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Ending Veteran Homelessness by 2015
Following the April 16, 2013 Council meeting, USICH released its newsletter yesterday focused on important programs and policies that we need to accelerate if we are to achieve the goal of ending Veteran homelessness by 2015. Framed by the article "Pushing to the Goal: Three Ways to Accelerate Ending Veteran Homelessness," the supplementary articles focus on these three important areas: faster connections to permanent housing, identifying and meeting the needs of every Veteran, and building stronger bridges to mainstream benefits. Learn about progress toward the 2015 goal, read the newsletter here.
Lastly, The Department of Veterans Affairs recently made a pledge to prioritize disability claims pending over one year for immediate settlement. Read about the announcement in the Washington Post.
The question of how to effectively respond to youth homelessness has long been a preoccupation of mine. My work with homeless youth in Canada began in the 1990s, during my time at Shout Clinic, a community health center for street youth in Toronto. At that time, the problem of youth homelessness was not only becoming much more substantial in cities across the country, it was growing in visibility. As communities scrambled to provide emergency services, such as shelters and day programs, politicians and the news media railed against the scourge of youthful panhandlers. Twenty years have passed, and in many ways things have remained the same.
The longer I am involved with this issue, the more it seems completely unacceptable that we allow young people to languish in emergency shelters, many for years on end. Not only do they experience extreme poverty while exposed to sexual exploitation, addictions and other harms, we may actually be condemning them to a lifelong pattern of poverty, deprivation and potential homelessness. We must ask ourselves: can we do better?
The President’s FY 2014 Budget Proposal: What It Means for Homeless Services
On Wednesday, April 10 the President released his Fiscal Year 2014 budget proposal to Congress, an annual event setting for the President’s vision for the next fiscal year across all federal government agencies. On Monday, USICH released information on how this budget reflects a strong funding commitment to Opening Doors with proposed further investments in targeted and mainstream homeless assistance programs. This year's Budget Proposal includes $5.3 billion for targeted homeless assistance funding, a 21.1 percent increase over the previously enacted Fiscal Year 2012 Budget.
USICH’s coverage of the budget was kicked off with an important message from USICH Chair, VA Secretary Shinseki, and USICH Vice-Chair, HUD Secretary Donovan,on why ending homelessness is a smart investment.We also prepared a fact sheet that breaks down the President’s FY 2014 Budget Proposal by targeted homeless assistance funding. Access the fact sheet
04/09/2013 - Using Resources Effectively and Efficiently to Permanently End Homelessness for All Families
Let’s think back to 1992. Windows 3.1 was released, My Cousin Vinny won an Academy Award, Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” topped the music charts, a first class stamp cost $.29, and the HUD McKinney Vento Homeless Assistance Act was reauthorized for the first time. Much has changed since then.
Seventeen years later, the McKinney Vento Act was again reauthorized as HEARTH, calling for significant changes to the service delivery system to address the dynamic needs of homeless populations across the country. As service providers, funders, and community leaders, we have been given a choice. We can maintain the status quo, or we can rise to the challenge of implementing better ideas and improving our practice. Today we have new analyses, a wealth of information on what works (and what does not), and many new interventions to help individuals and families experiencing homelessness. We have both the capacity and the obligation to build stronger, more effective programs for the vulnerable people who are relying on us to do so.
Our agency, UMOM New Day Centers, chose to fully embrace the paradigm shifts introduced by HUD and USICH. We did so because we were inspired to think differently, act more strategically, and work smarter. With children living on the streets, we could not justify continuing with “business as usual.” We embraced the combination of HEARTH, significant community needs, and the economic crisis as an opportunity to redesign and realign our service delivery system. Three key questions helped us remain intentional and focused.
Nearing the end of my second month in Washington as a part of the USICH team, I am struck by the difference between what I expected to find and what I have found in this city and in this role. My new job at USICH is focused on our work ending homelessness among Veterans, implementing the new framework for ending youth homelessness, and convening the Council itself.
I came to USICH after serving as the point person for housing and homelessness programs at a county human services agency in the Twin Cities metro area. My time at Dakota County provided ample lessons about the practical realities of reaching people experiencing homelessness with the right intervention at the right time; the need to harmonize efforts across programs and organizations; having service capacity responsive to a wide spectrum of needs; and the importance of testing and refining policy based on a hard-nosed, ground-level assessment of its application. It was a privilege in my last job to develop and refine policy and programs by engaging our customers—people experiencing homelessness and staying in shelters, transitional housing and supportive housing—in shaping changes, and working with many talented and passionate professionals in the process as well. The opportunity to implement new policies designed to speed exits from shelters and, the next month, talk with shelter residents about the impact of those policies was a powerful and often humbling experience.
