Posts Tagged ‘Recession’

17th September
written by naehblog

Today, I thought I’d throw an international spin on the poverty + homelessness issues.

Yesterday, Bloomberg News reported that the World Bank expects that “the global recession will push an additional 89 million people into ‘extreme poverty’ by the end of next year…”

(It’s important to note here that the World Bank defines ‘extreme poverty’ as those living on less that $1.25 a day. )

Robert Zoellick, the president of the World Bank, noted that those most impacted by the global recession will likely be those who are already living on the economic fringes of society. According to Bloomberg: “The poor and most vulnerable are at greatest risk from economic shocks,” Zoellick said in a statement released today with the report. “The poorest countries may not be well represented on the G-20 but we cannot ignore the long-term costs of the global downturn on their people’s health and education.”

As such, Zoellick urged the leaders of the Group of 20 (G-20) – slated to meet next week in Pittsburgh, PA – to keep strengthen their support of the world’s poorest countries, and maintain, if not increase, levels of financial investment in developing countries.

So far, that hasn’t been happening.

In March of this year, the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn delivered an address to a Brookings panel suggesting that developing countries were beginning to feel the impacts of the global economic recession, mainly through depressed trade interests and decreasing investment from other countries, coupled with a rise in the cost of borrowing. Strauss-Kahn conveyed worries about the lasting effects of such economic distress, noting that it could delay global economic recovery, and spur political unrest and humanitarian concerns in developing countries.

And in June of this year, the British paper, The Guardian, reported on findings from the World Bank that suggest foreign investment into developing countries had halved in 2008.

And just yesterday, while also reporting on Zoellick’s remarks, Thomson Reuters, reported that 43 poor countries still mired in an economic downturn.

Just last week, we heard our own side of this story – increasing poverty rates, the highest in years. The World Bank reminds us that we are not alone in our plight, and that the world is evermore interdependent.

That was our brief adventure in to world economics.

3rd September
written by naehblog

While cruising for news today – noticed three articles from three different states about struggles in affordable housing.

Thought I’d share.

Oregon: City affordable housing plan delayed
California: San Jose transitional housing back open
New York: Turning Stalled Projects Into Moderate-Income Housing

Anyone else seeing recession + housing troubles in the neighborhood?

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31st August
written by naehblog

Earlier this morning, Mark Horvath came over to interview Alliance VP Steve Berg on the landscape of homelessness.

In a short conversation (maybe about 15 minutes), the two discuss the recession, housing, and the future of homelessness – both best and worst case scenarios.

If you missed the live broadcast, you can watch it here! Please let me know if you have any reactions, questions or thoughts!

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26th August
written by naehblog

It’s an interesting time to be working on ending homelessness.

The economy is terrible and creating havoc for a lot of people. Rising unemployment tends to lead to more homelessness – and this recession has had a lot of unemployment.

At the same time, there are some opportunities to make progress. Congress passed an almost $800 billion economic stimulus bill in the spring: the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. It includes $1.5 billion Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program (HPRP).

This summer, HUD gave HPRP grants to all 50 states and about 500 cities, counties, and territories. The three-year grants ranged from about $500,000 for smaller cities to $74 million for New York City. These local governments will pass on most of their funds to nonprofit organizations to provide several types of financial assistance and services with the goal of preventing homelessness or helping somebody who has become homeless move into an apartment. Here are some examples of what HPRP will be funding:

Financial Assistance:

  • Up to 18 months of rental assistance, including up to six months of overdue rent;

  • Up to 18 months of utility assistance;

  • Moving costs; and

  • Rental or utility deposits;


  • Housing search assistance including help finding apartments and negotiating with landlords;

  • Case management;

  • Help applying for and coordinating other services such as employment, child care, etc.

  • Legal services; and

  • Credit repair services.

There is strong evidence that when done smartly, these kinds of programs can reduce homelessness. You can see some examples in this nice little video about the HomeBase program in New York City and this short summary about Rapid Exit in Hennepin County, MN.

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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12th August
written by naehblog

Meghan, a co-worker of mine (you might remember her from Geography of Homelessness sent me a Wall Street Journal article about tent cities.

I thought I’d share this article because we get this question a lot: Do we support tent cities? What can we do about them? Are there any good ideas/best practices to deal with these communities?

Writer Jennifer Levitz writes about cities’ responses to the ever-rising number of tent cities. According to Levitz, some are not only allowing tent cities to form and persist, but are furnishing these makeshift areas with portable toilets, security, and social services. Nashville, TN is one such city.

