NATIONALHOMELESS.ORG
Twitter Facebook Instagram YouTube

Let’s End the Funding Competition and Devote Adequate Resources to End Homelessness NOW!

Written by admin on . Posted in Blog, Definition of Homelessness, Press Releases

Across the nation, agencies and communities providing housing and services to homeless families and individuals with federal HUD funding are beginning the annual ritual referred to as the SuperNOFA.  This is not some astrological event.  Rather, it is the funding equivalent of a cross between the Hunger Games and Survivor.  Agencies receiving HUD homelessness funding are required to compete with each other to renew their grants for permanent supportive housing, transitional housing, rapid re-housing or other programs.  The losers will be defunded and “voted off the island.”

While competition for funding can be beneficial to ensure that the most worthy projects having the greatest outcomes housing the homeless are funded, the NOFA (Notice of Funding Availability) is structured in such a complex and convoluted way that it traumatizes not only agencies serving the homeless, but the very people the funding is designed to help — formerly homeless families and individuals who are currently residing in supportive housing funded by these grants.

The funding process requires local “continuum of care” entities designated by HUD to hold local competitions for new and renewal projects serving the homeless, and submit a collaborative application which ranks projects based on HUD and locally determined criteria.  The collaborative applications are then ranked by HUD, and projects prioritized by the local continua will be funded or not based on how HUD has ranked their continuum and how the continuum has ranked the project.

The process involves a three month scramble that starts with reading and understanding an 83 page NOFA issued by HUD which changes each year, the issuance of local continuum processes involving scoring matrices and priorities, the writing of new and renewal applications, the ranking of those applications by the local continua, and the submission of the collaborative application to HUD with ranking of local projects.

HUD then takes approximately three months to review, rank, and make announcements as to which projects will be renewed and which limited new projects will be awarded.

Thus, half of each year, agencies housing the homeless with federal funding are working on getting their grants renewed or worried about the prospects of their grants not being renewed.

This might be chalked up to just the “cost of doing business” if it were not for the fact that the final funding decisions are really not about which agencies are funded and not funded, but whether the families and individuals being housed through these programs will continue to be housed or not.  Indeed, the non-renewal of homeless housing by HUD over the past ten years has led to significant reoccurrence of homelessness by thousands of people previously housed in HUD funded programs.

Simply put, families and individuals housed in supportive housing programs funded by HUD should not have their continued housing put at risk for the sake of HUD managing a competitive renewal process.

To make matters worse, HUD has created a process whereby local continua must rank their projects into two tiers – with 6 percent of funding ranked in the second tier.  Projects ranked in the second tier are least likely to be refunded. 

HUD initially created a two tiered ranking system in 2012, when congressional appropriations for the program were significantly cut through the process known as Sequestration.  However, HUD has continued to use the two tiered ranking even though funding in the past few fiscal years has been sufficient to fund all renewal projects.

A yearly national competition for funding might be justified if there were significant funding for new projects each year.  However, the vast majority of HUD funding is needed just to renew existing projects housing formerly homeless persons.  In the 2018 competition, 91.3% of projects funded were renewal projects, with only 5.8% ($126 million) being new housing or service projects.  Of these 71% of renewals (totaling $2 billion) were for permanent supportive housing – applications to keep those who were housed through those projects remain housed.

There is no other funding process in the federal government that places the housing or services of people in need at risk through a competitive renewal process.  Can you imagine if HUD required Public Housing Authorities housing millions of people through public housing or Section 8 housing choice vouchers to annually compete to continue to receive such funding and keep those currently housed from losing their housing?

To make matters even worse, HUD has devised scoring criteria for the national competition that penalizes communities that are experiencing an increase in homelessness due to factors outside of their control.  For example, they provide incentive points for continua that demonstrate an overall reduction of at least 5% in the number of people experiencing homelessness, and for demonstrating a reduction of “first time homeless”.  Similarly, they provide incentive points to continua that demonstrate a reduction in the length of time people remain homeless, demonstrate a decrease of 5% of chronically homeless persons, or a decrease in family homelessness, and for a reduction in the number of homeless veterans.

While there is certainly merit in rewarding communities for improving outcomes, penalizing communities that are struggling with increased homelessness due to affordable housing shortages, increased population, decreased employment opportunities, and other factors out of their control is not only counterproductive, it exacerbates the problem by reducing the very resources these communities need to reduce homelessness.

In what world would it make sense for the Center for Disease Control to reduce its assistance to communities for treating HIV-AIDS or TB because there were more people in those communities needing such treatment?”  That is essentially what HUD is doing in its scoring process.

HUD claims that chronic homelessness has decreased by 26% since 2007, despite recent evidence of increased homelessness in many communities.  Even if true, at that rate, we will not achieve the end of chronic homelessness until 2050.  That is unacceptable in the richest nation on earth.

