Posts Tagged ‘Funds’

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

Now that the winter weather is beginning to thaw, many of us tend to put the homeless community on the back burners of our mind and focus more on our own plans for the coming spring and summer months.

Unfortunately, for those living on the streets, their plans deal more with; “What do I eat? Where will I sleep tonight? Will I be safe?”

The following is a letter I received from Mike Saklar, Executive Director of The Siena/Francis House here in Omaha, Ne.

Hopefully it will encourage us to continue supporting Siena/Francis House and other ministries like this.

The recent, bitterly-cold weather can be especially dangerous for persons who become homeless.

Very early one recent morning, a freezing woman – Cecilia – arrived at the Siena/Francis House homeless shelter seeking help. It was nearly 3:00 a.m., and the temperature outside was near zero. On top of that, Cecilia had no cold-weather clothes on – not even a coat!

Siena/Francis House staff immediately brought Cecilia into our shelter and wrapped her in a blanket. We also gave her a cup of hot chocolate and put her in front of a heater to try to warm her up. Cecilia was so cold and shivering she could barely speak.

Fearing the worst, our women’s shelter manager examined Cecilia’s hands and feet. One of her feet had turned dark blue – a telling sign of frostbite. Cecilia also appeared to have frostbite on her fingers.

We immediately called 911 and Cecilia was taken to the Creighton Medical Center, where she was treated for her frostbite. Later – after receiving treatment at the hospital – Cecilia returned to the Siena/Francis House. We then were able to learn just how a coatless Cecilia ended up at our shelter that very early morning

The previous night, Cecilia had been out to a late dinner with her alcoholic and abusive husband. After dinner, and as they were driving home, the guy started to argue with Cecilia, and then to slap her around while in the car. At that point, the guy pulled the car over and ordered her out. Grabbing the coat out of Cecilia’s hands, he sped away.

Not knowing anyone in the area, and without a cell phone, Cecilia began walking. Cecilia tried to flag down passing motorists, but no one stopped. So, she kept on walking into the cold night. The temperature moved downward, and the toes on Cecilia’s feet started to freeze.

Cecilia walked for nearly three hours, until she finally stopped at a park to rest. It was nearly 3 a.m., snow was falling, and Cecilia could now barely move. Thankfully, a concerned cab driver saw the coatless Cecilia seated on a park bench. Sensing something wasn’t quite right, the cabbie stopped and found an extremely chilled woman in distress. This kind and compassionate man hurried Cecilia into his cab and brought her straight to the Siena/Francis House, free of charge.

While at our shelter, Cecilia has continued to recover from her frostbite. Our staff takes Cecilia to her medical appointments, and we make sure that she is healthy, safe and warm. We’ve also begun the process of helping Cecilia start to sort out her life.

Your gift is used to help women like Cecilia. Although how Cecilia arrived at the Siena/Francis House is unique, her story of abuse is not. Cecilia is just one of the many hundreds of battered women who seek safety and security at the Siena/Francis House each year. Some women flee their abuser after the first incident of violence. Others suffer through years of cruelty. Some of the women who seek shelter here have children, and many of those kids are very young.

Besides providing Cecilia with food to eat and warm clothes to wear, I’m grateful that we have the ability to provide her a safe, secure place to temporarily call home.

Will you please give a gift to the Siena/Francis House at this time? Your gift will help care for persons like Cecilia, and it is very much appreciated.
Please click here to make a secure, online donation! We truly need your help to provide food, shelter, and clothing to the hundreds of hungry and homeless persons who daily show up at our door.

Please know how grateful I am to be able to be part of an organization which exists to help persons like Cecilia. Please also know that I fully appreciate the fact that the Siena/Francis House is only able to provide our basic human services to our community’s homeless because of the generosity of so many kind and caring persons from our community, like you. Your support makes a real difference to the Siena/Francis House, and especially to the homeless people we serve.

God bless you for your sustained support, and I wish you well during these cold winter months.

With gratitude,
Mike Saklar
Executive Director
Siena/Francis House Homeless Shelter

P.S. We are in our busiest time of the year. Hundreds of cold and hungry individuals and families seek food, shelter, & safety every day. Please consider making a gift to the Siena/Francis House homeless shelter today. Our organization exists and operates almost entirely on charitable donations.

Gifts to Siena/Francis House are used to provide food, shelter, clothing, and care of the people who turn to us during their hour of need, and are greatly appreciated. All of our services are provided at no cost to our guests. All gifts to Siena/Francis House are tax deductible to the full extent of the law.

For more information about Siena/Francis House or to include us in your estate planning, please contact Siena/Francis House Development Director, Tim Sully at (402) 341-1821.

Please click here for more information about The Siena/Francis House.

Continuing my profiles of organizations in Omaha who reach out to the homeless and low income families I would like to highlight a very important ministry to the community.

Mission For All Nations

Mission For All Nations is a faith-based charitable organization founded to put love into action by providing food, clothing, shelter and other necessities to people of all ethnic backgrounds who are in need. They are creating an environment where lives are being changed instead of fostering dependency.

