Posts Tagged ‘HPRP’

4th August
written by Marisa Seitz

Today’s blog about family homelessness comes from our colleague Sharon McDonald,  Senior Policy Analyst at the Alliance.

Across the country, families are downsizing their housing, doubling up with extended family or friends, moving into motels, and seeking help from homelessness prevention and shelter programs. The Recovery Act provided new funds including the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program (HPRP) and the TANF Emergency Contingency Fund (ECF) to help communities grapple with the increased needs of families impacted by the recession.

With so many families facing homelessness, it is critical to maximize all available resources to help families. We must connect with Members of Congress to educate them about the impact of homelessness on families and communities, and – most importantly – the role social programs are playing in meeting the needs of vulnerable individuals and families.

This includes funding for McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Programs, Housing Choice Voucher Program, and the National Housing Trust Fund. It also includes advocating for an extension to the TANF ECF which is providing rental assistance to help families stay housed and subsidized employment that helps families escape poverty (see yesterday’s excellent post about action needed on the TANF ECF).

Maximizing resources also means making sure that local programs to help low-income and homeless families and children are as efficient and as effective as possible. This means evaluating whether HPRP and other resources are reaching the families they are designed to serve. Are homelessness prevention programs screening out those families most likely to become homeless because they seem unable to pay for housing independently after receiving assistance? Are rapid re-housing programs implemented broadly enough to reduce the strain on shelters and transitional housing programs and reduce the likelihood that families will be refused shelter? Are local programs coordinated around a common vision for ending family homelessness to improve access and efficiency of resources community-wide? Are stakeholders engaged in evaluating data to assess the impact of the local investments in ending homelessness and making modifications to improve performance?

Our new report Ending Family Homelessness: Lessons From Communities examines the promising strategies communities are using to end family homelessness by making the most of available resources. These promising strategies can be replicated, adapted, and refined to improve our communities’ and our nation’s responses to families facing homelessness.

For more information about family homelessness, check out the website.

Don’t forget guys, the TANF Emergency Contingency Fund is an effective, efficient program that plays a significiant role in preventing and ending family homelessness. Act now to keep it from disappearing forever.

30th July
written by Marisa Seitz

As the end date for possible extension of the TANF Emergency Contingency Fund draws ever nearer, we hear more and more pleas for Congress to pass funds for this important program that has done so much in helping end and prevent homelessness.

Related: The Wall Street Journal talked this week about the federal poverty level, an important measurement that helps us understand more about how many people could be at risk for homelessness. We’re pleased to see that notable news organizations and important thinkers are paying attention to the state of poverty and vulnerability of so many Americans.

Especially because it seems like the problem is prevalent: a startling statistic came out of Indiana this week. According to AP writer Ken Kusmer the number of homeless students has increased 26 percent in the state since 2006-07. We saw a string of similar stories in the year – is this a resurgence of that trend?

Which doesn’t mean there’s isn’t help to be had. The Pittsburg Post-Gazette wrote this week about how HPRP funds are being used prevent evictions in Westmoreland County, PA, and the Sequim Gazette wrote about great homeless assistance work in Clallam County – work that was highlighted at the Alliance’s national conference in July as one of five high-performing counties in preventing and ending homelessness. Great work!

And finally – the big news – the danger posed on the House T-HUD spending bill – we called it H.R. 5850 yesterday, has passed. The members withdrew their Amendment so the bill will go through as intended. An advocacy alert is going out shortly (to receive it, sign up) and details will follow today on this blog.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

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27th July
written by Marisa Seitz

For a walk on the lighter side of the Alliance, we would like to introduce you to two new members of our staff!

Stephanie Macgill

Stephanie is a graduate student at the University of Nevada, Reno studying Public Administration. Stephanie says she has been keeping up with the Alliance’s research for a few years, and has wanted to come to DC to engage in real policy research, so she came here to work with us! Stephanie is a Youth Policy Research intern, who will be working on creating Best practices for applying HPRP to youth programs, and is also helping create a baseline for the number of homeless youths. Also, one of her hobbies is welding!

Pete Witte

We are glad to welcome Pete to the staff as our new Research Associate for the Homelessness Research Institute (HRI). Before he was with us, Pete worked with the Montgomery County Planning Department for the National Center for Smart Growth. While he is here, Pete will be helping with HRI’s general goal of disseminating research and data throughout the community, as well as helping to educate people about homelessness. One project he is working on right now is to create Community Snapshots of homelessness. Fun fact, Pete is the 7th of eight children. Also, we are all very excited for Pete and his wife who are expecting their first little girl September 21st!

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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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1st July
written by Marisa Seitz

And we’re back!

The Alliance is examining all ten goals of Opening Doors, the federal strategic plan to end homelessness. You may remember that we took a closer look at Goal 8 – Ending Youth Homelessness a bit back.

