Allentown won’t have its ‘miracle’ without affordable housing

advocacy, economics, justice, politics, spirituality, writing

Please click through to my recent op-ed in The Morning Call.

 

“In the wake of John Tarbay’s death at the Hamilton Street Bridge, just yards away from the Allentown Rescue Mission and not far from other agencies, a familiar chorus from social service providers and even some activists is likely to emerge: “Someone like John just didn’t want to come inside,” or “John was a ‘rough-sleeper.’ We tried,” or “John was this, that, or the other. John couldn’t live by the rules of society, or didn’t want to.”

All of those things may be true.

With the worst winter in memory finally behind us, it’s tempting to let the calls that more be done for Allentown’s and the Lehigh Valley’s homeless subside. It’s tempting to forget that “not being able to live by the rules of society” is obviously another way of talking about mental health, and mental health issues are the reasons most folks are on the street…”

Read more:

100 Homeless Tent Cities Across America? Try 1000. Maybe More.

advocacy, economics, justice, politics

“the shelters…there’s just not enough room.”

http://money.cnn.com/2014/05/16/pf/tent-city/index.html?hpt=hp_t2

The guy who says “this is a conscientious choice” (people LOVE living in tent cities!) is part of the problem.

100 tent cities across America? Try 1000. There are at least 3 in the Lehigh Valley. I doubt we own 3 percent of this issue.

And yes, the City of Allentown is shutting them down, even though there’s really no place for people to go.

 

Sequestration Has a Face, And It’s Homeless

advocacy, economics, justice, politics

From the National Alliance to End Homelessness:

The Senate Appropriations Committee has released its own version of the legislation finalizing federal funding for FY 2013. Unlike the House’s version, which was a “clean” Continuing Resolution (CR) that funded all federal programs (other than programs within the Departments of Veterans Affairs and Defense) at FY 2012 levels, the Senate includes various “anomalies,” which are variations within the CR.
Fortunately, the Senate’s legislation (full details can be found here) the following key anomalies for HUD programs:
The bill includes a $128 million increase in funding for the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants to reduce the impact of reductions to housing, shelter, and prevention programs, bringing the program total to $2.033 billion.

By the Alliance’s estimation, once the sequestration cuts of 5% are in place, this would result in an overall cut of approximately 12.6% to the Emergency Solutions Grant Program and an 8.6% cut to the Continuum of Care programs in the FY 2013 NOFA.

It also includes an increase in funding for administration and oversight of the Section 8 TBRA program. It also provides HUD with additional flexibility to ensure that tenants don’t lose their housing assistance.

Finally, it increases funding for the public housing operating fund to help make up for the one-time reduction in FY 2012.

While we are certainly grateful that these programs received increased funding in the Senate’s version, we must work to ensure that the House, which included no anomalies, agrees to these changes in the final version of the legislation.

Here’s What You Can Do:

Call your Members of Congress (both your senators and your representatives) especially if they sit on the Senate or House Appropriations Committee. You can reach their offices by calling the congressional switchboard at 202.224.3121. You can also call direct with the contact information in the following locations:

House: http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/

Senate: http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm (search by State)
Try to speak directly with the person who works on housing issues in the office.
Tell them that the final FY 2013 legislation must include as much funding as possible for HUD’s McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants. You can use these talking points (http://www.endhomelessness.org/library/entry/fy-2013-mckinney-appropriations-sample-congressional-talking-points) to help you make your case. Make sure to discuss the negative impact a nearly 9% cut in funding would have in your community.
Send this alert to others! A vote is likely to take place in the next few days, so the more people there are taking action as soon as possible, the better our chances for securing an increase to McKinney programs for FY 2013.
More Information: The 5% cut to the Senate’s proposed funding level of $2.033 billion would result in a final FY 2013 spending level of $1.931 billion – slightly higher than the FY 2012 funding level. Due to increased renewal burdens for the Continuum of Care programs, this would ultimately result in the 8.6%cut to CoC programs and the 12.6% cut to ESG programs.
The Senate is likely to pass the legislation very soon, at which point the House and Senate Appropriations Committees will work out the differences in the legislation to create a final, compromise bill that will be passed and signed into law. If your Member sits on the Appropriations Committee, they have the opportunity to impact this process. If your Member doesn’t sit on this Committee, encourage them to work with their colleagues on the Committee to ensure McKinney receives as big of an increase as possible.
We must take this opportunity to let Congress know this will not stand. Underfunding and cutting programs for our nation’s most vulnerable people – including children, veterans, youth, families, and chronically homeless individuals – is simply unacceptable. Their attempts to quickly wrap up the FY 2013 process and balance the budget should not happen on the backs of our poorest citizens. Call your senators; call your representatives. Tell them enough is enough: the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants must be funded at the highest possible level in FY 2013.

