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More than 350 volunteers left Boston City Hall on the crisp, cold early winter night to fan out across the city streets and conduct the annual homeless census—a 33-year tradition. USICH Regional Coordinator Bob Pulster and I were part of the team lead by Boston Emergency Shelter Commission Director Jim Greene. Under the directive of Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino, Jim had emphasized that the volunteers participating in the count had a primary goal to assist and help those who were unsheltered. We were charged to help them connect to immediate resources like shelter, health care, food, blankets, and clothing. Counting alone would not be sufficient -- we also were to engage and outreach. If someone needed help, we were to wait with that person until one of the outreach vans arrived and a good connection was made. Our job was to make sure the linkage actually happened.
I observed Jim and another volunteer interact with two women, one in her 50s, the other in her early 20s and pregnant. Among the volunteers on Mayor Menino’s team was Dr. Paula Johnson, a noted primary care physician, the head of the Connors Center for Women’s Health at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and board chair of the Boston Public Health Commission. Jim beckoned Dr. Johnson over, and she spoke softly, and more privately, with the young woman about her pregnancy, homelessness and related risks. The rest of the group stood back to give them some space and a level of privacy. When Dr. Johnson urged the young woman to consider accepting a ride to shelter, she wavered, asking for time to think it over. Greene assured her that an outreach van would be back to check in with her during the night.
Making Everyone Count: Gearing Up for the 2013 PIT Count
Every year, during the last ten days in January, HUD requires Continuums of Care (CoCs) to count the number of people experiencing homelessness in the geographic area that they serve through the Point-in-Time Count (PIT). In this year’s Point-in-Time Count, HUD is emphasizing the importance of including homeless youth, and has modified data collection methodology by age group to better gather data on youth. Cyndi Lauper and her foundation, The True Colors Fund, teamed up with HUD to create this public service announcement (PSA) promoting participation in this year’s PIT Count. Take a look at this PSA along with FAQs about the PIT Count.
This week HUD released a promotional poster for all Continuums of Care as well as further supplementary guidance on requirements for counting youth and strategies. Access it here. To obtain more information about a local PIT count in your community contact your local CoC.
Recently, I accompanied the VA Greater Los Angeles’ (VA GLA) new Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) team, to observe their work in Hollywood, California. I wanted to see the team in action, tackling issues on the ground level. Ending Veteran homelessness in Los Angeles cuts across three of my top priorities as Executive Director of USICH: ending Veteran homelessness, ending chronic homelessness, and reducing all homelessness in Los Angeles.
Pictured L-R: Veteran client, Janell Perez, Barbara Poppe
The ACT team is part of the VA’s Housing First demonstration project. The team provides case management support to Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslovsky’s Project 60. Project 60 (a replication of Project 50) is an innovative partnership between VA GLA, community based non-profit organizations, and the Supervisor’s deputy, Flora Gil-Krisiloff. Project 60 uses HUD-VASH vouchers from the Housing Authority of the City Los Angeles (HACLA) in order to get chronically homeless and vulnerable Veterans into permanent supportive housing with access to comprehensive, wrap-around services. Supervisor Yaroslovsky provided county funding to support the efforts of the non-profit partners, including Ocean Park Community Center (Santa Monica), Step Up on Second (Hollywood), St. Joseph Center (Venice), and San Fernando Valley Community Mental Health Center (Van Nuys).The Hilton Foundation, working through the Corporation for Supportive Housing brought together financial assistance to help with move-in costs. Project 60 also collaborates with Hollywood’s Vulnerability Registry as part of the 100,000 Homes Campaign (an initiative of Community Solutions). HACLA has been a strong partner in this effort as well working to streamline the application and inspection processes and working closely with VA GLA to prioritize Veterans who are chronically homeless.
As we close out 2012, it is important to look at the accomplishments of the past year and point to ways we must focus our work in the year (and years) ahead. The release of the 2012 Point in Time (PIT) data just a few weeks ago provides the nation with an opportunity to reflect and improve on the work ahead.
As a nation, despite the economic downturn and our continuing recovery, we made progress toward preventing and ending homelessness overall. The 2012 PIT count provides the most recent available data on progress toward the goals of Opening Doors: to end chronic homelessness and homelessness among Veterans by 2015; to end homelessness for families, youth, and children by 2020; and to set a path toward ending all forms of homelessness. According to the 2012 PIT count, through interagency collaboration, strategic investment, and the adoption of proven tools, we have made particular progress in reducing the number of Veterans experiencing homelessness—witnessing a 17 percent reduction since 2009.
