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Posts Tagged ‘Shelter’

People who are Unhoused Should be Involved in Oversight of Shelters and Funding Decisions

Written by admin on . Posted in Uncategorized

The horrific story of the Bronx Parent Housing Network presented in the New York Times recently points to the need for those experiencing homelessness to be more involved in the governance, oversight and distribution of homeless dollars in every city in the United States.  Staff and Board of the National Coalition wish to express our deep and profound sadness that women were allegedly sexually abused at a publicly funded shelter in New York City, and condemn all abuse, especially when inflicted on those seeking help in traumatic times. 

“It is shocking that the board of an agency serving abuse victims would not put in place strict protocols to protect those women from assaults while they are attempting to rebuild their lives. This agency is using taxpayer dollars to provide emergency housing, and these staff and residents faced some of the same misogynistic, controlling behavior they were fleeing. It points to a need for better oversight by both the local government as well as the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the source of much of this funding,” said Donald Whitehead, executive director of NCH.

We believe that if people experiencing homeless were more involved in a meaningful way in the governance of the shelters in the United States, staff exploitation and harassment would be significantly decreased. Consumer feedback is a necessity in so many industries, why not in homeless or other social services? We at NCH have long advocated for both currently and formerly homeless folks to be employed with the task of collecting and reporting shelter concerns to community leaders. 

The agency facing these disgusting allegations rose from a small organization only 5 years ago to a multi-million dollar operation, in response to the explosion of homelessness in NYC. We now spend billions of federal dollars to provide direly needed services to those experiencing homelessness across the country. Yet no city has instituted full oversight by people who have used these services. Unfortunately, people who are utilizing the services are not treated as equals to homeless services providers, Continuum of Care funding boards or in the oversight of the shelters.   

This is not an isolated incident in New York City. We have documented media accounts of exploitation and harassment at shelters in Cleveland, Cincinnati, Los Angeles, Florida, and Washington, DC. But there are many examples of homeless led organizations that could be tapped by HUD and local communities to provide oversight of homeless services. San Francisco’s Coalition on Homelessness has the most advanced Shelter Monitoring Committee which could be modelled around the country.  Baltimore, Cleveland, Denver, Portland and Philadelphia all have the infrastructure in place to take a leadership role in monitoring and providing peer support. 

We must more fully integrate those experiencing homelessness into reforming our systems. NCH demands that:

  • Communities receiving federal homeless dollars initiate a review of protections against the harassment and exploitation of residents.
  • Each funded Continuum of Care should have a reporting system that prompts action by the local government.
  • Cities should employ an advisory committee of people who have been homeless, or a homeless ombudsman, to review agencies serving people who are unhoused and ensure that they are acting in the best interest of those experiencing homelessness.
  • HUD initiate a process where local groups of unhoused folks are given a chance to weigh in on local funding decisions, and ensure that recommendations are taken seriously by community leaders. 

Going Up, Going Down

Written by NCH Staff on . Posted in Advocacy, Awareness

Though every year communities understand that cold weather brings increased risk of illness and even death among those who do not have safe and permanent warm residence, it seems there is more contention about the opening of emergency winter shelters this year.  For that matter, it seems like there is ever more contention about the placement or even opening of emergency shelter beds, even as demand for emergency shelter is increasing.  Recent news stories show the number of people experiencing homelessness is:

Going Up

While the number of emergency shelter beds is not increasing with the need:

Going Down

The discussion that communities are having around opening emergency winter shelters for increased numbers of families and individuals they expect to need housing this winter could easily be shortened by providing that elusive solution to homelessness: housing.  The Obama Administration helped a great deal by providing permanent housing solutions through the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act.  But funds for programs like the Homeless Prevention and Rapid-Rehousing program are running out this year.  Our challenge remains to provide long-term housing solutions, while providing for the safety of families and individuals who have no place to call home tonight.

Lots of communities are providing these long-term solutions, like the 100,000 Homes Campaign, along with other programs dedicating new sources of permanent housing and working as a community to provide the services people need.  But the challenge still remains, how can we use what little funding is available to provide permanent and preventative solutions to homelessness, while ensuring that everyone who is homeless tonight has at least a warm bed and roof over their heads?

YOUR concern for your homeless neighbors, or advocacy for the homelessness YOU may be experiencing, is more critical that it has ever been.  Make homelessness a topic of regular conversation!  Talk to your family, friends, neighbors and legislators about the need for housing solutions now.  Let’s not sit by while families, brothers, daughters, parents freeze on our streets this winter.

Keep learning at www.nationalhomeless.org.

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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