On particularly cold winter nights, many cities mount aggressive campaigns to encourage vulnerable adults living outdoors to come in for the night. City leaders or nonprofit groups elect to expand their community's shelter capacity, often with church basements or city facilities that aren't designed to be used as sleeping accommodations.
Individuals who seek shelter at these temporary overflow locations aren’t likely to receive much in the way of services, but they won’t be asked many questions either, which is often by design. The idea is to erect as few barriers to shelter as possible so that people will choose to come indoors when weather conditions are particularly dangerous.
And yet, these overflow shelters offer a unique opportunity for service providers to engage particularly vulnerable homeless veterans and others who might typically avoid emergency shelters. With Congress and the Obama administration providing unprecedented new resources to help veterans escape homelessness, this winter is time to take advantage of it.
Here at the Alliance offices, we’re busily preparing for our upcoming National Conference on Ending Family & Youth Homelessness. (And since everyone in DC is currently wondering when the next winter storm is going to dump any snow on us, we’re more than a little excited about being in sunny San Diego next month.) As the Alliance’s youth policy analyst, I’m currently working hard on organizing the youth homelessness content. And there is going to be a lot of it!
The conference is less than a month away. If you’re going to be attending, you’re probably already thinking about what workshops you want to attend. Here’s a quick look at the wide variety of youth-focused workshops we have lined up. In these workshops, we’ll be exploring what providers, researchers, and policymakers are doing to end youth homelessness by 2020, the goal set in Opening Doors, the national strategic plan to end homelessness.
Today Senators Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., introduced a bill reauthorizing the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act (RHYA), which expired on Sept. 30, 2013. (Senators Cory Booker, D-NJ, and Kelly Ayotte, R-NH, also signed on to the bill as original co-sponsors.)
Ever since it was signed into law in 1974, the RHYA has been the only federal law exclusively dedicated to homeless youth, ensuring essential services like street outreach, basic shelter, and transitional living programs. The new reauthorization bill, the Runaway and Homeless Youth and Trafficking Prevention Act, goes even further by increasing protection for youth who are victims of human trafficking and sexual exploitation. It increases support for family intervention, and prohibits discrimination against homeless youth based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
The Alliance supports reauthorization of RHYA and the improvement of its programs so it can more effectively and efficiently serve homeless youth, particularly the most vulnerable youth who are on the streets and unsheltered every night.
The Administration typically releases their budget proposal for the upcoming fiscal year during the first week of February. Unlike recent years, this year President Obama is expected to release his fiscal year (FY) 2016 Budget Proposal early next month (Monday, Feb. 2 to be exact), which will kick off the federal funding process earlier than in recent years. Here at the Alliance, we will be examining the budget closely to determine what it means for programs that serve people experiencing homelessness.
As usual, we will share these insights during a webinar, “President's Budget Proposal – Overview and Impact on Homelessness” next Thursday, Feb. 5, at 12 pm ET. We’re going to be discussing the Obama administration’s proposed funding levels for key homelessness and affordable housing programs, as well as upcoming opportunities for advocates.
In the next two weeks, volunteers across the country will set out to conduct a count of all homeless persons in their communities. Though it may be too late sign up to volunteer in your community’s 2015 Point-in-Time Count (here in D.C., volunteer registration is already closed), you can still help us out at the Alliance.
Every year the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) requires communities to conduct sheltered counts of people living in emergency shelter or transitional housing. Every other year, HUD requires communities to conduct unsheltered counts of people living in a place unfit for human habitation (such as in an abandoned building or in a park). This year is one of the years that both counts are required, so every community will be conducting both a sheltered and an unsheltered count.
Here at the Alliance, we track this data as it is released. Different communities release their count data at different times, and we want to know which communities are reporting an increase in homelessness and which ones are reporting a decrease. Of course, there are a lot of communities across the nation, so we can’t do this without your help.