Last year their Homelessness and Hunger Prevention program supplied food pantry orders to provide a 5-7 day supply of food equivalent to over ½ a million meals to 26,870 individuals in economic distress along with personal hygiene products for each household. That is more food distributed directly to clients than any other pantry in the state of Nebraska. Additionally, nearly 20,000 clients received clothing and household goods. Overall, nearly $2 million in necessities were distributed to improve the lives of people experiencing an urgent need.

Their History

Josue Anaya was sent away from El Salvador by his mother in order to escape the bloody civil war in 1984. Later that year, after getting separated from his missionary contact, he nearly froze to death on the streets of Des Moines. After a dramatic rescue, he believed God had saved him to help others in similar desperate circumstances. In 1986, he married his wife Mary, and over the years they frequently provided shelter for homeless people out of their home. In 1992, they moved to Omaha and in 1999 both graduated from ministry school and started a small bilingual church. After working two years in the South Omaha community and receiving frequent requests for assistance with basic needs, they realized that the need was greater than they alone could meet.

The Anayas, ordained ministers fluent in English and Spanish, had started a church in 1999 in South Omaha. But they were constantly helping visitors with clothes and food.

“The ministry grew more into a pantry than a church,” Mary Anaya told The World-Herald in 2004. “We realized that what was needed in this community maybe wasn’t what we originally thought. We changed gears.”

A group of local business owners and clergy was asked to form a board for a new organization, and Mission For All Nations was born in November of 2002. The new organization was incorporated in January 2003 for the purpose of providing food, clothing and shelter for the needy of all ethnic backgrounds. Mission For All Nations is now the largest food pantry in a 93-county area of Nebraska and Iowa. The organization incorporated in 2003 and quickly grew to encompass three buildings in the 21st and Q Streets area.

Pastor Mary Anaya

Pastor Mary Anaya dedicated her life to the Lord and the spreading of the Gospel by demonstrating love in action and serving people in need. Her hard work was paramount in developing Mission For All Nations into the largest food pantry in the area. Her passion for the poor was evident in everything that she did and has made our community a better place to live.

Though diagnosed with late-stage lung cancer early in her pregnancy, she tried to continue her work with the food pantry she co-founded. But she died early Wednesday, October 21, 2009 just after midnight at Bergan Mercy Medical Center at age 42. So did her 19-week-old unborn baby due in March whom she carried, leaving behind her family and a long history of loving her neighbor as herself. She will be missed but her legacy will continue to be carried on through the work of Mission For All Nations.

Mary was the organization. When you said, ‘Mary Anaya,’ everyone knew it was Mission For All Nations. She gave everything she had. She and husband Josue would have given the last box of food out of their home cupboard to help somebody.

Anaya, who had no cancer history and was not a smoker, went to see a doctor Aug. 21, 2009 when she was having difficulty breathing. She was hospitalized for fluid buildup on her lungs. She was later diagnosed with advanced lung cancer.

Cancer during pregnancy is rare but not unheard of — about 1 in 1,000 pregnancies coincide with a mother’s diagnosis of cancer, according to the Houston-based M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. Mary was in her first trimester when diagnosed with cancer and was told that the disease was too advanced for treatment options.

The Omaha Food Bank has distributed almost 278,000 pounds of food to Mission for All Nations. That represents about a quarter of the 1.16 million pounds of food the food bank distributed to 55 agencies in Douglas County.

Unlike most food pantries, which limit visits to several times a year, Mission For All Nations had an open-door policy for the needy, as long as they volunteered.

In 2009 Mission for All Nations provided 37,109 individuals with a week’s supply of food and 240 families were provided a 1-2 day supply of food. Clients also received 29,398 clothing and household items.

Watch Mission For All Nation video here

As we approach the holidays Mission For All Nations is in need of turkeys and holiday foods. They anticipate serving over 4,500 people in November alone. An extra donation of $31 will help provide holiday food for the working poor. They also need extra volunteers to help with food distribution and toy registration for their ‘Christmas for South O Program.’

If you are interested in helping Mission for All Nations you can contact them at (402) 733-2077 or register online here

For more information about Mission for All nations visit http://www.missionfan.com/index.htm

Metro Area Continuum of Care for the Homeless (MACCH) recently announced sponsorship of Omaha’s National Hunger & Homelessness Awareness Week. The goal of National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week, co-sponsored by the National Coalition for the Homeless and the National Student Campaign Against Hunger and Homelessness, is to strengthen the national endeavor to end hunger and homelessness nationwide. Locally, the week will raise awareness of homelessness and promote the community’s commitment to ending homelessness. MACCH will sponsor the effort in the Omaha metro area.

“Last month, our community collected data from 471 people experiencing homelessness in our metro area and we found that 176 of those individuals are at risk of dying as a result of their homelessness. Solutions such as permanent housing with case management exist. It’s time the rest of our community know about those solutions in order to end this crisis,” states Erin Porterfield, executive director of MACCH. Opportunities to participate in promoting the community’s commitment to ending homelessness include various events scheduled for the week of Nov. 14.

Schedule of Events:

November 17, 2010 South High Magnet’s Character in Action group is challenging groups throughout Omaha to spend, “One Night Without a Home” at Collin Stadium located at 2202 S. M St. Starting at 7pm, there will be a panel of speakers that will educate the group on hunger and homelessness in the Omaha metro area. South High Magnet is also organizing a clothing drive to benefit. All donations may be dropped off at Collin Stadium the night of the event. Contact: Matthew Curtis at: matthew.curtis@ops.org or (402) 557-3657.

