At the Alliance, we’ve been talking a lot about the push to end veteran homelessness by the end of 2015. And we’re not the only ones (see: the departments of Veterans Affairs and Housing and Urban Development, the President and First Lady, and the list goes on…). Of course, telling you, “you need to end veteran homelessness this year” is much easier said than done. We recognize that. That’s why the Alliance will be providing as much guidance to communities as possible throughout the year.
Recently, several policy experts at the Alliance put their heads together to examine communities that have made real progress on ending veteran homelessness (and overall homelessness) to see how they are doing it. We’ve distilled that knowledge into this document, “Five Steps to End Veteran Homelessness,” which, as the title suggests, outlines the five major steps that communities must take to get the job done.
Over the years, chronic homelessness in America has dropped significantly. Thanks to the hard work of housing agencies, and advocates in communities around the country, working with the support of federal policies, the number of individuals experiencing chronic homelessness has declined by 21 percent since 2010.
Even so, on a given night, more than 80,000 individuals experience chronic homelessness, which means they are disabled and have experienced homelessness either for a year or longer or at least four times in the last three years. Chronically homeless people make up less than 15 percent of the overall population on a given night, but they are the most vulnerable, and therefore the most in need of our help.
(It’s also cheaper to house them than let them remain homelessness, when you weigh the cost in social services against the cost of providing them with housing services.)
That’s why, back in 2010, the Obama administration set a goal for ending chronic homelessness by the end of 2016 in “Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness.” That’s a year later than the date the administration set for ending veteran homelessness, and while we’re optimistic about ending veteran homelessness by the end of 2015 (and we’re not alone), ending chronic homelessness by the end of 2016 seemed increasingly unlikely.
We’re looking forward to seeing you in San Diego this week for our 2015 National Conference on Ending Family and Youth Homelessness. Here in DC, as you may already be aware, we just had a ton of snow dumped on us. Some of us had our flights to San Diego canceled, and we’ve had to scramble to make new arrangements. But so far it looks like we’re all going to make it.
If you’re going to be there, please consider sharing your experience on social media using the conference hashtag #NAEH15. If you aren’t attending, you can keep up with the conference on Twitter, on the Alliance blog, and the Alliance Facebook page. Alliance staff will be tweeting about conference content, events, and speakers throughout the event.
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.
Last week was a busy one for the Alliance’s policy team. On Monday, Feb. 2, the Obama administration released its fiscal year (FY) 2016 budget proposal, and we wasted no time in poring over the details to determine exactly what the administration is proposing for key homeless assistance and affordable housing programs.
Soon after, we published a number of materials on the budget proposal for advocates, from a chart that outlines the proposed funding levels by program to sample FY 2016 appropriations talking points. You can find them all at our President’s FY 2016 Budget Briefing page.
We also hosted a webinar that provided an overview of the appropriations process and an analysis of the administration’s proposed funding levels.