Tag Archive for homeless

V.A. Budgets Spending Increase, End to Vet Homelessness in 2015

VA-logoVery recently the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs released its proposed 2015 budget of $164 billion, reflecting a 6.5% increase in spending over the current year. Among the goals that will be achieved in 2015 are the end of veteran homelessness and the elimination of the agonizing disability claims backlog that has drawn criticism from all quarters.

The 2015 budget appropriates an additional $1.6 billion in funding the V.A.’s plan for ending veteran homelessness. The money would fund V.A. direct assistance and programs it operates with community agencies and non-profits to help veterans and their families at risk of becoming homeless.

One-third of homeless adult men and nearly one-quarter of all homeless adults have served in the armed forces. It has been estimated that nearly 200,000 veterans may be homeless on any given night and that twice that many experience homelessness during a year. Many other vets are considered at risk because of poverty, lack of support from family and friends and precarious living conditions in overcrowded or substandard housing. Ninety-seven percent of homeless veterans are male, and the vast majority of them are single. About half of all homeless veterans suffer from mental illness, and more than two-thirds suffer from drug or alcohol abuse problems. Nearly 40% have both psychiatric and substance abuse disorders.

The V.A. has numerous programs to benefit homeless vets. Eligible homeless veterans may be eligible for such benefits as disability compensation, pension, education and training, health care, rehabilitation services, home loan guarantee, residential care, insurance, vocational assistance and employment and compensated work therapy.

Homeless vets in need of health care, can phone the V.A. National Call Center for Homeless Veterans at 1-877-4AID-VET (1-877-424-3838 and be connected to a trained V.A. responder. This is a free service to homeless veterans, who need not be registered or enrolled in V.A. healthcare. A homeless vet who calls may be connected with the Homeless Program point of contact through the nearest V.A. facility.

The V.A., through the Health Care for Homeless Veterans Program, provides outreach, exams, treatment, referrals, and case management through trained and caring specialists, to provide the tools and support necessary to help veterans get their lives back on track.

Last year, V.A. provided health care services to more than 100,000 homeless veterans and its specialized homeless programs provided services to 70,000 vets. More than 40,000 homeless vets receive compensation or pension benefits annually. Although limited to veterans and their dependents, the V.A.’s major homeless programs constitute the largest integrated network of homeless assistance programs in the country, offering a wide array of services and initiatives to help veterans recover from homelessness and live as self-sufficiently and independently as possible. Nearly three-quarters of homeless veterans use V.A. health care services and 55% have used V.A. homeless services.

The V.A., using its own resources or in partnerships with others, has secured more than 15,000 residential rehabilitative, transitional and permanent beds for homeless veterans. The V.A. spends more than $1 billion from its health care and benefit assistance programs to aid tens of thousands of homeless and at-risk veterans. To increase this assistance, V.A. conducts outreach to connect homeless veterans to both mainstream and homeless-specific V.A. programs and benefits.

These programs strive to offer a continuum of services that include:

  1. Aggressive outreach to veterans living on the streets and in shelters who otherwise would not seek assistance;
  2. Clinical assessment and referral for treatment of physical and psychiatric disorders, including substance abuse;
  3. Long-term transitional residential assistance, case management and rehabilitation;
  4. Employment assistance and linkage with available income supports and permanent housing.

The V.A. has awarded more than 400 grants to public and nonprofit groups to assist homeless veterans in 50 states and D.C. to provide transitional housing, service centers and vans for transportation to services and employment.

The V.A. sponsors and supports national, regional and local homeless conferences and meetings, bringing together thousands of homeless providers and advocates to discuss community planning strategies and to provide technical assistance in such areas as transitional housing, mental health and family services, and education and employment opportunities for the homeless.

