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Archive for February, 2012

NCH Spring Interns and why they’re excited to be here

Written by NCH Staff on . Posted in Uncategorized

NCH has the honor of working with so many talented interns each semester, read below examples of why they volunteer their time:

Sundal Ali, George Washington University ‘15

As a child, homelessness was not apparent to me. I grew up in Carrollton, TX, a small city a half hour outside downtown Dallas, where many of the social welfare issues were obscure and hidden. As a result, I came to Washington, DC with a sheltered perspective of the world. Homelessness was, and still is, running rampant in the streets of DC, home to the nation’s capital. During the day, the White House is a tourist attraction, crowded with tourists and workers but at night, the benches in front of the White House become coveted living spaces for the homeless.

For decades this grave social injustice has flourished on the streets of one of the strongest and most powerful nations in the world, and even now, not enough is being done to ensure housing for all of America’s citizens. How is it, that a nation with abundant weapons in its arsenal, enough funds in its pockets and an overwhelming number of people in its bureaucracy, cannot solve this crisis?

This paradox triggered action.

After attending a Faces of Homelessness Speakers’ Bureau panel, I was secure in my decision to apply to be an intern at the National Coalition for the Homeless. Working at NCH has shattered my sheltered perspective of our world, in a beneficial way. Because of my internship at NCH, I am more attuned to social crises, more aware of growing national concerns and most importantly, a more passionate advocate for the homeless. I am in a position where I can aid in protecting and promoting NCH’s goal to ensure the human right to housing and shelter. Devoting my time to help prevent returning veterans from Iraq or Afghanistan from becoming homeless, to help prevent more children experiencing homelessness at such a young age, to help prevent the criminalization of homeless people—  all of this, makes my time as an intern at NCH worthwhile. NCH has been working vigorously for decades to establish and protect every individual’s right to housing and shelter and I am privileged to be a part of their team to help accomplish their goal of Bringing America Home.

Jose Morales, American University ’13

I was born and raised in Bronx for ten years. Living in the New York metropolitan area exposes you to how deep the homeless crisis really is. I couldn’t go more than a block without seeing another person without a home, living off the sidewalk and any spare change. When I moved to Washington, DC two years ago to attend American University, I saw more of the same, even in neighborhoods considered the “nice” part of the District.  I was lucky enough to get out of the city ten years ago and into a permanent home, which helped me do really well in school and prepare myself for college.

Ever since the economic downturn, it’s been impossible to avoid the effects of homelessness in any major city. And I know that we can do more as citizens to help. So much of this nation’s homeless population is not comprise of the drug dealers or mentally ill, but children, students, and hard-working Americans who haven’t had a fair shake at life. I’m a junior in college now, and I truly believe that that is not better time than the present to stand up against the criminalization of homeless and poverty. I see no reason why young people from all sides of the political and socioeconomic spectrum can’t come together and put forward sensible protections for civil rights, fiscally responsible affordable housing policy, and better education of what homelessness really is outside of Hollywood’s depictions.

It’s time for my generation to stop complaining about the problems we will have to deal with. It’s time to meet them and defeat them. Homelessness is one of these challenges.

The National Coalition for the Homeless is dedicated helping everyone—especially the students of my generation and the next—get back on their feet to fulfill their potential by getting them in permanent housing and then some. And they’ve done it before. Neil, Megan, and Michael have all helped to structure and display such an impressive non-profit that stays true to its mission in a climate that has become increasingly cynical.  It’s an honor to intern here for however long, even if just to say that I am a part of the solution.

Will Hernandez, Dartmouth ’14

I decided to volunteer my time with the National Coalition for the Homeless because homelessness is an issue that is easily ignored and forgotten in this country.  This seems almost unimaginable with the recent foreclosure crisis and millions of people being homeless each year.  It is easy to ignore homeless people due to the common myth that all homeless people are in there situation due to their lack of hard-work or their bad economic decisions.

I hope to bring more awareness to this issue as well as develop a new perspective for those people who are in dire times and need any support we can muster.  I want to learn about the current homeless policies that are making a huge difference in their respective localities and learn why destructive policies are not very effective for the targeted population. So far, I have been able to research different events and programs produced by different advocacy groups and critically analyze how these events benefit the homeless populations.

As a future hopeful for a Congressional seat, I know that working with the homeless and the National Coalition will provide me with great insights on how to deal with large epidemics that are great hurting America and more importantly, to listen and learn directly from those people who are suffering the most.