Social Media Wrap up
Today is National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day. Each year since 1990, on or near the first day of winter and the longest night of the year, National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH), National Consumer Advisory Board (NCAB), and the National Health Care for the Homeless Council (NHCHC) has co-sponsored National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day to bring attention to the tragedy of homelessness and to remember our homeless friends who have paid the ultimate price. Events will occur all over the country.
I recently participated in an Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) consultation on the topic of Integrated Services and Housing Consultation.
Participants came from across Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Canada, and the US.
US participants included:
Dennis Culhane University of Pennsylvania
Deborah Desantis Corporation for Supportive Housing
Richard Frank Harvard University
Jennifer Harwood U.S. Department of State
Donald Moulds U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Debra Rog WESTAT
Nan Roman National Alliance to End Homelessness
Robyn Stone Leading Age
Roseanne Haggerty Community Solutions
David Wertheimer Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
While homelessness wasn't the sole focus, a substantial part of the two day meeting focused on research, policy, and practices related to homelessness. In addition to those issues, there was discussion around the importance of the integration of services and housing for the aging population, those with mental health and substance abuse disorders, and families with children.
Today, we released the latest USICH newsletter coveringthe December Council meeting that took place this past Tuesday at the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Housing & Urban Development’s 2012 PIT Count release, our Youth Count! Initiative, HEARTH resources, and 2013 PIT guidance and resources.
In addition to our newsletter, we put out quite a few resources and information through our social media this week. Here are a few of them.
HUD releases 2012 PIT Count Estimates
On Monday, HUD released the 2012 Point-in-Time (PIT) Count estimates of homelessness. The numbers show that homelessness remained steady this past year, but the numbers also document a 7% decrease in Veterans and chronic homelessness.
The 2013 Point-in-Time (PIT) Count at the end of January is an important time for communities across the country to collect the most accurate data on those of all ages experiencing homelessness in America. Accurately collecting data and using it to drive performace is a critical component to a community's progress in their plans to end homelessness. Below is a message from HUD on the 2013 PIT Count:
via HUD's OneCPD
As we get closer to the 2013 Point-in-Time (PIT) count HUD wanted to inform communities that we are reaching out to several Federal partners and other organizations to encourage greater coordination and involvement. HUD is encouraging volunteers to contact their CoC Primary Contacts to learn how to assist with the PIT and other opportunities in their communities. CoCs should take the time to ensure that their contact information on HUD’s Homelessness Resource Exchange (HRE) is current. If the CoC contact information needs to be updated, please submit a Virtual Help Desk question on the HRE to make the appropriate change. HUD asks that each CoC prepare ahead of time to know how to utilize the services of volunteers.
FY2012 CoC Competition moving forward
The FY2012 CoC Competition is on many of our minds. With the recently released NOFA, changes made to the HEARTH Act, and navigating the first competition under the Interim Rule, the environment surrounding the FY2012 CoC Competition is dynamic. To help FY2012 CoC Competition applicants navigate the environment and competition, here are a few resources we have compiled and put out through social media this week:
HUD resources on the FY2012 Coc Competition, including an Interim Rule Guide and Fact Sheet & webinars. Check them out here.
Join USICH for a webinar on Monday, December 10 from 2-3PM (EST) that will include additional information for communities as they think strategically through their CoC application. Register here.
Join HUD for its webinar, CoC Program: Understanding the Role of the Collaborative Applicant on Tuesday, Dec. 11. Register here.
The HEARTH Act enacted by Congress in 2009 is, in many ways, a game changer. It gave the federal government the charge to create the first federal strategic plan to prevent and end homelessness, setting forth the vision that no one in this country should be without a safe and stable place to call home. Perhaps most importantly, HEARTH moves governments and local stakeholders from a focus on individual program outcomes to a focus on how all programs work as a system to achieve results for an entire community. This strong statement made by the federal government foregrounds the work of implementing the HEARTH Act in communities across the country.
The HEARTH Act and the ways it seeks to improve a community’s response to homelessness has come into an even sharper focus in the recent weeks, as the Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) for FY 2012 Continuum of Care (CoC) program was released and communities are working on their CoC program applications. In an effort to assist these communities,our most recent newsletter released in November focused on the HEARTH Act; specifically, what the HEARTH Act means for communities, important things to know about the Continuum of Care (CoC) Program NOFA and federal resources to help communities navigate new elements of the HEARTH Act.