November 18, 2010 The Metro Area Homeless Youth Forum will be presented by the MACCH Youth Task Force from 9 a.m.-11 a.m. at the UNO Alumni Center. This forum will unveil results of the research from the MACCH Youth Task Force regarding the first count of homeless and unstably-housed youth in the metro area. Contact Heather Rizzino at: heathersview@msn.com or (402) 990-0579.

Mission for All Nations will be hosting a Mobile Food Pantry in Papillion from 6:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m., with a short volunteer education beforehand. Contact  Chelsea Hardymon at: chelseah@missionfan.com or (402) 733-1904.

“Omaha Rocks!  A Benefit for the Homeless” is a concert featuring The Bishops, the Todd Campbell Project, The Jacuzzi Brother, and more will be held at 7 p.m. at the Slowdown. The $10 charged at the door will provide household items for homeless individual people moving into their own homes. The event will also showcase the Siena Francis House Singers and artwork from Siena Francis clients, Chris Leet and Jerry Neal. Contact: Sarah Rounds, srounds@heartlandfamilyservice.org or (402) 553-3000.

November 19, 2010 Together, Inc. will be hosting a “Holiday Resource Lunch & Learn” at their headquarters, 1616 Cass Street. At the 11:30 a.m. lunch for Human Resource professionals, a panel of human service agencies will share the holiday programs that are available through them to the community. Contact Erin Stoll at: estoll@togetheromaha.org or (402) 345-8047, x205.

November 20, 2010 The Open Door Mission will be delivering 5,000 “Turkey n’ Fixin’s” to low income families in the Omaha community. There will be approximately 800 volunteers delivering the goods to families and homes. Contact Charity Watts at: cwatts@opendoormission.org or (402) 422-1111.


Continuing my profiles on local organizations that work with the homeless community I have decided to concentrate on one of my favorites. I have had the honor of working closely with several of the staff at the Open Door Mission in Omaha, Ne. and found them all to be genuinely concerned with the needs of the people that they minister God’s love to.

They have given me the opportunity to meet many of those people as I lead chapel services twice a month at their Timberlake Center.

Currently headed up by President and CEO Candice Gregory at 2828 North 23rd Street East in Omaha, the Open Door Mission strives to break the cycle of homelessness and poverty. Every night, approximately 2,000 men, women and children in Omaha are homeless. Each day, Open Door Mission provides 400 men, women and children in Omaha with safe shelter beds. They also serve more than 1,700 hot, nutritious meals daily, and provide preventive measures to more than 250 families living in poverty.

Humble Beginnings

In 1954, thousands of men swarmed the city of Omaha searching for work on the city’s 10 railroads. They congregated in bars and slept in flophouses. Garland Thompson, a student at the Omaha Bible Institute, wanted to reach out to these men with Christ’s love and compassion. Fueled by faith, guided by his vision for an evangelical mission, and assisted by Pastor Jerry Dunn and a group of Christian businessmen, Thompson unveiled Open Door Mission in the Ballenger Building at 13th and Douglas Streets on November 1, 1954.

When the owner of the building at 13th and Douglas Streets decided to sell it in 1955, Thompson and Pastor Dunn prayed that God would give them another space. A building at 13th and Howard was perfect, but the owners did not want to rent it for a mission. God intervened, and the Open Door Mission moved to 422 South 13th Street. This building was 20 times larger than Open Door Mission’s original building and perfect for its needs. Eventually they purchased this building.

Over the years Open Door Mission has seen many changes in the community and its leadership and has amazingly grown with those changes.

Lydia House for Women & Families

Nationally, about half of all homeless women and children are fleeing domestic abuse and violence. Open Door Mission’s Lydia House provides emergency services for women and families in need of immediate assistance. We provide food, shelter, clothing and other basic needs. The Lydia House also offers life changing programs to address the causes of homelessness such as abuse, addiction, or the inability to obtain and maintain steady employment. The Lydia House has safe shelter available for more than 300 women and families.

Garland Thompson Men’s Center

Open Door Mission’s Garland Thompson Men’s Center provides emergency services for men in need of immediate assistance. Food, shelter, clothing and other basic needs are provided and each man is offered an opportunity for life change through case management, which provides the first steps toward preventing future homelessness. The Garland Thompson Men’s Center has safe shelter available for more than 300 men.

Permanent Supportive Housing

This program is offered to men, women and families who may benefit from living in a stable environment for an extended period of time. Residents can live in a supportive housing environment while working or attending school full time. Open Door Mission’s new Permanent Supportive Housing building will open December of 2010 and will provide 41, two and three bedroom apartments.

Timberlake Outreach Center

Formerly Harold’s Grocery Store, the building at 2107 E. Locust is now the Open Door Mission’s spacious Timberlake Outreach Center, which provides preventive measures to empower families struggling in poverty. Since 2004, the Timberlake Outreach Center has enabled families to remain in their own homes by supplementing their incomes through preventive measures, such as providing monthly assistance with food, clothing, household goods, furniture and appliances. The Timberlake Outreach Center currently makes a positive difference in the lives of more than 7,500 individuals every month. Learn more about our donation needs.

