Posts Tagged ‘HPRP’

NBC’s Rock Center with Brian Williams will be airing an interview with Ann Curry Thursday, Nov. 29th that deals with a family of five from Johnson City, Tenn., that despite their homelessness, they are still a working family. There is now a growing number of working families who have become homeless in the wake of the current economic crisis.

Too many people are still holding onto the stereotyped homeless populations; that homeless people are either lazy or drug addicts, alcoholics, or have some type of mental problem. Although these make up a small percentage of the homeless community, there are literally hundreds of thousands of people, many of them hard working families, who are homeless as well.

The number of people in homeless families living in suburban and rural areas rose nearly 60 percent during the Great Recession, according to figures from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). More than one million school-aged children are now homeless, according to the Department of Education.  And it’s more likely today that your own children are sharing a classroom with a few homeless children. (And possibly joining other classmates in making fun of them)

Many of these employed homeless have worked hard to pursue the American dream. They have college degrees. They worked to build their savings just like they were taught. But when you combine student loan debt with medical bills (Even with the health insurance from work) , a family’s debt can very easily grow into a mountain.

Many families live paycheck to paycheck and still do not have enough to cover their monthly expenses.  They become behind on their rent, and even if they downsize to a smaller apartment in a bad neighborhood they still might not be able to afford rent.

Advocates say there are not enough shelters for the nation’s new wave of homeless families and many shelters separate men, women and children because of security reasons.

Shaun Donovan, the secretary of HUD, said that shelters must begin to use their funding differently to accommodate the rise in homeless families. But at the same time he acknowledged that family-friendly shelters are under-funded.

How many of us are one bad injury or a paycheck away from being homeless?

If you end up in the hospital, you are not earning any money. And if you work and are fortunate enough to have health insurance, you will still most likely have an out of pocket deductible and co-pays. A minimum wage job only pays $290 a week. (Hardly enough to pay for a decent apartment and keep up with medical bills, let alone purchase a house)

I remember when I was homeless for a time and lived in my van because my job at the time didn’t pay enough for me to afford rent. I used a relative’s shower every morning before I went to work. The large church that I was involved with at the time generously offered to let me sleep in a storage closet during the winter. (Do you sense the sarcasm?)

Let’s face it-we live in a very greedy world that refuses to be our brother’s keeper. When I think about all of the wealth available to many of the mega churches in this country that could easily meet the needs of the less fortunate in their communities, I feel like I could walk through those churches and turn over their pews, whipping anyone who tried to stop me.

Unfortunately, I don’t think even such a drastic act would accomplish much more than getting me a room without a view in the local jail.

Even though it’s so easy to blame “the other guy” for the ills of the world, the solution should be directed at myself- What can I do to help? It may not seem like a lot, but I can help the homeless community by donating my time and finances to organizations that minister to the needs of the homeless community. And I can minister one on one to those who are homeless when God gives me the opportunity.

Isn’t that what being a godly person is all about anyway?

Ways to help:

http://www.endhomelessness.org/

http://www.usich.gov/

http://www.familyhomelessness.org/

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In October of 2003, a cross-section of stakeholders from Nebraska attended a Federal Policy Academy in Denver, CO. The Policy Academy was one of several in which all States eventually participated. The purpose of the Academy was to assist States in developing “10-Year Plans to End Chronic Homelessness.” Nebraska’s resulting 10-Year Plan was titled “Nebraska’s 10-Year Plan for Increasing Access to Mainstream Services for Persons Experiencing Chronic Homelessness.”

Nebraska’s 10-Year Plan was unveiled in 2004 and was formally adopted by the governor-appointed Nebraska Commission on Housing and Homelessness. To ensured sustained and continued implementation of the 10-Year Plan, the Commission created a standing committee titled the “Ad Hoc Committee on Ending Chronic Homelessness.” The Ad Hoc Committee’s membership includes State inter-agency personnel, nonprofit housing and homelessness prevention service providers, and representatives of various consumer demographics. The Ad Hoc Committee serves as a State level version of the United States Inter-agency Council on Homelessness.

During 2010, the Nebraska Plan was revised to include five overall objectives. The Plan’s revised title is now “Completing the Journey: Nebraska’s Action Plan for People Experiencing Chronic Homelessness.” The Plan includes implementation objectives for the period beginning January 1, 2011 and ending June 30, 2012.

Chronic Homelessness

According to Homeless Emergency and Rapid Transition to Housing Act of 2009, the Federal definition of chronic homelessness is: “Individuals or families headed by an individual with any of the following: diagnosable substance use disorder; serious mental illness; developmental disability; post-traumatic stress disorder; chronic physical illness or disability; and/or co-occurrence of two or more disabilities.”

The Nebraska Ad Hoc Committee on Ending Chronic Homelessness believes that the path to ending chronic homelessness starts where people are at risk of being homeless and involves meeting people where they are with a place for supports and connections to occur.

http://dhhs.ne.gov/children_family_services/Pages/fia_nhap_nhapplan.aspx

From under a bridge to a home

Homeless for years, Mark Rettele lived in the most improbable places; His usual habitation was under the bridge near 36th and L. During that terrible winter of 2009-10 his friends had fled, leaving Rettele alone to survive on that concrete ledge through the snow and the cold. His way of life was getting old. And so was he.

