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Eviction during a Pandemic: Hope or Hopelessness?

Written by admin on . Posted in Blog, News

by Kelvin Lassiter

Evictions are more complicated than just the actual meaning. At its root cause, we may be able to list job loss, medical issues, and loss of spouse/domestic violence as examples that are at the surface. It’s bigger than someone failing to fulfill their obligation in exchange for not being on the street.

Estimated numbers of people at risk of eviction are staggering; 30 to 40 million in the next several months are at risk for becoming housing insecure according to the Aspen Institute. 

There are 3 things currently standing in the way of mass displacement due to eviction:

  • CDC moratorium
  • Local moratorium
  • Legal Aid and rental assistance 

On September 2, 2020, The Center for Disease Control Director Dr. Robert Redfield signed a declaration determining that the evictions of tenants could be detrimental to public health. This action was instrumental since the CARES Act moratorium expired in late July.

Some city and state governments issued eviction prevention moratoriums at the beginning of the public health emergency which have since expired.

Three main reasons why tenants are still being evicted from their homes:

  • Landlord intimidation of tenants
  • Tenants not aware of their rights as renters
  • Lack of legal representation in court 

Landlords have taken measures into their own hands during this public health crisis. While they depend on payments for survival, boarding up doors, shutting of utilities, and filing for eviction with the courts does not make a tenant speed up their ability to pay rent. The fine print on a lease may become a challenge to understand and it’s a tool used by management companies to evict.

What can be done to protect the American People?

A fifth coronavirus package to protect the American people, extending the CDC moratorium beyond December is pivotal in blocking the wave of evictions. An executive order by local, and state governments can potentially protect certain groups of Americans from evictions such as the elderly, and domestic violence survivors.

There are benefits for families to stay in their homes. Kids are able to focus in school and decrease the chance of suffering from lack of rest and food insecurity. Prevention of long term mental instability is also a plus.

Should we have hope in that a piece meal approach that has slowed down what’s inevitable? Or will people remain hopeless in the lack of assistance to help Americans sustain their quality of life?

Make no mistake, the United States will face a housing crisis not seen since the great depression regarding housing insecurity. Most moratoriums put in place at the beginning of the pandemic have expired causing massive amounts of eviction filings by landlords.

What will happen if the CDC moratorium on evictions is not extended past December 2020? The jury is still out on that answer, however, the American people must have a say, and challenge our elected officials to do what they were elected to do, legislate. 

Available resources:

