National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week Prompts Us to Look Ahead and Take Action

United States Interagency Council on Homelessness - No on should experience homelessness. No one should be without a safe, stable place to call home.

National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week Focuses Attention on Ending Homelessness

November 20, 2014
National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week, running Nov. 15 - 23, serves as an annual reminder of the needs of our neighbors without a safe, stable place to call home.

A Message from Laura Green Zeilinger
This week is National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week, a time when many Americans are engaged to help our neighbors who live without food security and without a safe and stable place to call home.  For those of us who work to end hunger and homelessness year-round, this week provides a fresh opportunity to gain new ground, to meet and recruit new partners, to share meals with neighbors, and to extend a helping hand. It's an opportunity to look forward and take action, a time to focus intently on the steps we need to take together to end hunger and homelessness once and for all.

Next week, many of us will gather around our family tables to celebrate all that we are thankful for. It is not a coincidence that this week we are asked to reflect on the needs of those in our communities who are without a safe and stable home. It is not a coincidence that this week we are asked to join our neighbors to offer kindness and support to those in need.  As President Obama said last year in his Thanksgiving address, "big-hearted generosity is a central part of our American character.  We believe in lending a hand to folks who need it.  We believe in pitching in to solve problems even if they aren't our problems.  And that's not a one-day-a-year belief.  It's part of the fabric of our nation."

Far too many families, children, youth and individuals in our communities are experiencing homelessness. As reported by HUD last month, more than 578,000 people experienced homelessness on a single night in January 2014, including more than 194,000 children and youth. The Department of Education reported earlier this year that more than 1.2 million school-aged children lacked a home of their home at some point during the 2012 - 2013 school year-75 percent of these families with children were living doubled up with friends or in hotels. Taken together, these numbers show us that although fewer families are living on the streets or in shelters, families still face housing crises and a severe shortage of affordable housing.  This is consistent with trends we are seeing in HUD's Worst Case Housing Needs Report.  

Whether on the street, in cars or other places not meant for anyone to live, whether in shelters or transitional housing, or whether doubled-up, couch-surfing, or in hotels-having to live without a safe and stable place that is home is simply unacceptable.  Homelessness, in all its forms, is costly and traumatic in profound ways for the people who experience it, and its impact reverberates throughout the health of our communities.

Yes, the work ahead of us to end homelessness is complex and difficult. Yet, together, we have shown that homelessness is a solvable problem. We have shown that where the right resources are in place, where we are investing in and implementing evidence-based practices (Housing First, permanent supportive housing, and rapid re-housing) we are making progress. Together, we are helping families, youth, and individuals get the housing and supportive services they need to get out of homelessness and get on with their lives. We need more of this, and we need it fast. 

Those of us working to end homelessness have long known that for people with chronic health conditions experiencing homelessness, the path to better health starts with housing. Time and time again, permanent supportive housing has been shown to improve health and behavioral health outcomes, while actually lowering health care costs by stopping the revolving door of repeated emergency room use and hospitalizations. Despite this evidence, permanent supportive housing has historically not been viewed as a health care intervention or service. Even the case management and supportive services provided in supportive housing have seldom been covered under and financed by Medicaid, despite the fact that these services are critical to helping people navigate health care services and shift their patterns from acute care and crisis services to primary and preventive care. 

Two new documents released by HHS on October 10 make it clear, once and for all, that the services provided in permanent supportive housing can indeed be covered and financed by Medicaid. These documents are Primer on Using Medicaid for People Experiencing Chronic Homelessness and Tenants of Permanent Supportive Housing and Medicaid and Permanent Supportive Housing for Chronically Homeless Individuals: Emerging Practices from the Field. Specifically, Medicaid can cover things like case management, services goal setting and services coordination, health care navigation, rehabilitation, skill building around activities of daily living, and other supports that are critical to tenancy. 

In fact, as these documents make clear, States have several options for covering services for people in permanent supportive housing under their Medicaid plans. Among the options available to States to cover permanent supportive housing services include services provided by Federally Qualified Health Centers, Medicaid rehabilitative services, the 1915i Home and Community Based Services option, Medicaid Health Homes, and Targeted Case Management. 

2015: Making a Difference for Youth Experiencing Homelessness - A National Perspective
A blog by Coco Auerswald, Jess Lin, Jessica Reed and Shehera Hyatt

We have a unique opportunity to make significant progress in responding to youth who are at risk of or experiencing homelessness.

Several key efforts have led to this opportunity, including the Federal goal to prevent and end youth homelessness by 2020 in Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness, the 2012 Amendment to Opening Doors,  the Federal Framework to End Youth Homelessness, the addition of transitional-aged youth (18- 24) (TAY) as a separate category for the point-in-time (PIT) count as of 2013, and recent HUD PIT Count Methodology Guide  that facilitate youth-focused counting (see also USICH blog on strategies to improve the PIT count for youth).  Locally, the work that multiple communities have invested in demonstrating the feasibility of counting youth through the Youth Count! Initiative and other local projects, such as the Hollywood Homeless Youth Point-in-Time Count Estimate, has created a new sense of possibility for improved visibility for youth experiencing homelessness.