V.A. programs for the homeless include:

  1. Health Care for Homeless Veterans Program operates at 133 sites, where extensive outreach, physical and psychiatric health exams, treatment, referrals and ongoing case management are provided to homeless veterans with mental health problems, including substance abuse. This program assesses more than 40,000 veterans annually.
  2. Domiciliary Care for Homeless Veterans Program provides medical care and rehabilitation in a residential setting on V.A. medical center grounds to eligible ambulatory veterans disabled by medical or psychiatric disorders, injury or age and who do not need hospitalization or nursing home care. There are more than 1,800 beds available through the program at 34 sites. The program provides residential treatment to more than 5,000 homeless veterans each year. The domiciliaries conduct outreach and referral; admission screening and assessment; medical and psychiatric evaluation; treatment, vocational counseling and rehabilitation and post-discharge community support.
  3. Veterans Benefits Assistance at V.A. Regional Offices is provided by designated staff members who serve as coordinators and points of contact for homeless veterans. They provide outreach services and help expedite the processing of homeless veterans’ claims. The Homeless Eligibility Clarification Act allows eligible veterans without a fixed address to receive V.A. benefits checks at V.A. regional offices. The V.A. also has procedures to expedite the processing of homeless veterans’ benefits claims. Last year more than 35,000 homeless veterans received assistance and nearly 4,000 had their claims expedited by Veterans Benefits Administration staff members.
  4. Acquired Property Sales for Homeless Providers Program makes properties V.A. obtains through foreclosures on V.A.-insured mortgages available for sale to homeless providers at a discount of 20 to 50%. To date, more than 200 properties sold have been used to provide homeless people, including veterans, with nearly 400,000 sheltered nights in V.A. acquired property.
  5. Readjustment Counseling Service’s Vet Centers provide outreach, psychological counseling, supportive social services and referrals to other V.A. and community programs. Every Vet Center has a homeless veteran coordinator assigned to make sure services for homeless veterans are tailored to local needs. Annually, the program’s 207 Vet Centers see approximately 130,000 veterans and provide more than 1,000,000 visits to veterans and family members. More than 10,000 homeless veterans are served by the program each year.
  6. Veterans Industry/Compensated Work-Therapy and Compensated Work-Therapy/Transitional Residence Programs. Through these programs, the V.A. offers structured work opportunities and supervised therapeutic housing for at-risk and homeless veterans with physical, psychiatric and substance-abuse disorders. The V.A. contracts with private industry and the public sector for work by these veterans, who learn new job skills, re-learn successful work habits and regain a sense of self-esteem and self-worth. Veterans are paid for their work and, in turn, make a payment toward maintenance and upkeep of the residence. Approximately 14,000 veterans participate in Compensated Work Therapy programs annually.
  7. HUD-V.A. Supported Housing Program is a joint program with the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which provides permanent housing and ongoing treatment to homeless mentally ill veterans and those suffering from substance abuse disorders. HUD’s Section 8 voucher program has designated more than 1,750 vouchers worth $44.5 million for chronically mentally ill homeless veterans, and V.A. personnel at 34 sites provide outreach, clinical care and case management services.
  8. V.A.’s Supported Housing Program allows V.A. personnel to help homeless veterans secure long-term transitional or permanent housing. They also offer ongoing case management services to help the veterans remain in housing they can afford. V.A. staff work with private landlords, public housing authorities and nonprofit organizations to find housing arrangements. Veteran service organizations have been instrumental in helping V.A. establish these housing alternatives nationwide. V.A. staff at 22 supported housing program sites helped more than 1,400 homeless veterans find transitional or permanent housing in the community.
  9. Stand Downs are one-to three-day events that provide homeless veterans a range of services and allow V.A. and community-based service providers to reach more homeless veterans. Stand downs give homeless vets a temporary refuge where they can obtain food, shelter, clothing and a range of community and V.A. assistance. In many locations, stand downs provide health screenings, referral and access to long-term treatment, benefits counseling, ID cards and access to other programs to meet their immediate needs. Each year, the V.A. participates in more than 100 stand downs coordinated by local entities. Surveys show that more than 23,000 veterans and family members attend these events with more than 13,000 volunteers contributing annually.

A pending initiative: The U.S. Department of Labor and the V.A. are collaborating on a pilot project to assist veterans discharged from incarceration to avoid homelessness and re-incarceration.

