Upcoming: NHSDC Fall Conference

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U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development HUD Exchange Mailing List

Upcoming: NHSDC Fall Conference

The National Human Services Data Consortium (NHSDC) is a collaborative organization that understands the importance of data quality and the value of using valid and reliable data for community planning and performance measurement. NHSDC has worked for over 13 years to deliver conferences that allow Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) professionals to discuss current challenges and best practices while developing a critical network of peer support.

As in past years, the NHSDC conference is a HUD-approved conference. Therefore, HMIS funds awarded under the Continuum of Care (CoC) program may be used to attend the 2015 NHSDC Fall Conference. Projects without funds designated for HMIS do not have an HMIS budget and are not eligible to use supportive service funds to attend this event.

For more information regarding the NHSDC Fall Conference, please visit the NHSDC website.

Local Officials Have Pushed To Criminalize Homelessness For Years. The Feds Are Starting To Push Back.

 AUG 18, 2015 8:00AM


The effort draws on three different forms of federal power. Government attorneys are urging a federal court to strike down one local law criminalizing outdoor sleeping, which would create precedent that could be used elsewhere. The official federal homelessness task force is using its platform to discourage communities from cracking down on tent encampments, an act without the same bite as a court filing but one which is likely to be influential in the advocacy world.Armed with lawyers, data, and money, the federal government is discouraging local communities from passing laws that treat the daily realities of being homeless as crimes.
Money talks louder than legal briefs and expert advice, though, and significant movement on how federal dollars get awarded for homelessness outreach work appears to be on the horizon. Any community that makes homelessness illegal may soon find it harder to obtain Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) funding for building shelters and staffing outreach positions.
“I think folks can assume that we’re going to be using that tool to help communities combat this kind of behavior at the local level,” HUD Deputy Assistant Secretary for Special Needs Ann Oliva said in an interview.
The federal government is the key source of funding for most anti-homelessness work at the local level, and such action from HUD could have a much more direct impact than the other recent maneuvers. HUD is on record opposing criminalization policies, and advocates are hopeful that the agency will soon put that opposition into action.
HUD doles out a little under $2 billion each year to local “Continuums of Care,” the official jargon for the often-vast coalitions of local charitable and governmental groups that specifically work on homelessness. The Continuums compete with each other for funding using a lengthy questionnaire that HUD puts out regularly. The questions and associated point values give HUD the ability to encourage and discourage particular ideas about homelessness work. Revisions to the funding formula are always contentious, but this winter may see HUD push against efforts to criminalize homelessness in ways that correspond with the recent DOJ and ICH actions.
Oliva wouldn’t confirm that HUD is planning to add a question about criminalization, but advocates “have been told that there will be one,” National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty attorney Eric Tars said. “We do expect to see other related incentives being put into other federal funding streams in the next year or so,” he said.
The hope is that tying federal purse-strings to the anti-criminalization values that most ground-level social service providers adhere to can help blunt the pressure politicians often face to appear tough on the homeless. For years, governments around the country have passed wave after wave of laws deeming the everyday activities of homeless people – sitting on sidewalks, sleeping outdoors or in cars, and even receiving meals in public from charitable groups – to be crimes. Laws banning public camping, public begging, and general loitering are on the rise nationwide, according to NLCHP data. There are 50 percent more such ordinances in Washington state than there were in 2000, according to another study. Another study of just 58 California towns foundmore than 500 “anti-vagrancy” laws in that sample of the state.
In the past year or so, studies have started to emerge showing the huge societal costs of this approach. One estimate in Florida found that it costs three times as much money to handle homeless people through emergency rooms and jails than it would to provide them with free permanent housing and support services. An exhaustive six-year study in California’s Silicon Valleyrevealed that Santa Clara County spends more than half a billion dollars each year enforcing a variety of laws that target the homeless and leaving them to the care of hospitals. Switching to the Housing First model that has emerged in the homeless services community in recent years could have saved the county’s taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars – to say nothing of the fact that it actually combats homelessness rather than shuffling the unsheltered through the justice system and spitting them back onto the street.
Potential HUD action would complement two narrower recent moves elsewhere within the Executive Branch to discourage treating homelessness as a crime. The Department of Justice (DOJ) told a federal court in early August that laws criminalizing outdoor sleeping are unconstitutional. It isn’t a decisive move in the case, but it makes the defeat of Boise, Idaho’s sleeping ordinance more likely, said Tars.
“For the past 20 years, the Department has been silent on this issue,” Tars said. But by saying publicly that such laws violate the Constitution, he said, the DOJ is giving a huge boost to both the Boise case and opponents of anti-homeless laws everywhere — including HUD itself. “We were really happy to see the DOJ come out with the guidance they came out with,” Oliva said, “one because we think it’ll be helpful for communities as a tool to fight these kinds of ordinances, but also because it helps us as we go forward.”
The United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) took a similar stance in August, publishing an advisory on best practices for dealing with homeless tent encampments thatspecifically discourages cities from clearing such camps by force.
HUD concurs with the underlying beliefs about criminalization that drive both the DOJ and USICH actions, but official movement from the agency could still be months away. While Oliva is not permitted to discuss specifics of how HUD might tweak its funding formula to discourage criminalization in the future, she offered two examples of how local knowledge and best practices filter through the agency, in both directions.
When Congress was cobbling together the 2009 stimulus package, HUD won a one-time $1.5 billion appropriation to fund a category of programs called Rapid Re-housing. For years, HUD had been hearing success stories about the practice, in which people who become homeless get connected with heavily subsidized housing for a fixed period of time to allow them to regain their economic footing. But the Recovery Act money was the agency’s first opportunity to provide resources to promote the practice, Oliva said.
“We actually like innovation! We want communities to always be looking for the next thing, the better thing, because if we stagnate we’re not going to get to our goals,” she said.
Local ordinances criminalizing homelessness are an example of how innovation sometimes produces failure. And just as HUD can serve as a pollinator spreading good ideas, the agency can also use its authority to discourage bad ideas — and isn’t shy about doing so.
“For as long as I’ve been here, we have had questions in our annual application process around the issue of discharge planning,” Oliva said. “How are our grantees interfacing with the jails and prisons and the criminal justice system in their area to make sure folks aren’t leaving jails or prisons directly into homelessness, if we can avoid it?” Places that are more diligent about preventing people from falling through the cracks as they come out of incarceration get rewarded with points on the funding questionnaire. Continuums of Care that choose not to do those things risk losing out on funds for the projects they want in their communities.
This longstanding attention to how communities work with the formerly incarcerated could be a model for future efforts to discourage criminalization policies. With so many groups in such a heated race for a relatively small pile of federal money, even a single question about local ordinances could make a large impact. Competition for HUD funding is so fierce that “half a point or a point can make a difference between being funded or not funded,” Oliva said.