As the Alliance’s new media intern, I’m really excited to be writing this series, because every time I examine one of these goals, I get to learn about a new aspect of homelessness and solutions to homelessness (and really, that’s what the Alliance is all about).

This week we’ll be looking at Objective 10: “Transform homeless services to crisis response systems that prevent homelessness and rapidly return people who experience homelessness to stable housing.”

To learn more about this objective, I talked to Norm Suchar, our new (!) Director of the Center for Capacity Building (formerly senior policy analyst at the Alliance).

The first thing I tried to wrap my head around was what this objective meant, and why it was part of the federal plan.

Right now, the “crisis response system” in place is shelters. When someone encounters an event that creates a situation where they can no longer afford housing, the first response is to put them in a shelter.

This shelter system, however, is not effective if we are to eradicate homelessness. The crisis response system for homelessness needs to be transformed, so that when someone enters a crisis situation and that person’s housing needs are addressed, we turn to permanent solutions and not just shelter.

The system needs to be pretty sophisticated.

We’ll need to figure out what happened with each person and create customized solutions using the resources available to someone in that specific situation. And situations vary wildly: sometimes it’s a problem with a landlord; in this case, conflict management of the situation should be attempted. Maybe a person lost their job and can’t afford the rent this month; in that case, we could offer rent subsidies or rent assistance so that the person has some time to find employment.

These strategies that prevent people from becoming homeless in the first place – and that’s what a crisis response should be doing.

How will we achieve this?

The federal plan suggests several strategies, among them – the $1.5 billion stimulus-funded program Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program (HPRP).

The program is a primary tool in changing the infrastructure of the system. HPRP funds are intended to focus on key strategies to prevent and end homelessness – including prevention strategies and rapid re-housing strategies. Communities across the country are utilizing HPRP to systematically transform the way they approach homelessness at the local level. (In fact, we’re doing some reporting on it!)

Another key is to integrate mainstream poverty programs.

It’s no surprise that there exist federal programs to help vulnerable and low-income people and families, including Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF), Medicaid (now new and improved as a result of health care reform), and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). This is by no means an exhaustive list of available resources – but only by leveraging all the resources available for vulnerable individuals and families will we truly be able to assist families out of homelessness.

The moral at the heart of this story is transformation. We can transform systems that exist today so that they’re more proactive about preventing homelessness before it starts – and when it occurs, ending it swiftly with rapid re-housing techniques.

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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25th May
written by naehblog

Today’s guest blog post is from our partners at the Road Home in Salt Lake City. Thanks to Donor Coordinator Jacqueline Jensen for contributing!

It is a transforming time for our agency and the services we provide. After many years without the tools to really help families end homelessness, we are finally seeing the resources needed to end homelessness. (The Road Home in Salt Lake City -operating the largest homeless shelter in Utah as well as an extensive transitional and permanent housing program.)

The Road Home has recently partnered with the State of Utah, Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County to utilize federal stimulus dollars to rapidly re-house families.

With the flexibility allowed by the funds, our Rapid Re-Housing program is designed to give families a jump start. Funding allows payments for utility debts, deposits and rental assistance as well as a strong case management component. We have seen that once in housing, families rarely need to return to emergency shelter ever again.

The Road Home recently assisted a young single mother who had been living in the family winter shelter facility. She was able to move out with the assistance of the Rapid Rehousing Program. She and her three children found a nice apartment in West Valley City. Soon after moving, the mother found a job at a grocery store. Recently, she was promoted to be a manager there and has increased her income enough to afford her rent. She no longer needs our assistance.

We have also used these funds in conjunction with other programs. Another single mom staying in our women’s shelter was approved to re-unite with her children but needed a home to bring them to. We were able to access a single family home, beautifully renovated by the Neighborhood Stabilization Program funds, for this family. We worked with the mom through the application process for a Shelter Plus Care voucher with our local Housing Authority. And we used Rapid Re-housing funds to assist her with an old housing debt so that she would qualify for the voucher. In addition, we partnered with LDS Church’s thrift store to help this family acquire beds and basic furniture as well as a two week supply of food.

“Our team has been working side by side with our families to move out of homelessness and into housing,” said Matthew Minkevitch, Executive Director for The Road Home. “During the first six months of the project (Oct 1, 2009-Mar 31, 2010), the Rapid Rehousing team assisted 232 households as they moved out of homelessness and into housing in the community.”

To learn more about programs and services provided by The Road Home, visit

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30th April
written by naehblog

If you’ve never read UNITY of Greater New Orleans blog Signs of Life in Greater New Orleans, do it now. This post highlights the complex issues many chronically homeless people face, as well as their dedication to finding each and every person a place to call home. Last week, UNITY GNO took home our Nonprofit Achievement Award and this week, let’s continue to celebrate their work.

