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“I’m ashamed because the other kids say I smell bad.”
“Get those dirty bums out of our town.”
How many times have you heard sentiments similar to these, either from those experiencing homelessness, or from those encountering them on the streets? As advocates for the rights and dignity of homeless persons, we know these statements reflecting the stigmatization of homelessness are wrong, but few of us have thought more deeply about the causes and consequences of stigma.
At the end of September, over 400 people from the Southeast and throughout the country joined together in Clearwater, Florida for the 2012 Southeast Institute on Homelessness. The Institute, supported by the Florida departments of Children & Families and Education, the Florida Housing Finance Corporation, and Wells Fargo, is an example of the type of government, nonprofit and public sector partnerships that breed success in ending homelessness.
The focus of the institute was Building Successful Communities. Sessions, presentations, and dialogue groups asked participants to think about what is new, what is working, and what’s next in their community’s efforts to end homelessness. Keynote speakers, including USICH, invited participants into a dialogue about collaborative partnerships, creative planning, thinking “outside the box”, right-sizing and targeting resources, measuring success, and connecting with mainstream resources. No matter what stage of development communities were in when they got to the Southeast Institute on Homelessness, this event helped create a pathway for moving forward with people, groups, and partners looking to make changes in their programs for the better.
The Reentry Newsletter
Yesterday, USICH released its newsletter focused on reentry of individuals from jails and prisons. The newsletter covers the challenges of reentry housing and provides the resources to make a difference. Also, it highlights work being done on the federal and local level to successfully address reentry.
The issue of reentry is urgent. Annually, approximately 730,000 Federal and state prisoners return to communities and over 9 million pass through local jails. For people held in state and federal prisons, the path to stability can be long and challenging. Beyond the employment barriers and stigma related to a criminal conviction, many do not have a stable home or a family support system when released. These individuals are far more likely to become homeless in the days and weeks after release. Residing in shelters rather than a more stable environment has shown to increase the risk of re-incarceration. There is also a subset of individuals in the nation's prisons and jails that cycle between the criminal justice system and homelessness that incur high costs to themselves and public systems.
"Big systems change requires big systems to change."
That's what the Chief Medical Officer for Health Share of Oregon told me was the approach to change that the new Coordinated Care Organization, created out of the State of Oregon's health reform plan, needed to take. I had a chance to meet leaders in this effort when I travelled to Portland September 19. One change that was visible was who was at the table. Big hospital systems are pairing up with nonprofits that have been delivering care on the streets and at community clinics, hoping to learn from the work that organizations like Central City Concern have been doing for years. One of the premises of health homes and accountable care organizations, called Coordinated Care Organizations in Oregon, is that the only way to achieve the "triple aim" of health reform that is, better care, better health, and lower costs, is to change the whole approach to patient care. That can start with big systems like hospitals and their data about who has multiple hospital admissions or many trips to the emergency room. And it also has to start with actual patient care.
This week we will be releasing a package of information through our newsletter focused on the challenges of reentry for individuals transitioning out of jails and prisons, and the ways the government and service providers are working to create successful outcomes for this population of Americans. Today we’ll share with you the work of a well-documented initiative from our partners at CSH, Returning Home Ohio.
Returning Home Ohio (RHO) is a supportive housing pilot initiative led by the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (ODRC) and Corporation for Supportive Housing (CSH) aimed at preventing homelessness and reducing recidivism for individuals reentering Ohio’s communities from state prisons. The target population includes offenders released from the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections who have histories of chronic homelessness or are at-risk of homelessness upon release.
Photo courtesy of CSH
Unaccompanied Youth and the 2013 Point in Time Count
Communities are now beginning to think about their January 2013 Point in Time Count, especially as it relates to unaccompanied youth. For the first time as part of the new Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing (HEARTH) Act guidelines, unaccompanied youth will be counted in the Point-in- Time count in every community across the country. To kick off this process, The National Alliance to End Homelessness will host a webinar on including Youth in the “Point-In-Time” (P.I.T.) Count on Thursday, October 4 from 1:30-3:00PM (EST).
Also discussing both the full Point in Time count as well as the upcoming Housing Inventory Count, HUD is putting on a webinar on Tuesday, October 2 from 3:30-4:30 EDT. This will cover all the new requirements for communities conducting these counts, which includes information on ensuring more youth are counted in January 2013.
Today, NLIHC (National Low Income Housing Coalition) released the report Renters in Foreclosure: A Fresh Look at an Ongoing Problem. The report builds on its 2009 report Renters in Foreclosure: Defining the Problem, Identifying Solutions,which found that renters comprised 40 percent of the families facing foreclosures of their homes. This number remains the same in 2012, representing a three-fold increase in the number of American renters who are affected by foreclosure. Specifically, the report also takes a historical look at the ways the early stages of the foreclosure crisis disproportionately affected high-poverty areas. African-American neighborhoods still experience a disproportionate number of foreclosures, especially in the multi-family sector.
VA Announces Awards for GPD Programs, Highlighting Programs Using the Transition in Place Model
The Department of Veterans Affairs Department of Veterans Affairs announced awardees of funds to implement transitional housing programs through VA's Grant and Per Diem program. $28.4 million was awarded to fund 38 projects in 25 states and the District of Columbia. Notably, 31 of 38 awardees committed to using the "Transition in Place" model, which allows Veterans to take over the lease of their unit instead of moving out when they have gained stability. This model creates continuity for Veterans as they stabilize their lives and ensures they have a permanent residence after receiving VA services in substance use disorder and mental health treatment. Traditional transitional housing programs require Veterans to move out of their unit after 24 months. Once the lease transitions to the Veterans name, the Veteran stays connected to VA support services to ensure ongoing needs are met to sustain a healthy lifestyle and benefit receipt when they take over the lease.
Public Housing Agencies (PHAs) administer powerful resources for very vulnerable populations, making them critical partners for ending homelessness. That’s why CSH is proud to present a great new resource for PHAs and other stakeholders interested in pursuing supportive housing in their communities. Online now at csh.org/phatoolkit, this new resource provides tools, examples and advice for PHAs venturing into or expanding work in supportive housing.
The biggest event of this week was our quarterly Council meeting, which was held on Wednesday at the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The focus of this meeting was on the ways states and communities can best use mainstream resources, like school programs, public housing resources, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), woven with targeted homelessness resources to make progress. USICH Chair and Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was joined by HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan, Director of the Corporation for National and Community Service Wendy Spencer, Luke Tate from the Domestic Policy Council, and key representatives from 18 member agencies.