In addition to goods, the Timberlake Outreach Center offers preventive measures through a variety of free classes, such as GED completion, computer training, life skills, case management, employment readiness and English as a second language.

The Timberlake Outreach Center serves thousands throughout the year with our seasonal preventive programs including Back to School Bash, Great Thanksgiving Banquet, Turkey ‘N Fixins, Super Duper Give Away and Project Santa.

Life Changing Programs

Open Door Mission also offers many life-changing programs to break the cycle of homelessness and poverty. Lydia House and the Garland Thompson Men’s Center offer life changing recovery programs to address the causes for homelessness such as abuse, addiction, or the inability to obtain and maintain steady employment.

For more information about the programs available at Open Door Mission click here.

I would encourage anyone who lives in the Omaha area to consider sending a generous donation to the Open Door Mission or better yet, volunteer to help out with one of their many programs. I guarantee you will be better for it.

Is it better to be chronically homeless?

There are 671,859 people experiencing homelessness on any given night in the United States – roughly 22 of every 10,000 people are homeless.  Of that number, 37 percent are people in families and 63 percent are individuals.  18 percent of the homeless population is considered “chronic,” and 20 percent of the homeless population is made up of veterans.

In the past weeks I have been looking into HUD’s Homeless Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program (HPRP) and how it has been affecting the homeless community. HPRP, when implemented correctly, has been very successful in many major cities across the country.

http://www.endhomelessness.org/content/article/detail/3057

Below is a video that highlights how communities across the country are decreasing homelessness among families:

http://www.endhomelessness.org/content/article/detail/1902

The problems I have found are not in the program itself, but with the sub grantors in many of the cities. Because while HUD established baseline eligibility criteria for the HPRP program, local communities have discretion to institute locally defined targeting and sustainability determinants that may be more detailed and specific than those established by HUD.

Several providers of time limited rental assistance question whether households can sustain their housing after their subsidy ends. This fear has led some of these programs, including some funded by HPRP, to screen out potential recipients because of concerns about future housing cost burden.

The HPRP funds represent a time-limited resource to assist households that are experiencing a housing crisis.  Administrators of the HPRP program are required to not only document eligibility for the program, but also assess a household’s ability to sustain housing after the temporary housing stability assistance is exhausted.  This determination of sustainability can be somewhat subjective but must be documented and verified at the time the household applies for HPRP assistance.

Unfortunately, for those families who are facing the prospect of homelessness, they must jump through all sorts of bureaucratic hoops in order to qualify for HPRP assistance. What the sub grantors don’t realize is that by the time these families get approved for HPRP assistance that would have allowed them to stay in their homes, many of them are forced to move out and either move into shelters or find other places to live. Some of them are forced to stay with friends or relatives who are struggling themselves or live in their cars because the feel that many shelters are not safe for their young children.

Chronic Homelessness

According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness an estimated 63 percent of people who experience homelessness at any given point in time are individuals – or single adults. Most enter and exit the homeless system fairly quickly. The remainder lives in the homeless assistance system; in a combination of shelters, hospitals, jails, and prisons; or on the streets. An overwhelming majority (80 percent) of single adult shelter users enters the homeless system only once or twice, stay just over a month, and do not return. Approximately 9 percent enter nearly five times a year and stay nearly two months each time. This group utilizes 18 percent of the system’s resources.

The remaining 10 percent enter the system just over twice a year and spend an average of 280 days per stay—virtually living in the system and utilizing nearly half its resources. Many of these individuals are defined by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) as chronically homeless.

They often cycle between homelessness, hospitals, jails, and other institutional care and often have a complex medical problem, a serious mental illness like schizophrenia, and/or alcohol or drug addiction. There are approximately 123,790 chronically homeless individuals nationwide on any given night. Although chronic homelessness represents a small share of the overall homeless population, chronically homeless people use up more than 50 percent of the services.

The 100,000 Homes Campaign launched by Common Ground has been initiated in many cities across the country with the goal of housing 100,000 chronically homeless by July of 2013. To date, 5,918 chronically homeless have been moved into permanent housing. So far 58 communities have gotten involved with this program.

I think it’s great that so many communities have joined this campaign but how can people maintain housing if they haven’t first addressed their substance abuse problems?

On the 100,000 Homes web site they say that their priority is to help the most vulnerable homeless get into housing first, then work with each person to improve their health, including addressing substance abuse problems that would interfere with their ability to remain housed.

The providers are able to quickly move people into permanent housing and many of the chronic homeless are only required to pay 30 percent of their income toward rent. So in most cases it’s fairly easy for them to afford to stay in an apartment they select to move into.

While I applaud this system I still see many honest hardworking families that are falling through the cracks simply because of our current economy they fell behind on bills and rent. These are people who are not considered to be chronically homeless. They do not have addictions or mental disabilities. They have simply run into some unfortunate financial difficulties.

Many of the chronically homeless that are being helped by the 100,000 Homes Campaign have abused their bodies with drugs and alcohol for years. That is the primary reason that some of them remain homeless for so long. I wonder if simply giving them permanent housing will change their lifestyle- Or will they use it to promote the lifestyle they’ve become so accustomed to?