Donald Whitehead Jr. Named Executive Director of NCH

Written by admin on . Posted in Blog, News, Press Releases

Donald WhiteheadThe Board of Directors of the National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH) announced today that it has hired Donald H. Whitehead Jr. as its new Executive Director. Mr. Whitehead brings more than 20 years of experience in serving and advocating for persons experiencing homelessness to NCH, including five years experiencing homelessness himself. “At a time that our nation is experiencing record homelessness, a rise of COVID-19 infection among those experiencing homelessness, and a rising movement for racial and economic justice that calls to account decades of institutional racism that contributes to the disproportionate over-representation of people of color on our streets, we are extremely proud that the oldest national organization focused on ending homelessness in our country is now being led by Black man who has himself experienced and overcame homelessness and addiction.” said John Parvensky, outgoing NCH Director. “I am so grateful for the opportunity to help elevate the voices of those experiencing homelessness so that our country can address the intersection of racial justice and housing justice, and finally completes the unfinished business of the civil rights movement”, said Donald H. Whitehead Jr.” Whitehead, who has served as the NCH Board President for the past year, will give up that role to devote his full-time effort as Executive Director.  Previously, Whitehead has directed several programs serving people experiencing homeless including outreach and case management, health care, emergency shelter and permanent supportive housing.  He has also served as a national advocate and an Organizational Management Consultant focused on homelessness and racial equity.  He brings a unique combination of direct service to those experiencing homelessness as well as years of advocacy for systemic change to end homelessness through increased federal investment in housing and services as well as an end to policies that criminalize homelessness.  Whitehead is also a veteran who served three years in the U.S. Navy. The National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH), founded in 1981, is the oldest national organization focused on ending homelessness in America.  It is a national network of people currently experiencing or who have experienced homelessness, activists and advocates, community-based and faith-based service providers, and others committed to their mission of: To end and prevent homelessness while ensuring the immediate needs of those experiencing homelessness are met and their civil rights protected. Over the last 38 years through advocacy efforts addressing the root causes of homelessness including lack of affordable housing, and partnering to write landmark legislation including the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act of 1987. The hiring of Whitehead to lead NCH was made possible by an anonymous two-year capacity building grant. Sue Watlov Phillips will become Board President of NCH.  Watlov Phillips has worked together with people experiencing homelessness by addressing both the immediate needs and structural causes of homelessness for over 52 years and currently serves as Executive Director of MICAH – Metropolitan Interfaith Council on Affordable Housing in Minnesota. Dr. Rajni Shankar-Brown serves as Board Secretary of NCH.  Shankar-Brown is an internationally renowned scholar-educator and social justice activist in education, is a leading expert on child and family homelessness, diversity and transformative leadership, community engagement and human rights. Dr. Shankar-Brown is a professor and the Jessie Ball duPont Endowed Chair of Social Justice Education at Stetson University, as well as the Founder and Executive Director of the Poverty and Homelessness Conference. Barbara Anderson serves as Board Treasurer of NCH.  Anderson served for 24 years as Executive Director of Haven House, an emergency shelter and service center for families and individuals experiencing homelessness in rural Indiana.  She is currently devoting her time full time to advocacy and organizing on behalf of those experiencing homelessness in rural communities. In 2019, NCH entered into a strategic alliance with the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless (CCH)  to leverage the strengths of each organization towards a renewed focus on elevating the crisis of homelessness being experienced in communities across America and increasing organizing and advocacy for immediate action at the Federal level to end homelessness and reduce its trauma on the millions of individuals and families experiencing homelessness and those at imminent risk of losing their homes. The agreement allowed NCH to build its capacity to focus on its strength of bringing together those experiencing homelessness to share their experiences with our nation’s leaders in a call for immediate action to end homelessness.  The Colorado Coalition for the Homeless will continue to provide its administrative, financial and policy capacity to support NCH’s renewed efforts as Whitehead assumes his new position.

How can the Federal government plan to End Homelessness?

Written by admin on . Posted in Blog

The U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness announced in June that it would be working to update the coordinated Federal plan to end homelessness. Comments were solicited via the USICH website, though now, all mention of this comment process have been removed.

Below are the concerns and comments that the National Coalition for the Homeless shared:

NCH Comments on the Federal Strategic Plan to End Homelessness
Submitted to the US Interagency Council on Homelessness July 2020

Thank you for your efforts to revise the Federal Strategic Plan to End Homelessness, and to gather comments from stakeholders. However, the National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH) is concerned that the US Interagency Council on Homelessness is not soliciting input from a broad enough audience, nor in a transparent process that includes people who have experienced homelessness as key drafters. 

After nearly four decades of advocacy on behalf of those experiencing homelessness, NCH believes that any further Federal Strategic Plans to End Homelessness must be made in direct partnership with people who lived the experience of homelessness. The true experts, people with this “lived experience” of homelessness know first hand the effects of Federal policy and as such, can hone in on what changes can be made to achieve the goal of ending mass homelessness in the United States. 

Further, any Federal Strategic Plan to End Homelessness must:

  1. Have clear and quantifiable goals, objectives and action steps. The plan should include a timeline, parties responsible for implementation, and a description of funding needs and sources. 
  2. State that housing is a civil and human right, as a safe, stable home is the foundation for human development, student achievement, economic survival and community health. 
  3. Identify the systemic causes of homelessness, including structural racism, redlining, and other disinvestment in black and brown communities. The plan and its objectives should be written with a clear equity lens. 
  4. Affirm that any efforts to criminalize people, or the daily survival acts of people, who live outdoors – things like urban camping bans, food sharing restrictions, and limits on when and where people can sit or lie down – are counter-productive, cause trauma, and should be halted or reversed in city code.