New York City Struggles To Keep Up With High Homeless Numbers

A homeless man panhandles along Manhattan's Eighth Avenue in New York City.

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Eight months after homelessness hit a record in New York City, you can still see the need of the city's most vulnerable in Tompkins Square Park.

"Good morning! Two pieces?" asks Mario Cornejo, as he places slices of frosted banana bread on paper towels for a long line of hungry people.

"It used to be just a small pot before," explains Cornejo, a volunteer with a New York group called Food for Life since 2008. "Now it's a big pot and bigger salad containers, more trays of cake."

With warmer weather, he says he's seen more homeless people lounging in the park and lining up for free meals.

"Some do live in shelters. Some live in the streets," he says. "We're going through difficult times."

Homelessness in New York reached an all-time high last December, when about 59,000 people were sleeping in shelters, according to the city's records. That number has dipped slightly in recent months, now at around 56,000.

Mary Brosnahan, who leads the Coalition for the Homeless, an advocacy group, says there are likely more homeless people living on the streets than the city's official count of about 3,000 from a street survey conducted in February.

"The numbers just keep going up and up and up," she says. "There are just many more homeless, single adults than we've ever seen before."

Many advocates like Brosnahan say homelessness is so high today in New York because of policies under former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who cut a rent-subsidy program for homeless families after state funding dried up in 2011.

Judith Goldiner of The Legal Aid Society in New York City adds that the city's real estate market squeezes out many low-income families, making homelessness especially hard to solve.

"It's not enough anymore in New York City to give people some money to help them pay for the rent," she says. "You really have to help people find an apartment, because finding an apartment in New York City — even for people who are not homeless — is just an incredibly difficult process."

New York's current mayor, Bill de Blasio, has beefed up funding to help more families find permanent housing and pay for rent, as well as to improve shelter conditions and open new facilities. He recently announced a $22 million mental health program that includes more treatment for mentally ill people living on the streets.

"The goal is to improve outcomes for all the clients that we serve, and that's what we're pushing forward to do. I believe that our work will speak for itself," says Gilbert Taylor, New York's commissioner of homeless services.