Thank you to Sundal, Jose, Will (and Tessa!) for their great work this semester, and for being a part of Bringing America Home!

Crisis Hidden in Plain View

Written by NCH Staff on . Posted in Advocacy, Awareness, Poverty, Speakers' Bureau

Homelessness is quickly becoming America’s “forgotten tragedy”. All around us, we are encountering historic levels of economic hardship, childhood hunger, terminal illness, domestic violence, disabled veterans’ languishing on the streets, as well as a rising tide of lethal hate crimes. But we can make a difference.

The National Coalition for the Homeless is proud to announce a new campaign, Crisis Hidden in Plain View, a campaign to encourage outreach and engagement to families and individuals who are homeless or at-risk of becoming un-housed.  Watch the video.

We need your help today!

NCH is working each day to prevent and end homelessness, while ensuring that the needs of those experiencing homelessness are met. We do this by…

  • Bringing America Home. Ending homelessness is a national problem with local solutions: NCH’s is ending homelessness by creating affordable housing; growing living wage jobs; improving access to affordable healthcare; and, protecting civil rights.
  • Protecting the Human Right to Shelter & Housing. Everyone deserves a place to call home. NCH is working to establish and preserve the human right to shelter & housing.
  • Helping Hands. Homeless families and individuals can use support: NCH has placed 60 VISTA volunteers in 24 sites across 6 states, giving people in need a helping hand.
  • Keeping an Eye on Justice. Poverty is not a crime: NCH is protecting workers rights in the courts and in the field and making certain that homelessness can’t be criminalized.
  • Speaking Truth to Power. NCH issues twelve annual reports with in-depth analysis and reviews on housing, healthcare, jobs & benefit income and civil rights.
  • Protecting Voting Rights: Homelessness can feel dehumanizing. NCH is fighting for the right and ability to vote by registering 25,0000 voters living in persistent poverty.
  • Sharing Our Stories: The homeless experience is best told in the first person; NCH’s Speakers Bureau is dozens of speakers, 100’s of thousands listeners, and 30 bureaus.
  • Grassroots Organizing: Homelessness is not community-less. NCH brings homeless stakeholders together to organize, act in their own self-interest and create durable power for many tomorrows.

Your donation today will be matched dollar-for-dollar through a time-limited $30,000 matching contribution.

Contributions to housing the homeless have never been more necessary, and investments today have never more effective. NCH is Bringing America Home and we need your support now.

ACTION ALERT: Report the Truth to Congress on Homelessness: Privacy Rights! Fair Funding! True Stats!

Written by NCH Staff on . Posted in Advocacy, Awareness, Policy Advocacy

HMIS Action Alert
(published January 25, 2012)

HUD must only and always report the truth to Congress on Homelessness. Take action now! HUD is accepting comments on final HMIS rules until February 7, 2012. The rules will determine how & when homeless people will be counted, privacy rights, funding levels for local shelters and services. HUD needs to hear from YOU & all local communities. We must balance the needs of the social service community with the rights of those seeking help.

What is the issue?
HUD is seeking comments on the rules for collecting information from homeless individuals at the shelters and aggregating that information to deliver statistics to Congress. Comments due to HUD by February 7, 2012.

Why should you respond?
The final rules will determine the privacy rights for those seeking help. The numbers collected and the outcomes could determine the funding levels for local shelters. The experiences with HMIS at the  local level are important.

What are possible outcomes?
HMIS can be costly to implement locally. A goal of HMIS is to balance the needs of the social service community with the rights of those seeking support. Overall, HMIS should provoke greater incite into solving homelessness.

To respond to the new proposed rules:
Send Comments using the federal eRulemaking Website: http://www.regulations.gov

Docket Number FR-5475-P-01 Title: Homeless Management Information Systems Requirements

Save a copy of the body of your comments and send them to info@nationalhomeless.org for our records at the National Coalition for the Homeless.

Background:
Please use this outline as a basis for submitting comments to HUD regarding the proposed rules for HMIS that were released in  December. It is important to add your local statistics, experiences, and examples to augment this list.