USICH Launches the Solutions Database
The big news of the week around USICH is the launch of our Solutions Database - an online resource hub of evidence-based practices, promising practices, and model programs from around the country that work in ending homelessness. We profile model programs from around the country successful at implementing practices like coordinated entry, targeting of permanent supportive housing, and outreach. Check out the 50+ profiles now! Explore the Solutions Database
Coverage of Potential Local Impacts of Sequestration
With budgets at all levels of government impacted by sequestration, local media has started to cover stories of organizations that will experience a drastic change in their work. As mentioned by HUD Secretary Donovan and echoed by federal leaders working with low-income populations, sequestration has severe impacts on our work to prevent and end homelessness in America.
In Indiana, they anticipate that sequestration will create big gaps in funding that will place Public Housing Authorities and housing vouchers at stake.
“We are expecting this will mean that public housing authorities will end up reducing the number of households they serve because there won’t be sufficient funding for all the vouchers currently in use…”
Local PIT Count News
This week we continued highlighting local coverage of PIT Counts across the country. Here are a few stories celebrating decreases in homelessness in addition to drawing attention to important issues like mental illness among people experiencing homelessness.
Results from Forsyth County’s 2013 PIT Count capture the county’s lowest count on record with a 58 percent decrease in homelessness since 2005. Read the full article here.
In Santa Barbara County, PIT count numbers show 56 percent of individuals surveyed battle mental illness. Learn more.
Great news from New Orleans, homelessness drops 79 percent since its height in 2007. The decrease is attributed to falling rents, more available housing, and new funding to pay for housing. Read the article.
The New Orleans Point-in-Time count was delayed due to the Mardi Gras and the Super Bowl, events that literally take over the city. On Monday February 25th with the thousands of tourists back at home, the City was ready to count those without a home. The New Orleans Count is coordinated by UNITY of Greater New Orleans. UNITY serves as the lead agency for the New Orleans/Jefferson Parish Continuum of Care.
There was a full moon and the weather was warm and clear following heavy showers earlier in the day. I attended the training at the UNITY offices beginning at 8pm. Kathleen North, UNITY’s Director of the Permanent Supportive Housing Registry, spoke to the 60 volunteers on what to expect during the evening. James Tardie of the Southeast Louisiana Veterans Health Care System offered some good advice about safety. Finally, Martha Kegel, UNITY’s Executive Director, thanked the volunteers and told them how valuable their service is to the ongoing work to prevent and end homelessness in New Orleans. Volunteers received bright yellow t-shirts emblazoned with “2013 Homeless Survey” so it was clear to everyone our purpose that evening.
USICH newsletter brings family homelessness into focus
This week, USICH released our newsletter focusing on family homelessness. The newsletter includes links to resources like updated Family content on our website, an article on progressive engagement, a reflection by Regional Coordinator Amy Sawyer on the National Alliance to End Homelessness annual conference, and a blog by USICH Policy Director Katharine Gale that calls us to look to the end of family homelessness in this country. Read the newsletter.
2012 Annual Update Released
USICH released its 2012 Annual Update on Wednesday. Two years have passed since USICH launched Opening Doors the nation’s first-ever comprehensive strategic plan to prevent and end homelessness. Recently, USICH released an amendment to Opening Doors focused on preventing and ending youth homelessness and improving educational outcomes for children and youth experiencing homelessness.
The Update reports on the progress we have made on the plan.
Opening Doors sets a national goal of ending family homelessness by 2020. In one way, this goal is audacious and bold, and in another, it’s too far off—we need to end family homelessness as soon as possible. Each day we do not, children’s lives are torn off-course and their futures are threatened. Homelessness is life-disrupting and potentially traumatizing for anyone, but it is particularly so for children; instability and lack of security can negatively impact children's health, development, and academic achievement.
Unfortunately, in the last Point-In-Time count report, family homelessness was up slightly, 1.4 percent, from the previous year. Find articles covering PIT here. Given that the 2012 PIT followed the deepest point of the recession this slight uptick wasn’t surprising. In fact, family homelessness would almost certainly have been much worse had it not been for the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Rehousing program, funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which assisted more than 1.3 million individuals and families with prevention and rapid rehousing assistance.