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On November 6, 2012, USICH joined other Federal partners (including representatives from the Department of Justice, Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and State) and local advocates for a meeting convened by the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty and Magdelena Sepúlveda, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights. Ms. Sepulveda has been representing the UN as Special Rapporteur since 2008 and travels the world bringing attention to the rights of people living with poverty. The meeting focused on two recent UN reports, adopted by consensus (including the United States): the first, adopting the new UN Guiding Principles on Human Rights and Extreme Poverty, the second, a report by the Rapporteur on the access to justice for persons living in extreme poverty. Ms. Sepúlveda comes originally from Chile and has studied in the Netherlands and in the U.K. and has worked at the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and the United Nations-mandated University of Peace. The Special Rapporteur pointed out that the lack of housing can be seen as a violation of human rights. In addition to housing, the UN resolution reiterates that all people have a right to justice, including representation in civil matters where basic human rights, such as the right to housing, are at stake. USICH was praised for its position on human rights as documented in the report, Searching out Solutions, Constructive Alternatives to the Criminalization of Homelessness, which recognizes that criminalization of homelessness may not only violate constitutional rights, but also the U.S.’s human rights treaty obligations.
11/20/2012 - Keeping the Momentum for Ending Youth Homelessness: Reflections from Indianapolis and Beyond
Last week, the Family Youth Services Bureau of HHS’s Administration on Children, Youth, and Families hosted two days of training and workshops on addressing youth homelessness at the National Runaway and Homeless Youth Grantee Conference. More than 550 participants from around the country met in Indianapolis to share knowledge and learn from others as we work together to end youth homelessness by 2020.
The Runaway and Homeless Youth (RHY) provider community has thoroughly embraced the Opening Doors goal to end youth homelessness by 2020. The goal was mentioned throughout conference workshops, it was written in conference materials, and in the hallways of the hotel I heard this goal in discussions among providers, administrators, and policy professionals. It is inspiring to see the resounding commitment and enthusiasm for this ambitious goal has spread outside of Washington, DC and into communities throughout the country.
Given the momentum we have gained from Opening Doors and the USICH Framework to End Youth Homelessness, the RHY conference was ripe with opportunity to build more commitment and enthusiasm for the work ahead. The USICH Framework to End Youth Homelessness held a prominent spot on the conference agenda at a luncheon keynote session. Jennifer Ho provided an energetic keynote address about ending youth homelessness. She discussed two complementary strategies—getting better data on youth and building service capacity—included in the Youth Framework and explained why these strategies are important to our goal of ending youth homelessness.
Today in lieu of our usual Friday blog, USICH released a newsletter headlined by an important message from Executive Director Barbara Poppe on moving forward towards the goals in Opening Doors as we enter the second term of President Barack Obama.
Last week, Americans reelected President Barack Obama to lead our nation for another four years. During his first term we launched Opening Doors and began the tough but necessary work of making our nation’s response to homelessness more strategic, more responsive, and more collaborative across all levels of government and the non-profit and private sectors. Since the launch of Opening Doors, the nation has made progress toward preventing and ending homelessness despite the economic downturn and continued recovery.
As a nation, we’ve reduced Veteran homelessness by 12 percent, thanks in large part to the commitment and collaboration of HUD and VA, working in partnership with local communities. We also prevented and ended homelessness for over 1.3 million Americans through the Recovery Act’s Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Rehousing Program, and building on that incredible success, HUD has incorporated those same winning practices into the new Emergency Solutions Grant. A path has been cleared to end chronic homelessness as communities across the country are achieving real results by targeting those who are most high-need and connecting them to resources and permanent supportive housing. And the strategies and actions needed to end homelessness among families, children, and youth are becoming clearer. Together, we’re moving forward.
11/15/2012 - New Department of Labor “Innovation Fund” To Test Employment and Housing Services Collaborations
One of the challenges in providing employment services to homeless families is a lack of coordination across systems and across funding streams. Three projects recently funded through the Labor Department’s Workforce Innovation Fund (“the Innovation Fund”) are directly addressing this coordination challenge.
At the September meeting of the U.S. Interagency Council of Homelessness, Michael Mirra, executive director of the Tacoma Housing Authority (THA) discussed his agency’s Housing and Employment Navigator, a specialized case management program that offers individualized and flexible supports to link homeless families served by THA and other housing programs to mainstream employment and job training services.
Tacoma’s Navigator is one of the new Innovation Fund grantees and is being implemented under the leadership of WorkForce Central. The program will serve a total of 400 families in the Puget Sound region. Under the program, homeless families are assigned a personal case manager— called a “navigator”—with specific expertise in housing, social service, and workforce systems. The navigator works with the family to develop housing and employment self-sufficiency plans; register for and enroll in employment and job training programs and interventions; and offer assistance in addressing barriers to successful completion of programs and entry into employment. Meanwhile, housing and workforce agencies at the system level are participating in integrated service planning, interagency communication, cross training of staff, and streamlining and sharing outcomes around stable housing, full employment, and reduced reliance on public benefits.
11/14/2012 - American Indian, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian Homelessness spotlighted at Expert Panel
Stop for a minute and imagine what it would be like to be homeless while living on a remote Alaskan village, with temperatures hovering around 30 degrees below zero. Or imagine perhaps living on the beautiful Hawaiian Islands, but having to move your tent every few weeks because you have nowhere else to live. And finally, imagine living on the reservation, in your homeland, without a place to call home.
Homelessness is an extreme manifestation of poverty. If poverty is an indicator of homelessness or the risk of becoming homeless, American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian (AI/AN/NH) communities are at extreme risk of homelessness. The U.S. Census Bureau found in 2010 that 28.4 percent of American Indians and Alaska Natives live in poverty. This same census data show that 18.8 percent of single-race Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islanders live in poverty. By comparison, the U.S. population as a whole has a 15.3 percent poverty rate.
Big News! HUD Releases Notice of Funding Availability for FY 2012 Continuum of Care Program
Today HUD’s Office of Special Needs Assistance Programs released the Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) for the FY 2012 CoC Competition. This NOFA establishes the funding criteria for the Continuum of Care (CoC) Program. HUD is making available approximately $1.61 billion in Fiscal Year 2012 for the CoC Program. The CoC Program is designed to promote a community-wide commitment to the goal of ending homelessness; to provide funding for efforts by nonprofit providers, States, and local governments to quickly re-house homeless individuals and families while minimizing the trauma and dislocation caused to homeless individuals, families, and communities by homelessness; to promote access to and effective utilization of mainstream programs by homeless individuals and families; and to optimize self-sufficiency among individuals and families experiencing homelessness.
The FY2012 CoC Program Competition is the first funding competition to be administered under the CoC Program interim rule. While the process is similar to past Homeless Assistance Grants competitions, the content and steps differ in key ways. Applicants should review and follow the steps as outlined in the NOFA to ensure that applications are complete and submitted timely.
The application deadline for submitting applications to HUD is 7:59:59 p.m. Eastern Time, January 18, 2013. Applicants will be required to complete and submit their applications in e-snaps at www.hud.gov/esnaps.
11/07/2012 - Taking Risks and Learning from Systems Change Work in Washington State to End Family Homelessness
In late October the Gates Foundation and Building Changes hosted the Washington Families Fund Systems Initiative Data Convening, two days of discussion on what they are learning through systems redesign work that’s changing the way they respond to family homelessness. Granted, the Seattle area has many assets to bring to this work, including a history of state and philanthropic funding targeting family homelessness and local levies that raise additional revenue. They have a committed group of state, county, and other local leaders from housing, human services, and employment. They have created a strong intermediary in Building Changes. They have invested in research and evaluation to monitor their successes and have invested in improved data collection and data integration.
11/05/2012 - Words never hurt? Toward a More Productive Public Discourse on Homeless Children and Youth
The schoolyard chant “sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me” rings hollow when I hear trusted allies arguing about the “right” definition of homelessness.
To the general public this must seem silly…fighting over definitions of homelessness. Some allies have observed that all this in-fighting can actually diminish political will. It’s been blamed as the primary reason it took more than a decade to pass the HEARTH Act that re-authorized McKinney-Vento homeless assistance programs. A seemingly innocuous (some might even say bureaucratic) response from one ally recently provoked a backlash from another ally. I am not pointing fingers at either as this discourse is sadly and repeatedly played out all across the country.
While I believe that I understand the good intentions behind all the various points of view, I also see the opening for us to come together and, perhaps,be more careful in our language so that we are creating more allies and inspiring greater political will to end homelessness – not having folks throw up their hands and walk away. I’m going to work through an example because it might point us toward the path forward.
The first two days of this week federal offices in Washington, DC were closed due to Hurricane Sandy. USICH sends our condolences to those who lost loved ones. Our thoughts are with those who are struggling to recover from this disaster and for those working tirelessly in recovery efforts. To donate for the recovery effort via The American Red Cross, you can do so directly from their homepage: http://www.redcross.org/
Mark Horvath of InvisiblePeople.tv wrote this piece in the Huffington Post today about the power of social media that was used to help homeless services as they struggled to keep individuals safe in shelters during Hurricane Sandy - a powerful timeline of how people from across the country assisted in those in shelter or supportive housing during this disaster.
New Study about students experiencing homelessness
The University of Minnesota released a new study about the challenges and resiliency of students experiencing homelessness in the journal Child Development. This study examined academic achievement data for over 26,000 students in the Minneapolis Public Schools from third through eighth grades, comparing students identified as homeless or highly mobile with other students in the federal free meal program, reduced price meals, or neither. Achievement gaps appeared stable or widened between homeless or highly mobile students and lower risk groups. Math and reading achievement were lower, and growth in math was slower in years of homeless or highly mobile identification, suggesting acute consequences of housing instability. However, there is surprising resiliency: around 45% of homeless or highly mobile students scored within or above the average range in both math and reading despite their living situation. Results underscore the need for research on risk and resilience processes among homeless or highly mobile students to address achievement disparities.