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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

The ongoing quest to protect the rights of homeless people

Written by Annie Leomporra on . Posted in Uncategorized

As America’s poverty and homelessness crisis continues to escalate, men, women, and children across the country have resorted to finding shelter for themselves in the form of homeless encampments, known colloquially as ‘tent cities.’ There’s currently a six-digit shortage of emergency beds for those defined as ‘literally homeless’ by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, meaning that for many homeless individuals and families, there is no other option when it comes to immediate shelter.

Most communities faced with the increasing dilemma of encampments in public and private spaces have, until very recently, reacted negatively toward their unhoused neighbors. Encampments in every part of the country where homelessness abounds have faced forced closures, often with little or no regard shown for the residents’ civil or property rights. However, a recent string of legal victories might be turning the tide on what has been described by the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington and other organizations as “policies which chase people from one place to another, without effectively answering the question: Where can people go?”

In January, the city of Honolulu agreed to refrain from disposing of personal property including tents, bicycles, clothing and household goods as a partial settlement of a federal lawsuit brought by the ACLU that alleged improper treatment of the homeless and others cleared from Oahu sidewalks.

In June, the L.A. City Council approved nearly $950,000 in settlement fees and attorney costs for a pair of lawsuits charging that the city violated the civil rights of homeless individuals by impounding their personal property without allowing adequate time for people to separate out their medication and medical supplies.

Earlier this month, Ponoma, California agreed to build 388 lockers for the property of homeless people and to stop enforcing three laws that prohibit tents, personal property and overnight sleeping on public property until sufficient accommodations exist, either in indoor shelters or open spaces designated for overnight stays.

Finally, just yesterday Akron, Ohio settled a federal lawsuit involving how it removes homeless citizens’ belongings from public and private property, agreeing to change its policies and pay $20,000 in damages and court costs after police unfairly seized and destroyed homeless citizens’ tents, documents and other personal property in a series of raids.

These and other legal victories are helping to change the conversation about homeless encampments from, “How fast can we get rid of them,” to “how can we better address encampments without ignoring the needs of homeless residents.” We still have a long way to go before the majority of the country recognizes the right of persons experiencing homelessness to exist in public spaces, but progress is being made. To learn more about the encampment closure crisis, read our report.

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