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USICH Releases 2015 Amendment to Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness

July 1, 2015 Comments off

USICH Releases 2015 Amendment to Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness
Source: U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH)

The U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH), along with its 19 member agencies, announced today the release of an amendment to Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness.

Originally released on this day in 2010, Opening Doors is the nation’s first comprehensive Federal strategic plan to prevent and end homelessness. The Plan provides a roadmap for coordinated, joint action among the 19 USICH member agencies in conjunction with local and state partners.

Since the launch of Opening Doors five years ago, the trajectory of homelessness in America has changed dramatically. According to the 2014 Point-in-Time count, overall homelessness has declined nationwide by 10 percent since 2010. Homelessness among families with children has decreased 15 percent. The number of individuals experiencing chronic homelessness has fallen by 21 percent, and homelessness among Veterans has fallen by 33 percent. We also have more knowledge than ever about the unique circumstances facing youth experiencing homelessness.

This progress demonstrates that Opening Doors is the right plan with the right strategies for ending homelessness. The amendment reaffirms the core elements of the original Plan and adds new strategies that reflect lessons learned since 2010, ensuring that Opening Doors serves as a living blueprint with the latest knowledge and best practices to prevent and end homelessness.

California’s New Vagrancy Laws: The Growing Enactment and Enforcement of Anti-Homeless Laws in the Golden State

April 7, 2015 Comments off

California’s New Vagrancy Laws: The Growing Enactment and Enforcement of Anti-Homeless Laws in the Golden State
Source: Social Science Research Network

Vagrancy laws conjure up a distant past when authorities punished people without a home or permanent residence. Whether the objects of pity or scorn, vagrants could be cited or jailed under laws selectively enforced against anyone deemed undesirable. Although such laws have generally been struck down by courts as unconstitutionally vague, today’s “vagrants” are homeless people, who face growing harassment and punishment for their presence in public.

More than one in five homeless people in the country lives in California, and two-thirds are unsheltered. The state legislature has done little to respond to this widespread problem, forcing municipal governments to address homelessness with local laws and resources. Cities have responded by enacting and enforcing new vagrancy laws — a wide range of municipal codes that target or disproportionately impact homeless people.

Through extensive archival research and case studies of several cities, the report presents detailed evidence of the growing enactment and enforcement of municipal anti-homeless laws in recent decades as cities engage in a race to the bottom to push out homeless people. It concludes with a call for a state-level solution to end the expensive and inhumane treatment of some of California’s most vulnerable residents.

No Safe Place: The Criminalization of Homelessness in U.S. Cities

March 17, 2015 Comments off

No Safe Place: The Criminalization of Homelessness in U.S. Cities (PDF)
Source: National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty

Homelessness continues to be a national crisis, affecting millions of people each year, including a rising number of families. Homeless people, like all people, must engage in activities such as sleeping or sitting down in order to survive. Yet, in communities across the nation, these harmless, unavoidable behaviors are treated as criminal activity under laws that criminalize homelessness.

This report provides an overview of criminalization measures in effect across the nation and looks at trends in the criminalization of homelessness, based on an analysis of the laws in 187 cities that the Law Center has tracked since 2009. The report further describes why these laws are ineffective in addressing the underlying causes of homelessness, how they are expensive to taxpayers, and how they often violate homeless persons’ constitutional and human rights. Finally, we offer constructive alternatives to criminalization, making recommendations to federal, state, and local governments on how to best address the problem of visible homelessness in a sensible, humane, and legal way

See also: No Safe Place Advocacy Manual (PDF)

Expanding Early Care and Education for Homeless Children

March 4, 2015 Comments off

Expanding Early Care and Education for Homeless Children
Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children & Families

Ensuring the early learning and development of our country’s youngest children is essential to ACF’s work. Supporting the well-being of these young children and their families is an urgent task and one that is critical to improving the long-term educational outcomes of children nationwide.

Several federal policies and programs are in place to strengthen the ability of early care and education (ECE) providers to serve young children experiencing homelessness. Whether you are in a Head Start program, early childhood program, or work at the state level on early childhood systems and services, the resources listed below will assist you in ensuring that these young children are prioritized for services that support their learning and development.

  • The Early Childhood Self-Assessment Tool for Family Shelters is specifically designed to guide family shelter staff as they create a safe and developmentally appropriate environment for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers.
  • The Guide to Developmental and Behavioral Screening for housing and shelter providers addresses the importance of developmental and behavioral screening, how to talk to parents, where to go for help, and how to select the most appropriate screening tool for the population served as well as the provider implementing the screening.
  • The Early Childhood and Family Homelessness Resource List contains ACF resources and links to national organizations working to end homelessness.

