Showing posts with label the homeless guy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label the homeless guy. Show all posts

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Homeless Terms To Know - The HEARTH Act

The Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing Act (The HEARTH Act) was signed into law in 2009 by President Obama, and has been amended several times since.  It reauthorized the McKinney-Vento Act and made several changes to the federal response to homelessness.

It redefined many terms used in the homelessness industry, including "Homeless" and "Chronically Homeless", it consolidated certain departments which eventually became the CoC program, it renewed emphasis on performance required for grants, and established the HMIS.

The HEARTH Act is the legislation currently being used by the federal government in its response to homelessness.

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Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Homeless Case Management Faux Pas

Consider this scenario:
    With an increasing homeless population, the good citizens take notice of all the alcoholics and mentally ill people wandering the streets, and so they call on the city to "do something about it."   In a charitable mood, city officials decide to allocate funds to help the homeless.  Those funds are given to a local shelter, since the shelter administrators are considered the experts on homelessness.   The shelter hires two case managers and gives them office space to work from.

Announcements are made in the shelter about the services available from these new case managers.   Some of the homeless who spend their days around the shelter avail themselves of these services.  For several months the city funds this case management program, but it fails to see any progress made on the streets - the drunks and mentally ill people are still wandering around the city.   Complaints from citizens continue.  City officials call on the shelter to ask what is going on with the program.   The case managers show their records to the city officials, proving that they are doing the job assigned them.    Everyone is perplexed.   Money is being spent, the case managers are doing as instructed, but the problem remains.    What is wrong with this picture?

Here is the deal - homeless people can be divided into two types - shelter homeless, and street homeless.   The homeless who spend their days around shelters do so for several reasons, safety and comfort usually.  Those homeless who do not make use of shelters have their own reasons, a lack of trust is usually at the top of that list. Also, the addicts and mentally ill who wander the streets usually lack the skills necessary for living in a shelter.   Because the shelter homeless spend their days in and around shelters, they are not usually noticed by the general public.  Those homeless who wander city streets have no other choice.

The problem of the above scenario is that the case managers are sitting behind desks.  They are shuffling paper work instead of getting out and scouting the streets for homeless people who could benefit from their help.  To reduce the number of homeless people living on the streets, it is imperative that case managers, and others who work with the homeless, do outreach work.   They should not be sitting behind desks and waiting for the homeless to approach them.   Often these shelter case managers will claim that they don't have time to do outreach too.   And this may be true as resources are often limited.   It is easy for a case manager to occupy him/her self with helping 100 shelter homeless people file for food stamps instead of helping 2 street homeless find permanent housing.    When setting priorities it is important to establish quality over site and not just assume that the case managers should fend for themselves.   In the homelessness industry, communication is still the biggest problem, a lack of proper over site is a close second.

It is also important to recognize that not every outreach effort is really benefiting the homeless.  Many outreach efforts only work to get the homeless into shelters.  This may temporarily clear the streets of some homeless people, but this does nothing to actually help people overcome homelessness.    Shelters do afford a certain level of service, providing food shelter clothing etc., but rarely do shelters end homelessness.  In many cases they do more to enable it.

The best situation would be for case management to be available to all the different types of homeless people, for those who live in shelters and for those who do not, for those who live in camps, for those who couch surf, for those who have recently become homeless, and for those who are chronically homeless.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Homeless Terms To Know - Mitch Snyder

Oddly enough, my first experience with homelessness (back in 1982) happened to correspond with an unexpected surge in the national homeless population.   I remember seeing news articles in the local paper discussing this sudden increase in homelessness, and reports of its continued growth through the 80s.  This growth was happening in cities all over the country.  Attention shifted from local news to national news and programs like 60 Minutes.   In the mid 1980s a great deal of attention was given to Washington DC homeless advocate Mitch Snyder who understood the importance of media in getting out his message.  In watching old news clips it is interesting to see how the media, even back then, made homeless advocates appear as troublemakers, and how government officials were dismissive and downplayed the significance of Snyder’s efforts.