Many Cities Criminalize Homelessness While Others Provide Free Housing and Other Valuable Assistance

dtusaNot too long ago, Tampa, FL—which had the most homeless people for a mid-sized city—passed an ordinance allowing police officers to arrest anyone they saw sleeping or storing personal property in public, and it followed that up with a ban on panhandling downtown and in other locations around the city.

Philadelphia banned feeding homeless people on city parkland. Columbia, SC ordered the homeless the choice to either relocate or get arrested. Los Angeles spent $6 million in a year for 50 extra police to make 201 arrests of Skid Row homeless people for “crimes” like jaywalking and loitering. That money could have housed 225 people.

St. Petersburg, FL outlawed downtown panhandling, sleeping in numerous outdoor locations and storing personal belongings on public property. Orlando prohibited groups from sharing food with 25 or more people in downtown parks, and although the law was found unconstitutional, Orlando appealed the decision.

A 2009 study, Homes Not Handcuffs: The Criminalization of Homelessness in U.S. Cities, conducted by the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty and the National Coalition for the Homeless, found that of 235 cities: 33% prohibit “camping” in particular public places and 17% have citywide prohibitions on “camping”; 30% prohibit sitting/lying in certain public places; 47% prohibit loitering in particular public areas and 19% prohibit loitering citywide; 47% prohibit begging in particular public places; and 23% have citywide prohibitions on begging.

The trend of criminalizing homelessness continues to grow. In the 224 cities included in the study’s prohibited-conduct charts there was a 7% increase in laws prohibiting “camping” in particular public places, an 11% increase in laws prohibiting loitering in particular public places and a 6% increase in laws prohibiting begging in particular public places.

In 2009, the U.S. Congress passed and President Obama signed The Helping Families Save Their Homes Act, which requires the federal Interagency Council on Homelessness to devise constructive alternatives to criminalization measures that can be used by cities around the country.

Homeless criminalization measures can be counterproductive in many ways. Police sweeps of city areas to drive homeless people from their living areas frequently result in the destruction of individuals’ personal property, such as important documents and medication, and they frequently move people away from services. When homeless persons are arrested and charged under cruel ordinances, they may develop a criminal record, making it more difficult to obtain the employment and/or housing that could help them become self-sufficient.

Courts have found certain criminalization measures to be unconstitutional. For example, when a city passes a law that places too many restrictions on begging, such restrictions may raise free speech concerns, as courts have found begging to be protected speech under the First Amendment. When a city destroys homeless persons’ belongings, such actions may violate the Fourth Amendment right to freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures.

When a city enforces a law that imposes criminal penalties on a homeless person for engaging in necessary life activities, such as sleeping in public, such a law may violate that person’s Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment, if the person has nowhere else to perform the activity.

When a city passes a law that does not give people sufficient notice of what types of conduct it prohibits, or allows for arbitrary enforcement by police, such a law can be determined to be overly vague in violation of the Constitution. Courts have found certain loitering and vagrancy laws to be unconstitutionally vague. In addition to violating domestic law, criminalization measures can also violate international human rights law.

Instead of criminalizing homelessness, local governments, business groups and law enforcement officials should work with homeless people, providers and advocates for solutions to prevent and end homelessness. Cities should dedicate more resources to creating more affordable housing, permanent supportive housing, emergency shelters and homeless services in general. To address street homelessness, cities should adopt or dedicate more resources to outreach programs, emergency shelters and permanent supportive housing.

Instead of advocating for criminalization measures, business groups can put resources into solutions to homelessness. When cities work with homeless persons and advocate for solutions to homelessness, instead of punishing those who are homeless or poor, everyone benefits.

Some cities and states do offer constructive alternatives to criminalization. Since 2005, Utah has been saving jail and other costs by giving homeless people flats with zero strings attached, along with social workers to help them secure employment and job skills, so that they can eventually become self-sufficient. If the newly housed people don’t become independent right away, they still keep the rent-free apartment.