Comments are due to HUD by February 7, 2012 and can be submitted to www.regulations.gov by using the docket
and title of the proposed rules. The National Coalition is urging local advocates, social service providers and those experiencing homelessness to submit comments on these new rules. We believe that HMIS can be a huge burden on a small non-profit trying to provide services to those struggling with their housing, but can have great rewards in coordinating services, reducing paperwork, and providing high quality referrals to those experiencing homelessness.

Here are some comments that you can use in submitting a response to these rules. We urge you to include local activities and examples to support these comments. We believe that HUD officials will listen to local caretakers of the homeless population and your concerns over HMIS.

Comments Regarding HMIS
(Our local group) has accepted the use of HMIS to improve the delivery of services to those experiencing homelessness, but we do not support the use of HMIS as a system to report the extent of homelessness to Congress. We have seen that the statistics are often mistaken for a count of the total number of people homeless in a city or county. No matter how many qualifiers are included in the national Annual Homeless Assessment Report, both elected officials and the media mismanage the data as a complete count of homelessness. There is such wide disparity in how this data is collected that there is no way to compare among service provider and certainly between
cities this case management data. We believe that a voluntary case management system would be worthwhile to collect data, but a mandatory system that attempts to collect an unduplicated count is nearly impossible in such a fractured system.

In a period of tightening budgets and federal cuts, we believe that these resources could be redirected to basic human services or housing assistance instead of the administrative services of counting people. We see the value of one electronic case management system overseen by HUD used by every social service provider in a community. If the eventual goal is to arrive at the number of homeless people in a city or state as stated by Congress, we believe that HUD would receive much better information by funding local experts to conduct a census in representative cities. We believe that local universities or foundations in various size representative cities, suburbs, and rural jurisdictions could develop an accurate estimate of the number of homeless people and then they could use that data to extrapolate a national estimate of homelessness.

That being said we do have concerns about the proposed rules that were released in December 2011.

  1. It should be made clear that there is not a minimum participation rate by clients for the social service provider. The user who is experiencing a housing emergency and refuses to enter data should not result in a penalty or an issue with the performance standards for the local social service provider. [It would be good
    to add a local example of this issue from your community]. If a user refuses to enter their social security number or other personal identifying information that should not result in a reduction in public support or a sanction for the social service provider. The shelter or meal program should be held harmless if their clients decide to withhold personal required in the HMIS database.
  2. We believe that the security standards should emphatically and unequivocally state that law enforcement agencies should not have access to personal identifying information contained within the HMIS data without a warrant signed by a member of the judicial branch of government. We understand that some  communities have the local sheriff maintains the HMIS data.
  3. We believe that the requirement for every publicly funded homeless service provider contribute data to a central management system is an unfunded mandate from the federal government. There should be dedicated resources separate from the Emergency Solutions Grant or Continuum funding to implement this project. [It would be good to add local information on the number of staff dedicated strictly to entering data at your
    facility.]
  4. We believe that there are a number of state privacy laws that make it difficult for local agencies to submit data under these proposed rules. [Many states have strict controls over the use of social security numbers when accessing government services, which could present a conflict for the local provider who also receives federal continuum funding. If you know that this is the case in your state, please site specific local or state law.]
  5. We believe that the HMIS security standards should be subject to HUD oversight and public comment. The security standards, local policies and procedures and grievance process should be posted on an easily accessible publicly available website. Those experiencing homelessness should be able to submit comment
    and have those comments responded to by the local HMIS Lead in an easy and accessible manner.
  6. There are no protections for clients outlined for improper usage or improper release of data especially privacy violations by an HMIS Lead organization. We believe that if there is a break down in privacy at the local level and the policies and procedures break down there should be a way for an individual seeking assistance or currently utilizing a Continuum funded program to file a grievance with a government agency with regard to HMIS. In addition, with the exchange of data among local providers and the transient nature of the population, it is often difficult for a person experiencing homelessness to determine where a security
    breach originated. We believe that a government agency should be the final arbiter of a complaint especially if there are repeated problems with the protection of privacy at the local level. This is especially important if the HMIS Lead organizations are also permitted to be collectors of personal and private client data as service providers as well.
  7. Since this data is being used by the public and Congress for planning and local decision making on the proper allocation of resources, there should be a way for advocates or the public to challenge the data’s accuracy. There should be a way for the HUD to accept challenges to the unduplicated numbers submitted
    as either a significant undercount or an over-count of the actual number of homeless people in a community as is policy for the US Census. These comments should be included with the release of the Annual Homeless Assessment Report.

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