How many homeless children are in there in America? This may seem like a simple question to answer. I bet some of you are thinking, “Just look at point-in-time count data,” while others are musing, “That can be answered from annual shelter counts.” Others, still, may be thinking, “The number can be found in a report from the Department of Education.” With so many data sources to choose from, this question isn’t as straightforward as you might assume.
Every time we at the Alliance rely on data, we have to decide which data source will give us the best approximation of the figure we seek. This involves a high level of knowledge and understanding about how each of these data sources collects and compiles numbers. For example, we used five different data sources in our most recent report, The State of Homelessness in America 2015, because no single source captured all the information we needed.
The national goal of ending homelessness among veterans by the end of 2015 is only about seven months away, for those of you keeping track. That’s not a lot of time. So it makes sense for communities like yours who are working toward it to keep track of the pace of their progress.
To reach that ultimate goal in your community, you’re going to need to set and meet benchmarks along the way. That’s why we made step three in our Five Steps to Ending Veteran Homelessness setting a clear numerical goal and timeline for reaching it. This should keep you and your partners focused on your progress and always mindful of how well you are doing.
Here at the Alliance, we like to say at homelessness should be rare, brief, and non-recurring. For many people who experience homelessness, this is true. But for 15 percent of the homeless population, the opposite is true: they experience homelessness repeatedly and/or for long periods of time, and they have a disability (such as serious mental illness, chronic substance use disorders, or chronic medical issues). These people are chronically homeless.
People experiencing chronic homelessness tend to be the most difficult to stably house and, as a result, are the most vulnerable people in the homeless population. Many communities, with the support of the federal government, have targeted interventions toward chronic homelessness in the past decade. Research shows that most effective intervention to end chronic homelessness is permanent supportive housing, which combines stable housing with supportive services.
Over the past year, I have spent a lot of time conducting Rapid Re-Housing Clinics for communities across the county. Rapid re-housing is an intervention that provides temporary financial assistance and services to homeless people to return them to permanent housing quickly. Many communities around the country are already using it to house people. But it’s a relatively new idea.
At the clinics I conduct, which are designed to help communities implement their own effective rapid re-housing programs, it’s not uncommon for people who are new to the idea of rapid re-housing to view it with some skepticism. It makes sense. They have been doing things one way for years, and now they’re being asked to change. Who wouldn’t question the wisdom of that?
Have you heard of the #WithTheseHands campaign? It’s part of a national initiative to raise awareness of the issue of veteran homelessness and the fight to end it. (The campaign takes its name from the final verse of the Bruce Springsteen song, “My City of Ruins.”)
The people behind the campaign are Give US Your Poor, which is a group dedicated to bringing together homeless organizations, celebrity advocates, and people like you to end homelessness. With this latest campaign, they’re using music and art to dispel myths, show support, and foster action on veteran homelessness.