Showing posts with label HUD. Show all posts
Showing posts with label HUD. Show all posts

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Homeless Terms To Know - Community Buy-in

The government, through HUD, is very interested in supporting communities that are adapting to the new ways of dealing with homelessness - that being Housing First, Rapid Rehousing, Continuum of Care, etc  But it insists that the community be involved in a supporting capacity.  HUD isn't going to handle our homelessness issues for us. Before any community can receive help form HUD, it must prove that they are embracing these new concepts.  The biggest part of the "buy-in" requires that local finances are being dedicated to the project.  Local Charities and financial institutions much show that they are supporting these efforts financially.  Only then will HUD step up and assist the community with support, mainly of the financial variety. HUD gauges it's financial support directly on how much the community is doing for itself.

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Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Homeless Terms To Know - Section 8

The U.S. Government offers rental payment assistance to the poorest Americans through HUD in three ways

  • Privately owned subsidized housing - landlords receive assistance from HUD for offering low rent to low income tenants.
  • Public housing - housing units/apartments owned by the government offered to low income tenants
  • Housing Choice Voucher Program (Section 8) - a voucher is given to a low income person to use for paying rent in the home of their choice.
In each case, the tenant pays a percentage of their income, with of minimum payment due of 50 dollars each month - even if the tenant has no income.

The demand for these programs is high and often the waiting lists for these programs are many years long. BUT for newly created programs that address homelessness, these waiting lists can be bypassed, allow the homeless to move into housing much sooner.

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Friday, June 6, 2014

Homeless Terms To Know - Chronic Homelessness

About a dozen years ago HUD made the bold move of defining a particular type of homelessness.  Prior to this new definition, the government made no distinction between types of homeless people.  Still HUD has only been dealing with homelessness since 1987 through the Stewart B McKinney Act.

HUD created the governments first responses to Chronic Homelessness in 2003. From the HUD website
HUD adopted the Federal definition which defines a chronically homeless person as “either (1) an unaccompanied homeless individual with a disabling condition who has been continuously homeless for a year or more, OR (2) an unaccompanied individual with a disabling condition who has had at least four episodes of homelessness in the past three years.” This definition is adopted by HUD from a federal standard that was arrived upon through collective decision making by a team of federal agencies including HUD, the U.S. Department of Labor, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness.
With that came the governments first definition of Chronically Homeless people. After considerable input from the homelessness industry, HUD redefined the term so to make it more accurate. The following was added to the definition
A family with an adult member who meets this description would also be considered chronically homeless.
I am sure that the government will continue to revise it's definition as it gains knowledge of the subject.

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Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Homeless Terms To Know - Frequent User

A "frequent user" is a homeless person who makes excessive use of community services.  His addictions and/or mental health issues are so extreme that he spends an inordinate amount of time in jail, and the cops are often called to deal with him, and he makes several trips to the hospital and its emergency room.

At first, HUD labeled these people "chronically homeless" but that label was inadequate.  There are many chronically homeless people who are not frequent users and some frequent users are not actually chronically homeless.

Learning about homelessness and it's many forms and variants requires some time. But the government is now taking the time to learn these things.   They will make mistakes, certainly, but with each new discovery they will learn more, and their knowledge of homelessness will become more accurate and thus more productive.

At first, HUD was focused on eliminating Chronic Homelessness.  And you'll still hear that term kicked around a lot.  But what they are really doing is attempting to determine who the frequent users are, then they'll work to get them off the streets, so to save communities a significant amount of money.

What will happen to all the other chronically homeless people once the frequent users are off the street?  Will the government still be motivated to get the remaining chronically homeless off the streets?  Or will those people be abandoned once again, because they don't really cost communities much money?

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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Homeless Terms To Know - Homeless

What is the definition of homeless? That depends on who you ask. Each agency that works with the homeless will develop and implement it's own definition of the word.

Can you see how this causes problems for homeless people looking for help?  And how this causes problems for the people trying to help the homeless?

Hopefully soon a single definition will be decided on. Even if it is a less than perfect definition, having only one will make the search for help less difficult, and will help organizations to see where they need to make improvements in services. And as time goes on, that one definition can be improved - as more knowledge of homelessness is gained.

I do think that HUD's definition of "Homeless" is the most correct, so I will include it here.  (People can find themselves in a many different living situations.  Deciding which meets the definition of homeless can be difficult as the variables are often subjective.)