Below is a video showing how the 100,000 Homes Campaign is working. Notice how they show her multiple apartments before she accepts the third one as her new home. Why so picky when you’re homeless at the time? Most families that I know who are struggling financially would accept the first one that was shown to them.

You Tube Video:

 

According to The National Alliance to End Homelessness, the federal government has established a benchmark of 30 percent of income as the maximum amount a household should pay for housing. This level helps ensure that households can afford housing and other necessities such as food, health care and clothing. Evidence indicates that housing is much more stable when housing costs meet this standard. For example, households that receive Housing Choice Vouchers—which limit housing costs to 30 percent of income—have much lower rates of homelessness and housing instability. However, many households do not become homeless even though they pay far more than 30 percent of their income for housing. More than half of households in poverty spend more than half their income for housing, which is generally considered the threshold for “severe housing cost burden.” In other words, reasonable housing cost burdens—such as the 30 percent federal standard—are the exception among households in poverty. Despite these housing cost burdens, no more than 10 percent of people in poverty become homeless over the course of a year.

The findings indicate that homelessness prevention and re-housing providers should not screen out potential recipients solely because of potentially high housing cost burden in the future. Once a prevention or re-housing program addresses the immediate housing crisis, most households will avoid future episodes of homelessness, even if they have very high housing cost burdens. Though these housing cost burdens cause hardship for the households that face them, and although deeper and longer term subsidy would be far preferable, when only short term assistance is available, it is preferable to homelessness.

So why do we spend so much more time and energy helping the chronic homeless than on helping low income families? I believe it’s because the chronic homeless are the ones that are more visible. They are the squeaky wheel that gets the oil.

Over the past few months I have contacted many political leaders in my own state as well as in Washington D. C. with little or no response. Most don’t want to address the issue.

Hopefully with the newly elected officials something will be done to decrease family homelessness. I pray that it does.

For the last several weeks I’ve had the honor of leading chapel services at Open Door Mission’s Timberlake Center in Omaha. The Timberlake Center is one of the many ministries of Open Door Mission to low income families in the community. There people can receive clothing, diapers, and food that they otherwise would not have. They are also offer free meals at Open Door Mission’s dining hall.

Most days when I arrive at the chapel it is overflowing with people. I begin by singing a few praise songs and finish with a short sermon of encouragement. Believe me, they don’t come to hear me. They are there primarily to get those items that so many of us take for granted.

These people are not lazy drug addicts or alcoholics that most of our society has labeled them. I have spoken with many of these people and found that they are good honest people like you and me just trying to get by in the current financial crises.

In my investigation into HUD’s Homeless Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program (HPRP) I have sent many letters and emails to members of the U.S. and state senate and congress as well as officials at HUD. So far I have had no response.

Is it possible that our political leaders are so out of touch with the people that they do not realize how great a problem we have with homelessness? Since this is an election year I would think that these politicians would be more educated about the homeless problem. Most of what I see and hear on political ads is more about attacking their opponents than about issues facing the people today.

I believe that if any of these political leaders would take the time to visit some of the shelters or attend one of the many chapel services for low income people like the ones at Open Door Mission; or even go out on the street and visit with their most venerable constituents they would get a more realistic view of what is really important to the people who will be going to the polls in November.

I would challenge anyone reading this to contact their leaders in the senate and congress and ask them to look into the way the low income and homeless community have been denied assistance for HPRP. Millions of dollars have been approved to be used for  HPRP and there have been some success in some of the major cities but there are still many more families that have fallen between the cracks and are living in substandard housing or worse; they find themselves on the street with nowhere to go.

Possibly if enough of us contact our political leaders about this problem some of them will do more than just cast their vote for funding but actually follow up on how the funding is being spent.

We as Americans are a strong resilient people. We are also sometimes a greedy, self centered people that have no regard for those less fortunate than ourselves. That is the American paradox that can be seen in everyone from our friends and loved ones to the leaders throughout our country.

America will spend millions of dollars and man hours to help those suffering in other countries while at the same time ignoring those who suffer in our own back yard.

According to The National Alliance to End Homelessness, about 671,859 people experience homelessness on any given night in the United States. State by state data can be found here.

Specific reasons vary on why people become homeless, but research shows people are homeless because they can’t find housing they can afford. According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, (HUD) an estimated 12 million renter and homeowner households now pay more than 50 percent of their annual incomes for housing, and a family with one full-time worker earning the minimum wage cannot afford the local fair-market rent for a two-bedroom apartment anywhere in the United States.

HUD also notes that the generally accepted definition of housing affordability is no more than 30 percent of monthly income going toward housing costs. Families or individuals who pay more than 30 percent of their income for housing are considered “cost-burdened” and can have difficulty affording necessities such as food, clothing, transportation, and medical care.

The lack of affordable housing is a significant hardship for low-income households and can prevent them from meeting their other basic needs, such as nutrition and health care, or saving for their future.

HUD’s Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program (HPRP) is a $1.5 billion stimulus-funded program that was designed to prevent and eliminate homelessness in communities across the country.

In Nebraska, where I live, these funds are distributed through the local Community Development Division of the City of Omaha Planning Department. The Metro Area Continuum of Care (MACCH) refers those needing HPRP assistance to the agencies set up to accommodate those needing help.

