Across the country, communities are working tirelessly to ensure every person has a safe, stable place to call home.
Ending Homelessness Happens Locally
A message from the Regional Coordinators of USICH:
Beverley Ebersold, Katy Miller, Amy Sawyer, and Bob Pulster
Across the country, heroic efforts are underway to end homelessness - for Veterans, for people experiencing chronic homelessness, for families with children, for youth. Providers, people experiencing homelessness, faith communities, businesses, and all levels of government are collaborating to ensure everyone has a safe, stable place to call home. The broader adoption of Housing First practices across all types of programs and systems, increased focus on data-driven decision-making, and retooling of the crisis response system are just a few of the reasons we are seeing such change and progress.
The Regional Coordinators at USICH have the unique opportunity to support and witness these incredible changes first hand across the country. We are privileged to serve as the bridge between the work of the Council and its Federal member agencies and the work happening locally in states and communities. In our role, we are able to share lessons learned across communities with our national partners, and advance the local implementation of Federal policies and the most effective strategies.
One way our interactions with local communities shape Federal strategies and the tools and resources that USICH develops is by identifying "bright spots" of innovation and promising practices that can be replicated widely. For example, lessons from communities' successful efforts to end Veteran homelessness inspired USICH to create tools such as the Top Ten Strategies to End Veteran homelessness and Identifying and Referring Veterans Experiencing Homelessness. Our recently released SHOP Tool was designed to help communities identify how many permanent supportive housing units they need to end chronic homelessness by 2017. By listening to communities needs and feedback, we've developed many resources, like the list ofFederal guidance on mainstream programs. In learning from each other, we will reach our goal of ending homelessness together.
We know the work of preventing and ending homelessness takes unwavering commitment, courage, and openness to change; we see that every day working with our partners in the field. We value the leadership we can see across counties, cities big and small, and states. While all face different circumstances, different economic climates, different housing markets, and different geographies, many of the fundamental challenges are the same. And regardless of the differences, rural, urban, and suburban communities are ready to test new strategies, realign funding, and cut out the barriers that get in the way of attaining permanent housing and jobs. No matter where we are in the country, one thing is constant - the solution to homelessness starts and ends with dedicated people in communities who champion the focus on providing people experiencing homelessness with access to safe, stable and affordable permanent housing. The Regional Coordinators, along with the entire USICH team, are honored to walk alongside our community partners on this path to success.
The New Orleans Model for Ending Veteran Homelessness
By Martha Kegel, Executive Director, Unity of Greater New Orleans
Martha Kegel and her father, the Rev. Adam Kegel, 91, a World War II Veteran
Three months ago, after a campaign led by Mayor Mitch Landrieu, New Orleans became the first major city to effectively end Veteran homelessness. During an intense six-month campaign, community partners connected every Veteran living on the street or in emergency shelter who would accept housing with an apartment of his or her own, with supportive services scaled to the Veteran's needs. Now we actively work every day to maintain a "functional zero" in Veteran homelessness by housing any newly homeless Veteran within an average of 30 days.
I firmly believe that every community can and should end Veteran homelessness.
Yes, New Orleans had some advantages. For one thing, the local VA and its partners had already achieved a significant reduction in Veteran homelessness before we started the final drive in June 2014. At that point, we had already driven down the number of Veterans suffering in homelessness from 660 in the January 2011 Point-in-Time (PIT) count to 193 in the March 2014 count. For another, we have a very strong visionary leader in Mayor Mitch Landrieu, who set the bold goal of ending Veteran homelessness a full year before the federal deadline, convened the key players, and recruited active duty military and Veteran groups to help with outreach.
But in other important ways we were at a distinct disadvantage: as of the 2014 PIT count, New Orleans still had one of the highest per capita rates of Veteran homelessness in the nation as compared to our general population of only 379,000 residents. We were also at a disadvantage in resources: compared to many other cities, we have precious few ways to pay for housing and services other than federal funds. And when pushing ourselves to get to zero, we were confronting the challenge of housing those whom we had always failed to connect to housing before -- those Veterans who tended to have the most complex challenges and who for the most part were not eligible for the HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) program.
Read the full article to see the recommendations from New Orleans on how to end Veteran homelessness, including guidance on creating master lists and joining the Mayors Challenge!
Count Us In! A Look at Youth Counts in Seattle and Portland
By Katy Miller
In cities across the country there was great energy and collaboration around strengthening the count of youth experiencing homelessness as part of the 2015 HUD PIT count. From Miami to Seattle, providers created new partnerships and shared innovative methods to get to a better count. This was driven by a deep desire to generate more accurate demographic data of youth and young adults experiencing homelessness and ultimately to target resources towards interventions that are the most effective for the population.
Recognizing that youth are undercounted in the homeless street count that typically happens in the middle of the night, youth providers partnered with their local Continuum of Care (CoC) leads to expand the hours for when young people can be counted. Since most youth have hunkered down and are hidden away to stay safe by the time the street count starts, concerted efforts to conduct outreach to the youth and young adults prior to the count were key. Many communities also expanded survey questions to help get to a better understanding of where young people are staying, how long they have been experiencing homelessness, and what their unique needs and characteristics are.
While only those youth that are sleeping outside on the night of the unsheltered count are reported to HUD, expanding outreach to young people that may be staying night to night with friends and family helps providers and planners get a better picture of the youth that are in and out of shelters and frequent drop-in centers and meal programs during the day.
