USICH BlogUSICH Blog | Media Center | United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) sfsd
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.
03/19/2013 - The National Conference to End Family and Youth Homelessness and the Work of USICH’s Regional Coordinators
During the last full week of February national leaders, practitioners, advocates, educators, and people who have experienced homelessness converged in Seattle, Washington to participate in the National Conference on Family and Youth homelessness sponsored by our partner, the National Alliance to End Homelessness.
The goals of the week were to learn about a new vision for ending youth homelessness, share new initiatives from the federal government to end youth and family homelessness, and understand how to build on the work from the best work in leading communities. During morning coffee, throughout sessions, over lunch, in the course of community visits, and over evening gatherings participants connected. We asked questions, shared successes, and pondered challenges we’ve come across. Collectively, the emerging conversations linked research with promising practices to create a shared vision for applying effective system-wide strategies in an environment that demands efficient and targeted use of resources.
Three individuals, each from a different community partnerwho took part in Omaha, Nebraska’s Point-in-Time count, shared their experiences in this blog.
Introduction on the Omaha Point in Time Count by Erin Porterfield, Director of MACCH
The Metropolitan Area Continuum of Care for the Homeless (MACCH) held the Point-in-Time count on January 30, 2013 between 8:00 PM and midnight. For the unsheltered count, more than 40 volunteers were separated into teams with a trained outreach worker as team leader. These outreach workers conduct outreach weekly and administer the Vulnerability Index for the count as they would during a typical outreach. As part of the annual count, we invite community leaders to join us to boost understanding of our process and more importantly, to meet the people we find experiencing homelessness.
Our community selects the evening time period hoping the people we find will accept a ride to shelter instead of braving the biting temperature of 15 degrees that night. The region covered by the count includes Douglas and Sarpy Counties in Nebraska and Pottawattomie County in Iowa. The region comprises a metro area population of 634,233 with more than 1 percent (at least 7,333 people) of whom experience homelessness annually. During this year’s count we found 19 people living outside ( a decrease of two people from 2011), two of whom asked to be transported to shelter.
HUD releases CoC Renewal Awards for 7,000 Organizations Across the Country
This week, HUD released its Continuum of Care (CoC) Program awards. It renewed $1.5 billion in grants to support more than 7,000 local programs serving people and families experiencing homelessness across the U.S.
Here are a few articles we shared through our social media covering the local impact of the CoC awards. We encourage you to find stories from your local community and share them on social media and among your friends and colleagues. Each of these organizations are the leaders in providing high-quality and vital services to Veterans, youth, families, children and individuals experiencing homelessness in our nation and are committed to ending homelessness. Below are a few stories from around the country:
USICH and the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) share the goal of preventing and ending homelessness by expanding the supply of affordable rental homes. We know that meeting our goal requires high-quality research that tells us the depth of homelessness and shows the progress we’ve made towards ending it. Every year, Out of Reach—NLIHC’s annual report on the housing wage—provides just this kind of research. We know from this report that the cost of housing is simply too high for our lowest income neighbors to afford. Out of Reach helps us define the problem and points us toward solutions, and I was honored to provide the preface to this year’s report.
I know that we can solve homelessness; the pathway to doing so is clear. As a nation, we’ve made progress against those goals. Specifically, we have decreased Veterans homelessness by 17 percent since 2009 and for the first time ever, chronic homelessness is below 100,000. However, homelessness among families has increased, and over one million children in schools lack a stable place to call home.
As Out of Reach shows, an increasingly tight rental market and the drop in the number of affordable rental units available to extremely low income households is the greatest barrier to achieving our vision that "no one should experience homelessness, no one should be without a safe, stable place to call home.”