The idea behind HPRP was to quickly rehouse those experiencing homelessness and to help those who are currently facing homelessness. And in a lot of major cities HPRP is working. http://www.endhomelessness.org/content/article/detail/3057

video

On July 2nd, 2009 the Nebraska State Grantees was awarded $5,128,578.00 for HPRP. On June 30th, 2009 Lincoln, Nebraska was awarded $726,148.00 and on June 19th, 2009 Omaha was awarded $2,017,088.00 So HPRP should work not only in Omaha but in other cities across the country as well.

In fact, In 2000, the National Alliance to End Homelessness made a bold proposal: to end homelessness in ten years. http://www.endhomelessness.org/section/solutions/ten_year_plan

They found that one by one, communities across the country answered the call, drafted plans, and began implementing innovative solutions to prevent and end homelessness. In the years that followed, many neighborhoods saw measurable decreases in the number of people experiencing homelessness. In fact, homelessness declined by 10 percent between 2005 and 2007 nationally, with some communities seeing even steeper drops.

But here’s where that American paradox I spoke about comes into play. After beginning to see modest but significant declines in homelessness over the past few years, new 2009 data suggests that the numbers are creeping back up. http://www.endhomelessness.org/content/article/detail/2806

With rising unemployment and the continued economic crisis, more and more low-income people find themselves slipping closer and closer to homelessness. The Alliance projects that as many as one million additional people may become homeless before the recession ends. Many families today are only one paycheck away from homelessness.

And while some major cities are seeing great success with HPRP providing permanent housing for people within weeks of applying, in other cities it can take months before receiving this much needed assistance. I personally know families who have applied for HPRP assistance only to be tangled up in bureaucratic red tape while they continue to live in fear that today may be the last day their family can remain in their home.

As our country moves toward recovery, we must remember not to leave our most vulnerable citizens behind. Now is the time to commit ourselves to ending homelessness. Write to your senators and your congressmen. Write or call your local government leaders. And let them know that the current status quo concerning the homeless problem is unacceptable.

Alliance president Nan Roman wrote, “We have the solutions. We know the answers. Our challenge is to muster the public and political will to take what we know to scale, and bring an end to homelessness in our nation once and for all.”

First they came for the stock brokers,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a stock broker.

Then they came for the bankers,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a banker.

When they laid off the union workers,
I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a union worker.

When my neighbors lost their homes, I didn’t speak up because I still had my home.

When my neighbor was living on the street,
I didn’t speak up because I was too worried about me.

Then I lost my home
but then there was no one left to speak up for me.


For the past several weeks I have been diligently searching for information about the Homeless Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program that is intended to help those struggling to stay in their homes because of the current economic recession.

Although I was able to find many articles online that reported success stories of households being helped by this program, there were many more families who have fallen through the cracks and end up homeless and left with making a choice to seek help from local shelters or living in their cars.

I decided that I needed to get to truth about this problem. Are there simply a lot of whiners who are complaining because they don’t have the desire or motivation to better themselves or their families? Or is there really something wrong with this program that has not come to the attention of the media?

Below is a letter I sent to several agencies as well as political leaders and media contacts in Nebraska:

Nebraska recently received over $7 million in grant funds to be used for HUD’s Homeless Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program. (HPRP) http://nebraska.realestaterama.com/2009/07/20/hud-awards-79-million-in-homelessness-prevention-funds-to-nebraska-communities-ID049.html

Unfortunately, many hard working people who have applied for this program assistance are being denied help because they have no sustainable income at the time that they apply for assistance; which is not listed on the HUD site as a determining factor to receive assistance.

http://www.hudhre.info/index.cfm?do=viewFaqById&topicID=102&subTopicID=121&faqid=869#detail

One example is a married couple with 6 children who have been struggling for some time now to get assistance. They both lost their jobs several months ago and the husband is waiting for acceptance for disability while the wife is attending Bellevue University to better herself and her family. They live in a house that has a bad mold problem and is the cause of the children often getting sick. There is also dangerous lead paint in the home but they can’t afford to live anywhere else. They have received an eviction notice and are about to have their utilities shut off. They were denied HPRP assistance because they have no sustainable income.

Many families end up homeless because of the denial by sub-grantees that were set up to prevent homelessness. If people are not actually being prevented from becoming homeless what is the grant money being used for?  I have contacted several agencies and political leaders about this but have not received any response. It has also been difficult for me to find any information on how many people have been helped in Nebraska by the HPRP program. Thank you for looking into this.

Sincerely,
Jonah Reuben

After several weeks I did receive the chart below in an email response from one of the agencies in Omaha. As you can see by the chart, there is no specific information, such as the reason why some of the households were denied assistance. Only that they were denied assistance. It also appears that out of 937 households 372 did not meet criteria, 214 are on a waiting list, 286 met the criteria but are not on a waiting list because of low points, (whatever that means) and 65 households were denied assistance. Out of those 937 households only 68 were served. Even the agency that sent me the email said they did not fully understand the chart.

Click image to enlarge.

