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HUD Continues to Undercount Homeless

Written by admin on . Posted in Awareness, Definition of Homelessness, Homeless Counts, Policy Advocacy, Statistics

New report once again misleads lawmakers and the public about the supposed ‘decline’ in numbers of people experiencing homelessness in the United States.

Housing UndercountWashington, December 19, 2016 –
As we rapidly approach the end of another year, cities around the country are preparing vigils recognizing those who have lived and died without adequate housing in 2016. November’s release of the Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR) to Congress by the Department of Housing and Urban Development may give those attending some small cause for hope, describing a 3% decrease in the number of men, women, and children experiencing homelessness, counted on a single winter night, over last year’s number.

Unfortunately the report leaves out some important information. For instance, the count in question tallies those staying in emergency and transitional shelters, as well as those who can be located outside. HUD’s recent decreases in funding for such shelters means fewer members of the homeless population are easily accounted for. HUD provides bonuses to communities that decrease their count, creating a disincentive for those conducting counts to locate every unsheltered person in their neighborhoods.

Furthermore, HUD only asks communities to report those who it considers “literally homeless.” This doesn’t include the large numbers of individuals and families who are doubled up or “couch surfing” with friends and relatives. This unrealistic definition of homelessness explains why HUD reported just over 120,000 children experiencing homelessness on a given night, while the Department of Education has reported well over ten times as many children youths registered as homeless in recent years, a number that has more than doubled over the last decade.

The reports of HUD and other governmental and non-governmental organizations purporting to chart a decline in the numbers of those experiencing homelessness are doing a disservice to those men and women who we have lost this year without the basic dignities afforded by secure housing. While so many of those who are tasked with ending homelessness in America won’t admit to the actual scope of the problem, they cannot be relied upon to enact meaningful solutions to it.

The National Coalition for the Homeless calls upon the Department of Housing and Urban Development to face up to the reality that homelessness is not diminishing in America. We call on HUD and its allies to work with us and other organizations to put into place housing policies and investments that will ensure an end to the memorial vigils that have become a disgraceful necessity every December 21st, the longest night of the year.

Press Contact:
Megan Hustings, Interim Director
Phone: (202) 462-4822 ext. 234
Email: mhustings @ nationalhomeless.org

2016 Hunger & Homelessness Awareness Week

Written by admin on . Posted in Advocacy, Awareness, Community Organizing, Criminalization, Hunger, Toolkits

hhaw-logo-websiteToday, hundreds of colleges, churches, community groups, and service agencies across the country announced the start of Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week, an annual week of action where people come together to draw attention to poverty in their communities. Participating organizations will spend the week holding educational, community service, fundraising, and advocacy events to address these critical issues.

“This is the time of year when we all reflect on our lives, finding gratitude and peace in where and who we are,” said Megan Hustings, Director of the National Coalition for the Homeless. “But there are so many families that will not be able to come together during the season, strained by poor paying jobs, the lack of affordable housing, and even destitution. Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week brings communities across the country together to educate ourselves and our elected officials about what is really happening in our communities.”

H&H Week: A Quick Reference Guide

Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week is co-sponsored by the National Coalition for the Homeless and the National Student Campaign Against Hunger and Homelessness. The event originated at Villanova University in 1975, and now takes place in nearly 700 communities across the country.

“Hunger and homelessness are epidemics that sadly affect every community across America,” said James Dubick, Director of the National Student Campaign Against Hunger and Homelessness. “Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week gives local groups a collective opportunity to tackle these issues head on, rally public support, and call for solutions.”

Let us reiterate, it is imperative that we let our voices be heard that homelessness and hunger need to be addressed in real ways. We need to hold our elected officials and communities accountable to ensuring that all of our neighbors have access to safe, affordable housing, and the supports needed to maintain that housing.

Ideas for raising awareness

Swept Away: Reporting on the Encampment Closure Crisis

Written by admin on . Posted in Civil Rights, Criminalization, Tent Cities

National data suggest that only 75% of the need for emergency shelter is being met. As a result, encampments of people experiencing homelessness have sprung up as homelessness has become more visible.

With everything from sleeping bags, tents and camp stoves to tiny homes, makeshift communities are attempting to fill important gaps in shelter, housing and other social services. Homeless encampments also serve as a point of access for outreach workers and others looking to engage those experiencing homelessness.

Unfortunately, these encampments have been met with varying levels of hostility by the wider communities in which they are located. The National Coalition for the Homeless’ new report, Swept Away: Reporting on the Encampment Closure Crisis, examines the disturbing trend of forced removal of outdoor sleepers by law enforcement, city workers, or even private contractors.

“We understand that municipal governments are trying to respond to a difficult situation,” says Megan Hustings, Director of the National Coalition for the Homeless, “But further displacing people who have nowhere else indoors to go is an inhumane response.”

In cities where well-publicized events are being hosted, the sweeping of homeless encampments is particularly aggressive. In the run-up to San Diego’s recent Major League Baseball All-Star Game, camp residents across the city were threatened with fines and destruction of property if they did not relocate within 72 hours, an effort repeated during the popular Comic-Con international convention. San Diego has continued to disrupt encampments on a regular basis, seemingly copying a much criticized similar effort in Denver, Colorado.

In San Francisco, California, where current law already prohibits the building of encampments, a ballot initiative with the somewhat misleading title, “Housing Not Tents,” has been introduced with the intention of allowing authorities to remove encampments with as little as 24 hours written notice and the offer of a shelter bed or the acceptance of a bus ticket. The initiative would empower the city to seize residents’ personal property and dispose of it after a set period of time.

Despite efforts to the contrary, encampment residents regularly lose life-sustaining materials like tents and blankets, but also personal property, including valuables, identification, and medications. Swept Away looks more closely at the causes behind the rise of encampments, the way various communities have chosen to confront the issue, and recommendations for how our unhoused neighbors deserve to be treated in their own communities.

Proponents of measures aimed at facilitating the removal of encampments have suggested that allowing the existence of such camps somehow enables homelessness — a notion unsupported by the lack of affordable housing nationwide. Additionally, breaking up homeless communities can leave individuals more vulnerable to those who prey upon them, as outlined in our recent report, “No Safe Street: A Survey of Hate Crimes and Violence Committed Against Homeless People in 2014 & 2015.”

While dedicated to ending homelessness, the National Coalition for the Homeless also recognizes the need to protect the lives of those currently experiencing homelessness, especially during times when they cannot all be housed. Cities considering urban camping restrictions should follow the lead of a select few that have already passed more humane laws regarding encampment sweeps, such as Indianapolis. Encampment residents should be given ample warning prior to a sweep, and it is imperative that cities do not immediately discard the belongings of homeless residents. Most importantly, sweeps should not be conducted without available housing and supportive services for those who are displaced as a result.

At a time when those experiencing homelessness far outnumber the number of shelter beds allocated to them, we must find a better way to serve our unhoused neighbors without destroying the camps they so often call home.

 

Read the full report.

Learn more about the Criminalization of Homelessness.

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