Homelessness in the US

  • How America counts its homeless – and why so many are overlooked, By Alastair Gee, Liz Barney and Julia O’Malley, February 16, 2017, The Guardian: “They dressed in several layers of clothing or donned old hats. They carried blankets and cardboard boxes. It was approaching midnight in New York one night in March 2005, and recruits who had been paid $100 each to pretend to be homeless were fanning out across the city.  There were 58 sites dotted throughout the metropolis. Pseudo-homeless people arrived at subway stations in Manhattan, back alleys in Staten Island and Queens, the front steps of a church in the Bronx. Then they waited to see if anyone noticed them…”
  • Doctors could prescribe houses to the homeless under radical Hawaii bill, By Liz Barney, February 28, 2017, The Guardian: “One day last month, Stephen Williams asked a passerby for help and then collapsed on the sidewalk. When the ambulance arrived in downtown Honolulu, his temperature was well over 104F.  A life-threatening staph infection had entered his bloodstream. Williams, who lives on the dusty streets of Chinatown, spent seven days hooked to an IV, treatment that can cost $40,000, according to the hospital that admitted him. But Williams didn’t pay: the bill was covered by government dollars in the form of Medicaid. Over the past four years, he has been to the hospital for infections 21 times, he said, a consequence of psoriasis flare-ups in a humid climate and unsanitary conditions…”
  • $3 million sought for Housing First effort, By Dan Nakaso, March 1, 2017, Honolulu Star Advertiser: “Three years after homeless people on Oahu were first placed into market-rate, Housing First rental units, the state wants to add another $3 million to expand the concept to Kauai, Maui and Hawaii island starting in April.  Under the program, imported from mainland communities, landlords are assured of rent and a social service contact to call to address any problems with their tenants, who may be dealing with various issues that could include mental illness and substance abuse…”

Homelessness in Seattle, WA

  • Seattle may try San Francisco’s ‘radical hospitality’ for homeless, By Daniel Beekman, June 11, 2016, Seattle Times: “Denise and Michael were relaxing on a sunny Friday afternoon.  She sat on their bed in pajamas, folding laundry, while he roughhoused with their friend’s pit bull. Soul standards were blaring from a boombox.  There was something homey about the scene, even though the couple were homeless. Denise and Michael were inside San Francisco’s Navigation Center, an experimental shelter where guests come and go as they please and where pets, partners and possessions are welcome…”
  • Houston’s solution to the homeless crisis: Housing — and lots of it, By Daniel Beekman, June 13, 2016, Seattle Times: “Anthony Humphrey slept on the pavement outside a downtown Houston drop-in center. Except when a Gulf Coast rainstorm slammed the city — then he took cover under a storefront awning or below Interstate 45.  He had no driver’s license, no Social Security card, almost no hope. That was in 2014. This month, Humphrey will celebrate a year in his apartment…”

Housing First – Washington, DC

Women in D.C. housing-first units concentrate on their futures, By Julie Zauzmer, November 15, 2015, Washington Post: “For the first time in her tumultuous 22 years, Kortney Parkey has an apartment of her own.  Like anyone with a new home, Parkey is happy to give a visitor the grand tour. She shows off the ample closet space, the newly renovated kitchen and bathroom, the pretty patterned bedspread and the place mats on the table that match the blue doors.   But there’s so much more to this apartment that Parkey can’t point to. That here, at last, she is out from under the thumb of a crooked boss, a dishonest landlord, an abusive man. That she can shut her own door, an impossible luxury in the homeless shelters that have been her home more often than not for the past two years. That this place gives her a foothold to keep her job and improve her health…”

Veteran Homelessness and Unemployment

An end to jobless vets? New VA job program raises hopes, By Gretel Kauffman, June 28, 2015, Christian Science Monitor: “The US Department of Veteran Affairs has launched a new program which offers individualized assistance to the roughly 50,000 unemployed veterans living on the street. Through the Homeless Veterans Community Employment Services program, more than 150 community employment coordinators (CECs) will help veterans at VA locations across the country by identifying those who are job-ready and establishing relationships with community employers who may be able to find them jobs. The coordinators will also connect veterans with resources to help them succeed in their jobs once they find employment…”

Housing First – Utah

The surprisingly simple way Utah solved chronic homelessness and saved millions, By Terrence McCoy, April 17, 2015, Washington Post: “The story of how Utah solved chronic homelessness begins in 2003, inside a cavernous Las Vegas banquet hall populated by droves of suits. The problem at hand was seemingly intractable. The number of chronic homeless had surged since the early 1970s. And related costs were soaring. A University of Pennsylvania study had just showed New York City was dropping a staggering $40,500 in annual costs on every homeless person with mental problems, who account for many of the chronically homeless. So that day, as officials spit-balled ideas, a social researcher named Sam Tsemberis stood to deliver what he framed as a surprisingly simple, cost-effective method of ending chronic homelessness.  Give homes to the homeless…”

Housing First – Wyoming

Casper officials tout early successes of year-old Housing First program, By Tom Dixon, March 10, 2015, Casper Star-Tribune: “Samantha Ludvigson often leaves food outside her house for people who live on the streets. Last fall, she cooked Thanksgiving dinner and invited homeless people to her Casper residence to eat.  Ludvigson does what she can for them because she knows what it’s like. Until a year ago, she was homeless, too.  Ludvigson was the first person selected for a pilot program started by Casper Housing Authority in March 2014. It’s called Housing First, and the idea is to shelter people before tackling the underlying issues that lead to homelessness, such as substance abuse and mental illness.  Proponents say the program will help reduce a growing problem in Casper and save taxpayer money…”

Housing First

“Housing first” approach works for homeless, study says, By Fredrick Kunkle, March 4, 2015, Washington Post: “A new Canadian study lends backing for a commonsense approach to moving people off the street that has been used in the District and other U.S. cities since the 1990s: Ensure that the homeless receive permanent shelter first, and their chances of achieving stability will increase.  Known as the ‘housing first’ approach, the program offers social support as well. But it emphasizes finding secure shelter in the community first, in contrast to homeless programs that insist on preconditions such as sobriety or psychiatric care and moving through transitional housing.

Chronic Homelessness – Utah

Will Utah end chronic homelessness in 2015?, By Christopher Smart, October 18, 2014, Salt Lake Tribune: “When Joseph Hardy and his three siblings were young, his mother took them from his polygamist father and bolted. They spent the next decade on the run — camping in the summers, crashing with friends when they could, and grabbing an inexpensive rental when the money held out. ‘I feel like I grew up in the back seat of a car,’ Hardy says today. At age 15, he began using methamphetamine to dull his grief and anxiety. Drug use and depression have ravaged his health, and he’s spent about 14 years of his life behind bars. But the last time he was arrested, Hardy was offered a new choice: treatment and his own apartment, with support from a caseworker to help him shape a new life…”

Homelessness and Housing First – Utah

  • Utah praised for initiative to end chronic homelessness, By Christopher Smart, October 8, 2014, Salt Lake Tribune: “Utah is making national headlines for a successful initiative to end chronic homelessness — it’s down 72 percent since 2005 — as the 11th Annual Utah Homeless Summit convenes Wednesday in Salt Lake City. The number of chronic homeless — people who have been without housing for more than a year or who have been homeless four times in three years — has dropped in the state from 1,932 in 2005 to 539 this year. But the overall number of homeless during that period has remained at about 13,600. Most of those people will find housing within a 12-month period, according to the ‘2014 Utah Comprehensive Report on Homelessness,’ released Wednesday…”
  • Affordable housing helps prevent, cures homelessness in Utah, new report says, By Marjorie Cortez, October 8, 2014, Deseret News: “Affordable housing is not only a key to preventing homelessness, it’s the cure to chronic homelessness, officials say. But Utah’s needs far outstrip the state’s ability to build affordable housing. Utah needs some 44,000 units of affordable housing statewide to keep pace with demand, according to federal and state estimates. When a segment of Utahns can’t afford housing, they’re at great risk of becoming homeless…”

Homelessness and Housing First

  • Housing is most cost-effective treatment for mental illness: study, By André Picard, April 8, 2014, The Globe and Mail: “For every $1 spent providing housing and support for a homeless person with severe mental illness, $2.17 in savings are reaped because they spend less time in hospital, in prison and in shelters. That is the most striking conclusion of a study, obtained by The Globe and Mail, that tested the so-called Housing First approach to providing social services. Beyond the cost savings, the new research shows that placing an emphasis on housing gets people off the streets and improves their physical and mental health…”
  • Study finds new approach to homelessness saves money, keeps people off street, Canadian Press, April 7, 2014, Times Colonist: “New conclusions by the Mental Health Commission of Canada suggest the ‘housing first’ approach to battling homelessness is showing real results. The report, details of which were obtained by The Canadian Press, shows more than 2,000 homeless Canadians diagnosed with mental illness have found stable housing in all regions of the country over a two-year period. The massive At Home-Chez Soi pilot project, created in 2008 following a $110-million investment from the federal government, has proven effective for people from diverse cultural backgrounds and circumstances. The study suggests it has also been cost-effective, with every $10 invested resulting in cost savings of almost $22…”

Project 50 Housing Program – Los Angeles, CA

Housing project for hard-core homeless pays off, By Alexandra Zavis, June 8, 2012, Los Angeles Times: “An ambitious program to provide permanent housing to some of Los Angeles County’s most hard-core homeless more than paid for itself, yielding a net savings of $238,700 over two years, officials said Thursday. The long-awaited findings, presented to a countywide panel on homelessness, support a growing consensus across the country that getting the most entrenched street dwellers into permanent homes and providing them the services they need to stay off the streets can save municipalities money. More than 51,000 people are homeless on any given night in the county, according to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority. About a quarter of them are considered chronically homeless, meaning they have been homeless for at least a year and suffer from a serious physical, mental or substance abuse problem…”

Chronic Homelessness – New Orleans, LA

Chronic, longtime homelessness has been nearly halved in Orleans and Jefferson parishes, By Katy Reckdahl, May 23, 2012, New Orleans Times-Picayune: “For 28 years, Miller Osbey survived with the help of a shopping cart. But for six weeks now, the massive plastic buggy has been parked inside Osbey’s living room, near the front door. Osbey, 60, patted the cart fondly as he passed it earlier this week. ‘I ain’t gonna let it go,’ he said. Less than two months ago, Osbey moved into one of 2,116 apartments in Orleans and Jefferson parishes that house homeless people with severe disabilities. The apartments aim to keep even severely impaired homeless people housed by pairing rental vouchers with intensive social services and mental health and medical services, paid for by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the Housing Authority of New Orleans and various state agencies. A separate federal program provides similar housing and services through the local Veterans Affairs hospital for homeless veterans…”

Homelessness and Housing – Texas, Florida

  • Decline in homelessness spurs effort to build long-term housing, By Renée C. Lee, May 6, 2012, Houston Chronicle: “Houston’s homeless population declined by 5 percent this year, creating a positive backdrop for a new collaborative effort aimed at moving more people off the streets and into long-term housing. The number of sheltered and unsheltered homeless dropped from 8,242 counted in January 2011, to 7,830 counted in January 2012, according to the annual tally by the Coalition for the Homeless of Houston/Fort Bend County. In addition, the number of people in permanent housing with additional services, known as permanent supportive housing, increased slightly, suggesting the concept might be a promising approach to reducing homelessness in Houston…”
  • For homeless kids, school can be a struggle, By Tasnim Shamma, May 8, 2012, Miami Herald: “Students wondering where they’re going to sleep at night may have trouble paying attention in class. In Miami-Dade County, the number of kids without a home is in the thousands and growing. The county school district counted more than 4,406 students who were homeless in the 2010-11 academic year. Eleven-year-old David Thomas and his eight siblings used to be included in those statistics…”

Homelessness – Utah

  • Utah temporary homeless numbers reach all-time high, By Brooke Adams, April 30, 2012, Salt Lake Tribune: “A statewide effort to get chronically homeless people off the streets and into supported housing continues to make progress, but officials on Mondayannounced the number of Utahns who experienced periodic homelessness reached an all-time high this winter. Volunteers and outreach workers counted 3,052 people in shelters and another 475 on the streets in the statewide Point In Time annual survey that began Jan. 26 and extended over five days to ensure as complete a tally as possible. On an annualized basis, state officials project that 16,642 people experienced an episode of homelessness between January 2011 and January 2012, an increase of 13 percent. Gordon Walker, director of the Division of Housing and Community Development, said Monday during a press conference that the increase was directly related to the weak economy and the end of a federal stimulus housing fund aimed at getting people out of shelters and into their own homes as quickly as possible…”
  • Goal of ending chronic homelessness by 2015 ‘achievable,’ advocates say, By Marjorie Cortez, April 30 2012, Deseret News: “Mike Shannon has designs on one of the first meals he will cook in his new apartment at Sunrise Metro Apartments. ‘I want a Velveeta grilled cheese sandwich and a can of tomato soup,’ Shannon said. Shannon, a Vietnam War veteran who has been living in The Road Home homeless shelter for nine months, will have a place to call his own Tuesday in a 100-unit facility that provides housing and intensive case management for people who are chronically homeless. A place of his own – a restroom he doesn’t have to share with others – represents ‘freedom’ and ‘a life’ for the 61-year-old man…”

Chronic Homelessness – Utah

  • Number of homeless in Utah keeps dropping, By Patty Henetz, May 11, 2011, Salt Lake Tribune: “Utah’s homeless population shrank by 8.2 percent between January 2010 and this January, Lt. Gov. Greg Bell and other state officials announced Wednesday. The number of chronically homeless, defined as those who have been homeless for more than a year, dropped by 26 percent. Bell attributed the drop to Utah’s Housing First Initiative, a collaboration between government, nonprofit and private agencies that has built hundreds of units in permanent supportive communities since 2005 and is planning still more…”
  • Chronic homelessness continues on a downward trend in Utah, By Wendy Leonard, May 12, 2011, Deseret News: “Chronic homelessness in Utah is quickly becoming a thing of the past. Numbers are down for the sixth straight year as the state’s Housing First initiative continues to prove itself. ‘What is surprising to me is that people are willing to give up the freedom of the streets,’ Pamela Atkinson, an well-known advocate for the homeless in Utah, said Wednesday. For years, homeless people were offered treatment for whatever ailed them and caused them to be without a home, ‘but now we know they need housing first,’ she said…”

Homeless Families and Housing – Michigan, Texas

  • Shelters try ‘housing first’ protocol to help homeless people, By Bill Laitner, December 29, 2010, Detroit Free Press: “An innovative way to help homeless people, called housing first, has dramatically shortened their stays in the South Oakland Shelter system based in Royal Oak and could make shelter programs statewide more effective, experts said. By making permanent housing the first priority at the South Oakland Shelter and addressing other needs — such as job training — later, average stays dropped from four months to 28 days since summer, Executive Director Ryan Hertz said. The organization houses an average of 30 men, women and children at a time, rotating them through 67 churches and synagogues, where volunteers set up cots and serve meals. ‘We’re turning over our beds much faster, so we can help more people,’ Hertz said. But the housing-first approach has taken more than a decade to gain wide acceptance across Michigan because it requires homeless people, shelters’ clients, to have incomes, and there must be safe housing available that they can afford, Wayne State University psychologist and homelessness expert Paul Toro said…”
  • New face of homelessness is a family, Dallas-area agencies say, By Kim Horner, January 7, 2011, Dallas Morning News: “First, they stayed with family. Then, they rented a trailer. Finally, they went to a shelter. Katrina Stephens, Alan Charles Walker and their three young children became homeless after Walker’s construction work dried up. Now, the family lives in a modest East Dallas apartment as part of Family Gateway’s transitional housing program. Stephens plans to finish school to become a medical assistant this spring. ‘We’re back on track,’ she said. The economy has taken a similar toll on thousands of families nationwide – and the numbers are rising. About 80,000 families – typically a single woman with young children – are homeless on any given night, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Families are the fastest-growing homeless population, according to Family Gateway and other local agencies…”

Homelessness and Housing First – Los Angeles, CA

  • Program seeks to aid hard-core homeless, By Alexandra Zavis, November 9, 2010, Los Angeles Times: “Prominent business leaders are putting their weight behind a plan that they say could make a major dent in homelessness in Los Angeles County, embracing a strategy that will face significant political opposition. The blueprint they plan to unveil Tuesday seeks to put a permanent roof over the heads of the most entrenched street dwellers, then provide them as much counseling and treatment as they will use. Because the chronically homeless take up a disproportionate share of resources, the plan’s authors argue that focusing on housing them will ultimately free up services for the many more people who need only temporary help to get back on their feet…”
  • Solving homelessness will require cooperation, Editorial, November 9, 2010, Los Angeles Times: “Los Angeles remains the nation’s homelessness capital, with almost 48,000 people living around the county on streets, in cars and in shelters, according to the Los Angeles Homeless Service Authority. About a fourth of them are chronically homeless, burdened in many cases by physical and mental ailments that make it hard for them to reintegrate into society. The magnitude and intractability of the problem haven’t stopped policymakers and homeless advocates from offering plan after plan for improving the situation, but none has made much of a dent in the homeless population. On Tuesday, yet another group will weigh in: the Business Leaders Task Force on Homelessness, a project organized by the local branches of the Chamber of Commerce and the United Way…”

Housing Choice Voucher Program – Baltimore, MD

Voucher program for chronically homeless loses funding, By Jessica Anderson, September 25, 2010, Baltimore Sun: “Joseph Hill proudly shows off his new home – a one-bedroom McCulloh Street apartment that is his first stable housing in 15 years. Hill, 45, who had been homeless for a third of his life, now has a place to display his collection of battered family photos and the certificates of progress marking the two years he’s been clean of drugs. But city officials and homeless advocates who hoped to duplicate Hill’s success have run into problems. Money for a voucher program that is paying the rent for Hill and nearly 400 other formerly homeless city residents has dried up. While those already enrolled in the Housing Choice Voucher program administered by the city’s Housing Authority will continue to receive benefits, the initiative is closed to new applicants…”

Family Homelessness – Washington

  • The fastest-growing group among local homeless: families, By Lornet Turnbull, August 28, 2010, Seattle Times: “On this chilly May night in the parking lot of Southcenter mall, Cherie Moore is growing anxious. She and her 17-year-old son, Cody Barnes, sit almost unmoving in the cab of their old Ford Ranger, all their belongings crammed in the back – their 32-inch flat-screen television, a prized movie collection, Cody’s video games. Moore is down to her last $6. It’s nearing 10 o’clock and it’s been hours since the two have had a meal. Mall security has been circling. Moore knows they can’t spend the night parked here, but the 49-year-old single mother, born and raised in South King County, has no clue where to go. ‘I’m mentally exhausted,’ she says. While overall homelessness in King County has steadied, it appears to be rising among families, a trend playing out across the nation. Parents with children are the fastest-growing yet least-visible segment of the homeless population, far more likely to be doubled up in the homes of friends or living in their cars than to be at a busy intersection asking for help…”
  • Refugees face homelessness all over again in U.S., By Lornet Turnbull, August 29, 2010, Seattle Times: “Every few weeks or so, the family of 10 would pack up and move yet again – the father and boys finding a bed or space on the floor with family friends in one part of King County, the mother and girls in another. Somali refugees who were first resettled in upstate New York before relocating here last fall, they shuffled between the homes of friends willing to put them up, sometimes sharing two- or three-bedroom units with the eight or 10 people who lived there. Once, the mother recounts, all 10 shared a single bedroom in a home, using each other as pillows to get through the nights. Refugee families like this one – displaced people from war-torn parts of the world – are confronting homelessness all over again in their new homeland…”
  • Gates housing-first plan doesn’t come with housing money, By Lornet Turnbull, August 29, 2010, Seattle Times: “In the late 1990s, as out-of-work Ohio residents flocked to Columbus in search of jobs, many found themselves in a new predicament: They were homeless. The support system meant to help them, much like the one now in King County, was a network of agencies, each with different rules – a labyrinth with no clear way in and no easy way out. Families making repeated calls in search of help overwhelmed the system. And when putting them up in hotels became too costly, shelters started turning families away. In response, officials in Columbus created a more streamlined system – ‘one front door,’ they called it – a one-stop center that parents and children in need could enter day or night. The Columbus approach became a national model for helping families escape homelessness, and key parts of it are being incorporated in what ultimately could be a top-to-bottom overhaul of how homeless families in three Puget Sound counties are helped…”

Chronic Homelessness and Housing First

  • Homes for the hardest of the hard-core homeless, By Christopher Goffard, August 1, 2010, Los Angeles Times: “The searchers carved skid row into quadrants and advanced in small groups, aiming flashlights into the cold. They moved between nylon tents and cardboard lean-tos in the Toy District, where junkies had stripped the streetlights and left whole blocks in darkness. They roused the human bundles scattered around the tumbledown hotels and freshly painted lofts on Main Street, wasted faces blinking into their flashlights. They looked in the eastern section called the Bottoms, around the big missions and flea traps, and around the neighborhood’s forbidding eastern edge, a zone of industrial warehouses and razor wire known as the Low Bottoms, where even now, hours before daylight, the crack trade was brisk. The searchers, a couple dozen volunteers and Los Angeles County workers, had orders: Interview everyone living on these streets. Find out how long they’ve been homeless. Ask about their addictions, their mental and physical health…”
  • Dogged efforts hit stubborn patterns of homelessness, By Christopher Goffard, August 3, 2010, Los Angeles Times: “Bobby Livingston couldn’t sleep. The indoor quiet was unnerving, the softness of his mattress all wrong. For weeks after moving into Room 216 at the Senator Hotel, he found comfort only on a hard tile floor that felt reassuringly like the pavement. Horses and dogs flitted across the ceiling of his room, but he described the visions as familiar and untroubling, like the voices in his head. Sometimes the dead visited him full-bodied – long-gone family from the red clay roads of South Carolina – and he asked Jesus why he wasn’t yet among them. To rescue the 50 people deemed most likely to die on the streets in skid row, Los Angeles County had a pragmatic plan: Give them an apartment and all the help they’d accept, requiring little in return – not sobriety, not meetings, not psychiatric drugs. Livingston and a handful of others posed the most extreme test of Project 50’s premise. Merely living among others, with a modicum of structure and social rules, was proving a steep demand, considering what accompanied the hardest cases indoors: untreated mental illness and ferociously solitary habits formed by decades in the city’s dope dens…”