15 Minutes to Leave: Denial of the Right to Adequate Housing in Post-Quake Haiti

March 2, 2015 Comments off

15 Minutes to Leave: Denial of the Right to Adequate Housing in Post-Quake Haiti
Source: Amnesty International

Five years on from a devastating earthquake in Haiti, tens of thousands of people remain homeless as government policy failures, forced evictions and short-term solutions have failed many who lost everything in the disaster.

The new report, “15 Minutes to Leave” – Denial of the Right to Adequate Housing in Post-Quake Haiti, documents worrying cases of people being forcibly evicted from temporary, make-shift camps. The report also explores how the influx of development aid that came in the wake of the disaster failed to be transformed into long-term, secure housing solutions.

According to the latest data, 123 camps for internally displaced people (IDPs) remain open in Haiti, housing 85,432 people. While the number of those in camps has reduced significantly since 2010, more than 22,000 households are still without adequate housing.

Conditions in many IDP camps are dire. A third of all those living in camps do not have access to a latrine. On average 82 people share one toilet.

Forced evictions from camps are a serious and ongoing problem. More than 60,000 people have been forcibly evicted from their shelters in makeshift camps since 2010. The vast majority were not offered any alternative locations where they could resettle, pushing them again into poverty and insecurity.

Audit of VHA’s National Call Center for Homeless Veterans

February 5, 2015 Comments off

Audit of VHA’s National Call Center for Homeless Veterans (PDF)
Source: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Inspector General

Veterans Health Administration’s (VHA) National Call Center for Homeless Veterans (the Call Center) is VA’s primary vehicle for communicating the availability of VA homeless programs and services to veterans and community providers. OIG has assessed the effectiveness of the National Call Center for Homeless Veterans in helping veterans obtain needed homeless services.

We determined that Homeless and at-risk veterans (Homeless Veterans) who contacted the Call Center often experienced problems either accessing a counselor and/or receiving a referral after completing the Call Center’s intake process. Of the estimated 79,500 Homeless Veterans who contacted the Call Center in fiscal year (FY) 2013: Just under 21,200 (27 percent) could only leave messages on an answering machine—counselors were unavailable to take calls; almost 13,000 (16 percent) could not be referred to VA medical facilities—their messages were inaudible or lacked contact information; and approximately 3,300 (4 percent) were not referred to VA medical facilities, despite having provided all the necessary information.

Referred Homeless Veterans did not always receive the services needed because the Call Center did not follow up on referrals to medical facilities. Of the approximately 51,500 referrals made in FY 2013, the Call Center provided no feedback or improvements to ensure the quality of the homeless services. We noted that 85 percent of the 60 veterans’ records we reviewed lacked documentation to prove the veterans had received needed support services.

Finally, the Call Center closed just under 24,200 (47 percent) referrals even though the VA medical facilities had not provided the Homeless Veterans any support services. In total, we identified 40,500 missed opportunities where the Call Center either did not refer the Homeless Veterans’ calls to medical facilities or it closed referrals without ensuring Homeless Veterans had received needed services from VA medical facilities.

We recommended the Interim Under Secretary for Health stop the use of the answering machine, implement effective Call Center performance metrics to ensure Homeless Veterans receive needed services, and establish controls to ensure the proper use of Call Center special purpose funds. The Interim Under Secretary for Health concurred with our recommendations and provided responsive action plans. We will follow up on these actions.

New Report: The Criminalization of Food-Sharing Practices

November 19, 2014 Comments off

New Report: The Criminalization of Food-Sharing Practices
Source: National Coalition for the Homeless

On Tuesday, October 21, Fort Lauderdale Commissioners will vote on a proposed ordinance that will severely limit the capabilities of groups to distribute food to people experiencing homelessness. According to our research, over 30 American cities that have tried to introduce similar legislation in the past two years.

The new report, Share No More: The Criminalization of Efforts to Feed People In Need, documents the recent known cases of food-sharing restrictions throughout the country. Since January 2013, 21 cities have successfully restricted the practice of sharing food with people who are experiencing homelessness while at least ten others have introduced ordinances that are pending approval.

These restrictions primarily come about in three different forms; the first is by restricting the use of public property. In this scenario, individuals and organizations are generally required to obtain a permit, often for a fee, to share food in a park or in another public space. 12 cities have recently passed legislation that imposes this type of restriction.

The second type of legislative restriction is to require groups to comply with city/county/state food-safety regulations. Since January 2013, four cities have passed legislation that required individuals and organizations to comply with their food-safety regulations when sharing food with people experiencing homelessness.

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