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“Voluntary Hunger in Protest of Involuntary Hunger”

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

By: Brian Stone

Today, it seems as though there is normalized acceptance of a segment of our population not having enough food or shelter. The proof is last week’s budget cuts which will push those without food, homes and medical care into deeper despair. It is important that we remember what hangs in the balance. In the past, the anti-hunger and poverty movement has responded in a multitude of ways. One of those is known as a hunger fast (or strike) to draw public awareness to the issues the poor face and create policy change.

In the 1980’s Michael Stoops, Director of Community Organizing at NCH, and Mitch Snyder, a life-time advocate for the homeless, fasted on the steps of the Capitol Building to pressure President Reagan into signing the first legislative protection for homeless people, which eventually became the McKinney-Vento Act. This act provided blanket protection and assistance to the homeless. Mitch and other advocates also fasted to get the federal government to transform an abandoned federal building in D.C. into a shelter for the homeless. Out of this fast the Community for Creative Non-Violence (CCNV) emerged, and remains D.C.’s largest shelter.

Former Ambassador Tony Hall has an unwavering commitment to poor people and poverty issues. While in Congress, Hall frequently authored legislation with expansive protections for the poor and vulnerable. In 1993, Hall, who was an Ohio Congressman at the time, was dismayed by Congress’s decision to end the bi-partisan House Select Committee on Hunger. This resulted in his going on a 22-day hunger fast. He felt that Congress had lost sight of the issues that our most vulnerable face. The outcome of this fast was substantial. Congress agreed to fund the Congressional Hunger Center, of which I am honored to be a 17th Class fellow; and the World Bank pledged to support efforts to end world hunger.

Eighteen years later Hall feels that Congress has once again lost sight of the plight of the poor, those who stand to bare the brunt of the budget cuts. On March 28, 2011, Hall embarked on another fast to protest the current budget cuts. If you would like to join Tony Hall or get more information on the fast, check out: http://hungerfast.org/.

We must remember that people’s lives hang in the balance. What is more important than cuts made in the name of lowering the deficit is the impact that those cuts will have on a large group of people. Balancing the budget at the expense of the poor and vulnerable is not the answer. This will only prove to further complicate the lives of those who currently don’t have enough, with the likely end result being eventual increases in social support programs.

Hunger fasts, like Michael’s, Mitch’s, Tony’s and many others, have provided protections for the vulnerable and changed policy in the U.S. The time is now. Will you join the circle of protection around the most vulnerable members of our society?

Brian is a Bill Emerson National Hunger Fellow with the Civil Rights division at the National Coalition for the Homeless.

Update on HEARTH and FY2011 Budget

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

From Ann Marie Oliva, Director, Office of Special Needs Assistance Programs, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (via the CPD homeless listserv)

In September of last year, HUD held two national conferences to begin the process of familiarizing communities with the policy and performance requirements that will govern the new HEARTH Act programs.  In the plenary session, we briefly discussed the connection between the roll-out of the new programs authorized under HEARTH and the appropriation levels HUD  may receive in this and the coming years.  As you are probably seeing in the news, the budget situation has changed since September – which has an impact on the high-priority items we are working on in SNAPS, including the HEARTH regulations and the 2011 competition.

Fiscal Year 2011 has thus far proven to be a challenging year, and we at HUD know and understand that the uncertainty about the 2011 budget has been a matter of great concern to our grantees and stakeholders.  We also know that you were expecting to see, in the near term, the new regulations for the Emergency Solutions Grants, Continuum of Care, and Rural Housing Stability programs.  I want to take a moment to update all of you on the budget and how it has affected our plans to implement HEARTH.  Let me summarize for you where we stand on these critical items:

FY2011 Budget:

  • As is the case in all federal agencies, we are awaiting a final FY2011 appropriation from Congress and have been operating under Continuing Resolutions, the most recent of which expires March 18.  Because we do not know the final funding level for FY2011, ESG formula funds (which are usually released along with other formula programs early in the year) have not been released.
  • There are several possible scenarios regarding the budget amount for 2011, and HUD is working to ensure that we have viable options for each scenario that minimizes the adverse impact – if there is one – on CoCs and grantees.  Developing planning options for whatever scenario becomes reality is our priority at present.  This includes how and when we will conduct the 2011 Continuum of Care competition and what elements of HEARTH can be included in the competition.
  • Last week’s House-passed appropriation (H.R.1 — a full-year Continuing Resolution) held HUD’s targeted homeless programs steady at the 2010 funding level.  At that level, HUD projects that ESG and competitive renewals can be funded.  However, the HEARTH Act could not be fully funded.   We commit to providing you with as much information as possible once it becomes clear what the funding level will be.

HEARTH Regulations:

  • We continue to move the regulations through the clearance process, which includes review and approval by several different offices within HUD and with Office of Management and Budget.  Until the new regulations are released and effective, grantees must continue to use the current regulations. This includes the definition of homelessness.
  • HUD is in the final stages of clearance for the new definition of homelessness, which will include changes made in response to the public comments that we received last summer.  HUD plans to provide training on the new definition and will clearly state when the new definition will be effective.
  • As stated above, the 2011 appropriation level will determine, to a large extent, what provisions of HEARTH can be implemented in 2011 and what the process will be for implementation of the regulations.  For example, although HEARTH allows for increased administrative dollars for projects and planning funds for CoCs, those provisions can only be implemented if there are sufficient funds to cover those costs.  Consequently, only when the 2011 budget is finalized will HUD be able to communicate its plans for this year’s funding.

Although the current situation is challenging for all of us, HUD is focused on providing communities with the resources needed to successfully implement HEARTH within the limits of the final appropriation for FY2011.  In the coming months, we will be launching a comprehensive self-assessment tool for CoCs to use to help identify where strategic planning efforts should focus at the community level.  We will also be launching other technical assistance tools and resources over the rest of the year.

HUD will continue to keep you informed of our progress and of the impact of the FY2011 budget process.  I encourage all CoCs to continue conducting strategic planning conversations, because these conversations will be critical for the successful local implementation of both HEARTH and the Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness.

Homelessness vs. Homelessness

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

On January 26, 2011, the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH), HUD and the Department of Education co-hosted an all day session dedicated to the word “homeless”. An entire day was spent assessing the feasibility of a common federal definition for homeless, including a single federal vocabulary and data standard that could be used in targeting homeless programs as well as mainstream programs.

The US government, across nearly two dozen domestic federal agencies, and people experiencing homelessness each have problems with the multi-defined use of the term “homeless”. Last year the General Accountability Office caused a welcome stir by publishing recommendations for the development of a common vocabulary for “homeless” and common data standards related to homelessness and housing stability. Though long held as a fact within communities nationwide, a single definition for homelessness has eluded the federal government for decades.

In the GAO report, Congress advised the session’s co-hosts of the important first step, in this correction process, of guaranteeing the involvement of a broad range of stakeholders. Ten of these stakeholders were current and formerly homeless men and women, who represented the homeless experience firsthand or Consumer Advocates.

The involvement of Consumer Advocates is a vitally important commitment made by the Obama administration and outlined in Opening Doors: The Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness 2010.

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