What ObamaCare Could Mean for the Chronically Homeless

advocacy, economics, homelessness, justice, politics, spirituality

This is very important insight for everyone concerned about the chronically homeless from Nan Roman, head of the National Alliance to End Homelessness:

There is widespread consensus in the policy community about the solutions to chronic homelessness. Chronically homeless people need access to permanent housing, then access to the services they need to treat their illnesses and remain stable in housing. Many, though not all, of these services are health-related. Reforms embodied in the ACA address key problems in our health care system that have most hampered local progress toward alleviating chronic homelessness.

There is a popular assumption that virtually all chronically homeless people are already protected by low-income health care programs like Medicaid. This assumption is wrong. Many are not. Currently, the lack of access to health care and related supports is a major contributor to housing instability. For someone living on the street — often already dealing with mental illness or addiction — or someone with health-related burdens in subsidized housing, access to health care makes a considerable difference.

Read the rest here.

How Old is “Homeless?” Part II: Too Damn Young

advocacy, economics, justice

There’s no “right” age for homelessness. But what’s the average age of homeless people in the US or in particular regions? Perhaps even more importantly, why is this information so hard to find?

I said a few days ago and the week before that the average age of homeless people in the Lehigh Valley is 9.   A few days ago I said that according to some organizations, the same was true of the national average.

As is often the case, the truth is more complex.  It may be even more disturbing.  The following comes from a local expert, someone previously unmentioned in this space.  We’ve already discussed some of this (such as varying definitions of homelessness):

Long answer:
The [national] number [9] is disputed by some statisticians and to an extent depends on the definition of homeless. Certainly it’s not true of the street homeless, but when you add families doubling up, shelters and those on shelter waiting lists and such (new definition HEARTH Act), it might be justified. The doubled up population increased by 12% to more than 6 million people from 2008 to 2009. In Rhode Island the number increased by 90 percent; in South Dakota the number more than doubled. Older stats document that 41% of the homeless population (not doubled up, but documented as homeless under the old McKinney-Vento definition) is comprised of families (National Alliance to End Homelessness). 23% of the homeless population consists of children, of which 42% are under 5 years of age (National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty taken the 2007 US Conference of Mayors Survey). Those percentages are higher in rural areas (Out of Sight, Out of Mind: Homeless Children and Families in Small-Town America, The University Press of Kentucky).

A study by the University of Pennsylvania School of Social Policy and Practice in 2010 looked at New York City shelter residents only. The percentage of children age 0 to 2 was higher than any other age cohort, at least twice as high as any other age cohort except adults between the ages of 21 to 23. One-third of all NYC shelter residents were under 12 years of age. “The results also indicate that poor single parent (most female headed) families have faced an increased risk of homelessness when the mothers and children are relatively young, with the peak period of risk for the mothers being between 21 and 24 years of age, a time when they are parenting infants and toddlers.”

Short answer:
More than 10% of the homeless population under the current definition of those eligible for federal homeless services are children under 5 years of age and that number is growing. When you add that the fastest growing cohort of homeless are families with children, followed by unaccompanied youth, there is some justification for the claim that the average age of a homeless person is 9.

Child Welfare League of America:
http://www.cwla.org/programs/housing/housingpubspage.htm

 

Here’s what I want to highlight:

  • “More than 10% of the homeless population under the current definition of those eligible for federal homeless services are children under 5 years of age and that number is growing..the fastest growing cohort of homeless are families with children, followed by unaccompanied youth.”
  • “23% of the homeless population consists of children, of which 42% are under 5 years of age.”
  • “One-third of all NYC shelter residents were under 12 years of age. The 0-2 cohort was higher than any other age cohort, at least twice as high as any other age cohort except adults between the ages of 21 to 23.

I’ll stop using the number “nine.”  I’ll use these numbers instead.

“More than 10% of the homeless population under the current definition of those eligible for federal homeless services are children under 5 years of age and that number is growing..the fastest growing cohort of homeless are families with children, followed by unaccompanied youth.”

I feel like I can’t stress that enough.

I don’t have a solid Lehigh Valley number to report, but that’s fine.  I’m working with a group of people whose mission is nothing short of ending homelessness in Allentown.  The question will be moot.

How Old Is “Homeless?”

homelessness

The average homeless person in this country wasn’t born when 9/11 happened.  She wasn’t born when the war in Afghanistan started and was a newborn when the the second Iraq war began.

The average homeless person in America is 9.

I didn’t know this until a week or so ago.  A week or so ago, I would have answered this question on facebook just like everyone else:

I know I shared the next picture right after the Allentown U2Charist, but I’m going to share it again.  Feel free to adapt it for your community: