known about the magnitude of the problem and what interventions work best for which groups of youth. We have also been talking with education liaisons for children who are experiencing homelessness and advocates with expertise on early child development, early childhood education, and education generally to understand what is needed to improve educational outcomes for all children and youth experiencing homelessness.

In December 2011, our Council held the first USICH meeting devoted exclusively to homeless youth. A robust conversation led by Commissioner Bryan Samuels from the Administration on Families, Youth, and Children with four Secretaries from Labor, VA, HUD, and HHS made our charge clear. Homelessness for young adults is unacceptable. And while we have a lot to learn about the size of the problem and what works best for whom, we must take urgent action to improve support for youth experiencing homelessness.

Just last month, I had the privilege of joining USICH Chair and HHS Secretary Sebelius in Cincinnati, Ohio where we toured Lighthouse, one of the leading youth homelessness providers in the nation. Secretary Sebelius spoke with Lighthouse’s leader, Bob Mecum, as well as executive directors from youth providers in Seattle, Chicago, and Pinellas Park, Florida. The Secretary also spent time talking with youth who were living at one of Lighthouse’s shelters and in its brand new supportive housing. Hearing from youth directly has been critical in shaping a federal framework for ending youth homelessness.

Similar to the original development of Opening Doors, USICH has developed an interactive forum for our stakeholders to provide feedback into this process. The links below enable stakeholders to enter this forum and share their ideas and input in these areas by April 30:

  1. Help us improve early childhood learning and educational outcomes for youth, and children experiencing homelessness.
  2. Help us end youth homelessness

Feedback from this forum, combined with guidance USICH has received from youth and other experts in the field, will help USICH create:

  • A set of actionable steps that states and communities can take to improve educational supports for homeless youth and children.
  • A strong framework for preventing and ending youth homelessness that will set us on a path to reaching our 2020 goal.
  • A focused set of priorities USICH and our federal partners will pursue in both the short -and long-term.

We are excited to see your creative ideas, which will help us continue to make progress towards our vision that no one should experience homelessness—no one should be without a safe, stable place to call home.

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22nd June
written by Catherine An

Today is the one-year anniversary of Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to End Homelessness. One year ago, the federal government committed to ending chronic and veteran homelessness in five years; homelessness among families, children, and youth in ten years; and moving the country toward ending all homelessness.

The Alliance released a Progress Report on the federal plan today; the Progress Report reveals that while there was a great deal of activity on the 52 strategies the Plan identified to meet the goals, measurable progress has been made on only 18 strategies. The two-part report assesses the Plan’s success on its own terms, measuring how much progress (none, some, or measurable) was made on each of the 52 strategies identified to achieve the goals. The second part of the report looks at a set of available local counts of homeless people to assess whether or not the number went up or down during the Plan’s first year.

Ultimately, we find that while the member agencies of the USICH have clearly been active, results have not yet started to emerge from the activity. External factors such as the economy and the budget deficit played a role in deterring progress on the Plan but they were hardly the only factor; an emphasis on coordination and information strategies rather than more substantive housing, treatment, and jobs strategies has also hindered progress.

Finally, data show a potential increase in the number of people experiencing homelessness since the time the Plan was released. While not conclusive, an examination of certain point-in-time counts shows a slight increase in homelessness during the Plan’s first year.

Today, USICH is hosting a stakeholder call in which all interested parties are invited to weigh in on the plan, it’s progress, and it’s future. Let them know what you think! We know that the federal plan was a critically important step towards ending homelessness in our nation – but in order to make real, discernable progress, we all need to take bolder steps in creating jobs, affordable housing, and economic opportunity.

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7th December
written by Catherine An

As the only non-researchy member of the Homelessness Research Institute at the Alliance, I felt especially privileged to be a guest at today’s meeting of the Research Council – a gathering of the leading thinkers on homelessness. I was lucky to be seated at a table with Dennis Culhane, Jill Khadduri, Mary Beth Shinn, Bob Rosenheck, and representatives from a smattering of federal agencies: HHS, Commerce, HUD, Census, and the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness.

And after a morning spent going around the table to discuss everyone’s latest research efforts, those agency liaisons took their turns. We eagerly anticipated learning what, if anything, our federal partners are doing to advance the research necessary to end homelessness. What projects are they initiating? What questions are they asking and answering? What are they doing to bring us closer to a country where everyone has a place to call home?

This and that, it turns out.

By far the most impressive agency was the Department of Housing and Urban Development. They’re pursuing a number of reports and studies to examine the effects of some of the most promising strategies to end homelessness, including: research on the Housing and Services for Homeless Persons Demonstration, research on youth aging out of foster care, and research on the effectiveness of prevention (to name just a few). What’s admirable about the array of research topics is not how widely varied they are – but how they represent the leading emerging strategies to fight homelessness. If these studies are conducted well, they will offer a wealth of new information that could really push homeless assistance forward.

The other agencies represented also expressed an interest in pursuing research topics related to homelessness – important not only because the agencies provide resources and administer programs that help people experiencing homelessness, but because interagency effort, as emphasized in Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to End Homelessness, is imperative to end homelessness. This is not a mission that one body should – or could – execute alone. It hinges on leveraging the array of resources we have available to assist vulnerable people and families toward independence.

And good data is an incredible resource.

As we say, in order to effectively solve a problem, we must first fully understand. Meetings like today will help us learn more and more about homelessness – and what we can do about it. And slowly but surely, we’ll be able to end homelessness together.

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2nd November
written by Catherine An

It’s election day, people.

When Congress comes back – whatever the election results – the men and women we elect will be facing appropriations season; they’ll be trying to determine how much money to spend on which programs. Ask any staffer on the Hill and they can tell you it’s always a rigorous and deliberate process – and passing a budget is one of the most important things that Congress does all year.

And that’s not all. We at the Alliance set policy priorities every year that we work toward with Congress and the Administration.

Right this very second, we’re working hard on the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act and – as always – the McKinney-Vento. But this year, we also aim to:

And really, that’s not all. Remember the whole federal plan to end homelessness that the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness released last June? Remember the youth homelessness site visit campaign? Remember how the HEARTH Act is going to kick up at any moment?

The people that we elect today will have the ability to make significant changes in our lives – and for my part, I’m hoping they have the best interests of our communities and our country at heart.

And if that isn’t enough, let me remind of you of the situation at hand with a few flashback statistics (courtesy of the Center for Housing Research):

  • With only one in three poor renters benefiting from federal housing assistance, by 2006, some 16.8 million renter households (46 percent of all renters) were paying more than 30 percent of their income for housing.
  • According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition’s 2010 Out of Reach report, a full-time minimum wage earner could not affordably rent a typical one-bedroom apartment in any county in the country (except some parts of Puerto Rico). The report estimates that the national “housing wage” – the hourly wage that a full-time worker must earn in order to afford the rent for a standard quality unit – is $18.44, or roughly 2.5 times higher than the current minimum hourly wage.
  • In 2008, the percentage of people living with severe housing cost burden – paying more than 50 percent of their monthly income in rent – shot up by one-third to 16 percent. According to the State of the Nation’s Housing authored by the Center on Joint Housing Studies at Harvard University, a record 18.6 million households faced severe housing cost burdens this year – an increase of 4.7 million since 2001.

Look, you don’t need us to tell you that the situation out there isn’t rosy. Isn’t there some hubbub about the rent being too high in New York?

For many, it’s not a joke – it’s for real. Countless Americans are struggling to stay stably housed and support themselves and their families while precariously straddling their financial cliff. Together, with the support of Congress and the Administration, we can make that tightrope walk just a bit easier. With a focus on housing and services, we can prevent and end homelessness in this country.

So make sure you get out there and vote today.