As a result of this approach, Utah dropped its homelessness rate by 78%, got 2,000 people off the streets and should have a roof over everyone’s head by next year. Since Casper, WY saw its homeless population increase twofold in three years, it is now looking to start a program based on Utah’s.
Nation of Change points out:

Republicans in Congress would probably have required the homeless to take a drug test before getting an apartment, denied apartments to homeless people with criminal records and evicted those who failed to become self-sufficient after five years or so, but Utah’s results show that even conservative states can solve problems like homelessness with decidedly progressive solutions.

Other constructive approaches:

  1. In order to reduce the need for panhandling, a coalition of service providers, business groups and the City of Daytona Beach, FL began The Downtown Team program that provides homeless participants with jobs and housing. While in the program, participants are hired to clean up downtown Daytona Beach and are provided initially with shelter and subsequently with transitional housing. A number of participants have moved on from the program to other full-time jobs and housing.
  2. Cleveland, OH. Instead of passing a law to restrict groups that share food with homeless persons, Cleveland has contracted with the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless to coordinate outreach agencies and food sharing groups to prevent duplication of food provision, to create a more orderly food-sharing system and to provide an indoor food-sharing site to groups that wish to use it.
  3. Portland, OR. As part of its 10-year plan, Portland began “A Key Not a Card,” where outreach workers from five different service providers are able to immediately offer people living on the street permanent housing rather than just a business card. From the program’s inception in 2005 through Spring 2009, 936 individuals in 451 households have been housed through the program, including216 households placed directly from the street.


With Baby Boomers Aging, Elderly Homelessness Could Skyrocket, Vastly Increasing Emergency Room Usage

Sign: Elderly People

Photo by Ethan Prater on Flickr, thanks for using Creative Commons!

A 2011 study by the Homeless Research Institute of the National Alliance to End Homelessness estimated that the number of homeless senior citizens will increase by 33% in 2020 (from 44,172 in 2010 to 58,772 in 2020) and will more than double from the current number by the year 2050 (to 95,000)—unless something is done to reduce these numbers.

According to Medicare, nearly half of all seniors (48%) live in poverty today, especially in: DC (59%); California (56%); Hawaii (55%); Georgia (54%); Louisiana, New York, Rhode Island and Tennessee (52%); Florida and Mississippi (51%) and Arizona (50%).

Fortunately, chronic homelessness decreased by 3% from 110,911 in 2009 to 107,148 in 2011. And the chronically homeless population has declined by 13% since 2007. The drop is associated with an increase in the number of permanent supportive housing beds from 188,636 in 2007 to 266,968 in 2011. Providing permanent supportive housing ends chronic homelessness.

A study named The State of Homelessness 2012 lays out a roadmap for ending homelessness:

Prevention and rapid re-housing clearly work. This is the lesson of the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program, which appears to have forestalled an increase in homelessness, despite the poor economy, high unemployment and lack of affordable housing. With 40% of homeless people unsheltered, the crisis-response system must be improved.

Today, many older individuals with histories of housing stability experience a first-time period of homelessness. Living on limited, fixed incomes—including Social Security and/or Supplemental Security Income—elderly persons experience severe housing cost burdens more frequently than the general population, potentially resulting in housing loss. Twenty-six percent of elderly households were “severely cost-burdened,” versus 20% of all households in 2007. Compounding this, access to affordable senior living can be challenging, with an average wait time lasting about three to five years.

According to one study, common causes of elderly homelessness include: financial problems, mental health problems, relationship breakdown, physical health problems and issues related to work.

Another study identified three non-overlapping reasons for homelessness: “36% said they lost a job and could not find another and/or had problems with drinking; 39% reported discontinued or inadequate public assistance and/or a disagreement with family or friends with whom they were staying; and 25% reported inadequate income and/or illness.

