Tag Archive for homeless shelter

New London, CT’s “Rapid Re-housing” Program Shortens Shelter Stays and Saves Money

Map of Connecticut highlighting New London County

Map of Connecticut highlighting New London County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On July 1, 2013, New London County, Connecticut’s homeless picture should change substantially as regional homeless services shift to the goal of “Rapid Re-housing.” This strategy will actually put the county ahead of new HUD goals that call for limiting the stay in a homeless shelter to no more than 30 days and reducing the number of people entering the shelter for the first time.

The New London Homeless Hospitality Center declares that its Help Center will aid homeless people working on housing plans, find jobs and assist them in applying for Social Security and other benefits. The Norwich Community Care Team, which has closed its annual winter overnight shelter, just received City Council permission to convert its annual $30,000 federal community development block grant from shelter operation to rapid re-housing.

Many county homeless have some income but cannot afford pricey local rents and security deposits. The Hospitality Center is seeking funding to provide help ranging from bus fare to job interviews or a Social Security hearing to “topping off” someone’s monthly rent. Also, the area has a lot of derelict houses that could be fixed up for needed low-income housing, thereby also providing new jobs.

Homeless advocates and service providers agree that finding housing, whether it be supportive housing, shared apartments, transitional housing or even substance abuse treatment centers, is better than a lingering shelter stay.

Lee Ann Gomes, Norwich Human Services social work supervisor and a member of the Norwich Community Care Team said, rapid re-housing is much less expensive than running a shelter:

I estimate that the cost per person per year to house someone in a shelter is $990, while the rapid re-housing cost would be $363 on average, with some needing very little assistance and others needing more funding.

“The Community Care Team might provide small rental subsidies to people at risk of becoming homeless to keep them in their current housing. Or the fund could help pay a security deposit or first month rent to a working homeless person needing an apartment.

Gomes said in one recent case a person had family in Massachusetts willing to provide housing and needed only the bus fare to get there. Another family was staying at a relative’s house but literally had no beds to sleep on, so the fund could pay for beds to keep the family intact. Instead of sending people to shelter this coming winter, a caseworker will work with the homeless person to find housing as rapidly as possible.

Facilities and organizations in New London, Norwich and other county towns are now thinking regionally to solve homeless problems.

Lisa Tepper Bates, executive director of the Mystic Area Shelter and Hospitality Inc. and coordinator of the family services portion of the New London County fund, said her group argued successfully before the legislature this spring for renewed funding of up to $250,000 per year for two years in the new biennial state budget.

According to statistics provided to the legislature, 65 individuals in the region were re-housed in less than six months, and the average nightly shelter census dropped more than 30 percent from 2011 to 2012.The percentage of long-term stays also dropped, with about 62 percent of shelter residents staying for 30 or fewer days and 20 percent staying for more than 60 days, a drop of about 10 percent.

Tepper Bates said:

A shelter is still homelessness. Staying in a shelter is a stressful time for adulthood, and doubly or more so for children. The faster we can help a family stay housed, the better we are as a community. The more families we can return to housing, the more we have done for those children. It’s profoundly important. There are very serious and potentially lifelong issues here.

 

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Efforts Underway to Fight Student Homelessness in Nevada, Minnesota, Pennsylvania and the U.S. Congress

1.6 Million Homeless American Children

1.6 Million Homeless American Children (Photo credit: Occupy* Posters)

There were 1,065,794 homeless students in the U.S. in June 2011, The U.S. Education Department estimates. Recent data show that the number of homeless students rose in 44 states, and that 15 states saw increases of 20% or more. Kentucky had a 57% rise in homeless students over one year. The U.S. homeless student count rose 57% since the start of the recent recession, in 2007.

Prominent homelessness expert Diana Nilan (who once was homeless herself) says:

The government estimate of over a million homeless students is horrifyingly high, but it probably is half of what it would be if all the kids were counted. The count doesn’t include homeless infants, children not enrolled in school and homeless students that schools simply failed to identify.

Seventy-one percent of the kids identified as homeless by the Education Department listed the homes of family or friends as their primary residence, but these kids aren’t counted as homeless by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which means they can’t apply for subsidized housing. That’s bogus!

Many parents fear losing custody of their children who sleep on the street, so they seek alternative living situations (such as in motels, sleeping on friends’ couches and moving around a lot). Efforts are underway in Congress to pass HR 32, which would broaden HUD’s current very-narrow definition of homeless children (those on the streets and in shelters only) and permit more of them to receive government assistance.

A new report shows that only 52% of homeless students who took standardized tests were proficient in reading and only 51% were in math. In Virginia, 21.2% of students who are homeless at some point during their high school years drop out, compared with 14.8% of all poor children. In Colorado, the high school graduation rate is 72% for all students, 59% for poor students and 48% for homeless students,

“When “you don’t have a permanent place to stay, you have to change schools a lot,” said Barbara Duffield, policy director for the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth. “It sets you far behind and is socially and emotionally disruptive.”