16th September
written by Catherine An

And it’s back! I’m picking up where Marisa dropped off in learning about the ten objectives of Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness.

Today we’re looking at objective two.

Objective 2: Strengthen the capacity of public and private organizations by increasing knowledge about collaboration, homelessness, and successful interventions to prevent and end homelessness.

As the communications arm of the Alliance, this objective is really important to us. One of the goals outlined in the HRI mission is to build and disseminate information about homelessness and engage the public and the media.

And to that end, we’ve tried to adopt the technologies that make the most sense to us. You’ll find us on Facebook, you can follow us on Twitter, you can check out our videos on YouTube and see our pictures (from our photo contest on Flickr. (And of course, there’s this blog). Through these avenues, we aim to engage supporters and disseminate information about homelessness – and solutions to homelessness.

Of course, the primary vehicle to do just that is our website. There, you’ll find factsheets, solutions, strategies, community snapshots, research, and an oft-visited and very helpful section called About Homelessness. The website is regularly updated with new information about the wide range of issues that intersect with homelessness: health care, veterans affairs, welfare, violence, substance abuse, and the like.

Our challenge is always in reaching the people that need us. Our last usability test (conducted at the Annual Conference in July) suggested that – despite our efforts – a significant portion of conference attendees don’t subscribe to our newsletter or our social networks. We may be pushing information into the atmosphere but it’s of very little use unless anyone receives it!

So we embrace this new objective set forth by the federal plan, challenging us to share knowledge about homelessness and it’s solutions. I certainly hope you’ll join me in spreading the news!

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12th August
written by Marisa Seitz

Today I have another installment of our series “Examining the Federal Plan”. In this series, we look at the ten objectives of the new federal plan to end homelessness Opening Doors.

We’re looking at Objective 6: Improve access to mainstream programs and services to reduce people’s financial vulnerability to homelessness.

To learn more about this objective, I turned to Sharon McDonald, Senior Policy Analyst at the Alliance (who will be writing about rapid re-housing as a way to relieve growing shelter populations tomorrow – stay tuned!) .

The first thing I wanted to know was what was meant by “mainstream programs”.

Mainstream programs are those not specifically designed to aid the homeless population or to tackle homelessness issues, but the bigger programs that can help people before they become homeless (and after, if need be), such as those that deal with jobs or income. We’re talking about things like Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Unemployment Insurance (UI), and TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families), which is currently in real danger (we did a whole WEEK of posts about saving TANF.)

These programs are meant to reach large portions of the population with lower incomes. These programs are the first lines of defense for preventing people from becoming homeless by providing cash assistance, job placement aid, and other critical services.

The federal plan aims to improve access to these programs. If these mainstream programs could serve more people, we could stop homelessness before it starts. And, the very specific programs that are tailored to tackle homelessness would be able to serve those people who truly require that aid.

This is a sound strategy. Mainstream are already designed to handle lots of people. So when looking for programs to help end and prevent homelessness, why start from scratch? We can improve existing programs that already serve the needs of low-income individuals and families and make sure that more people can access them before their housing situations fall apart.

It’s not an easy task. With these hard economic times, budget cuts at the state and federal level make it hard to improve and expand these programs. But now is not the time to turn our backs on the most vulnerable people in our communities. If current trends are any indication, those in situations that put them at risk of homelessness will only increase in the future.

Let’s curb the problem before it starts by investing in what works.

See our other Examining the Federal Plan posts:
Objective 8
Objective 10

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15th July
written by naehblog

So it’s all over.

The 2010 National Conference on Ending Homelessness is behind us.

And – even from a non-expert standpoint – I have to say that it was a pretty incredible experience. From the industry luminaries that graced the stage at plenary sessions to the incredible workshop speakers to the [really outstanding] hotel staff, I really felt that the last three days were both educational and inspiring.