Lack of stable housing has been associated with increased Emergency Department (ED) utilization. Unstably housed adults over age 50 use the ED at rates nearly four times that of the general population. Certain factors among these older patients were associated with making at least four ED visits in the past 12 months: female sex, white race, no usual source of primary care, at least one outpatient visit during the past year, alcohol problem, at least one fall during past year, executive dysfunction and sensory impairment.

Due to prolonged exposure to stress, those living in poverty often experience weathering, causing them to age prematurely by 10 to 20 years beyond their chronological age.

Factors that are significantly correlated with frailty in the older homeless population include: chronological age, being female, increased health care utilization and poorer nutrition scores. Additionally, adverse life events including trauma, drug and alcohol use and incarceration are can place those without stable housing at greater risk for hospitalizations, falls, and premature mortality.

Systems of care must be improved to accommodate the unique needs of older and elderly adults without stable housing. To reduce avoidable ED utilization and improve health status, a study recommends routine screening and counseling on alcohol abuse, addressing common risk factors for falls, increasing access to eyeglasses and hearing aids and connecting patients with housing to decrease acute-care use.

Another study recommends:

Having frontline geriatric nursing triage, shelter-based convalescence or medical-respite facilities, and nurse case management utilizing a chronic-disease self-management program.

Photo: Ethan Prater on Flickr

The War Against the Homeless (Infographic)

War Against the Homeless
Source: War Against the Homeless

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Aging Street Dwellers Could Remain Homeless for Life Unless More Housing is Found

English: Homeless veteran in New York

English: Homeless veteran in New York (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A recent report from the National Alliance to End Homelessness predicted the number of elderly homeless people could increase 33% by 2020 and more than double by 2050.

The alliance recommends that the supply of subsidized affordable housing for economically struggling elderly persons be increased and that permanent housing be created to end chronic homelessness. The alliance also suggests advancing research to better understand the needs of the elderly homeless population.

In Pasadena, CA, homelessness increased more than 21% between 2009 and 2011. The 2010 US Census found that more than 21,000 people in 8,000 households in Pasadena (a fairly wealthy city) had incomes below $15,000 and were considered at-risk for homelessness. Researchers also found that 14% of Pasadena residents were living below the poverty level, including 19% of children, 23% of families with a female head and 13% of people over 65.

Anne Lansing, co-chair of the Pasadena Housing and Homeless Network and project manager for the Pasadena Housing Department says:

As the population ages, the homeless population will age correspondingly with it. If they’ve become homeless when they were seniors, there is a great deal of anger. They feel that society has basically failed in its social contract.

Most of these seniors have been homeless for a long time, aging on the street. Unless there are serious efforts to increase their housing opportunities, many will continue to live on the streets.

Providing for the elderly homeless provides new challenges for agencies, because older people are sicker and require a wide range of medical services. A lack of housing exacerbates their medical problems. Lansing points out that arthritis is more debilitating when one is sleeping on concrete instead of a bed.

Marvin Gross, CEO of Union Station Homeless Services, in Pasadena, says:

We don’t dispense medication, but we work with seniors to make sure that they take certain medications at a certain time. Seniors need more time and attention from our case-management staff.

Union Station offers two health clinics, and its staff arranges doctors’ appointments and ER visits. Staffers also assist those with mobility and mental health issues.

Because many seniors are in poor health, they are unable to perform the activities that enable some younger homeless people to eventually become self-sufficient. So homeless seniors are more likely to remain homeless for the rest of their lives.

Union Station provides employment assistance for its homeless population, but many homeless seniors face age discrimination when they attempt to re-enter the workplace.
Gross adds:

Homelessness is one more barrier to getting a job. Many seniors are disabled and can’t get work.

Elderly people who are homeless are often eligible for government assistance, including Social Security, Medicare, Medi-Cal and Section 8 rent subsidies, but they are often unaware that they qualify for these programs. Or they do not know how to obtain these benefits. Helping senior citizens receive assistance is yet another task that Union Station performs for its residents.

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Homeless Bloggers: Carey Fuller

keyboardCarey Fuller is a homeless mother of two who lives out of a van in the Pacific Northwest. She is also a blogger.