Rettele is one of the “chronically homeless” — people who typically have a disability, an addiction or both and have been continuously homeless for more than a year.

Their needs and society’s cost have propelled a national push called “Housing First” that offers permanent supportive housing — apartments or assisted living with case management — to chronically homeless people without first requiring that they get sober, get healthy or have jobs. It reflects a thrust by the government to get chronically homeless people off the streets and, some skeptics point out, off homeless census counts.

Proponents say it can save lives and money. One recent study of formerly homeless alcoholics in Seattle reported a $30,000-per-person savings a year. Omaha’s Housing First was launched in October 2010. That’s when the city joined others in a campaign called 100,000 Homes, named after its goal of housing 100,000 people nationwide.

The campaign gives priority to the most medically fragile, and so an Omaha team works off a list built after a massive census of the homeless. Outreach workers canvass known hangouts or sleep spots for the homeless and try to find and keep up with those on their list. They try to persuade them to agree to housing, and then find a place for them to stay.

The team in 2010 surveyed 908 homeless people, identifying 520 as vulnerable under a measure that takes into account emergency room visits, presence of chronic disease, addiction, mental illness and occurrence of frostbite. Of those 520, 120 have been placed into housing in Omaha. Local advocates plan to analyze costs, but the Metro Area Continuum of Care for the Homeless couldn’t immediately say how much it had spent to get these 120 people housed.

They expect a savings, given national research shows that vulnerable people, once housed, are less likely to wind up in emergency room care or in jail. And their research indicates that reduced jail and ER time would save money. In 2008, the continuum looked at the costs of a one-night stay in an emergency shelter ($12.54), hospital emergency room ($2,156) and jail ($82 plus $179 for arrest costs).

Under the 100,000 Homes program, those housed get their own apartments; in some cases they go to assisted living with roommates. They also get caseworkers who visit regularly and offer support geared to make that housing stick.

What it takes to house the chronic homeless 

Heartland Family Service is paying Mark Rettele $500 monthly rent and utilities. It also has provided caseworker Lisa Rice, who estimates that she has spent more than 20 hours in the past three months on Rettele’s needs and about 20 hours before that trying to persuade Rettele to trade bridge life for an apartment. (And he’s one of her lowest-needs clients)

Rice met Rettele during that Housing First homeless census. At the time he wasn’t found vulnerable enough to immediately qualify for an apartment. But Rice kept her eye out for him during countless hours in South Omaha looking for other clients and trying to encourage more chronically homeless people to come inside.

For nearly a year he stayed off her radar — in part because of three hospital emergency room visits and five jail stints for misdemeanors ranging from having an open container to trespassing.

Then, in August she ran into him and updated his profile. He was back under the bridge. Turns out, that after his hospital stays, he qualified for housing. What surprised Rice was that he had registered for class at Metropolitan Community College.

Rettele trusted Rice and the two spent hours in her car driving around South Omaha looking for an apartment. The place had to comply with Heartland’s requirements of affordability — rent plus utilities couldn’t exceed $600 — and it had to have a landlord willing to take a chance on someone like Rettele with no job, no recent record of renting and a criminal record laden with misdemeanors.

They finally found a willing landlord and an affordable apartment in November and Rettele moved in with nothing more than some clothes. So a homeless resource team in Omaha provided a move-in kit that included trash cans, cleaning supplies, pots, pans and dishes and some other basics.

It’s a nice story, but there’s a tough reality of housing long-time homeless people with addictions, mental illnesses and other problems.

Mike Saklar runs the 340-bed Siena-Francis House in north downtown. Del Bomberger runs the Stephen Center in South Omaha.

Both shelters deal with really difficult cases that need the most support. Even when a chronically homeless person lives on the street, they tend to come back to the shelters for motivation, moral support, meals and pantries.

Homeless services here, as elsewhere, rely on government grants and private donations. One major federal grant has increased overall funding for Omaha from $209,000 in 2009 to $360,000 this fiscal year. But the emergency shelter portion is now capped at 60 percent. At least 40 percent of the formerly Emergency Shelter Grant, now called Emergency Solutions, must go to other long-term housing strategies.

Saklar and Bomberger have plans of their own to add “permanent housing” to their emergency shelter campuses. Siena-Francis House is building 48 efficiency-style apartments; Stephen Center has plans for a complex to house 14 families and 40 single people. The Open Door Mission in east Omaha opened 42 two- and three-bedroom apartments.

Saklar said his staff has had to retrieve formerly homeless people from off-site apartments because conditions became too unsafe. He said the apartments he’s building on campus will help his staff keep better tabs on their homeless clients.

Saklar said his shelter calls 911 at least once a day for what is often a seizure or heart problem.

