If you’re a leader of a Continuum of Care (CoC), you likely know how many people are homeless and how many beds for homeless people there are in your community. If you’re a homelessness service provider, I bet you have a pretty good idea of how many people you serve in your program, and how these numbers have changed over the past few years. And if you’re a concerned citizen, I’m sure you are aware when you see an unsheltered homeless person sleeping on the street or in the park.
Each of these experiences is a small part of the larger picture of homelessness in a state and in America. So when we add it all up, what trends do we see?
If you receive the Alliance’s advocacy alerts, you might recall that not long ago members of Congress were circulating “Dear Colleague” letters in the House and Senate.
These letters give members of Congress the opportunity to publicly sign on in support of robust funding levels for programs that they believe should be national priorities. The Dear Colleague letters circulating in congress that were of most interest to us, of course, were letters in support of increased funding levels for homeless assistance and affordable housing programs.
Overall homelessness in America has declined, but millions remain at risk of falling into homelessness in the future, according to The State of Homelessness in America 2015, the fifth in a series of annual reports on the nation’s progress on homelessness by the Alliance’s Homelessness Research Institute.
The report, which we released today, examines national and state trends in the homeless populations and the number of beds available to assist them. It shows that, during a period of economic growth for the nation when unemployment decreased in nearly every state, the rate of homelessness fell by 2.3 percent, but the number of people at risk of homelessness remained at post-recession levels.
Last month, the Urban Institute released a report that examines the experiences of young Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) youth who have engaged in “survival sex” in New York City. Survival sex is a term frequently used to describe the exchange of sexual acts for money or goods that people require to live (e.g. food and shelter)
Of all the findings in this compelling report, “Surviving the Streets of New York,” one in particular should give homeless service providers pause: “Many [youth] … credited the instability and rules associated with emergency housing with driving them back to the street [and sexual exploitation].”
Rapid re-housing isn't easy, but it is simple. And it's bringing us closer and closer to ending veteran homelessness by the end of this year. The Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) grants to community organizations across the country have taken the rapid re-housing intervention to a scale previously unseen, and the impact on veteran homelessness has been astonishing.
It isn’t easy. People experiencing homelessness often face numerous barriers to getting into and retaining stable, permanent housing. Data from Fiscal Year 2013 shows that more than half of the veterans participating in SSVF services had a disabling condition; 44 percent had a substance use disorder; and nearly a third had no income at the time of program entry. Yet 84 percent of participants exited the program to permanent housing with a median length of 90 days of services.
How has SSVF managed to achieve such dramatic outcomes?