One of the amazing things about the modern day is that communication and information are so ubiquitous. Because of the spread of smartphones and laptops combined with the proliferation of free wi-fi, even some of the homeless can get online.

What results is an intensely personal portrait of life among society’s discarded.

To quote one of Fuller’s pieces on The Huffington Post:

My name is not hopeless and neither is yours. Regardless of how you came into homelessness, you are still a human being. Keep sharing your experiences until the truth about homelessness becomes common knowledge — because the way things are going, it might as well be. Let’s face it. Homelessness and poverty aren’t sexy subjects to present, yet they are a growing epidemic everywhere!

What’s sad is how much the public doesn’t know about homelessness. Like the fact that there aren’t enough resources to prevent homelessness for everybody, yet most people won’t do anything about it until they experience a “qualifying event” that forces them into the ranks of homelessness or close to it.

Now here’s the kicker: once you know you can no longer keep a roof over your head, you cannot wait until eviction day and assume you can just go into a shelter for “emergency housing.” There’s no such thing because there are waiting lists and a process you have to go through to determine whether or not you qualify for help. That’s right; you have to qualify for assistance. If you don’t, there’s a big hole in the safety net you thought would be there. So be prepared to hit the cement!

Her narrative of day-to-day life as a modern, involuntary nomad is striking. From horror stories about the red tape involved in getting almost any sort of assistance to recipes for eating dandelions (commonly found as weeds in the wild) her posts take you into a world inhabited by more and more modern Americans.

Check out Tales From The Driver’s Side, her blog, or her regular contributions to The Huffington Post. It will change your perspective.n

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Poverty Insights Analyzes NYC Homebase Program Study

HomelessThe people behind the Poverty Insights website have been following the New York Department of Homeless Services study of the city’s homeless services programs. The Department is under fire for performing a randomized controlled trial with a sampling of the families, all seekers of the DHS services, in two groups of 200 families each. The first group experienced no change in services, but the second grouping was simply given a list of nonprofits that engage in similar social services. The second group was then told they could receive no assistance directly from DHS for the duration of the study. The study is to last for two years.

Now, measuring effectiveness is vital, as it is something that is all too often neglected in the social arena. Still, this denial of services is a troubling thing. David Henderson, a blogger for Change.org and an editor for Poverty Insights, noted the following in his post on the subject from October 11:

DHS had the means to provide their service to all who demanded it, but chose not to for the sake of their study. While this style of research is typical in the medical world, where one group of patients is administered an experimental drug then compared to another group that did not receive treatment, it’s not clear that such an approach is appropriate in social sector evaluation.

This is an important issue for the sector to consider. Where do we draw the line in evaluation?

Where indeed? Michael Gechter, co-founder of Idealistics, Inc., comments on the Homebase program being evaluated in the study in his Poverty Insights post from October 19:

I’m willing to doubt that HomeBase’s mediation, budgeting, job training, and advocacy services have an effect on preventing families from falling into homelessness. Mediation may not prevent eviction, budgeting and job training may come too late, and benefits advocacy might be too little to stop a family from becoming homeless. But there is no doubt that emergency rental assistance prevents homelessness, at least temporarily, if it stops a family from being evicted.

New York City’s Mayor’s Management Report [PDF] suggests that the temporary respite offered by HomeBase may have a permanent effect: 94.6% of the families receiving preventative services in fiscal year 2010 did not enter the shelter system. This is not a rigorous evaluation by any means: we don’t know how many of those families would have entered the shelter system if they didn’t have help from HomeBase.

Once again, we come to the concept of a hand up rather than a hand out. While the data is, as stated, far from a solid study, it still points in an interesting direction — a direction that supports our own stance on preventative and rehabilitative programs. Gechter then goes on to raise a very important question about the study:

In the language of randomized control trials, there is still some doubt as to whether the treatment works. But it certainly raises the question: do we need an evaluation? Are we willing to risk the lives of 200 families to evaluate a service that, at worst, temporarily prevents homelessness?