To truly help communities reduce and end homeless, significantly more federal funding is needed to help leverage state, local and community efforts.  To rely on only 5.8% of funding to provide new housing for people currently on the streets will not end homelessness. 

We need to demand that Congress significantly increase its funding for homeless assistance programs — to not only continue to house those previously housed who need continued assistance to remain housed, but also to provide new housing those currently living on the streets.  Incremental increases are not sufficient.   We must start with at least a doubling of the current homeless assistance program budget.

Congress authorized in the HEARTH Act of 2009 that funding to renew permanent supportive housing be funded through the Section 8 Appropriations Fund rather than through the more limited homeless assistance funding.  HUD has refused to implement this change.  Doing so now would free up over $1 billion dollars of funding to target the newly homeless.

HUD should also end its practice of requiring annual renewals for desperately needed homeless housing and services.

Finally, Congress must restore affordable housing funding across the board to levels necessary so that those experiencing homelessness are not continually competing for limited housing with those living at risk of homelessness and those working at minimum wage jobs. 

The time to act is now.

Homelessness – Growing for Four Decades

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

The Longest Period of Growing Homelessness In the History of the United States
Many of us providing services in the early 1980’s to people experiencing homelessness warned our political leaders and faith community that if we didn’t make structural changes, we would be in the mess we are in today.

Yet in 2017 media and society continue to blame people for becoming homeless.

In reality, over 1/3 of our country is 1 to 3 paychecks away from not making rent or mortgage payments, and 50% of our American population has a mental health and/or chemical health issue.

If you have money, you have housing. If you don’t have money, you are at risk of homelessness, especially if you have any personal health issues!

We are all responsible for the moral and structural causes of homelessness in our country. Here are the ten primary reasons why people are becoming homeless today:

  1. Limited moral outcry to love and treat others as ourselves.
  2. Greed: me and my needs are more important than we the people and the common good
  3. Housing is treated as a commodity, not a basic need. In Minnesota, through our tax expenditure budget, we will subsidize primarily white homeowners over next biennium over $1.5 Billion (Mortgage interest, tax, capital gain write offs). We are fighting to just keep $30 Million to address the disparity in homeownership between white and non-white persons. We are the 3rd worst state in the country in this disparity.
  4. Lack of or no enforcement of our civil rights and fair housing laws – Disparities against minorities and across income levels continue to increase.
  5. Wages are not livable incomes (from jobs or public assistance). If you have money, no matter what other issues you have, you can get housing.
  6. Demolition of housing without replacement. Tax code change in 1986: Drove out of business our ma and pa landlords, complicated the housing development process, and required sophisticated and well-funded investors.
  7. Credit Expanded in 1970s – Buy now, pay later became the norm. Debt increases.
  8. Disinvestment in opportunities for people with limited resources in housing, jobs, social services, education, health care. Dismantling the mental health asylums without creating the promised community housing. We capped domestic program spending, and pitted them against each other while we built up war and defense budget tax breaks for wealthiest.  This began in the 1970s, expanded in the 1980s with President Reagan and a Democratic Congress, and has continued to NOW.
  9. Scams in the housing industry with little or no consequences for the perpetrators: our financial institutions, realtors, title companies. We have had over 150,000 foreclosures since 2007 in MN.
  10. To rent housing, a criminal, credit, and rental check is almost always completed. Anything on your record may keep you out of rental housing. Only a credit check is done when you buy a home and that is not done if you buy with cash.

Over the last 4 decades we have continued to experience the ongoing growth of homelessness as we fail to address the structural causes of homelessness. Homelessness is caused by our inequitable structural issues, not just people’s personal issues.

We must invest in equitable solutions, which include a balanced continuation of: Housing and Affordable Housing, Rental and Homeownership, the Common Sense Housing Investment Act HR948, livable incomes (wages and public assistance), accessible, affordable, culturally appropriate health care, human services, and transportation, excellent educational and job training opportunities, and assurance that everyone’s civil rights are respected,  protected, and enforced.

We need to decide:

  • Are we going to continue to blame people for being homeless and manage homelessness through a rapidly growing homeless services industry for another four decades,

or

  • Are we going to be responsible and live out our faith, assist those experiencing homelessness now,

AND 

make the structural changes needed to bring our community, state and nation home and live out our pledge to be One Nation, Under God, with Liberty and Justice For All!

 

By Sue Watlov Phillips
Founding member of National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH), Vice President NCH Board
Executive Director, MICAH (Metropolitan Interfaith Council on Affordable Housing)

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

NATIONALHOMELESS.ORG

National Coalition for the Homeless | 2201 P St NW, Washington, DC 20037 | (202) 462-4822 | info [at] nationalhomeless [dot] org
© 2019 National Coalition for the Homeless | Privacy Policy
Powered by Warp Theme Framework