Posts Tagged ‘Energy Assistance’

According to a new government report, more than 900,000 schoolchildren in this country have no real home. They are part of a growing population of school children who live in cheap motel rooms, usually in rundown crime-ridden parts of town, or in the family car.

CBS News correspondent Byron Pitts reported how one school in Las Vegas is making a difference in the lives of the homeless children there.

Principal Sherrie Gahn of Whitney Elementary School in East Las Vegas should be given a humanitarian award for what she does for the homeless children in her school.

Inside Whitney Elementary School nearly 85 percent of the children are homeless. That’s 518 kids out of 610!

So Principal Gahn came up with a plan to not only help these kids, but also their parents and the community.

Read the CBS Evening News report here.

I hope this will inspire and challenge others to do what they can to help the homeless school children in there own city.

Here’s another link about a followup report CBS News did on homeless children.

The Omaha Metro Area Continuum of Care for the Homeless said Tuesday that it’s been awarded $1.15 million for new permanent supportive housing programs. The agency says the some of that money will help provide 60 additional beds for the homeless. That’s on top of a previously announced $1.3 million renewal project award. Omaha mayor Jim Suttle said the award is a major stride for Omaha’s vision to end homelessness.

At the same time Sen. Ben Nelson said that he wants a complete audit of the Omaha Housing Authority’s finances to answer questions about how the agency handled more than $5 million of its federal funding.

OHA’s finances have been a problem in recent months. Earlier this year the agency had trouble paying its bills, leading the OHA board to pass a package of spending cuts and layoffs in March. OHA also received an “F” in financial management on a recent report card from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

OHA is required to repay $1.1 million in federal Section 8 voucher funds that were improperly used for the agency’s operations last year, Nelson and OHA board members said. In addition, over the years, OHA incorrectly used $1.5 million from another fund and loaned $2.5 million in public housing funds to its nonprofit development affiliate, Housing in Omaha.

Omaha is not alone in these problems of mismanagement of HUD funds. Many agencies in cities across the nation are being audited because of mismanagement of HUD funds.
http://www.hudoig.gov/recovery/ARRAaudits.php

The problems include financial mismanagement, fraud, and failure to comply with red tape. These problems were found in a broad array of programs. A Cato essay on HUD scandals explains why the department is particularly susceptible to such problems:
A root cause of HUD scandals is that the department has a large number of costly subsidy programs, and each involves a tangled web of stakeholders. Many HUD programs divide responsibilities between federal, state, and local policymakers, and they involve private interests such as developers and financial companies. The multiplicity of interests and the complexity of the programs create opportunities for people in the public and private sectors to take personal advantage of these programs.”

http://www.downsizinggovernment.org/hud-auditor-finds-problems

I can’t help but wonder if this has anything to do with so many homeless families that have been denied Homeless Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing (H.P.R.P.) assistance. Many families are denied assistance because they have no sustainable income. (That’s why they’re homeless)

A 30-year-old mother of a 7-year-old daughter and a set of 16 month old triplets have been living at the Siena Francis House, 1702 Nicholas St. in Omaha, where she shares a tiny room with her four children.

She lost her apartment because the triplets’ father, who was working and paying rent, is no longer in the picture. It was too hard for her to juggle full-time employment and child care she tries to work out with help from relatives.

She has finished high school but has no college. None of the three jobs she’s interviewed for since arriving at the shelter March 16 have called her back. Her 1987 Crown Victoria barely runs. She doesn’t trust it to haul her children, and there isn’t enough space.

Therefore her family is living at the shelter in a tiny toy room just off the TV room and not separated by any door; there’s a tiny playground on a strip of grass fenced in that offers little privacy and separation.

There are a myriad of personalities sharing their limited space. Some women are in the shelter’s addiction recovery program. Some have mental illnesses. As cute and happy as those blue-eyed, round-faced chubby triplets are, they are hardly noticed by some women crashing out in front of the single TV.

She is trying to get into an affordable apartment or home. The Omaha Housing Authority, the state’s biggest landlord for the poor, has a two-year waiting list for its Section 8 program. Section 8 is the federal rent voucher program that reduces rents on the private market and offers more housing choice to low-income people.

The OHA’s attorney George Achola, informed about her situation Wednesday, said he’d see if there was a way to help her sooner. Her main advocate at the shelter is trying to get her federal aid like a small monthly welfare check but in the meantime, she has no other option for her family but to stay at the shelter.

She is not the only homeless mother. As of midweek, Omaha’s three emergency shelters counted 110 mothers and 148 children. The actual numbers are probably higher because the mothers often double up with relatives or friends and not part of an official count.

Due to privacy concerns I am unable to contact this woman (or anyone else who lives in shelters) but I would be curious to know if she was given the opportunity to apply for HPRP assistance or if she too, would be denied assistance. Even though many of the chronic homeless have been helped by this program such as the woman in the video below:

It seems that many hard working families have fallen through the cracks simply due to the fact that they have fallen on hard times and currently have no sustainable income.

I would also be curious to know just how the $2.45 million in funds that was awarded to the Omaha Metro Area Continuum of Care for the Homeless (MACCH) was used.

Is the funding for HPRP also going to be audited by Senator Nelson? Will the audit include funding for MACCH? Once the audit is done will the public have access to those documents?

These are just a few of the unanswered questions many may have.

As many of you know, I spent months investigating HPRP with an email and letter writing campaign contacting to many officials in city and state government including Senator Ben Nelson and HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan with very little success.

