USICH Blog

Advocates Archive

11/19/2014 - That Person on the Street Could Be You

by Paul Gionfriddo

When we see people who are homeless on our streets and in our parks, and take some time to think about them, we might feel pity, sympathy, annoyance, fear, or a host of other emotions.

But we probably never think “that person could be me.”

We just assume that people who are homeless have always lived like that. They’re homeless, their parents were homeless, maybe even their grandparents were homeless. And we assume that they are homeless by choice.

They are not.  They are homeless because we have made them so.

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11/13/2014 - 2015: Making a Difference for Youth Experiencing Homelessness – A National Perspective

by Colette (Coco) Auerswald, Jess Lin, Jessica Reed and Shahera Hyatt

The 2015 PIT count is an opportunity not only to better count youth, but also to obtain an improved and more nuanced picture nationally and locally of youth homelessness. As we work with our communities in California to prepare for the best count of homeless youth to date, we offer these suggestions to communities getting ready for the count nationwide.

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11/10/2014 - As a Grateful Nation, We Must End Homelessness among Veterans

By Laura Green Zeilinger

On a single in January 2014, 49,993 Veterans were experiencing homelessness. This Veterans Day, in particular, is a good time to take stock of how our nation cares for the people who served. Ours is a shared obligation, to serve those who served us. We will answer our call of duty, and we hope our record of service to Veterans, in some measure, conveys our deep gratitude for the service and sacrifice of every person who wore the uniform of our great nation.

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10/31/2014 - Good News from New Orleans: Federal and Community Collaboration Helped Transform This Veteran’s Life

By DaVaughn Phillips

Mr. H. seems like a completely different person from the man I met just a few months ago. He is thriving in his own home, with a stable income to maintain his living expenses and support his family. More importantly, he has regained the strength, motivation, and courage he needed to become self-sufficient and to serve as a positive role model for his children. After three years of working in New Orleans to help people achieve permanent housing, it never ceases to amaze me how rewarding it feels to play a role in such a transformation. 

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10/30/2014 - Partnerships for Opening Doors – Ending Homelessness through Meaningful and Sustainable Employment

“One of the best ways to eliminate homelessness is to get people jobs,” said Labor Secretary and Chair of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) Thomas Perez at the Partnerships for Opening Doors summit, which took place at the Labor Department's headquarters in Washington, DC, on October 16, 2014.

Co-hosted by the Departments of Labor (DOL) and Housing and Urban Development (HUD), USICH and the Butler Family Fund, the day-long national summit focused on integrating employment and housing strategies to prevent and end homelessness. Leaders from 11 communities representing Workforce Investment Boards, Continuums of Care, state Workforce Development Councils, advocacy and community-based and national nonprofit organizations engaged in intensive discussions to identify key actions for Federal partners to take to improve access to meaningful and sustainable employment, skills training, and supportive training for people experiencing or at-risk of homelessness.

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10/23/2014 - Ensuring Safety and Stability for Survivors of Domestic Violence

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and this year is the 30th anniversary of the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act. Over the past several months, there have been a number of high profile cases involving domestic violence that have garnered significant media attention. The spotlight on these specific experiences has helped to bring a larger discussion to the public arena about domestic violence, including perceptions about perpetrators and survivors, as well as the supports that are an essential part of the network of emergency shelters and supportive services in responding to domestic violence. 

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10/10/2014 - Shining Through: The Voices of Young People Heard Clearly at Forty to None Summit

By Robert Pulster

USICH had the privilege of attending the first True Colors Fund Forty to None Summit held September 30, 2014, in New York City. The Summit was a powerful gathering that highlighted the voices of young people in a day-long national convening on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth homelessness.  In his opening remarks, TCF Director Gregory Lewis emphasized the day would focus on collaboration and innovation. Dr. Jama Shelton, the Forty to None Project Director, exclaimed that "today we are building a plan, we're building a movement, and together we are going to end LGBT homelessness."  