We Count, California! is dedicated to improving youth inclusion in the PIT count in California through an assessment of the best practices and barriers to youth inclusion and a statewide technical assistance project to give all California Continuums of Care (CoCs) the tools to better count homeless youth in their community. We Count, California! is a collaboration of the California Homeless Youth Project and the UC Berkeley School of Public Health, funded by the California Wellness Foundation.

The 2015 PIT count is an opportunity not only to better count youth, but also to obtain an improved and more nuanced picture nationally and locally of youth homelessness. As we work with our communities in California to prepare for the best count of homeless youth to date, we offer these suggestions to communities getting ready for the count nationwide:


News from Our Partners

HUD Announces SNAPS and HOPWA Technical Assistance

HUD's Office of Special Needs Assistance Programs (SNAPS) and the Office of HIV/AIDS Housing (OHH), in collaboration with USICH and HHS has announced the availability of remote and onsite technical assistance (TA) focused on improving program participant access and effective utilization of mainstream healthcare services at the systems level.
ACYF Releases Information Memorandum on Serving Youth Who Run Away from Foster Care
The Family and Youth Services Bureau (FYSB), along with the Children's Bureau, released a new Information Memorandum: "Foster Care Youth in RHY Programs." The Information Memorandum gives guidance on the appropriate provision of services for youth who run away from foster care and come into contact with runaway and homeless youth programs.
FYSB Issues Street Outreach Program Data Collection Project Executive Summary
From March 2013 through September 2013, 656 young people who were experiencing homelessness between the ages of 14-21 were interviewed for the project. This summary provides a portrait of the young people in areas served by 11 street outreach program grantees.
The National Center on Family Homelessness Releases America's Youngest Outcasts
The report documents the number of homeless children in every state, their well-being, their risk for child homelessness, and State level planning and policy efforts.
The Alliance Seeks Input from Rapid Re-Housing Providers
The Alliance has published a toolkit, "Rapid Re-Housing Tools," that provides sample materials to assist rapid re-housing providers and rapid re-housing program staff. The Alliance is asking experienced rapid re-housing providers to submit materials for inclusion in the toolkit. Currently, it includes landlord marketing materials, a housing specialist job description, and materials meant to help housing provider clients consider their potential housing options and understand leases. To submit materials for inclusion in the toolkit, please email the Alliance's Center for Capacity Building at
Upcoming Webinar from the Alliance:
Rapid Re-Housing Core Component: Housing Identification
On Tuesday Dec. 9, at 1 p.m. ET, the Alliance will host a webinar on housing identification, a core component of rapid re-housing. The webinar, "Rapid Re-Housing Core Component: Housing Identification" is the first in a webinar series on the guidance on rapid re-housing, "Core Components of Rapid Re-Housing," which the Alliance crafted in cooperation with the Departments of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Veterans Affairs (VA), and the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH). During this webinar, speakers will address the first of the three components: housing identification.


National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week Prompts Us to Look Ahead and Take Action
Medicaid Can Pay for Services for People in Permanent Supportive Housing
2015: Making a Difference for Youth Experiencing Homelessness
News from Our Partners
That Person on the Street Could Be You
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When we see people who are homeless on our streets and in our parks, and take some time to think about them, we might feel pity, sympathy, annoyance, fear, or a host of other emotions.

But we probably never think "that person could be me."

We just assume that people who are homeless have always lived like that. They're homeless, their parents were homeless, maybe even their grandparents were homeless. And we assume that they are homeless by choice.

They are not.  They are homeless because we have made them so.

My son Tim is homeless. If you asked Tim if he's happy, he'd probably say yes. And if you asked him if he was content, he'd probably also say yes.  And finally, if you asked him if there was anything you could do for him, he'd probably say no, just leave him alone.

That sounds like choice, doesn't it?

But what if I told you that the reasons Tim is homeless have nothing at all to do with choice? Tim has schizophrenia. And like many young adults with serious mental illnesses (Tim is 29), the disease that paved his path to homelessness began when he was just a child - when Tim was still housed, insured, and had a loving, extended family around him. 

As I write in my book, Losing Tim: How Our Health and Education Systems Failed My Son with Schizophrenia, Tim was five when he started to show clear signs of schizophrenia. He was insightful and discerning enough to report auditory hallucinations before he was 10 years old. But we typically work at a snail's pace when it comes to diagnosing serious mental illnesses in children, so it took more than 10 years before Tim was diagnosed with schizophrenia. And during those 10 years, the most frequent response to Tim's increasing medical needs (as mental health needs are) was to suspend or expel him from school - removing him from the mainstream of society. That wasn't Tim's choice; it was ours.

Read more.
Upcoming Events

National Center on Family Homelessness Webinar: Lessons from the Field - Adopting Trauma-Informed Care

Dec. 3, 2014 at 1-2 p.m. Eastern 
Learn more.

National Center on Family Homelessness Webinar: Meeting the Unique Needs of Women VeteransDec. 10, 2014 at 1-2 p.m. Eastern
Learn more.

National Homeless Persons' Memorial DayDec. 21, 2014

Check Out More Upcoming Events


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