In fact, Levitz writes that even cities that had previously had ordinances against tent cities or sleeping in cars are changing their mind. City officials in Lacey, WA allowed a tent city in the parking lot of church; the city council in Ventura, CA revised a law allowing people to sleep in their cars overnight.

But this doesn’t mean that all cities are hopping on this bandwagon.

New York – with its ever-precarious relationship with homeless people – is staying steadfast. New York City recently shut down a tent city in Harlem, the article notes.

Here at the Alliance, we know what the landscape looks like – and we know that between the recession and state budget cuts, resources are scarcer and scarcer as need rises higher and higher.

It seems that any way you slice it – tent cities are a lose-lose for everyone. All parties involved in this push-pull around tent cities are undoubtedly frustrated: residents don’t have any place to go, city officials can’t offer any solutions, law enforcement gets stuck in the middle and ends up the bad guy.

And frankly, there are no easy answers.

While the Alliance doesn’t have a definitive recommendation on tent cities, we remain steadfast that the solution to homelessness is housing. While we recognize that the recent action of city officials is a gesture of compassion and kindness, permitting tent cities to exist is just another way of managing the homelessness problem. Portable restrooms and medical services are important – but at the end of the day, a man in a tent city is still a man without a home.

Affordable housing and/or permanent, supportive housing – these are the approaches that will ensure that we end homelessness for everyone and not just in the short-term.

Study after study and program after program have proven that housing is the right answer. In fact, several studies have shown that providing permanent supportive housing to the chronically homeless – the population most likely to stay homeless even after the recession – not only gets these homeless people safely off the streets, but turns out to be more cost-effective for taxpayers.

As the recession subsides – when unemployment dips to a comfortable number, when jobs start returning to the market – the country will still be home to millions of homeless people. And I wonder if the matter will be so salient then – or if city officials will be as sympathetic to those who don’t disappear with a strengthening economy.

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24th July
written by naehblog

Happy Friday everyone!

So in the news this week –

A TON of articles about cities, states, and counties receive Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program (HPRP) money from the stimulus. It seems like every single there was a press release from a legislator, a news article from some tiny little community – and some not so tiny communities. Check out a few highlights on our Daily Clips page.

An article about the homeless situation in the District of Columbia. Darryl Fears, a metro writer for the Washington Post wrote a story last week about a council hearing dealing with the lack of shelter beds in the city – and the age-old debate rises again: shelter vs. permanent housing. But I dealt with that yesterday.

A sprinkle of stories about veterans and women – the ongoing themes of homeless veterans, homeless families, and the role of government…

And then a column in the Huffington Post by our very own Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Shaun Donovan and former HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros.

The article, which starts by referencing a housing program called HOPE VI – basically the program tore down dilapidated public housing and replaced it with mixed-income developments. HOPE VI, say the Secretarys, is an excellent model for further innovation in housing and development – giving lower-income families greater options and more choice for livable spaces.

In that spirit, Secretary Donovan and the Obama administration have introduced Choice Neighborhoods, a program proposed in HUD’s 2010 budget. This program, according to the editorial, would expand the range of activities eligible for funding (and thereby double the funding that exists for HOPE VI) and bring together local stakeholders in a discussion about sustainable housing, green development, school reform – and all the other elements that make neighborhoods clean, safe, and successful.

From our perspective – sounds like a great idea. But with an economy as precarious as ours and an administration with a pretty full plate – we’re not holding our breath until we see the proof in the pudding.

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23rd July
written by naehblog

Early last week, the staff at the Alliance had a messaging meeting where a staff member shared with us the frustrations of people he’s been meeting on the field. With the recession in high gear and people in dire need of help, why – advocates and providers asked – why were we not endorsing the rapid construction of temporary shelters?

And then I saw this article on my good friend Shannon’s blog.

So I thought the timing was right to ask: Why Housing First?

But first: What is Housing First?

Housing First is a concept that was pioneered by Dr. Sam Tsemberis of the NYU School of Medicine and an organization in New York called Pathways to Housing.

The premise of the Housing First campaign is the housing is a basic human right and should not be denied to anyone, regardless of their habits or circumstances. Housing First prescribes providing the homeless permanent supportive housing – which includes supportive services coupled with permanent housing (not shelter). The supportive services address addiction, mental health, case management and the like, and provides stability for homeless individuals. These services increase the ability of homeless individuals to maintain permanent housing and achieve self-sufficiency.

It’s important to note that this approach is a significant departure from the traditional way the country approached homelessness before. In the old system, homelessness management was emphasized through shelter, mental health services, medical services, and the like before permanent housing was even considered an option. The premise of this old program was that homeless people had to “earn” permanent housing – an unintentionally patronizing framework. Housing First, as the name suggests, emphasizes housing first, coupled with services, bypassing shelter altogether.

Why Housing First?

Put simply: it works. Studies have shown that those communities who implement Housing First strategies have successfully helped people achieve self-sufficiency and get out of homelessness.

In May of this month, the Philadelphia Inquirer published a story about some of the successes the Housing First model has seen in the last few years:

“To cite two: 85 percent of formerly homeless adults have maintained a permanent home after five years in the organization Beyond Shelter’s housing-first program in Los Angeles. And in Pathways to Housing’s program for formerly homeless people with psychiatric disabilities in New York City, 88 percent have been able to maintain a permanent home, compared with only 47 percent of the residents in the city’s traditional program.”

In fact, between 2005 and 2007, the nation saw a nearly 30 percent decrease in the chronic homelessness population, much of which has been attributed to the Housing First approach.

Not only does it work, but it’s cost-effective for the chronically homeless population. While people tend to shy away from the Housing First model over claims of high overhead costs, it turns out to be much more cost-efficient in the long run that temporary shelter.

Consider the cost of the average chronically homeless person in an urban area – say, New York City. Between accessing government services, emergency care at hospitals, run-ins with law enforcement, incarceration, and the like – the cost of an average chronically homeless to the state is quite high. Higher, it turns out, than permanent supportive housing – which would not only provide the chronically homeless person the services he/she needs to better their well-being, but remove them from the streets altogether and place them in stable housing.

(I’ve cited this story before, but Malcolm Gladwell, of Blink, Tipping Point, and Outliers fame, wrote a story demonstrating just that called “Million Dollar Murray”.)

Housing First is a definitive, effective, and significant step for a systemic change in the way we approach homelessness – one that has been embraced by advocates and elected officials alike.

And that’s why Housing First.

For more about the Alliance’s take on Housing First – check out our website.

21st July
written by naehblog

Today, the Director of the Homelessness Research Institute – M William Sermons – attended the National Governor’s Association’s Center for Best Practices’ “Expert’s Roundtable: Helping Families Recover from Foreclosure through Economic Opportunities and Family Supports.”

He was invited to present findings from a report he co-authored earlier this year about the relationship between foreclosure and homelessness. The report – Foreclosure to Homelessness: The Forgotten Victims of the Subprime Crisis – examines how much foreclosure has contributed to rising homelessness rates, and specifically, the rise in numbers of homeless families.

The study went like this: surveys were distributed to direct service providers. These included emergency shelter providers, transitional shelter providers, food assistance programs, and the like. These surveys asked providers to determine how many people they were experiencing homelessness as a result of foreclosure. (A copy of the survey administered is available in the appendix of the full report.)

The results were mixed.

Certainly, a majority of people said that at least some of their clients were homeless as a result of foreclosure – about 80 percent.

But the median percentage of clients that were affected was far smaller. Housing providers (including emergency, transitional, and permanent housing providers) estimated that five percent of their clients experience homelessness due to foreclosure; all respondents (including those who don’t provide housing assistance) estimated that ten percent of their clients experienced homelessness as a result of foreclosure.

But perhaps the most telling finding in the report is that in the narrative of foreclosure to homelessness, it’s mostly renters that are affected. In his presentation, Bill noted that the ratio of homeowners to renters facing homelessness was about 4:1.

This reinforces the idea that while foreclosure may play a role in the rise in homelessness, the leading factors that contribute to homelessness among families stay consistent even in this economic turmoil: unemployment, lack of affordable housing, job loss – these are all the staple causes of homelessness and continue to persist as primary causes.
This theme was not lost on the small group of experts that came to discuss our role in assisting families through the economic downturn. Representatives from the National Governor’s Association, the Center for American Progress, the Urban Institute and the Pew Charitable Trust were among the organizations represented at the table to discuss the issue at hand. The day-long meeting, which included presentations focused on available data and best practices, concluded with a discussion about “key components of a state strategy to help families recover from foreclosure” and a discussion examining what it will take for “states to put this strategy into action”.

The full report, Foreclosure to Homelessness: The Forgotten Victims of the Subprime Crisis, is available on our website.

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9th July
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!