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10/03/2014 - Your Reallocation Questions Answered, USICH Releases Reallocation Tool

By Jay Melder

Reallocations will help communities make the system changes needed to end homelessness, and in this year’s Continuum of Care NOFA, there is once again a strong emphasis on reallocations.  As in FY 2013, HUD is allowing reallocations of funds to new permanent supportive housing for people experiencing chronic homelessness and rapid re-housing for families with children.  HUD and USICH encourage CoCs to take full advantage of reallocations, shifting funds away from underperforming or less cost-effective programs and toward evidence-informed models.  

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09/24/2014 - Partnering with Landlords to End Homelessness

by Mark Putnam

People experiencing homelessness need homes. This is the simple solution to ending homelessness, right? The complexity comes in finding, and funding, the homes. Read on to find out how stakeholders in King County, Washington, are succeeding at both.

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09/18/2014 - Meeting the Unique Needs of Families

By Laura Green Zeilinger, USICH Executive Director

 

Whether as a result of a health or economic crisis or fleeing domestic violence, the experience of homelessness is extremely traumatizing for families generally, and can be especially traumatizing for children. We know that there is not a one-size-fits-all solution for every family experiencing a housing crisis. Connecting families to housing interventions and services that are appropriate to their specific needs is an essential part of the actions we identified as critical to meeting the goal of ending homelessness.

 

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09/17/2014 - Building Systems to End to Homelessness: HUD’s FY 2014 Continuum of Care Program Competition

The Notice of Funding Availability for the Fiscal Year 2014 Funds in the FY 2013 - FY 2014 Continuum of Care (CoC) Program Competition asks CoCs to continue investing in what works and to target interventions appropriately to needs.  It calls on CoCs to make the final push to reach our goal of ending chronic homelessness, make greater progress on family homelessness, and build the partnerships needed to reach and engage Veterans and youth experiencing homelessness in services. Although the policy priorities and many aspects of this NOFA remain the same as in FY 2013, there are also some changes and new elements. 

On Friday, September 19, USICH is hosting a webinar to help CoCs understand the FY 2014 NOFA and suggestions on how to make it successful.   Meanwhile, here are some key highlights that CoCs should know.

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09/16/2014 - Serving Young Children Experiencing Homelessness

By Liz Osborn

Homelessness has many faces. People experiencing homelessness can be old or young, male or female, and can come from any ethnic background. But when one thinks of a person experiencing homelessness in this country, few people picture the face of a child. The fact is, nearly one-quarter of all people experiencing homelessness at a point in time are children, and most of them are very young.  In one 2013 Abt Associates study on family homelessness, almost a third of the participating children were two years old or younger, and more than half were under the age of five. 

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09/08/2014 - A Sea Change in Fresno’s Homelessness Crisis Response

The 25 Cities Effort is designed to help communities intensify and integrate their local efforts to end Veteran and chronic homelessness. Fresno launched its local 25 Cities Effort in May 2014, setting a goal to house 60 high-priority individuals. Local stakeholders, however, were in for a surprise when one activity at an introductory meeting challenged everything they thought they knew about working together to connect individuals in need with housing. Here's what they learned.

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08/25/2014 - Hear from Two Community Partners about How They Are Ending Family Homelessness through Our Sept. 10 Webinar

Ending homelessness among families and children is a priority for the nation and for every community. Millions of extremely low-income households do not have access to affordable housing, putting them at-risk of housing instability and the types of crises that can result in homelessness. The challenge is clear: Our most recent data show that 222,197 people in families—an estimated 70,960 households—were experiencing homelessness on a single night in January 2013.  In the first three years of implementation of  Opening Doors, we have reduced homelessness among families by eight percent.

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08/18/2014 - DESC to Create More Supportive Housing to Serve Seattle’s Most Vulnerable

Seattle-based nonprofit housing provider DESC will create new units of permanent supportive housing in the Interbay neighborhood downtown.  The units will serve 97 people who are experiencing homelessness and live with health issues.  

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08/11/2014 - Inspired by People: New Report Offers Alternatives to Criminalization

Without housing options, people often are forced to rely on culverts, public parks, streets, and abandoned buildings as places to sleep and carry out daily activities that most reserve for the privacy of their own home. As communities recognize and struggle with the fact that people without homes often live in public spaces, multiple strategies arise. Unfortunately, many of these strategies include policies that criminalize homelessness. In a new report, In the Public Eye, author Lucy Adams, of Australia’s Justice Connect and guest blogger at USICH elevates the conversation.

