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Posts Tagged ‘Emergency Shelters’

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

The District’s Dizzy With the Heat

Written by NCH Staff on . Posted in Advocacy, Awareness

“At what temperature are cooling centers required to be opened?” A homeless woman from the District asks one of my colleagues early Tuesday morning, with temperatures forecast to be near the century mark. A quick Google search and I was at the D.C. government’s website: It says in extreme heat, avoid encountering heat stroke, dehydration, and other medical problems associated with extreme temperatures. Cooling centers will be open at four government buildings… If temperatures hit or exceed 95F, cooling centers and select (8) homeless shelters will be available from noon until 6pm. Got it, easy enough!

Question answered? Not in the District. The answer turns out to be more complicated. Let’s check the hotline listed on DC.gov “311 – The District’s Service Request Center”.  It says, cooling centers aren’t open today. However, when I call the D.C. Emergency Management number, also provided on the DC.gov website, I’m told that cooling centers no longer exist, as of last month. Another colleague calls Tommy Wells’ office, at the D.C. City Council, to find out what’s what. No specific answer, but a commitment to contact the Committee on Human Services. They’re the ones who said that cooling centers do in fact exist, listing four government buildings as de facto centers.

With too much conflicting information, I call back the D.C. Emergency Management number and speak to an assistant to the Director of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. He says cooling centers no longer exist, but that people can go into public buildings and use the water fountains. The director called a little later with a “clarifying” follow up call. She explained that the Office on Aging, D.C. public libraries, and the Department on Parks and Recreation have teamed up to provide relief from the heat. But unfortunately, cooling centers no longer exist and water stations, in public building marked as cooling centers, were closed. Too many government employees were taking all the bottled water. Seriously? Seriously!

During the past few hours, The District removed incorrect information about the four government buildings that were not cooling centers – good start. But, the website still provides incorrect information: the description of heat relief services is wrong, select homeless shelters, listed as emergency centers, are closed or do not provide heat relief. This remains a totally unacceptable level of response. This summer has not even begun and we’re already facing dangerous heat conditions. Let’s not let the warning, provided by this recent experience, go unheeded and hope that this is not a sign of things to come.

To see the D.C. Government page on extreme heat, visit www.dcema.dc.gov, and click on “Extreme Heat” on the left-hand sidebar.

Laura Epstein, Staff

5 Tips for Winter Planning

Written by NCH Staff on . Posted in Advocacy, Awareness

by Megan Hustings

In DC, we’re trying to squeeze the last days of warmth and sunshine out of the summer, and the last thing we want to think about is the temperature dropping more.  But winter is on its way.  Did you know that hypothermia, a life-threatening condition due to body temperature falling below 95 degrees, can occur when the outside temperature is as high as 50 degrees?  Wet clothes or socks can exacerbate already difficult weather conditions to make the risk of hypothermia greater.

The U.S. Conference of Mayors has reported for years that the number of requests for shelter beds far outweighs the actual number of emergency shelter beds available, and this is especially the case during periods of cold weather when it is just not healthy to remain outdoors.

Cities around the country are finalizing plans to provide warming centers and additional beds in emergency shelters when temperatures drop this winter.

It is never too late, or too early, to plan how your community can help those who do not have a warm place to call home this winter.  From out report on Winter Services , here are 5 things to be sure to include while you are planning for this winter.

5 Tips for Winter Services Planning:

  1. Increased Outreach – Talk to people who stay on the street to help you locate camps and common sleeping areas.
  2. Stock up on Blankets and Warm Clothing – Wet clothing will not keep anyone warm and can lead to greater risk of illness.
  3. Emergency Transportation – Does your city have vans or shuttles available to transport people to shelters that may be across town?
  4. Day Centers – Make sure there is somewhere people can go, at least when the temperature falls below 40 degrees F.
  5. Low Barrier Nighttime Shelter – Any past bans or other restrictions should be waived on nights when the temperature is lower than 40 degrees F.  If needed, people who are violent or under the influence can be separated, so long as they can remain warm.

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