Mitch Snyder advocated for the needs of the local homeless, yet being in Washington DC, he’s actions had national repercussions.   He requested that the government give one of it’s many empty buildings to his organization to use as a homeless shelter.  Frustrated over the lack of progress being made in this regard, Mitch and others broke into a building and took it over, basically squatting on the property.  Eventually the government conceded and allowed Mitch and his group to lease the building.   Still the building was is very bad condition, walls were crumbling, plumbing did not always work, there was no heating, etc.   So again Mitch called on the government to bring the building up to standards and make the needed repairs.  The government, namely President Reagan, refused.  In response to this, Mitch and 11 others went on a hunger strike.  With Mitch near death, and an election nearing, President Reagan relented and promised to have the building repaired.  This ended the hunger strike, but after several weeks, repairs had yet to begin.

Mitch Snyder’s struggle with the federal government continued until his death in 1990.  But his efforts did provoke the government into action, and homeless people today are still benefiting for it. There is a documentary about Mitch Snyder and his organization CCNV that is available on  Additionally, a low budget movie was made about Mitch called “Samaritan”, also available on

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Saturday, May 10, 2014

Football And Homelessness

How is football and homelessness the same? too many arm-chair quarterbacks. 

It is easy for a person sitting in the comfort of their living room to judge the actions of the players on tv. The problem for the arm-chair quarterback is that he/she is not privy to everything that is actually going on in the game - what all the conditions are, all the considerations that have to be made by the people in the game.   People react to homelessness the same way.  From the comfort of their homes, people judge the homeless without really knowing anything about homelessness.

Solutions exist for most of the problems of homelessness, but people will never know of them if they never get involved. And no, "getting rid" of homeless people isn't a solution, and neither are all the other "ideas" that arm-chair quarterbacks come up with. There are solutions out there that truly benefit everyone. But, those solutions are not going to implement themselves.

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 Advocate Confession

I confess, as homeless advocates go, I suck.

Sure, I have this blog where I write about homelessness, sort of - some times.  But I haven't done much that could really be considered "advocacy".  I admit that most of my defense of homeless people has just been a defense for myself.  And the attention that my blog has gotten, especially in the first years, was more about the curiosity of a homeless person with a webpage than about any actual content I put on it.

It was a trip, though, how people first responded to my blog.  Many just couldn't bring themselves to believe that a homeless person could create a blog.  12 years later, some people still think this blog is a hoax.  Or maybe that just wish it was a hoax.   I don't know.   Still, all that attention in the first years, I did nothing to earn it, except to be me.

Sometimes I have tried to educate people about homelessness.  But of all the writing I've done in the past 12 years, only 5 posts get any real attention on the blog. And some of those posts are many years old.

So at first, my existence was all I needed, so to challenge people's ideas about homelessness.  I guess that was a good thing, except some people said that caused to them to think less of the homeless.  I can only hope they were being spiteful.

Still, many people had the wrong idea about homeless people, I saw there was much ignorance concerning homelessness and I tried to counter their wrong ideas.  Doing this, I only made more enemies.  Attacks on this blog, and attacks on me personally only grew.   Eventually I had to take drastic measures to protect myself.   Sometimes it got so bad that I gave up on the blog.  I had shut it down a couple times - the insults and negativity, and people trying to take advantage of my situation made me want to hide from it all.    It was only because I had nothing else in my life, that I stayed with the blog.

One of my main issues is that I had problems - still have problems - that I have difficulty dealing with and which are a leading cause of my homelessness.   The mental health issues of depression and anxiety - due in some part to Aspergers Syndrome, and to complications arising from abuse I lived with as a kid.   I was a messed up homeless person, but I was held up to a higher standard.  No one cut me any slack.  I was chided for not being able to achieve more although it was not within me to satisfy them.   Perhaps being satisfied was not their point. To harass and aggravate me, they constantly moved the goal posts.

And here I am, many years later and I'm still homeless, still unable to achieve what everyone else deems the standard for success.

Well, it seems all I can do is to again try and reinvent myself, refocus my purpose and attention and try to become a better advocate for homeless people.

I only as that you not dismiss the message here, even if you do condemn the messenger.

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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