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07/25/2014 - Connect with USICH at the NAEH Conference

Next week, the National Alliance to End Homelessness will host its annual conference in Washington, DC, convening policymakers and practitioners who are working across the country to prevent and end homelessness. The three day event will offer more than 100 workshops and sessions and will feature plenary remarks from First Lady Michelle Obama, in-coming HUD Secretary Julián Castro, Senator Cory Booker, and USICH Executive Director Laura Zeilinger. USICH and federal partners are looking forward to participating in conversations with stakeholders in preconference and workshop sessions throughout the week. We hope that this guide to our participation will help our partners connect with the USICH team at the conference. We’re looking forward to seeing you.

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07/24/2014 - The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act Is Law

by Eric Grumdahl, USICH Policy Director

For many people confronting homelessness, employment can mean the difference between housing and homelessness. The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), signed into law by President Barack Obama on Tuesday, fosters local innovation and focus on providing employment supports for people experiencing homelessness, by clarifying that the central purpose of the workforce system is to support people with significant barriers to employment. In doing so, WIOA and the President’s job-skills agenda will accelerate progress on ending homelessness. 

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07/21/2014 - Schools Are a Critical Part of Solutions to End Youth Homelessness

by Danielle Ferrier and Beatriz McConnie Zapater

There are nearly 6,000 unaccompanied youth in Massachusetts. Experiencing homelessness often prevents motivated, hard-working youth from graduating high school and achieving success. A Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders article shows that without intervention, only about 27 percent of them will graduate high school. Opening Doors, the federal strategic plan to prevent and end homelessness, sets a goal of ending youth homelessness by 2020 by ensuring communities can connect youth with stable housing, permanent connections, education, and employment all while improving youths’ social and emotional well-being.

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07/01/2014 - Successful Partnerships through Aligned Missions and Empathetic Relationships

Like most partnerships, one of the most critical ingredients is empathy. We have to be able to understand one another's incentives and find the common ground that aligns our work together. We shouldn’t just invite our partners to our meetings. (Who has time to attend someone else’s meetings?) We need to make “my” meetings “our” meetings. To do so, we have to work to understand what is important to our partners and create a space for honest dialogue and mutual understanding about where our efforts should support one another. We have to show that this is not only a good use of their time, but that we are focused on helping our partners succeed at their mission. And that, of course, is how together we succeed at our mission.

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06/30/2014 - Ensuring that Homelessness Never Follows Foster Care

by Eric Grumdahl, USICH Policy Director

Ending youth homelessness means putting a system in place to do so in every community. Here, having a common purpose is a key ingredient. Luckily, at the interface of the child welfare system and the homeless response system, we should agree on a common purpose. The child welfare system wants to see successful transitions to adulthood, which includes all of the outcomes of the framework to end youth homelessness, including stable housing. The homeless response system is certainly eager to close what has been called a pipeline from child welfare to shelter, and to see youth in stable housing instead of outside a shelter door. We should not have to debate our shared purpose.

Where it seems to me that our efforts get stuck is... 

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06/27/2014 - Baltimore Takes Steps Forward to End Youth Homelessness

“In Baltimore,” Adrienne Breidenstine explains, “We have a core group of youth service providers, funders, and government agencies that are committed to The Journey Home, Baltimore’s plan to end homelessness, and the vision that homelessness in Baltimore is rare and brief for children and youth experiencing homelessness. Now is the time for us to harness our community’s energy and commitment to the cause and translate it into action.”

