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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.”
Homelessness can happen to anyone. Millions of families are just one accident, illness or layoff away – a lesson my family found out the hard way. We had always been self-sufficient, acquiring and operating an airport shuttle business 3 months, but lost our business in 2001 once air travel sharply declined due to the attacks of 9/11. Without our business, we were unable to keep our home and wound up living with my mother.
Whoever says living doubled-up is not a form of homelessness has clearly not lived it first-hand. Our family of four was in a small, single room with our two sons sleeping on the floor. Our possessions were in storage. It was my mother’s home – it did not feel like our home. We were homeless.
What kept us going was the hope that we would quickly receive a Section 8 voucher because of my husband’s disability status. That’s what we were told. But after waiting and hoping for months, we found out the Section 8 Program had frozen its waitlist. We could not afford a place on our own, and after six months with my mother, we had to move on.
The Impact of Sequestration on Low-Income Communities
In light of last Friday’s news that automatic budget cuts, known as sequestration, will go into effect, National Alliance to End Homelessness President and CEO Nan Roman detailed the devastating impact of the sequester on the poor and vulnerable. She was featured on the Huffington Post blog, and you can read her piece here. In addition, The New York Times further explained how the poor would be hit particularly hard by the budget cuts, as all of HUD’s programs are subject to the sequester, which is an effective 9 percent cut to budgets for the rest of this fiscal year (until September 30). In the words of Secretary Donovan, “Sequestration is a blunt and indiscriminate instrument…a self-inflicted wound that would have devastating impacts on our economy and on people across the nation.” For Americans experiencing or at-risk of homelessness, funding cuts as a result of the sequester further fray the social safety net for the most vulnerable.
Fortunately, Department of Veterans Affairs programs will be spared by sequestration, but advocates are monitoring other Veteran programs that may be cut from other U.S. departments. Learn more here.
When it comes to providing services to the homeless young people, it is often said that “youth are not just mini-adults.” Youth require developmentally appropriate interventions tailored to their needs and circumstances. However, this need is often not reflected in existing plans to end homelessness, treating individuals who experience homelessness as a single group and not adequately addressing the unique needs of children, youth and young adults. As a result, many youth who turn to adult services experience threats, theft, or harassment, or are turned away because they don’t necessarily fit within the constraints of the environment.
In order to directly address the unique needs of young people experiencing homelessness, in January the California Homeless Youth Project (HYP) released the first-ever state action plan focused on ending homelessness for youth and young adults. More Than a Roof: How California Can End Youth Homelessness aims to align state and local policymakers, service providers, and government agencies towards ending youth homelessness by 2020, as set out by USICH’s federal strategic plan Opening Doors.
Philadelphia was my second PIT count this year (I was in Boston in December). To me, this is much more than a data gathering exercise—it’s a stark reminder that we've not yet been successful in our cause. While I am heartened to see the evidence of progress—fewer people living on the street, new supportive housing launched, better coordination and engagement among outreach—I’m disheartened to see our fellow human beings living in such difficult conditions. The night was a very warm (65 degrees), rainy, and windy. I was assigned to a team responsible for counting and surveying in the Concourse.
Public information describes the Concourse as a series of underground concourses allowing pedestrians to reach their jobs from the major transportation hubs without having to be exposed to the weather. Most of the Center City area around City Hall and along Market and Broad Streets is connected to the major government buildings and office towers by the Concourse. All of the regional system's Regional Rail Lines stop (and occasionally terminate) here, and access is provided to the Market-Frankford Elevated and Subway Line, the Broad Street Subway Line, and all Subway-Surface Trolley Routes. Additionally, several city buses and company shuttle buses service the exterior of the property. The concourse, dubbed "MetroMarket", provides commuters and the public alike with restroom facilities, customer service, a post office, and a number of eateries and shops.
At the beginning of this week we released a newsletter focusing on what’s needed moving forward to end Veteran homelessness and some important and innovative work going on across the country to make significant progress. Working from a detailed analysis by Dr. Dennis Culhane of the National Center on Homelessness Among Veterans, we released to the public Ending Veteran Homelessness: A Report by USICH, which details progress and opportunities for greater collaboration to achieve the 2015 goal. We also highlighted the work five communities on track to end Veteran homelessness undertake to make such progress, and more local innovations.
This week the New York Times also delved deeper into the challenges of female Veterans when they return to civilian life, particularly the challenges following military sexual trauma. Its impact on the ability of female Veterans to regain stability can exacerbate challenges that lead to homelessness. The growing number of female Veterans experiencing homelessness is shown through the personal stories of a few Veterans, and solutions like HUD-VASH are highlighted.
I have visited Washington, D.C. many times, but to live there opened up a brand new adventure. The presidential campaign was in full swing, Congress was gridlocked, deficit spending cuts were being called for, and more were splashed in the daily papers and on TV. I wondered what it would be like to live in the center of it all. Over the years I had heard that “those bureaucrats” in Washington, D.C. don’t understand what the real issues are, or think they know better than those living and working in the states. I pondered these thoughts and feelings as I had just accepted a six month opportunity to work at USICH. I would now become “one of those Federal government bureaucrats.” What would I experience and learn over the next six months?
For me, the best way to take full advantage of this opportunity was to relocate to D.C. Within a week after arriving on September 4 from Utah, I rented a place six blocks east of the Capitol and my new adventure began. My primary focus during my time here was to work with the Department of Justice and explore how USICH might assist in improving policies and methods for successful reentry into communities for those released from incarceration. Preventing homelessness following incarceration is a component of the objective of Opening Doors that focuses onadvancing the health and housing stability for people with frequent contact with hospitals and criminal justice. Successful reentry into a community reduces both homelessness and recidivism. With a roughly 60% national recidivism rate, creating successful reentry solutions is a wise investment for Federal, State, and local leaders. Attorney General Eric Holder created the Federal Interagency Reentry Council to help push forward this work, which includes several sub-committees working to improve coordination among the Federal departments with programs designed to assist those released from incarceration. I was able to quickly become part of the discussion and planning process on many of these sub-committees, including the development of housing and service priorities actions for the Reentry Council for the coming four years.