Mary McLaughlin, Ph.D., a president of Emotional Education Services, LLC, then followed up with a brilliantly detailed examination of the ethics of the study, in which she raised additional questions. A few of them include:

  • Given that the rights of children have historically been vigorously protected by IRB’s, was the study protocol reviewed by an IRB at the City University of New York, the institution charged with oversight of this investigation?
  • Why is this $530,000 investigation being conducted at all given that the HomeBase program is already known to be highly effective as reported in the Mayor’s 2010 Management Report?
  • How does the city reconcile its denial of services to two hundred families for two years with its record of repeated losses and settlements in lawsuits against the city and state of New York that insure the right to shelter for homeless men, women, children and families in New York City and state beginning in 1981, pursuant to Callahan v Carey, and culminating as recently as 2008 with a court judgment in Boston v The City of New York which reaffirmed the right to shelter for homeless families with children?
  • Is the City prepared to pay damages awards including the possibility of punitive damages to study participants who subsequently sue?

There is much, much more. You can read it all in Dr. McLaughlin’s post on Poverty Insights. I would highly advise it even for those outside of the NYC area as it is a great way to get an idea of how complex the underpinnings of the situation are. The way in which data is collected and interpreted needs to be neutral and transparent in order to maintain its veracity. Embracing data-collection practices that do potential harm to those studied is not the proper approach to take.

My hat is off to the team at Poverty Insights: This is an excellent series of posts that illuminate the murky underbelly of our system. Please visit their site and leave them a comment. Let them know we all appreciate their efforts on this vital issue.

Source: “New York Department of Homeless Services Study Violates Research Ethics Principles,” Poverty Insights, 10/28/10
Source: “New York Department of Homeless Services Denies Two-Hundred Families Assistance in Name of Research,” Poverty Insights, 10/11/10
Source: “When Testing Hurts: Why the New York City Department of Homeless Services is Wrong,” Poverty Insights, 10/19/10
Image by aprilzosia, used under its Creative Commons license.
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D.C. Approves Winter Shelter Plan for the Homeless

Homeless man in snowWinter is coming, and that is a bad time to be without shelter. The further north you go the harsher the climate, and thus the harder it is to survive unsheltered. Think about it when you run from your front door to your car, from island of heat to island of heat. Now think about that moment in the cold and stretch it out to days, weeks, months. For many, especially the very young and the very old, it can be the last season they will ever see.

Barely a week before the worst weather is to set in, Washington, D.C., has finally approved its winter plan for the homeless. The law in D.C. states that emergency shelter must be provided by the city to homeless people during the harshest  months of the year, between Nov. 1 and March 31. This is quite the task considering the area is home to over 800 homeless families with more than 1,500 children. The total number of homeless in the D.C. area is roughly 6,500. (These numbers were drawn from a Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments census performed earlier this year. )

Nathan Rott, a staff writer for The Washington Post, noted some concerns in his blog a few days ago:

Advocates for the homeless and shelter providers expressed concern about the plan’s lack of an overflow emergency shelter that would be used during extreme cold. An earlier version of the plan, which proposed adding 100 apartments and rooms to the Family Emergency Shelter at the former D.C. General Hospital, was rejected after advocates and D.C. Council member Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) said that adding beds would lead to overcrowding. District officials refused to consider a proposal to convert a former nursing home and mental health center on Spring Road into a shelter.

A total of $2.2 million has been budgeted by the city for housing the homeless through these bitter months. Here is a synopsis of how it will be spent, also by Nathan Rott (excerpted from his full Washington Post article that followed the prior blog post):

The plan approved by the Interagency Council on Homelessness, a coalition of D.C. agencies and nonprofit groups, lists 185 units that will be used for families when emergency shelters are full. Some advocates for the homeless say they are worried that number will be insufficient, but D.C. officials say it’s a better use of city money to put people in more permanent housing instead of temporary shelters.