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06/23/2014 - Your Input Is Essential to the Ongoing Success of Opening Doors

by Laura Green Zeilinger, USICH Executive Director

Yesterday marked the fourth Anniversary of the launch of Opening Doors, the first-ever Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness.  In four years, we have changed the trajectory of homelessness in America.  In just the first three years of implementation, Opening Doors led to significant reductions in homelessness, including an eight percent reduction in homelessness among families, a 16 percent reduction in chronic homelessness, and a 24 percent reduction in homelessness among Veterans. And we are hopeful that we will be able announce even greater reductions when the 2014 Point-In-Time Count data are available later this year.opening doors 2014 amendment considered uservoice

The progress we are making across the nation has proven that Opening Doors is the right plan with the right set of strategies.  Opening Doors also provides a foundation and scaffolding upon which we can continue to innovate and refine the solutions that will end homelessness in this country.

This year, we’re considering amending the plan again to include more of what we’ve learned from our progress.

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06/18/2014 - Four Clarifications about Housing First

by Richard Cho, USICH Senior Policy Director

I must make a confession. When I first came to Washington to work for USICH, I was a bit skeptical about how sold the Federal government was on Housing First. I knew that Housing First was mentioned in Opening Doors, but did the Federal government truly embrace it? After all, it was not so long ago that terms like "harm reduction" were considered four-letter words by the Federal government. richard cho senior policy director housing first homelessness

So imagine my happy surprise when I discovered that I was flat-out wrong. In the first, of what I learned would be many, interagency meetings on chronic homelessness, Housing First adoption was discussed as a primary strategy for accelerating progress. And one of the very first tasks I was given was to help provide a clear, operational definition of Housing First. The result of that work is USICH's Housing First Checklist, a tool that communities can use to adopt Housing First across their programs and overall community response. Not only does this Administration fully believe in Housing First, but it is working to make Housing First the underlying approach behind every community's response to homelessness.

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06/17/2014 - How to Talk About Housing First

By Matthew Doherty, USICH Director of National Initiatives

I recently partnered with the San Diego Regional Continuum of Care Council (RCCC) to host a first-of-its kind discussion locally, billed as Housing First: A Community Conversation for San Diego. I was joined by 25 RCCC members and other stakeholders ready to engage in the dialogue – especially meaningful to me given I live and work in San Diego.

matthew doherty in a community conversation on homelessness in san diego

 

Recognizing that not everyone had the same understanding or support for Housing First approaches, our discussion was structured as a dialogue in which people could express any concerns, questions or disagreements. We wanted to make sure that we could get issues out on the table in a safe environment so that future conversations and trainings could be structured to address the issues raised and help more people, programs, and agencies move toward Housing First approaches in practice. To achieve that purpose, we established rules for the conversation, asked ourselves a few key questions, and identified several topics to discuss when we met again.

 

 

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06/11/2014 - 101,628 People Are Now in Safe and Stable Homes!

Laura Zeilinger speaks at 100K Homes Campaign Announcement on Capitol HillBy Jay Melder, USICH Director of Communications and External Affairs

Today, Community Solutions’s 100,000 Homes Campaign announced it has achieved its goal to connect 100,000 people experiencing chronic homelessness to safe, stable housing—101,628 people, to be exact.

At an event on Capitol Hill, former Army Private First Class Alvin Hill, a Veteran from Washington, DC, shared his story of returning home to civilian-life, losing his job and his apartment, and falling into years of homelessness. Mr. Hill remarked that it was “a tragedy that anyone who would put his life on the line for America could return home to sleep on the streets.” In April, Alvin Hill became the 100,000th person to achieve permanent housing through the 100,000 Homes Campaign.

We congratulate Mr. Hill and we congratulate Community Solutions and all of the local and federal partners who have teamed-up to get the job done. This is an incredible milestone.

Here are three things everyone should know about what reaching milestones like this one really means:

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06/02/2014 - Houston Drives Down Homelessness 37% through Community Collaboration and Housing First Approach

Houston has reduced homelessness by 37 percent since 2011, city and community leaders just announced, attributing the extraordinary achievement to an unprecedented level of collaboration and synergy among public and private organizations to realize the objectives of the Federal strategic plan to end homelessness.

“We are on the right path! Our Housing First strategy of creating permanent accommodations with robust supportive services is working,” Houston Mayor Annise Parker said of the strategy undergirding the approach to ending homelessness in the city. “Moreover, the coordinated team-effort of over 60 different organizations aligning their resources and efforts is working!”