When Sherrie Gahn became principal of Whitney Elementary in Las Vegas, she was shocked to find students eating ketchup from packets and learned that 85% of them were homeless.
So she told parents:

Give me your children and let me teach them, and in turn I will give you food and clothes and we will take them to the eye doctor. I will pay your rent and your utilities, but you must keep your child here.

Funded by organizations and private donors, she meets a wide range of homeless student needs, from haircuts to financial assistance—and as a result those kids have doubled their standardized test scores. She is now working with Nevada’s First Lady, Kathleen Sandoval, to create an after-school program that will make the children feel productive. Gahn has also promised her homeless students that if they graduate from high school and cannot afford college, she will help pay their tuition.

In Minnesota, where 9% of students were homeless last year (and at least one was regularly sleeping in a public toilet), the legislature is considering a $50 million boost in homelessness programs, plus $50 million in bonding for affordable housing. Last year the state spent $8 million transporting homeless students.

In Pittsburgh, between 2005 and 2009, black homeless families made up 56.3% of residents in family homeless shelters, even though they only accounted for 12 %of the city’s population. Educational disparity is one major reason. So after-school programs are being introduced in homeless shelters.

 

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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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Susan Madden Lankford Interviewed by Poverty Insights

Our very own Susan Madden Lankford was recently interviewed on Poverty Insights. For those unfamiliar with the website, here is a synopsis from its history page:

On September 21st, 2004, PATH Partners CEO Joel John Roberts founded LA’s Homeless Blog, the first blog to offer commentary solely focused on homelessness issues as they unfolded locally and nationally. Five years later, his blog has reached over 700,000 unique readers, has been featured in national media such as AOL/Netscape and Affordable Housing magazine and was ranked as one of the top homelessness blogs by The Daily Reviewer.

That was the first phase of the website’s evolution. Having experienced such amazing success, Roberts decided to expand the operation and extend the conversation:

To encourage more extensive dialogue around the issues of housing, poverty and homelessness, LA’s Homeless Blog has expanded to become Poverty Insights. The new format still features regular commentary from Joel John Roberts, but now also includes the perspectives of experts and community members throughout the United States. Our contributors’ diverse insights promote discussion, debate and the creation of new tactics to end homelessness.

Cali Zimmerman, the Communications Coordinator for PATH Partners, penned the article which ran in Poverty Insights on September 2. Her exploration of Lankford’s work begins with a mention of a tragic accident that has occurred almost two decades ago:

Four local teenage boys got high and were involved a terrible car accident right outside her family’s property in San Diego. All of the boys were students at her daughters’ high school. One of the boys died in the accident.’It was a harsh reality as a young mother with three girls. This was their high school,’ Lankford said. ‘It took me into very sharp focus internally.’

This change in mindset was followed by an unexpected event that has influenced the course of Lankford’s work to this day:

At the time, Lankford was a commercial photographer. Not long after the accident, she went to an old, empty jail with the thought that she might use it for some commercial shots. To her surprise, several homeless people followed her into the jail. Remembering her decision to get more involved with the issues in her community, Lankford struck up a conversation with her unexpected visitors.

‘They wanted to know if I was working in the jail,” she said. ‘I let them take me to the streets, and I ended up spending three and a half years photographing and interviewing homeless people.’

And quite a three and a half years it was. Lankford hired a guide from amongst the homeless, a man named Jed, who showed her the vastly different character that the well-known street corners can adopt in the small hours of the morning. Her path has led her through streets and shelters, at all hours of the day and night, until reaching a culmination point in San Diego’s Balboa Park.

The article gives a solid synopsis of the events and experiences that have led to the publishing of downTownUSA: A Personal Journey with the Homeless and her subsequent work (available on our main website). Zimmerman also notes one crucial distinction that Lankford’s work lays claim to. When the issue of homelessness comes up, the almost universal response is “shelter.” It seems logical and sensible, but is it really the most effective starting point? Lankford’s time amongst the homeless indicates otherwise:

During the time she spent putting the book [downtTown USA] together, a huge percentage of the people Lankford interviewed repeatedly entered and exited jail, yet many could not be convinced to enter shelter. That fascinated Lankford, and was a major source of her desire to continue conducting interviews and complete her book.

‘That’s really where my interest lies,’ she said. ‘We need to tap into all types of homeless individuals. How do we do that? There’s a lot more to it than just providing a shelter.’

Please take a look at the article. Not only will it give you more insight into the work of our esteemed photographer, but it will also introduce a wonderful website into the bargain.