From HUD

  • An individual who lacks a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence;
  • An individual who has a primary nighttime residence that is a public or private place not designed for or ordinarily used as a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings, including a car, park, abandoned building, bus or train station, airport, or camping ground;
  • An individual or family living in a supervised publicly or privately operated shelter designated to provide temporary living arrangements (including hotels and motels paid for by Federal, State or local government programs for low-income individuals or by charitable organizations, congregate shelters, and transitional housing);
  • An individual who resided in a shelter or place not meant for human habitation and who is exiting an institution where he or she temporarily resided;
  • An individual or family who will imminently lose their housing [as evidenced by a court order resulting from an eviction action that notifies the individual or family that they must leave within 14 days, having a primary nighttime residence that is a room in a hotel or motel and where they lack the resources necessary to reside there for more than 14 days, or credible evidence indicating that the owner or renter of the housing will not allow the individual or family to stay for more than 14 days, and any oral statement from an individual or family seeking homeless assistance that is found to be credible shall be considered credible evidence for purposes of this clause]; has no subsequent residence identified; and lacks the resources or support networks needed to obtain other permanent housing; and
  • Unaccompanied youth and homeless families with children and youth defined as homeless under other Federal statutes who have experienced a long-term period without living independently in permanent housing, have experienced persistent instability as measured by frequent moves over such period, and can be expected to continue in such status for an extended period of time because of chronic disabilities, chronic physical health or mental health conditions, substance addiction, histories of domestic violence or childhood abuse, the presence of a child or youth with a disability, or multiple barriers to employment.

  • Tuesday, May 27, 2014

    Homeless Terms To Know - SRO

    SRO stands for "Single Room Occupancy", sometimes called, "Single Resident Occupancy".  I have always used Single Resident Occupancy, as it made more sense as concerning homelessness and Housing First.  But it wasn't until I returned to San Diego and saw a true SRO, that I learned what an SRO truly is.

    The concept for Single Room living spaces came about long ago (the 1800s) when Capitalists were exploiting the lack of housing codes.  (Read about Alonso Horton for more detail.)  Some of the oldest hotels in San Diego were built explicitly for construction workers who were hired to build the more palatial hotels and supply the building boon with cheap labor.  These hotels, built for construction workers, crammed as many people together as possible.  The single rooms were smaller than 10x10 feet square.  Toilets and showers were shared, one per floor.  Downtown San Diego saw many building boons and busts over the years, but there was plenty of room for expansion and so many RSO's were built - a couple dozen or more of these SRO hotels/boarding houses still exist, and charge relatively cheap rent (although the application process and standards are very strict, and residents are paying 60 to 75% of their income for rent).

    Because SROs usually offer the least expensive rent, they are the first places that case managers contact when trying to place their clients.   In recent years, most of the SRO building has been contacting with HUD and other government agencies for subsidies in exchange for renting cheaply and for working with Section 8.

    It should be noted that these SRO hotels and similar resident buildings were, and in some instances still are, the domain of slum lords.  But these slum lords are finding it more lucrative to partner with government organizations such as HUD, and HUD  requires their properties to meet strict housing codes, which is leading to improvements in these buildings.

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    Saturday, May 10, 2014

    Homeless Terms To Know - Continuum of Care (CoC)

    The term "Continuum of Care" comes from the health care industry.  It is used to describe the type of services required by people needing a variety of services over a long period of time, such as people suffering from cancer.  For people suffering from homelessness, the Continuum of Care would include getting a homeless person into a Single Resident Occupancy (SRO) apartment, making sure they have food and other necessities, and then arranging services for them such as addiction rehabilitation, mental health therapy, employment, etc., leading up to the point of self sufficiency.  Often you'll hear this referred to as "wrap-around services".   I have also heard mention of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs (see the above image) as the impetus of this approach.   Basically, each human need requires a foundation of other needs already met, starting with physical needs, achieving those, and then moving up the list, one level at a time.   A feeling of security cannot be achieved if the physical needs have not been met.   A sense of belonging cannot occur until one has achieved a level of security, etc.

    In 2009 the McKinney-Vento Act was amended with the HEARTH Act.  Among other improvements to the governments response to homelessness, the Hearth Act consolidated three previous HUD homeless assistance programs, repurposed them, and gave it the name, Continuum of Care Program.  HUDs CoC Program is a competitive funding source for those communities that are implementing CoC strategies in dealing with homelessness.    If on inspection HUD determines that a community is moving in the right direction in improving services to the homeless, HUD will award funding to help pay for these improvements.  Learn more about HUD's
    Continuum of Care.
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    Thursday, May 8, 2014

    Homeless Terms To Know - HUD

    If we are going to end homelessness, it is important for those involved to adopt the new way of addressing the problem.   In the past, all that people had to focus on was "food" "shelter" "clothing".    Those items are still important to homeless people, but we now know that they have nothing to do with ending homelessness.