With university, city health and human services and county support, Houston’s Coalition for the Homeless conducted a federally mandated point-in-time (PIT) estimate of the number of people without a safe and stable home on Jan. 30, 2014, and found that there were 3,187 fewer people experiencing homelessness than in previous counts. In 2011, the PIT count determined 8,538 people were experiencing homelessness on a single night in January. In 2012, 7,356. In 2013, 6,359 and in the most recent count, 5,351. 

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05/07/2014 - In One Year, New Orleans Reduced Veteran Homelessness by 43%, Chronic Homelessness by 30%

By Robert Pulster, USICH Regional Coordinator

Over the course of just one year, New Orleans has reduced homelessness among Veterans by 43 percent and chronic homelessness by 30 percent. In one year, New Orleans reduced unsheltered homelessness by 21 percent, 85 percent since 2011.

Since 2007, New Orleans has reduced overall homelessness by 83 percent, showing steady annual decreases since 2009. The number or people experiencing homelessness in New Orleans is now three percent below the number of people counted before Hurricane Katrina in 2005. This is a stunning achievement.

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05/05/2014 - The Chance to Grow Up to Be Whatever You Want: Expanding Access to Services for Children and Families

By Brock Grosso, HHS, Administration for Children and Families

Recently, I got to experience the intersection of policy and field work first hand when I took a trip to Baltimore with ACF staff members to see the great work being done in Baltimore by Health Care for the Homeless (HCH), an HHS funded health care grantee. HCH is doing everything it can to make sure that every young child who experiences homelessness has the chance to grow up to be whatever they want.

 

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05/01/2014 - The True Cost of Doing Nothing

By Richard Cho, USICH Policy Director

President Obama has requested an increase of $301 million in HUD’s Homeless Assistance Grants. At a time of budgetary and fiscal challenges, $301  million sounds like a lot of money. In my view, it’s a small price to pay to achieve an end to chronic homelessness and save the lives of roughly 100,000 people. It’s especially small when compared to the cost of doing nothing, not only in terms of human lives, but also in real taxpayer dollars. 

The cost of doing nothing is simply too high.

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04/21/2014 - Opening Doors Works: USICH Releases Annual Update to Congress

By Laura Green Zeilinger, USICH Executive Director

The Obama Administration, in partnership with communities across the country, is changing the trajectory of homelessness through the implementation of Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness. USICH is proud to release our Annual Update to Congress on the progress of Opening Doors. 

 

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04/15/2014 - Creating Meaningful Alternatives to Criminalization in Our Communities

In March, I had the privilege of going on a ride-along in the HOT van with Sergeant Schnell and his partner, Officer John Liening. I’ve known Sergeant Schnell and Officer Liening for about 10 years or more. The HOT and SIP teams are profiled in USICH’s publication Searching Out Solutions, and they have provided training to police departments in many other parts of the country. But this was my first chance to witness, in person, their daily efforts to create meaningful alternatives to criminalization for the vulnerable men and women who are living unsheltered on the streets of my hometown, San Diego.

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04/15/2014 - Criminalizing Homelessness is Costly, Ineffective, and Infringes on Human Rights

USICH Regional Coordinator Amy Sawyer explains why policies that criminalize homelessness are not only morally wrong but also ineffective solutions to ending homelessness in communities. 

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04/14/2014 - 3 Reasons to Address Homelessness as a Human Rights Issue

By Liz Osborn, USICH Management and Program Analyst

In this blog, Liz Osborn answers the question: What benefits and challenges do organizations face when addressing the issue of homelessness from a human rights perspective?

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04/09/2014 - The Power of Constituent Voice: The Rhode Island Homeless Bill of Rights

Jim Ryczek (pictured right), Executive Director of the Rhode Island Coalition for the Homeless, recounts the journey he and his friend and fellow advocate John Joyce (pictured left) embarked upon in order to create a bill of rights on behalf of people experiencing homelessness in Rhode Island. 