Although I did receive a letter from Senator Ben Nelson, he offered no help directly, but referred me to others. I posted a copy of the letter below:

E.BENJAMIN NELSON

United State Senate

WASHINGTON, DC 2050-270 6

July 21, 2010

Dear Jonah:

Thank you for contacting me regarding the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid

Re-Housing Program. I always appreciate hearing from my constituents and I am disheartened to hear of your concerns regarding this program.

As you know, while federal funds do support the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program, the State of Nebraska is actually charged with implementing the program. Therefore, I, as your United States Senator, do not have the ability to influence eligibility. I encourage you to contact your State Senator Brad Ashford, and Governor Dave Heineman to share your concerns with them.

For your convenience I, have included Senator Ashford’s and Governor Heineman’s contact information below.

Nebraska Senator Brad Ashford

P.O. Box 94604

Lincoln, NE 68509

Phone: (402) 471-2622


The Honorable Dave Heineman

Office of the Governor

P.O. Box 94848

Lincoln, NE 68509-4848

Phone: (402) 471-2244

I trust that you will find this information helpful. Thank you for providing me with the opportunity to assist you in this matter.

Sincerely,

E. Benjamin Nelson


As suggested by Governor Nelson, I contacted Nebraska Senator Brad Ashford, and Governor Dave Heineman, as well as Senator Mike Johanns and Congressman Lee Terry of Nebraska. I also sent an email to the Office of Inspector General. (OIG)    So Far I have not gotten a response from the Senators or the Governor and only received the computer generated email below from the OIC:

RE: Homeless Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program

From: “Hotline, OIG” <Hotline@hudoig.gov>
To: Jonah Reuben <jbreuben@yahoo.com>

This automatically generated message acknowledges receipt of your e-mail to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Office of Inspector General (OIG). We will assign your correspondence to one of our analysts for review in the order of receipt. Please note, we receive many more complaints than we can address immediately within OIG resources, and we receive complaints that fall outside OIG jurisdiction. Therefore, we limit investigative effort to those issues that represent the most serious potential risk to the HUD programs and operations or for which the OIG may be the only avenue of redress.

For further information on issues that fall within our jurisdiction, or for general information on points of contacts within the Department of Housing and Urban Development and other government agencies, please visit our Hotline web site at:

http://www.hud.gov/offices/oig/hotline/

It is unnecessary to resend your e-mail message or to call or e-mail us again to ask for a status report; as we can’t provide you with case status updates or other information while a review is in progress.

We will not respond further if your issues are not a matter for OIG review.

You will hear from us within 60 days ONLY if your issue falls within OIG jurisdiction.

Please do not respond to this automatically generated message.

Thank you for contacting the Hotline with your concerns.

It is very disheartening to me that so many families are being put at risk because of possible bureaucratic red tape. Hopefully, I will have more substantial answers in the near future.

As I continue this series I would welcome any comments or feedback on this subject.

Although the current recession has been hard for most Americans, it’s been especially hard for those who are already living below the poverty level.

Even with all of the new government programs such as H.U.D.’s Homeless Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program (HPRP) that are intended to help the poor, many families are still falling through the cracks of the system and facing homelessness for the first time in their life.

Dateline NBC broadcast a special report July 25, 2010 that featured several families in Ohio that have been struggling to keep afloat in the faltering economy there. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/38382773/ns/dateline_nbc-america_now

Jack Frech is Director of Job and Family Services for Ohio’s Athens County and he told Ann Curry in an interview, “It may not be what we expect, but it’s what we accept. You know, all kind of arrangements are being made out there because people can’t afford decent housing on their own. What’s happening is families are doubling and tripling up in their housing, bringing their children and their grandchildren in.”

Ann Curry and her team spent only nine months in Ohio and witnessed men and women struggling to feed their families, children sleeping in basements and infants living in cars – conditions we’ve come to expect in other, less privileged nations.

Ann said, “If you think these are rare, isolated parts of 21st century American life, consider this: Poverty in America increased by at least 2.5 million people in the Great Recession and is reaching its highest level in nearly two decades.”

According to her report a new Duke University study was commissioned and published by the Madison Ave based Foundation for Child Development. It projects that, by the end of this year, nearly 22 percent of American children will be living in poverty – that’s an increase of nearly five percent in the last four years.

I have seen the same effects locally as well. Homeless shelters here have reported as much as a 30% increase of people needing their services.

I recently was given the opportunity to lead chapel services at a local shelter where they allow people with low income to receive free food and clothing. The chapel was filled to overflowing capacity. Not because they were interested in what I had to say of course, but because they needed food and clothes for their children.

Most of the people who arrived at the shelter are honest, hard working people that just can’t find work or have jobs that only pay minimum wage. Not nearly enough to pay rent, utilities, and other daily essentials.

I began to wonder why these people couldn’t get help with so many programs and resources available to them. It took me quite a while to find any local information about this but I finally found some interesting statistics.

As of July 2010 there were over 1000 households who applied for HPRP but only 68 have been served.  Out of 937 applicants, 372 did not meet the entry criteria, 214 are on a waiting list, and 286 met the criteria but not on a waiting list because of low points, and 65 were denied.

Many households are denied assistance because they do not have sustainable income. Although according to HUD’s web site it states that, “providing proof of income or the ability to sustain housing when HPRP assistance ends is not an eligibility requirement for HPRP.”