Alliance staff are all encouraged to attend [and staff] workshops, so I had the opportunity to learn about a lot of things that I don’t encounter in my communication-and-social-media-days in the office. I learned about the role rapid re-housing can play in the life of domestic violence survivors, I learned about the implications of the HEARTH Act in ending family homelessness, I learned how much interest there was in communications and social media, and I learned a lot – a ton! – about the federal plan to end homelessness and HPRP.

I learned a lot about people! Our field is full of such wonderfully different, quirky, and committed practitioners and advocates! Walking around with an Alliance nametag gave me an avenue to introduce myself to folks – and every time I turned around I had the opportunity to meet direct service providers, advocates, government employees, and real, true experts in the field. And every so often (I think I mentioned this before), I got a chance to meet Twitter friends and Facebook buds that I had chatted with online but not in life – and that was an exciting if surreal experience.

But most of all – cue the violins – I got to learn about ending homelessness. It’s a tough concept to wrap my mind around – ending homelessness. Even as a dedicated employee of the Alliance, it can still be hard for me to really visualize a time without any individuals or families in shelter or on the streets.

The conference righted all of that. After hearing from Nan, from Secretary Shaun Donovan, from Barbara Poppe, from Secretary Eric Shinseki, from Delegate Charniele Herring – and all the experts in workshops in between – over and over and over again, the message rang through.

Not only is ending homelessness possible – we’re doing it right now. With the reform of health care, with the implementation of HPRP, with the provisions in the HEARTH Act, with the outlines in the federal plan. With an investment in housing, with an eye towards infrastructure, with best practices and good policy, and with the hard work and dedication of every single person who attended this year’s conference, we are ending homelessness as we speak (or rather, I type).

It’s a message that lifted my spirits and reminded me of what our common mission is, what brings us together year after year.

I hope it did for you too.

Thanks to everyone for attending – please don’t hesitate to pass along your thoughts, critiques, and notes here or on Twitter or on our Facebook page, where you can find pictures from the conference!

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13th July
written by naehblog

Hello everyone, I’m so excited to be blogging from my first Alliance conference! Already it has been such a wonderful two days, I have been overwhelmed meeting so many people who are all committed to ending homelessness!

Undoubtedly the highlight of the day was the keynote address by none other than Secretary Shaun Donovan of Department of Housing and Urban Development. Sec. Donovan has been a force in advancing the goal of ending homelessness. In his speech, Sec. Donovan went into greater detail about the new federal plan to end homelessness, Opening Doors, and the ways he envisions turning the goals outlined in the plan into action.

But first, the Secretary generously offered his thanks to the National Alliance to End Homelessness and, specifically, to our president Nan Roman, for her leadership in bringing the movement to end homelessness where it is today. He announced that Nan has worked with five (5!) HUD Secretaries and that he intended on being the very last one that Nan works with to end homelessness – as he intends on finishing the job!

Then the Secretary expressed how excited he was about the new federal plan. He offered a feeling of optimism and achievement, comparing the fight to end homelessness to America’s landing of a man on the moon. Like the moon landing, many people see the goal of ending homelessness as impossible or unrealistic, but also like landing on the moon, we enter this challenge armed and ready to conquer our goals, the Secretary said. We have data and new strategies, a new collaborative vision, and countless resources that we are learning to effectively share with each other. It will not happen overnight, but with hard work and planning, these tasks show themselves to be very possible.

The federal plan workshop that followed featured deputy director of the Interagency Council on Homelessness Jennifer Ho and executive director Barbara Poppe, who went over the goals and details of the federal plan and how they might affect local communities. (No worries – we’ll put up the presentation on the website as soon as it’s available.)

It was an uplifting day, hearing directly from the Secretary himself and about something that has the potential to fundamentally change the way communities address homelessness (as Sec. Donovan specifically noted). We’re hoping that the address – combined with the workshops that we’re hosting right here – will help make that happen.
And on a social note, tweeters all over the conference were proposing a meet-up either later (perhaps tomorrow?) of all interested parties for a quick and casual meet-and-greet. Anyone out there interested? Please let us know!

