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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

No Safe Street: A Survey of Violence Committed against Homeless People

Written by admin on . Posted in Awareness, Civil Rights, Hate Crimes, Violence Against the Homeless

The National Coalition for the Homeless is deeply saddened by the recent senseless attacks on men sleeping outdoors in San Diego that have left three dead and one more critically injured.

But we are not surprised.

Over the last several months, San Diego has been sweeping homeless encampments, constantly displacing residents who have nowhere else to go and disposing of items of personal and survival value. Quietly, the city laid down boulders beneath an overpass, on a side walk often used by houseless folks to rest.

Should any of us be surprised that a high school cheerleader was recently charged, along with two teenage brothers, in the beating death of a homeless man just outside of the city?

In the early 1990’s, the National Coalition for the Homeless noticed that a growing number of cities were passing ordinances banning everyday activities carried out by people who were homeless. Bans on panhandling, camping, or even sharing food in public places have since become common place in cities across the country, just as poverty and homelessness have been increasing.

No Safe Street: A Survey of Violence Committed against Homeless People a new report published by the National Coalition for the Homeless finds that over the last 17 years, at least 1,657 people experiencing homelessness have been the victims of violence perpetrated for the sole reason that they were unhoused at the time. This number includes 428 men and women who lost their lives for being homeless, and in the wrong place at the wrong time.

It is easy to see a correlation between the appearance of laws criminalizing homelessness, and the increase of hate crimes or violent acts against homeless people. A 2014 report from the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty found that out of 187 cities that have enacted some type of law criminalizing daily activities often carried out by people without stable housing, 21 cities were located in California (11%) and 17 were in Florida (9%). No Safe Street finds that out of 199 attacks against homeless persons in 2014-2015, the largest share of incidents took place in California (43 attacks) and Florida (18 attacks).

One possible explanation for this is the message that criminalizing homelessness sends to the general public: “Homeless people do not matter and are not worthy of living in our city.” This message is blatant in the attitudes many cities have toward homeless people and can be used as an internal justification for attacking someone.

No Safe Street cites more than double the number of fatalities from bias motivated violence against people who are homeless than the FBI has tracked for all federally protected classes combined. Professor of Criminal Justice at California State University San Bernardino, Brian Levin, finds that “the characteristics of bias attacks against the homeless are very similar to that of hate crime in general. As with other hate crimes, offenders fit a pattern: typically, young male “thrill offenders” acting on stereotypes, seeking excitement and peer validation.”

Moreover, in communities across the country (except for a handful of progressive cities and states), it is perfectly legal to discriminate against someone who is unhoused in employment, housing, or even in delivery of health or social services. What message are our municipalities sending to their residents?

As we have attempted to legislate homelessness out of sight in our communities, we have created a hostile environment for people who fall on hard times. Social services have not kept up with the pace of need, and in many cases have been cut or restricted. Instead of responding with compassion and generosity, on the whole, our communities have responded with prejudice and judgement.

Study after study has found savings for public services when someone is housed versus homeless. In fact, the University of Denver’s School of Law released a report earlier this year which found that just six Colorado cities have spent more than five million dollars enforcing 14 anti-homeless ordinances over the last 5 years through policing, court and incarceration costs.  Our failure to end homelessness has only brought financial and human costs to our communities.

As we look towards a change in our federal leadership, the National Coalition for the Homeless calls on our fellow citizens to prioritize compassion over comfort. The solution to homelessness, and the best method for preventing further violence, is simple: housing.

 

Read the full report.

View more about Hate Crimes against people experiencing homeless.

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