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05/15/2013 - Project-Based Vouchers Can Help End Homelessness: Our Work in Houston

By Tory Gunsolley, President and CEO, Houston Housing Authority
 

Project-based vouchers are a powerful tool that can be used to create and sustain a homeless response system in any community.  Housing Authorities are allowed to convert up to 20 percent of their Housing Choice budget authority into vouchers that are attached to a project.  By attaching the voucher to the project, developers can depend on a steady stream of operating subsidy at market rate rents – while serving households who typically have extremely low incomes.  This level of subsidy serves as a real incentive for developers to create permanent supportive housing. HUD has given Housing Authorities quite a bit of flexibility in designing local criteria for the award of project-based vouchers.  In Houston’s case, we have determined that project-based vouchers are a powerful tool that can be used in the fight to end homelessness.  We are leveraging this tool by creating a preference for developers who are serving those experiencing homelessness and providing permanent supportive housing so tenants can be successful in their transition from living on the streets or in their cars to living in a home of their own. 

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05/03/2013 - What We’re Talking About: The Week at USICH - April 29 - May 3

HUD Announces second round of Continuum of Care grants, expanding support for more than 500 agencies across the country

Yesterday HUD announced $72 million in second round Continuum of Care (CoC) grants to over 500 local organizations serving individuals and families experiencing homelessness. The $72 million in grants announced support a wide range of programs including street outreach, client assessment, and direct housing assistance.  In March, HUD awarded more than $1.5 billion in a first round of grant funding to renew support for more than 7,000 other local programs.  HUD will make a third round of funding to support selected new projects later this year. View a complete list of all the state and local homeless projects awarded funding.

“We know these modest investments in housing and serving our homeless neighbors not only saves money, but saves lives,” said Donovan.  “These local programs are on the front lines of the Obama Administration’s efforts to prevent and end homelessness as we know it once and for all.”

We encourage you to take a look at the organizations in your state that received funding. You can access the full list of grants from HUD’s press release here

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04/26/2013 - What We’re Talking About: The Week at USICH - April 22-26

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.

On topic, The U.S. Department of Defense released information on its joint effort with The Department of Veterans Affairs to support ending veteran homelessness by 2015. Read the article.

Also, The Department of Veterans Affairs’ Dr. Susan Angell was featured on the Funders Together blog. Read her piece about staying the course to reach our 2015 goal.

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.

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04/26/2013 - Can we solve youth homelessness?  The role of research points the way

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? 

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04/19/2013 - What We’re Talking About: The Week at USICH - April 15-19

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

 

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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.      

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04/08/2013 - The Right Efforts, Focused in the Right Way

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.

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04/05/2013 - What We’re Talking About: The Week at USICH - April 1-4

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…”

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03/29/2013 - What We’re Talking About: The Week at USICH - March 25-29

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.

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03/26/2013 - The NOLA 2013 PIT Count: A Reflection by Bob Pulster, USICH Regional Coordinator

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. 

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