“A lot of homeless people need 24-hour care,” Saklar said. “We see lots of people who have head trauma, heart problems, and they need medical care. You have to ensure they’re taking their meds daily. If someone like that is placed in off-site apartments, how do you do that?”

But proponents of Housing First say the alternative leaves some of society’s most vulnerable to street life, which is dangerous and expensive.

The 2009 Seattle study found that it was twice as costly to do nothing than to provide free housing to the homeless. Over the course of a year, participants in the Seattle Housing First program reduced their total costs by more than $4 million, compared with the year before they enrolled, according to results published in the April 2009 Journal of the American Medical Association. That amounted to a savings of nearly $30,000 a year per person when Housing First costs were considered.

In other words, it’s all about saving money. In the year they were on the streets, this population of homeless people with jail and hospital time racked up costs of about $43,000 apiece. But when fully paid apartments and on-site social services were factored in, costs dropped to about $13,000 per year per person.

What about families?

The U.S. Conference of Mayors 2010 Status Report on Hunger & Homelessness in American Cities in their annual assessment of 26 American cities tallied a 9 percent overall increase in the number of homeless families between September 1, 2009 and August 31, 2010. Fifty-eight percent of the cities analyzed showed an increase in family homelessness.

Based on this survey, on an average night, 1,105 family members are on the streets, 10,926 find refuge in an emergency shelter, and 15,255 stay in transitional homes. Trapped in this deteriorating economy, low-income families find themselves stuck in financial sinking sand and, although they have work, they must move out of their homes, and onto the streets because of low wages.

Of the 1.6 million children who are homeless each year in America, 42% are under age 6. Spending their critical early years in unstable housing, unhealthy environments, and chronic stress poses serious risks to a young child’s healthy development.

These are families that have lost their homes and don’t have the credit rating to get into another apartment and don’t have the savings to afford first- and last-month rent payments. Seventy-nine percent of the households with children accounted for in the U.S. Conference of Mayors Report claimed that the main cause was unemployment, and 72 percent declared lack of affordable housing. Homeless shelters will soon become overcrowded as more families are losing their homes. These are working families. They just don’t have the resources to put a roof over their head.

Families experiencing homelessness are under considerable stress. They move frequently and many are doubled-up in overcrowded apartments with relatives or friends. Others sleep in cars or send their children to stay with relatives to avoid shelter life. Once in shelter, families must quickly adjust to overcrowded, difficult, and uncomfortable circumstances. Despite the efforts of dedicated staff, many shelters are noisy, chaotic, and lack privacy. Homelessness increases the likelihood that families will separate or dissolve, which may compound the stress the family feels.

http://www.familyhomelessness.org/media/306.pdf

And yet so many the resources that are spent on the chronic homeless overlook families that are left to fend for themselves. On February 17, 2009, President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which includes $1.5 billion for a Homelessness Prevention Fund. Funding for this program included the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program (HPRP) that was designed to assist families facing homelessness.

HPRP ELIGIBILITY REQUIREMENTS

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.

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.  But HUD encourages grantees to examine local needs to determine if additional risk factors or other determinants should be used to determine eligibility.

Because HUD encourages grantees to use additional factors to determine eligibility, many families may not get assistance; even though they meet all of HUD’s requirements.

Living independently can be a lot harder for chronic homeless

Apartment life doesn’t last long for some accustomed to life on the street. A man similar to Mark Rettele was placed in an apartment that was a quick walk from a liquor store. The man resumed drinking and while taking a shower, he passed out in the tub. A building manager found him and called 911. So the caseworker came up with a different plan: an assisted-living center where drinking is not allowed. The man now has a roommate, eats community meals and is trying to stay sober. But just last month a reporter driving downtown on Leavenworth Street spotted him outside slumped on the sidewalk, and leaning against a building.

I have personally witnessed this same type of behavior in friends and family members who struggle with addiction. Some my wife and I have taken into our home when they were facing homelessness. Sadly, in most cases, the addict will return to the street rather than get sober.

Some of the chronic homeless helped by the 100,000 Homes program may try to change but it won’t be easy. In the three months that Mark Rettele has lived at his apartment on South 25th Street, he has endured a near-eviction and a break-in. Many longtime homeless people such as Rettele, who built friendships on the streets, want to help their friends and invite them in. But in Rettele’s case, Rice said, she had to tell him it was either keep your apartment to yourself or go join your friends on the street. Rettele is working on that problem. He told his friends, “You have to leave.” Rettele said.  “I’m not here to take care of everyone.”

I only wish that more families could get assistance from programs like HPRP and the 100,000 Homes program, but I guess it only proves that the squeaky wheel really does get the grease. Because while the chronic homeless may be the most visible and have the greatest impact on downtown businesses and services; the homeless families have become invisible – and yet you see them every day – in the grocery store; at the gas station; and at your children’s school.

For more information about homeless families visit http://www.familyhomelessness.org/

(Some of the information reprinted with permission from WORLD-HERALD STAFF WRITER Erin Grace) http://www.omaha.com/article/20120213/NEWS01/702139945

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

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

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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.