Source: “Humane Exposures: Susan Madden Lankford Adjusts the Focus on Homelessness,” Poverty Insights, 09/02/10
Image copyright Susan Madden Lankford, from the book “downTown USA: A Personal Journey with the Homeless.” Used with permission.

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Addressing Homeless Issues: IDignity Assists With Identification Woes

HomelessThere are many social obstacles for the homeless. Things that we take for granted in our day-to-day lives may suddenly become seemingly insurmountable problems. In many cases, it can turn out to be something no one thinks of.

One example is the issue of identification. Most of us, at one point or another, have had to replace a lost ID. It is never a fun process. Now imagine how much worse it would be if you did not have a home or copies of the paperwork required to get a new ID. Suddenly, the possibility of a job is out of reach, the ability to cash a check is lost, and so many other aspects of modern society become inaccessible.

As we watch the numbers of the homeless swell during the nation’s economic woes, we are also seeing some interesting responses to their plight. Since modern society makes carrying ID essential for conducting one’s normal day-to-day affairs, the idea of an ID Clinic seems almost inevitable.

The first instance of an effort to assist the homeless with the paperwork required for daily life is the brainchild of Jacqueline Dowd, who founded IDignity in Central Florida. The project aims at navigating the paper trail along with the homeless, making sure that the correct forms are filled, and providing advice and guidance through the process.

Here’s a partial description of the program from the IDignity website:

Volunteers will serve in a wide variety of roles including: introducing the process to clients, filling out forms for clients, assisting agencies or shepherding clients through the process. Interestingly, most of the volunteers leave these events feeling that they have been served themselves and regularly return with a desire to do more. It is estimated that in order to continue the program through 2010 it will cost an average of $12,000 per event.

The documents that IDignity provides are required to apply for employment or school, obtain access to most shelters, vote, seek help from many social service programs, open a bank account or cash a check, secure housing or overcome many other obstacles to becoming self-sufficient.

Below is a short video interview with Jaqueline Dowd conducted by Mark Horvath. If you are unfamiliar with Horvath, he, formerly homeless himself, has developed InvisiblePeople.tv to give a face to the issue of homelessness. Horvath also writes regularly for The Huffington Post on the subject.

The lack of identification can be like a brick wall, confining a person to the areas outside of normal society. Effectively imprisoned, these people cannot interact with our communities in most of the ways needed for them to pull themselves back into mainstream culture. With more people becoming homeless at a frightening rate, in this increasingly documentation-oriented age, ideas like this need to be explored.

Does it prove effective? The Mayor of Orlando thinks so (from the IDignity website):

‘One of the biggest challenges for the homeless is lack of a personal identification card. The IDignity program is helping more than 200 people per month gain that ID which links them to critical services. It’s been so successful other Florida communities are borrowing our model.’ – Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyers State of the City address on February 18, 2010.

What are your thoughts? Had this aspect of the homeless condition escaped you until reading this? Let us know!

Source: “Without Identification, People Can’t get off the Streets,” The Huffington Post, 08/15/10
Image by pedrosimoes7, used under its Creative Commons license.

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The LA Homeless Shelters Now Must Accept Service Animals

Guard Dog

Joel John Roberts is the CEO of PATH Partners (an alliance of agencies that deal with homelessness), as well as the author of the book titled How To Increase Homelessness. He is also the publisher of Poverty Insights, a national online journal on homelessness, housing, and poverty, and he covers the “LA Homelessness” beat for Examiner.com.

Roberts brings us news of the results of a lawsuit that’s been filed in mid-July of 2009. The suit was brought by the Housing Rights Center (HRC), and presented under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Rehabilitation Act, and the  Fair Housing Act.

The issue? The ability of the disabled homeless to bring their service animals into shelters.

Roberts reports on Examiner.com:

‘It’s a serious and systemic problem,’ commented Michelle Uzeta, Director of Litigation for HRC. ‘These shelters put people with disabilities in the impossible position of having to choose between the service animals that provide them with needed disability-related assistance and the ability to access emergency shelter services.’

Recently, a settlement occurred with the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), the joint city and county authority on homelessness that directs all LAHSA-funded agencies to provide reasonable modifications to their policies and facilities for homeless people with service animals.

While the critics cite a variety of objections to this mandate — including disruption of the shelter environment — from a legal standpoint, is seems that the issue is settled. There is a disproportionate percentage of the homeless that are physically or mentally disadvantaged, and a number of them rely on service animals to function on a daily basis.

What do you think? Seeing-eye dogs are allowed on public transportation, so should they be allowed into homeless shelters? Should other service animals have a place in these environments?

Source: “Los Angeles homeless agencies mandated to take in service animals,” Examiner.com, 07/30/10
Image by libookperson, used under its Creative Commons license.

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