Now with recent reports of mismanagement of funds it appears that the saying is true that, “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

Tad DeHaven of the CATO Institute wrote, “We have learned that when the government intervenes in the housing industry, politically driven decisions lead to corruption and economic distortion, not efficient public policies. The federal government should begin withdrawing from housing markets, including dismantling the Department of Housing and Urban Development.”
http://www.downsizinggovernment.org/hud/scandals

Maybe it’s time for the Homeless Community to march on Washington so that our leaders can see the enormity of the homeless problem up close and personal.

Remember, “By justice a king gives a country stability, but those who are greedy for bribes tear it down.” Proverbs 29:4 NIV

On Sunday, March 6th, 60 Minutes aired a segment about the impact the recession has had on families and children. It featured the efforts of Seminole County Schools’ homeless education program and its school district homeless liaison, Beth Davalos.

After the program aired Seminole County was inundated with calls from people asking how they could help. Although this has been an enormous problem in our country for years, most people were shocked to find out that this was going on in a country so rich with resources.
I was shocked to hear that so many people were unaware of the homeless problem among youth and school children.

Do we still hold to the stereotype that homeless people are lazy, drug addicts living off of our tax dollars?

Could it be that so many of us are so wrapped up in our own little world of iPhones, Kindels, and plasma TVs that those who struggle with day to day necessities become invisible to us?

National statistics report the number of homeless kids at more than 1.5 million. More than 500 thousand are still under the age of 15, and some are as young as nine!

As responsible people we should try to reach these kids! We should try and try again. And if we commit ourselves to stepping out of our comfort zone to help just one homeless family we may never know, that a few years from now, a youngster was able to leave the streets because of the commitment and work we did today.

The single greatest need, for homeless and street kids is our continuous caring and real support. We must convince them that we care, and we want to help them get off the streets. Don’t give up. They need us!

13 homeless youth die every day!

How Many Children and Youth Experience Homelessness?
Final national numbers for the 2008-2009 school year have not yet been compiled by the U.S. Department of Education. According to the most recent federal data, in the 2008-2009 school year, 954,914 homeless children and youth were enrolled in public schools.

This is a 20 percent increase from the 2007-2008 school year, and a 41% increase from the 2006-2007 school year. It is important to note that this number is not an exact estimate of child and youth homelessness; in fact, it is an underestimate, because not all school districts reported data to the U.S. Department of Education, and because the data collected represents only those children identified and enrolled in school.

Finally, the number does not include all preschool-age children, or any infants and toddlers. The economic downturn and foreclosure crisis have had a significant impact on homelessness: according to a national survey, one in five responding school districts reported having more homeless children in the Fall of 2008 than over the course of the entire 2007-2008 school year.

Recent research indicates that child homelessness may be more widespread than school data suggests. A study published in the August 2009 edition of the American Journal of Public Health found that seven percent of fifth-graders and their families have experienced homelessness at some point in their lives.

How Does Homelessness Affect Children and Youth’s Education?
With life filled with such uncertainty and loss, school should be a place of safety, structure, and opportunity. Yet homeless children and youth face difficult barriers to basic education.

These barriers include being unable to meet enrollment requirements. (Providing proof of residency, legal guardianship, and school health records.) Lack of transportation; lack of school supplies and clothing; and poor health, fatigue, and hunger are also a big problem for these children. When these barriers are not addressed, homeless children and youth often are unable to attend, or even enroll in, school, which prevents them from obtaining the education that is both their legal right and their best hope of escaping poverty as adults.

What Educational Rights Do Homeless Children and Youth Have?
Subtitle VII-B of the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act (referred to as the McKinney-Vento Act) is a federal law designed to remove barriers to education created by homelessness, and thereby increase the enrollment, attendance, and success of children and youth experiencing homelessness. Key provisions of the Act include:
* Students who are homeless can remain in one school, even if their temporary living situation is located in another school district or attendance area, if that is in their best interest. Schools must provide transportation.
* Children and youth who are homeless can enroll in school and begin attending immediately, even if they cannot produce normally required documents, such as birth certificates, proof of guardianship, immunization records, or proof of residency.
* Every school district must designate a homeless liaison to ensure the McKinney-Vento Act is implemented in the district. Homeless liaisons have many critical responsibilities, including identification, enrollment, and collaboration with community agencies.
* Every state must designate a state coordinator to ensure the McKinney-Vento Act is implemented in the state.
* Both state coordinators and homeless liaisons must collaborate with other agencies serving homeless children, youth, and families to enhance educational attendance and success.
* State departments of education and school districts must review and revise their policies and practices to eliminate barriers to the enrollment and retention in school of homeless children and youth.

What Can I Do to Help?
There are many ways to help children and youth experiencing homelessness:
Volunteer or donate locally
Every community is unique, so it is important to learn the needs that have been identified by your local school district and by community service providers.
Contact your School District
Every school district is required to designate a local homeless education liaison, which is responsible for coordinating services and support for homeless students attending in the district. You can contact your local liaison by calling your school district, or you may contact your State Coordinator for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth.
Contact a Community Service Provider in your area
To find local homeless service providers in your community, please visit the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Continuum of Care webpage http://www.hudhre.info/index.cfm?do=viewCocContacts or the National Coalition for the Homeless’ national, state, and local directories. http://www.nationalhomeless.org/directories/index.html