Still, the city's 311 hotline has been receiving more complaints about homeless people since de Blasio took office in 2014. This summer, de Blasio has come under fire from New York Post editorials warning that "a surging vagrant population" in Tompkins Square Park could make the city "menacing and unlivable."

Christina Greer, a political science professor at Fordham University, says it's a problem of perception.

"When people think about homeless, especially homeless men, in the street, they think about someone who is outside when it's dark and susceptible to committing crimes," Greer says. "This is coded language that I think is being used to signal that this particular administration is not keeping the city safe."

The city's overall crime rate is down 5.6 percent compared to last year, according to the latest numbers from the New York Police Department. But almost half of voters in a recent poll by Quinnipiac University said that crime is a "very serious" problem and that quality of life has gotten worse in the city.

"If New Yorkers feel that the city is less safe, if they feel that homelessness and petty crimes and violent crimes all go hand in hand, then we're looking at a one-term mayor," Greer warns.

De Blasio still has a couple years as mayor to clamp down on homeless numbers before he's up for re-election.

But back in Tompkins Square Park, 35-year-old Ronald Davis is under a shorter timeline. He says he's been homeless in New York for about three years and has spent nights near the park, carrying around his clothes in a ripped blue backpack.

But Davis doesn't want to do it anymore. He says he recently checked into a transitional housing program.

"I can't sleep in the streets," he says. "That's tearing me up — the bugs, the filth, the sweat, cops messing with you. It's just too much."

2015 NCHV Veterans Access to Housing Summit: Commit to Changing Your Community

2015 NCHV Veterans Access to Housing Summit: Commit to Changing Your Community
Discounted hotel room block now sold out, register now before we reach capacity! 
"Can I really do that?"
Your agency and community may have more flexibility in your resources than you think! At this year’s Housing Summit, you will have unprecedented access to national experts on the major housing programs serving homeless and at-risk veterans. You already know how GPD, SSVF, HUD-VASH, and CoC resources work… now go deeper into the possibilities of what you can do with them to best serve veterans in need. 
Thanks to the small-group, interactive structure of this event, you will have the opportunity to discuss the needs of your community and troubleshoot the specific hurdles you are facing. Come prepared to work and set an agenda for change when you go home!
You will have 100 days… what can you commit to change?

The 2015 NCHV Veterans Access to Housing Summit, "The Drive to December", will be held Oct. 5-6 at the Grand Hyatt Washington in Washington, D.C. 
Download the 2015 NCHV Veterans Access to Housing Summit schedule.
The discounted room block is now SOLD OUT. 
Space at this event is limited, and no walk up registrations will be accepted. Please plan ahead to ensure you are able to attend. Stay tuned to the NCHV Veterans Access to Housing Summit webpage for the latest updates!

Registration fee for NCHV members is $200. 

Registration fee for non-NCHV members is $250.

Click here to learn more about joining NCHV!

View Housing and Healthcare (H2) Initiative Action Plans by State

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U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development HUD Exchange Mailing List

View Housing and Healthcare (H2) Initiative Action Plans by State

In order to better meet the needs of people who are homeless and those who are low income and living with HIV/AIDS, HUD's Office of Special Needs Assistance Programs (SNAPS) and the Office of HIV/AIDS Housing (OHH), in collaboration with the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), are sponsoring technical assistance (TA) to support states and communities in undertaking the systems changes needed to enhance integration and collaboration between the housing and healthcare systems. The goal is to maximize care coverage for the target populations and increase access to comprehensive healthcare and supportive services that can be coordinated with housing.

TA providers, including expert facilitators and subject matter experts, are supporting interested states and communities in convening two-day "action planning" sessions that focus on integrating healthcare and housing systems and services. Action planning session participants typically include grantees and subrecipients of HUD's Continuum of Care (CoC), Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG), and Housing Opportunities for Persons With AIDS (HOPWA) programs, representatives from local/state healthcare agencies, HUD and HHS regional and field office staff, and other interested parties. The process to deliver 20 of these action planning sessions is underway for states and communities across the country.

Visit the Healthcare and Housing (H2) Systems Integration Initiative webpage to read overviews of action planning processes, draft plans, and implementation progress by state. Information and materials are currently available for the following states:
  • Nevada
  • Virginia
  • Utah
  • Connecticut
  • North Carolina
  • New Mexico
  • Idaho
  • Tennessee
  • Illinois
The webpage is updated regularly, and more states will be added as additional action planning sessions are conducted.