Below are the requirements set forth by HUD to determine if someone is eligible for HPRP:

The first step in any HPRP program is determining if a household applying for HPRP assistance is eligible to receive assistance under HPRP. In order to receive HPRP-funded Financial Assistance and/or Housing Relocation and Stabilization Services, households must meet at least the following minimum criteria:

1. Initial Consultation & Eligibility Determination: the household must receive at least an initial consultation and eligibility assessment with a case manager or other authorized representative who can determine eligibility and the appropriate type of assistance needed;

2. Income: the household’s total income must be at or below 50 percent of Area Median Income (AMI) (details on determining AMI and documenting income are provided later in the document);

3. Housing Status: the household must be either homeless (to receive rapid re-housing assistance) OR at risk of losing its housing (to receive homelessness prevention assistance);

AND must meet the following circumstances:   a) No appropriate subsequent housing options have been identified;  b)The household lacks the financial resources to obtain immediate housing or remain in its existing housing; and  c)The household lacks support networks needed to obtain immediate housing or remain in its existing housing.

The criteria listed above are the minimum criteria set forth by HUD to determine eligibility for HPRP. HUD encourages grantees to examine local need to determine if additional risk factors or other determinants should be used to determine eligibility.

Here is a more detailed discussion on the Eligible Participants (Clients) from the HUD web site FAQs page:

Is an applicant required to have an income to be eligible for HPRP assistance? In the Program Notice, HUD emphasizes that HPRP assistance is temporary, and as a result, applicants should be able to maintain their housing once HPRP assistance ends.

The HPRP Notice states that the intent of these Recovery Act funds is to assist those persons who are most likely to be able to sustain housing on their own after HPRP assistance ends. However, providing proof of income or the ability to sustain housing when HPRP assistance ends is not an eligibility requirement for HPRP. Because HPRP is temporary in nature, grantees and subgrantees may consider the expected ability of the program participant to achieve and maintain stable housing (unsubsidized or subsidized) once the assistance ends. However, there are many different paths to stability. Just because an applicant does not have income at the time of application does not mean he/she will not be able to achieve stability during the term of assistance (particularly if the applicant has a stable employment history and marketable job skills but was recently laid off).

HUD cautions grantees against creating barriers for persons in need of this assistance, or putting in place criteria that are so strict that they cannot find households to serve. Instead, case managers should be fully assessing each client’s situation (housing history, employment history/prospects, financial situation, etc.) and establishing a service plan that will help them become stabilized during the term of assistance.

Additionally, it is important to remember that who is served under HPRP will depend on a number of local factors, including how much funding the grantee has allocated towards services, as well as other programs available in the community to help those that have significant barriers and need long term, intensive support. In other words, while the goal of HPRP is to serve households that are “most in need of temporary assistance, and yet likely to achieve stable housing,” stability is not an eligibility criteria and grantees should not reject applicants based on an arbitrary indicator they are equating with stability (e.g., income at the time of application).

http://www.hudhre.info/index.cfm?do=viewFaqById&topicID=102&subTopicID=121&faqid=869#detail

I found that the problem getting approved for HPRP is not just a local problem. Below are comments posted on a forum about HPRP:

http://unemployed-friends.forumotion.com/foreclosure-housing-rentals-f59/has-anyone-on-the-forum-been-helped-by-that-federal-homelessness-prevention-and-rapid-re-housing-program-t8725.htm?vote=viewresult

Here in Los Angeles it is adminstered by Legal Aid through the Los Angeles Housing Department, and it is virtually impossible to get assistance through them, if you don’t have proof of sustainability. Even then, it’s an iffy proposition even if you’re being evicted, because of the way they are administering the program. IF they deign to assist you, once you prove you can sustain. They also tell you that the landlord has to be willing to accept the assistance, blah blah. In other words, you have to have a job or the abillity to show future ongoing income to get assistance. What’s so messed up is that the program is designed to prevent homelessness, but they act as if it is their money and they are God dispensing salvation to the elect. Now I ask you, what’s the point of the program, because, so far, I’m on the verge of homelessness, yet the program is inaccessible to me because I have no income.

I live in Florida and am trying to see if i can get help from this program, I have an appointment scheduled for June 9th (which was the soonest they had) But i have also heard the same as YDS posted that if you can not prove to them that you will be able to take care of your rent after they assist you they will not help you. Well Geez if i had a job i probably would not need there assistance.

Personally, I look hard and wide for such help before I was forced to go homeless. It wasn’t there for me, due to just some details of “qualification” — which actually increased the frustration and exasperation of “falling through the safety net” that others enjoy.

I became homeless in April 2010 …my last unemployment check was March 2010…every agency I went to ask me the same stupid question ….If we help you today how can you pay for next month; my answer will be I dont (sic) know I am just worried about this month situation…their (sic) answer will be sorry but we cannot help you then.

So why do sub-grantees sometimes insist that in order to meet the criteria the applicant must have sustainable income? Common sense tells us that if someone had sustainable income they probably wouldn’t be seeking assistance.

I have written letters and emails to several government officials about this but as of this writing I have not gotten a response from any of them. In theory, the HPRP program should drastically reduce the number of households that are facing homelessness. Hopefully, in the weeks ahead I will receive a response from someone who can come up with a solution.