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02/05/2014 - A Paradigm Shift: How Fairfax County Made Significant Gains in Ending Family Homelessness

Dean Klein, director of the Office to Prevent and End Homelessness in Virginia, relates how a shift from managing to ending homelessness led to innovative practices, strong collaborations, and truly incredible results. 

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12/17/2013 - I Believe in Human Rights: My Personal Commitment to Ending Homelessness


Shaun DonovanSecretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan discusses the formative time he spent volunteering in a homeless shelter, and how that spurred his dedication to ending homelessness. 

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11/26/2013 - Wichita Police Department: Making a Difference for People Experiencing Homelessness

Discover how the Wichita Police Department has made an impact in ending homelessness. 

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11/07/2013 - Life Can be Bitter; Everyone Could Use a Little Sugar… One Man’s Journey from Homelessness to Filmmaker

Twenty years ago, after being released from the Navy to take care of my mother who was fighting cancer, I found myself homeless in Orlando, Florida. Those nine months I spent on the street affected me more than any other nine months in my life. Now, I'm a filmmaker and director. This is my story. 

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09/26/2013 - Why Permanent Supportive Housing and Managed Care Need Each Other

The expansion of Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will mean that millions of currently uninsured adults will be eligible for coverage, including many formerly homeless individuals residing in supportive housing.

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09/24/2013 - How Medicaid Expansion Will Benefit People Experiencing Homelessness

Many states are still opting out or remain undecided about whether to participate in Medicaid expansion. One factor these states might consider in evaluating or re-evaluating their decision to participate is the impact of Medicaid expansion on homelessness in their state. But the benefits don’t stop there. State budgets, hospitals, health care providers, and Americans in general also stand to gain from Medicaid expansion. 

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09/04/2013 - How Coordinated Entry is Working on Skid Row

More than 20 organizations joined together to create the Skid Row Coordinated Entry System, in alignment with the Home For Good campaign in Los Angeles. The goal was to make systematic changes that would foster collaboration. For the first time, a system permanent supportive housing services for chronically homeless individuals were being examined, re-imagined, and improved. 

 

 

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08/27/2013 - Rapid Re-Housing is Working in DC

Rapid re-housing is working. And it’s working in Washington, DC, which, in terms of housing unaffordability and poverty rates, is among the most challenging places in the country to live. 

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08/19/2013 - In Indian Country, Serving Those Who Have Served

The first Veteran’s Supportive Housing project to be located on Native American tribal homelands had its grand opening last month on the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa reservation. 

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08/14/2013 - Peer Mentors and Navigators are What We Need

Randle Loeb, a Denver-based advocate for people experiencing homelessness writes about the importance of navigators and peer mentors.

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08/02/2013 - Emerging research indicates rapid re-housing sets up for success

Last week it was my pleasure to moderate a panel at the National Alliance to End Homelessness conference on Emerging Research on Rapid Re-housing at a city, state, and national level. With rapid re-housing being such a new practice, many people have wondered if the initial success rates would last. Would participating households retain their housing or would they lose it and return to homelessness? Many feared that rapid re-housing was setting people up for failure. All three studies we heard about at the NAEH conference had this as their central question, and their findings were remarkably similar.

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07/30/2013 - Homeless Gay and Transgender Youth Count!

 

A growing body of research suggests that gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender youth make up to 40 percent of the homeless youth population in the United States, yet only up to five percent of the general youth population. While reasons for their homelessness vary, the most frequently cited cause is family rejection based on their sexual orientation or gender identity and expression. The True Colors Fund Forty to None Project is committed to taking that number from 40 percent to none.

 

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07/29/2013 - A Glimpse into the Realities and Solutions for Ending Youth Homelessness

During an NAEH pre-conference session, federal policymakers, youth service providers, and youth advocates discussed Federal approaches to ending youth homelessness. 

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07/17/2013 - Reducing the Criminalization of Homelessness

 USICH and the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty met with agency partners to discuss new strategies to reduce criminalization of homelessness.

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07/01/2013 - Mayor Nutter Addresses Homelessness in Speech to the US Conference of Mayors

We applaud Mayor Michael A. Nutter for delivering a powerful message about ending homelessness in his final speech as President of the United States Council of Mayors. 

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