    It is time for people to learn and use other terms when talking about and dealing with homelessness.  Let's start with:

    HUD - HUD an is the acronym for Housing and Urban Development.  It is a Cabinet department of the Executive Branch of the U.S. government concerned with the quality of housing in impoverished areas of the country.  The HUD website explains:
    The federal government’s interest in housing conditions can be traced back to the first national investigation of large urban slum areas in 1892. HUD is the successor to a number of federal housing agencies, which gradually evolved following a major effort during the great depression to stimulate housing development.
    In 2002, President Bush named Boston homeless advocate Phillip Mangano as homelessness Czar.  Phillip was a proponent of Housing First, and the recent university studies on homelessness that supported the cost benefits of Housing First programs.  Mangano was the executive director of the USICH from 2002 until 2009.

    Among the many housing issues that HUD deals with, it also partners with the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness, another executive branch department, in developing, funding and executing programs related to homelessness.  According the the HUD website:
    The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is the federal agency responsible for national policy and programs that address the country’s housing needs. HUD is a pivotal USICH partner in the effort to prevent and end homelessness. Through HUD’s targeted homeless programs, its mainstream housing and community development programs, and collaboration with both the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Health and Human Services, HUD works to house the most vulnerable of the nation’s population while supporting community growth. HUD currently manages targeted programs that directly address homelessness...
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    Thursday, April 24, 2008

    It Is So Quiet In Here

    Ducks in a row. Last qualifying meeting, of many, was completed this morning. And at the meeting I was told that the unit I am to move into, was inspected by HUD this morning. A couple days ago I was told that I could move in once the place passed inspection. I was also earlier told that HUD would not be inspecting until Friday, or Monday.

    That does put a fire under ya, wanting the process to hurry up, and finally finish, so I can move in.

    I haven't had a place of my own since January of 2005.

    Sunday, February 24, 2008

    Who Should Work Where? An Email Exchange

    Dear Kevin,
    Good morning. I thought I would write and introduce myself. I have been a fan of your blog for many years. Here in Columbus Ohio, I used to work in two different shelters and a supportive housing program for chronically homeless, mentally ill women. I have loved all of those jobs. Currently, I am unemployed and looking for work while going to school at OSU. I have had a terrible time finding work in my field because I never finished my degree.

    You did a blog post a while back that had a tremendous impact on me and how I viewed my work. It was "A Day In The Life" and in it, you wrote about the resue mission. When I was hired as Director of Resident Services and Faith Mission here in Columbus, It was much like what you had described. I was fortunate to have an executive director who wanted to change the way the shelter operated and hired me to do it. I have been grateful to you ever since. We got rid of the security staff, created new positions called advocates who were assigned a case load of residents and were charged with the task of being their partners. Each advocate sat down one on one with their residents and co-created a plan for services. The number of residents who left the shelter for permanent housing tripled after that.

    Sadly, I was laid off from there and shortly after, my former executive director resigned. The new director has re-instated the security staff and some of my former staff tell me things have gone back to the old ways.

    I still believe that I was moving in the right direction. I had a vision of beginning a job training program to hire residents to work in the shelter. I think they would be far more sensitive to others and understanding of the obstacles than anyone else. So what do you think of homeless men and women working in the shelters?


    Dear Mary,
    Thank you very much for writing,
    Letters like yours help me stay focused, reminding me that there is a bigger picture, and I am only a part of it.

    There are people who are born and raised in the South, and they develop a very strong southern accent to the way they talk. But for whatever reason, they move away from the South, and after some time they lose the accent. Then they return home for a visit, and it takes almost no time for them to regain that Southern accent. And, there is a cliche' - "you can take the man out of the projects, but you can't take the projects out of the man." This is all preference to me saying that I think it's not a very good idea to have past homeless people become "case managers" as it were, to the currently homeless. It does sound like a good idea - I know that AA works that way, and perhaps for alcoholism it is effective.