Although we’ve been discussing programs like the National Housing Trust Fund and the Housing and Services Demonstration Program, our key federal priorities are still on our minds. Here’s some updates:

  • The Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program is one with transformative potential, and an initiative we’ve covered extensively on this blog. The latest on the significance of HPRP comes from from’s End Homelessness blog. Blogger Steven Samra writes:
    The beauty of HPRP over the few other sources of assistance available is that agencies participating in HPRP are able to help remove the huge barriers to housing that people who are newly homeless often face.

  • We’ve been paying particular attention to the struggles facing female veterans experiencing homelessness, and it looks like the federal government is, too. The Department of Labor announced a $5 million dollar grant for reintegration initiatives this week, while one former servicewoman in Florida moved into her new home.
  • We’re also keeping a close eye on data released from January Point in Time counts. This week Dallas announced that despite national economic woes, their homeless population decreased slightly and they saw significant decreases in the number of chronically homeless people.

In other news, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities discussed the importance of the Housing Voucher Choice Program and its role in ending homelessness on their new blog Off the Charts. THe post also provides some useful historical context.

Finally, we’ll have a full report next week, but we’re excited to announce the formation of a Congressional Homeless Caucus! Stay tuned for more details.

19th April
written by naehblog

Today, we at the Alliance learned that Rob Hess, commissioner of the NYC Department of Homeless Services, will be stepping down from his post on Friday, April 23.

During his tenure, Rob has been a valuable contributor to the efforts of the Alliance and an important ally in our fight to end homelessness in America.

Most recently, Rob had served as co-chairman of the Alliance’s Leadership Council – a group of eleven leaders in the homeless assistance field from across the country. The Leadership Council has been instrumental in pulling together information about effective work around the country, most notably in the implementation of the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program (HPRP), the $1.5 billion stimulus-funded effort to prevent and curb homelessness resulting from the recession.

Rob also served as frequent speaker at Alliance Conferences, sharing his experience as a leader in our homeless assistance community and offering lessons from the field. He has been an important source of information, for people working at the local level and for policymakers.

He also made important strides in his work at the city-level. As DHS Commissioner, Rob was committed to innovation – he expanded the HomeBase program in NYC, which was the inspiration for the existing federal HPRP program. He worked to reduce street homelessness and focused his efforts on homelessness prevention for families. He also brought thoughtful, empirical data to the problem – integrating data into prevention efforts and emphasizing outcomes for street outreach.

His leadership on this issue will continue as he transitions into his new job with the Doe Fund. We look forward to future opportunities to draw on his wisdom and experience.

9th April
written by naehblog

I like good news. As I read our daily media clips and search the blogosphere for news about homelessness, what I find is mostly infuriating, depressing, or somehow deeply upsetting. While that’s the nature of the beast, I also think we’re making progress, and I want to highlight it. Here’s a few bright spots in homelessness headlines from the week.

  • Boston’s WBUR reported on how funds from the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program helped a mother fleeing from an abusive boyfriend find housing. (I interned for Heading Home, the organization profiled, in summer of 2006, helping out in their drop-in shelter and helping pave the way for their transition to providing permanent housing. I think they’re amazing – and that’s where I first learned about the Alliance!)
  • Folks broke ground on a new housing development for veterans experiencing homelessness outside Seattle
  • As part of their ongoing series on youth homelessness in FL, the Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida posted some adorable pictures of the children at their Early Child Development Center.
  • This is a pretty incredible story: despite struggling with homelessness, this LA teen has totally conquered his high school and is moving on to West Point with the help of their alumni association.
  • A new permanent supportive housing development called Florence House opens this week in Portland. For more on progress toward ending homelessness there, check out this post from HUD’s blog.

Speaking of frustrating news, the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty posted this week about insurance companies that consider domestic violence a pre-existing condition, which is apparently legal in DC, my adopted hometown:

DC has the dubious distinction of remaining among the handful of states that permit insurance companies to regard a history of domestic violence as a pre-existing condition for purposes of denying coverage . As outrageous as this fact might seem in isolation, it is particularly disturbing when viewed in tandem with such additional barriers to stability as housing and employment discrimination.

Despite these barriers, organizations like the District Alliance for Safe Housing are working to keep survivors We put out a best practices brief on their work this past week.

I’d also recommend checking out this persuasive argument for permanent supportive housing on the new and improved Inforum.

Hearing from Campus Progress that a recent panel on youth homelessness offered “no definitive remedies” makes me glad we’re covering policy updates on the Runaway Homeless Youth Act on our blog next week. A new study shows that the situation for young people who age out of foster care is often pretty dismal – which makes policy solutions all the more critical. Stay tuned!

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