If you were to propose one new initiative that the federal government is not doing now what would it be?

  • Fund Permanent Supportive Housing from the Housing Choice/Section 8 Program (with program changes that provide flexibility for criminal/credit/tenant issues)   
  • Do not dismantle COVID-19  response networks, maintain the CDC guidelines for encampments including access to sanitation and water  
  • Decisions and priorities on use of funds should be locally driven not HUD driven 
  • Return to funding transitional housing, both in scattered sites and through rental assistance 

Outside of prior USICH federal strategic plan focuses, what else might the federal government do to prevent and/or reduce homelessness?

  • Increase workforce development programs that train people experiencing homelessness as Peer Advocates to supplement the current homeless provider workforce. 
  • Listen to people who have/are experiencing homelessness and include at decision making tables on types of programs that work. 
  • Equity in funds – ensure tax credits, bonding, appropriations, etc. reserve funding for people at risk of or experiencing homelessness and rental housing at below 30% of median income
  • Strengthen the interagency coordination of resources for livable incomes and employment (both FT and part time/contracted/gig/piece work and migrant/day labor) and public assistance including unemployment, SSI and Social Security.  
  • Universal Health Care/Immediate and voluntary access to medical services for all individuals, youth, families experiencing or at imminent risk of homelessness.
  • A guaranteed opportunity for permanent housing that is affordable at their income for all individuals, youth, families experiencing or at imminent risk of homelessness.

What is one activity the federal government is doing that you believe should be deprioritized?

  • Coordinated entry – Implementation is inconsistent and costing millions in HUD TA, and systems often lead to discriminatory and unethical service delivery
  • Point in Time count – It is archaic and an inaccurate system- does not count people in programs where most of the homeless funding is going to: permanent supportive housing and rapid re-housing
  • HMIS –violates Data Privacy, HIPPA laws
  • HUD controlled process of how funds should be used by communities
  • HUD’s homeless definition -utilize one homeless definition (the Department of Education’s definition or similar) across all agencies.

What is one activity that the federal government is doing well and that should be prioritized? 

  • The Youth Advisory Boards Model should be implemented in the Adult population. People who have/are experiencing homelessness need to be voting decision making members of the Federal and all State Interagency Councils and at CoC level and funded agencies.
  • The Veteran model that includes dedicated vouchers (VASH), Transitional Housing, workforce development (HVRP, CWF), Healthcare to scale and prevention (SSVF) should be mirrored that can be accomplished with substantial increases for targeted homeless programs through HHS and DOL.

Overall, what would you say the top 3 federal priorities should be as they relate to preventing and ending homelessness?

  • Listen to people who have/are experiencing homelessness. Decisions and priorities on use of funds should be locally driven with people who have/are experiencing homelessness not HUD driven. 
  • HUD programmatic changes: Funding Permanent Supportive Housing from the Housing Choice/Section 8 Program (with program changes that provide flexibility for criminal/credit/tenant issues), Rapid Re-Housing must include a livable income component to be able to pay rent after subsidy ends (employment and /or public assistance access/ housing assistance)
  • Creating a Unified definition of homelessness across federal agencies and Immediate and voluntary  access to emergency housing/shelter for all individuals, youth, families experiencing or at imminent risk of homelessness.

In terms of homelessness, what areas are in need of greater attention at the federal, state, and local levels?

  • Affirm the Right to Housing and protection of the civil rights of people experiencing homelessness. 
  • Listen to people who have/are experiencing homelessness and include at decision making tables on types of programs that work. 
  • Fund Expanding Affordable Housing Stock to Pre-1970 Levels.
  • Expand and fund the use of innovative housing approaches: Tiny Homes, Shared Housing, Small Market FMR’s, Community Choice in Service Delivery, homeownership, scattered site/rent subsidy transitional housing
  • Expand homeless prevention to include eviction protection, a right to counsel, and cash assistance 
  • Universal Health Care
  • Expand fair housing protections to prevent rental redlining and source of income discrimination.
  • Coordination and placement into housing opportunities that are affordable for people being discharged from correctional/ mental health/chemical health/physical health/etc. institutions.

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