    But most people who used to be homeless, are usually living a life still very close to homelessness. Although they now have a home of their own, they are still living in abject poverty, bearly making it, and have many of the traits that make people suseptible to becoming homeless. At the Campus for Human Development, they require that a formerly homeless person be in a non-homeless state for at least 2 years, before returning to work there. Having the formerly homeless person back in the street environment makes them susceptable to becoming homeless again. More importantly - homeless people have to learn a completely new and different way of life (a new paradigm for life and living), and the best way to do that is to expose them, as much as possible, to the new and better way. It's like teaching a new language - total immersion works best. A homeless person with a case manager who continues to talk street, and has street mannerisms only inhibits growth in the new direction. Life on the streets is hard core, it is dog eat dog, (more literal than figurative), and so it requires one to be excessively selfish just to survive. And yes, the non-homeless people are also selfishness, but it is compartmentalized, (and more figurative than literal). The non-homeless person knows that civility is required to a certain degree, so to maintain the social framework in which to live. Most homeless people do not get that, or at least don't exercise it to the point necessary to maintaining an acceptable and functional place for themselves within the society.

    What is needed are good and positive examples for the homeless to adapt. They need to be exposed to as much non-homelessness as possible. Som they would benefit most from case managers, security guards, chaplains, etc, who have never experienced homelessness. Also, non-homeless workers, who have been working with the homeless for a few years, will be effected by the homeless environment, and will lose their ability to reflect the non-homeless life on to the homeless. That is why I am so much in favor of term limits for non-homeless people working for homeless service providers.

    Well, this email has grown long - I think I'll use it as a post on the blog. May I also use your letter to preface it? I will leave your name out if you so wish.

    Again, thanks for writing,

    Dear Kevin
    Of course you can use my letter. and my name. I wrote you about that to get your opinion. I needed to know what it would take. I agree that a person needs to be immersed in non-homelessness in order to make it. You raise some very good points that I hadn't considered. I knew you would have a different perspective. I have been trying to figure out what it would take to end homelessness. If we were to return full funding for HUD housing, provide housing opportunites enough that no one would be with out a place to live, what would it take to assist someone to be able to remain in that housing and become stable again?

    What kind of services are needed?


    Dear Mary,
    Because waiting lists for services are so long, service providers are tempted to tighten the restrictions placed on those receiving services. In many street rehab facilities, if a person relapses just once while in the program, he will be dropped from the program, and might never be allowed to return. That policy denies the reality the the average addict/alchoholic/street person will relapse many times before staying clean, and clear of trouble, long enough to leave homelessness. The goals are too high, the stress is too great. All such programs should impliment a more gradual approach - baby steps must be really small baby steps, and for a longer period than most service providers would expect. I know, budgets being as limited as they are tempts social workers to press their clients to achieve goals faster than they are ready to deal with. The best recourse would be to take on fewer clients at a time. And yes, I understand that organizations must make a good show - produce numbers that the grant givers expect - the grant givers expecations being very eskew of reality. It really is better to take on fewer clients at a time, and have a higher success rate, than to try to take on many clients, hoping that some how all their needs will be met.

    For some service providers, if they had one hundred dollars, and one hundred clients, they would give each client one dollar. But it seems better to determine which clients would actually make good use of it, and select 10 clients to receive 10 dollars each. This applies to all services offered. It's the process of separating the wheat from the chaff.

    Taking on 10 clients and putting all your energy into them, and having a percentage of them achieve success, is better than taking on 20 clients, and being able to only give half as much energy to them. More than likely you'll end up with fewer successes, not just in percentages.

    In the Hud Housing First program, promoted by the, the 10% worst case homeless clients are said to consume the lion's share of services and resources available to all homeless people. So, they are instructing cities to develop Housing First programs to house those people. This would free up more services, for service providers to provide, for the rest of the homeless.

    Sure, if we could get cities to do this, it would be great. But there is an obvious objection to it within city governments and the general population, and cities have been slow, if not dead in the water, concerning this development.

    Personally, I think they should be applying this program from the opposite direction. They should be providing housing first options to the easiest to solve homeless cases first - not the worst. Single, unattached men are about 85% of the homeless population. It would take the least amount of services to rehabilitate their lives. So, focusing attention on that population of the homeless would drastically reduce the total number of homeless, in the shortest amount of time, and would free up as many resources for service providers, if not more, to be focused on the more difficult cases. Of course this is the opposite of the current paradigms, where women and their children come first - and single men come last - this really means that single men rarely if ever get the services they need. I imagine that if you rehabbed all the homeless men, you'd find the homeless women w/children population dropping, even without services directed at them, as these formerly homeless men will begin taking back the responsiblities of family.

    Ok, well that took 40 minutes to write, so I'll stop for now - I really appreciate your questions.