As the ice and snow approach, the immediacy of warmth and shelter takes precedence over the more long-term goal of getting these folks back on their feet. Shelter is all too often the only thing people consider when the subject of homelessness arises. In order to keep that shelter though, the person must be able to reintegrate with society and the job force. Programs that address the underlying ills must be enacted in order to make any lasting difference to those living in the streets.

Source: “Winter plan for homeless approved,” The Washington Post, 10/27/10
Source: “D.C. approves winter shelter plan,” The Washington Post – Post Now, 10/26/10
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Jesse Jackson to Spend the Night in a Mission District Homeless Shelter

Jesse JacksonIt is a fact of the modern, media-driven mentality that celebrities attract a lot of attention. This is frequently leveraged, where possible, to attract attention to causes of various sorts. Back in my home town of New Orleans, Brad Pitt is the resident champion of sustainable housing. Jerry Lewis has his famous telethon; Oprah consistently casts her spotlight on social issues, and so on.

Today, another celebrity is in the news as he tries to attract the eyes and the ears to the plight of the homeless — Jesse Jackson. Rev. Jackson will be spending the night in a homeless shelter in the San Francisco’s Mission District.

Jackson observed the following in a statement to San Francisco’s ABC 7 :

‘Two things strike me when I come to the homeless shelter, the number of people who are working by day who live in the homeless shelter and the number of children in these shelters who in fact end up being disconnected from school,’ said Jackson.

This is what we all need to keep in mind. This is not a partisan issue, it is a human issue. There is not an ounce of liberal or conservative agenda in the simple and chilling observation I just quoted. It was only yesterday that I was writing about the importance of staying in school.

There are many homeless people in the U.S. — and the numbers grow daily — who, while employed, have suddenly found themselves bereft of a roof. It could be a subprime home loan, accumulation of debt, or a variety of other factors, but the simple reality is that more and more everyday people are hitting the streets.

Jackson is a colorful character, and I am sure that his overnight stay will attract a lot of attention. I certainly hope that it helps. Every effort to raise awareness is important.

Source: “Jesse Jackson spends night in homeless shelter,” ABC 7 San Francisco, 10/26/10
Image by PublicResource.org, used under its Creative Commons license.
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Parking Meters for the Homeless?

Parking meterOrlando, Florida, is preparing to experiment with a new way of raising funds to help the homeless. Taking a novel stance, the city is getting ready to install a number of parking meters downtown, the funds from which are to be dedicated to the issues of the homeless.

Mark Schleub, a writer for The Orlando Sentinel, notes that the city has a troubled past when it comes to dealing with the population of its streets:

Orlando has drawn criticism for its treatment of the homeless in the past, including its defense of an ordinance that restricts charities’ ability to feed people in public parks. The city has also outlawed panhandling downtown after dark. During the day, panhandling is allowed only in 27 specific spots in blue boxes painted on the sidewalk.

It is near these blue boxes that most of the new “homeless meters,” as people are calling them, are to be installed. Mark Jenkins, a reporter for News 13, gives us some specifics on where the meters will be placed, and where the funds are supposed to be deployed:

Soon, you’ll find the donation meters around Lake Eola Park, the Amway Center, and along Orange Avenue, Church Street and other pedestrian-heavy areas.

The city said it plans to give the money from the meters to the Central Florida Regional Commission on Homelessness.

No concrete plan was drawn up at Monday’s meeting on when exactly the donation meters would be operational.

It is our hope that the final disposition of these funds will be diverted to remediation programs. For one thing, that would be the most cost-effective way of combating the ongoing rise in the numbers of the homeless, and, for another, it simply makes good social sense. As more and more families find themselves out on the streets, be it because of loss of work, being caught in the mortgage meltdown, or for some other reason, we need to extend a hand. These are all human beings, with their own potential to be productive members of society, but, to do so, a hand up is in order.

Source: “New parking meters collect homeless donations – Coming soon to Orlando,” News 13, 10/19/10
Source: “Orlando OKs ‘homeless meters,’ an alternative to giving change to panhandlers,” The Orlando Sentinel, 10/19/10
Image by Katerha, used under its Creative Commons license.
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