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8th July
written by Marisa Seitz

The new federal plan to end homelessness has set 10 objectives to guide us on the path to ending homelessness.

And the bait was just to good to pass up.

On the blog, we’ll examine each goal, what’s known, what isn’t, and what we’re going to do moving forward on that goal. We’ll call the series, “Examining the Federal Plan.”

This week we will be looking at objective eight, “Advance health and housing stability for youth aging out of systems such as foster care and juvenile justice”.

I myself am still learning a lot about the different kinds of homelessness, but the Alliance is chock full of people who are each a wealth of information and more than willing to help me learn. Since this objective has to do with youth homelessness, I thought this week I could do a post about youth homelessness in general, since it is an area of homelessness that often goes unseen.

To learn about youth homelessness, I talked to LaKesha Pope, Senior Youth Policy and Program Analyst.

Here are some of the questions I asked her and what I learned:

What causes youth homelessness?
Youth can become homelessness for many different reasons, many of them the same factors that cause other groups to experience homelessness. However, the major factors that usually contribute to youth homelessness are family dysfunction and breakdown, specifically family conflict, abuse, and disruption. Many youth enter a state of homelessness as a result of:
• Running away from home,
• Being locked out or abandoned by their parents or guardians,
• Running or being emancipated or discharged from institutional or other state care.

Another reason youth often become homeless is because of systems failure of mainstream programs like child welfare or juvenile corrections. These systems fail to address the needs of those leaving the programs, and consequently the youth end up homeless because they are not able to secure housing by themselves.

What does youth homelessness typically look like?
There are four general groups that homeless youth fall into, and it possible for them to move between groups.

• First-Time Runners – Youth in this group can usually be returned to their families or guardians.
• Couch Surfers – Very hard to identify. They use their social networks to find couches of friends or relatives to sleep on for one night or longer.
• Service Seekers – Those who seek shelter services, easier to identify since shelters are where counts are done. The most visible of homeless youth.
• Street-Entrenched Youth – youth who are on the street for six months or more.

There is no research to support the notion that homeless youths often come from homeless families.

Are there groups within the youth homelessness population that are particularly affected?
In urban settings, African American youth are disproportionately represented, and in rural communities, Native American youth are disproportionately represented.

LGBTQ youths increasingly make up a portion of the homeless youth population as well, often due to parents or guardians kicking the youth out due to their orientation, or due to abuse at home for said orientation.

Why is it hard to count youth homelessness?
Homeless youths are particularly difficult to count because they can blend in well. They often appear as students in most public places. Many youths also don’t consider themselves homeless, such as those who couch surf.

Why do youths aging out of foster care and other systems tend to become homeless?
Poor discharge planning.

Youths “aging out” of systems are disconnected and do not have social networks to rely on for assistance in finding housing or employment. They lack self-sufficiency skills and can often be affected by an emotional condition, such as post-traumatic stress disorder. Systems are also ineffective at checking to make sure pre-arranged housing accommodations stick.

This is the group the new federal plan hopes to target specifically in an effort to end this problem.

How do we try and solve youth homelessness?
First, the same way we try and solve all types of homelessness: housing.

Beyond this, youth also need to be connected with adults that will help them, and given life skills development. One way to administer this is through youth housing continuum. To learn more about this and other applied solutions, take a look at our policy ad practice brief.

These were just a few of the question I asked, but already I could see a new side of the homeless population that needs to be addressed just as much as any other. If you want to know more, LaKesha gave me a great document that gives lots of information on youth homelessness. It’s a brief but illuminating read – four pages can tell you a lot of great information about youth homelessness. You can find it on our website, here.

If you have a question about youth homelessness or homelessness in general, or about the Alliance, ask us at our formspring, where you can see the answers to your question and many others. One of our goals is to help disseminate information about homelessness, so we are more than eager to answer any questions you might have.

Coming up next in Examining the Federal Plan – Systems Change.