Here in Washington, DC the cold temperatures and harsh weather during hypothermia season, which lasts from November through March, are dangerous for everyone, but they are perhaps most dangerous for those who are homeless. Just last year, the punishing winter resulted in nine known deaths of homeless individuals in DC.
This winter I volunteered with the Hypothermia Emergency Response Team, which is run by the Capitol Hill Group Ministry. Team volunteers are deployed on nights when the Department of Human Services issues a hypothermia alert in an effort to support the city’s efforts to provide emergency shelter on these frigid nights. Hypothermia alerts are issued when the temperature is forecasted to fall to 32 degrees Fahrenheit or below, including the wind chill factor.
It’s that time of year again when everyone must do their taxes. Of course, most people experiencing homelessness don’t file tax returns and wouldn’t suffer a penalty for not filing because they make little to no money.
Contrary to what many people believe, though, many homeless people are employed, at least part of the time. According to a 2002 national study by the Urban Institute, about 45 percent of homeless adults had worked in the past 30 days, only 14 percentage points lower than the employment rate for the general population at that time.
Homeless assistance systems, as we all know, have limited resources. This means that they often cannot serve everyone. To make the most of their available resources, many communities try to serve the subpopulations and individuals who are most in need of help. Doing that, however, can be tricky.
Communities must first identify the most vulnerable persons and then match them with the most appropriate services. Experts have devised a variety of tools for communities to use to accomplish this daunting task. These tools are administered by workers in the homeless assistance system, who ask people experiencing homelessness questions in order to determine the degree of their vulnerability, as well as what services they should receive.
(Here at the Alliance we have developed our own tool for communities: The Alliance Comprehensive Assessment tool.)
There is wide variety in the assessment tools that communities use and how they use them. Last fall, the Alliance and the Office of Policy Development and Research of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) brought together leading homelessness experts from around the country for an expert convening to discuss the assessment tools that communities use and what questions they should include.
With today’s guest blog post, we would like to introduce you to five homeless assistance professionals who spent several weeks learning about homeless assistance practices in England. They traveled there as participants in the Transatlantic Practice Exchange program, which was coordinated jointly by the Alliance and Homeless Link and generously funded by the Oak Foundation. This post provides just a quick look at what they learned. For more detail, please check out their reports on the Alliance website.