Building Blocks to Success: Community-Wide Partnerships & Commitments Drive Success in Central Florida
By Amy Sawyer
In Central Florida, the most important building blocks to success are its people. People from all walks of life including landlords, judges, outreach workers, and faith leaders have partnered with the VA Medical Center to make a difference in the lives of Veterans experiencing homelessness and the data is showing that these strong partnerships are paying off, as the number of Veterans experiencing homelessness is decreasing in Central Florida. This past month, Federal partners from HUD, USICH, and VA joined Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs and Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer to celebrate the great strides the community has taken and, even more importantly, rally the community to finish the job of ending Veteran homelessness.
Standing side by side, the Mayors addressed the crowd of a few hundred stakeholders from the community and reiterated their commitment to ensure that no Veteran should experience homelessness. They challenged the community to align resources and use what is being learned through the successes of the Mayors Challenge to inform the larger system response to all types of homelessness. The VA Medical Center Director, Timothy W. Liezert, and his staff were on hand to share the lessons learned and demonstrate the real partnerships that have emerged across the different programs and systems in the community.
Over the next several months, as the community drives toward the goal of ending Veteran homelessness by the end of 2015, there are key strategies and approaches they'll be leveraging to find success.
See the full article for the strategies Central Florida will be using to end homelessness in their community.
News from Our Partners
VA Announces New Grants to Help End Veteran Homelessness
The VA announced this week the award of nearly $93 million in SSVF 3-year grants that will help approximately 45,000 homeless and at-risk Veterans and their families. Learn more.
Continuum of Care Program Annual Performance Report Updates HUD has released the CoC Program Annual Performance Report (APR) for renewal and planning grants funded in FY 2013. HUD anticipates releasing the CoC Program APR for new grants funded in FY 2013 in the coming weeks. Click here for more information.
HUD Announced Updates on the 2015 HIC and PIT Data Submission Process CoCs may begin entering their 2015 Housing Inventory Count (HIC) and Point-in-Time (PIT) count data into HUD's Homelessness Data Exchange (HDX) web portal on Wednesday, April 1, 2015. The deadline for CoCs to submit their 2015 HIC and PIT count data is Thursday, April 30, 2015, 12:00 AM (midnight) EST.
Urban Institute Completes Independent Evaluation of 100,000 Homes Campaign An independent report from the Urban Institute has concluded that the 100,000 Homes Campaign made a "major impact on the national fight to end homelessness." Read the report.
"Strategies to Increase Health Insurance Enrollment for People Who Are Homeless" Webinar Now Available Online A webinar recently recorded by HUD on strategies to increase healthcare insurance enrollment for people who are experiencing homelessness is now available for viewing. This webinar features national leaders providing firsthand knowledge and information on how to increase enrollment in Medicaid and other health insurance options for people who are homeless and those living with HIV/AIDS. Watch the Webinar.
2014 HMIS Data Standards - Federal Partner Program HMIS Manuals Published HUD and other Federal partners have published 6 new resources aimed at assisting HMIS Lead Agencies and CoCs to correctly set up projects in HMIS. Find the resources here.
Watch Now: Vera Institute Releases Videos from Justice in Focus: A Path Forward
Earlier this month, Vera convened a public forum called Justice in Focus: A Path Forward, where participants on five panels discussed the current state of our criminal justice system and how we can move forward. The panels are now available to view online.
I was proud to stand with Connecticut Lieutenant Governor Nancy Wyman to support the March 9 launch of Connecticut's 100-day effort across four communities to accelerate efforts to end homelessness. This exciting 100-day effort was brought together by the Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness and Journey Home of Hartford. The Connecticut-based Rapid Results Institute, which developed the "100-Day" rapid results approach and has led similar efforts across the nation to successful outcomes, will facilitate. It is clear that Connecticut is successfully building its organizing efforts across the state that will feed momentum toward ending Veteran homelessness by 2015 and chronic homelessness by 2016.
Connecticut has mobilized advocates, activists, and service providers, together with support from state and federal officials, to forge new ways to coordinate and use existing resources more effectively to end homelessness in their communities. The HUD Field Office, led by Suzanne Piacentini, has been a key partner along with Dr. Laurie Harkness of the VA's Errera Community Care Center. The Connecticut effort is a stand-out model, the first statewide implementation of the Rapid Results approach, with nearly the entire state participating. Participating communities include Greater Hartford, Fairfield County, and eastern Connecticut. Last year, a similar effort in New Haven led to the housing of 160 people who had long been experiencing homelessness in that community. In less than six months, this effort decreased that city's chronically homeless population by more than 75 percent.
Earlier this year, Governor Dannel P. Malloy announced that Connecticut was one of six states that signed on to the Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness as well as one of four states chosen for Zero: 2016, a national initiative organized by the nonprofit Community Solutions. Governor Malloy and Lieutenant Governor Wyman are to be commended for leading the state and delivering a clear charge that Connecticut is making every effort to end homelessness. In a speech announcing the state's participation in Zero: 2016, Governor Malloy stated, "Connecticut has the opportunity to be the first state in the union to end homelessness among our Veterans as well as chronic homelessness for people with disabilities within two years. Even though it's a bold goal, it's now within our reach. We're taking the lead nationally on this issue not only because it's good for our economy and makes our communities stronger, but because it's morally right."