Homelessness in the US

New stats boast a dip in homelessness — but they’re not the full story, By Pam Fessler, November 19, 2015, National Public Radio: “More than 560,000 people lived on the streets or in homeless shelters in the U.S. earlier this year. That number marks a 2 percent drop from the year before, according to new figures released Thursday by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.  Still, some question how accurately those numbers depict the problem. There are many ways one can count who is and isn’t homeless…”

Cities and States and the Homeless

  • Anti-panhandling laws spread, face legal challenges, By Teresa Wiltz, November 12, 2015, November 12, 2015, Stateline: “Many cities—and even some states—increasingly are cracking down on panhandling, driven in large part by the unlikely combination of thriving downtowns and the lingering effects of the Great Recession. The number of cities with outright bans on panhandling increased by 25 percent between 2011 and 2014, while the number of cities with restrictions on begging in specified public places, such as near schools or banks, rose by 20 percent, according to a report by the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty, an advocacy group…”
  • Cities, states turn to emergency declarations to tackle homeless crisis, By Rebecca Beitsch, November 11, 2015, Stateline: “Governments typically declare a state of emergency to deal with natural disasters like hurricanes and wildfires. But over the last two months, several West Coast cities and one state have used the declarations to tackle a worsening homeless crisis. Hawaii, Los Angeles, Seattle and Portland, Oregon, have all declared states of emergency, using the proclamations as a way to loosen up funds or bypass ordinances to take swifter action…”

Evictions and Homelessness – New York City

NYC to target evictions in bid to curb homelessness, By Josh Dawsey, September 28, 2015, Wall Street Journal: “As Mayor Bill de Blasio struggles to control rising homelessness in New York, the city plans to hire more lawyers to help financially stressed residents avoid eviction—especially in neighborhoods that are quickly gentrifying. By mid-2017, the city will be spending $60 million annually—up from about $34 million now—on an expanded legal team to address the flow of homeless into an already overburdened shelter system and the number of people living on the streets. The city has found that about 32% of the families in its shelters were evicted from their homes…”

Housing Vouchers and Rapid Rehousing

  • Vouchers help families move far from public housing, By Binyamin Appelbaum, July 7, 2015, New York Times: “Lamesa White and her four children moved in February from the most dangerous public housing project in Dallas to a single-family home in this affluent suburb. On the day she left, one of her daughter’s old schoolmates was shot to death. Ms. White’s escape from the Estell Village housing project — better known as The Pinks because the buildings were once painted that color — was made possible by an experiment in housing policy the federal government began in Dallas in 2011 and is now proposing to expand to most other large metropolitan areas.  Families in Dallas who qualify for housing subsidies are offered more money if they move to more expensive neighborhoods, allowing them to live in safe communities and enroll their children in schools that are otherwise beyond reach. To sharpen the prod, the government has also cut subsidies for those who do not go…”
  • For homeless families, quick exit from shelters is only a temporary fix, By Pam Fessler, July 7, 2015, National Public Radio: “More than 150,000 U.S. families are homeless each year. The number has been going down, in part because of a program known as rapid rehousing, which quickly moves families out of shelters and into homes. But new research by the Obama administration finds that for many families, rapid rehousing is only a temporary fix…”
  • Minneapolis homeless advocates back study on success of housing vouchers, By Erin Golden, July 7, 2015, Star Tribune: “A federal study of homeless families in a dozen cities — including Minneapolis — has concluded that long-term housing vouchers provide a more effective solution to homelessness than temporary or ­transitional housing programs.  The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development surveyed more than 2,200 families over an 18-month period, tracking some that used Section 8 vouchers, others that were provided with temporary rental assistance or short-term spots in transitional housing facilities and some that took a more patchwork approach, receiving some services but often extending stays in ­homeless shelters…”
  • Section 8 renters stayed in poorer areas after New Orleans razed housing projects, study finds, By Richard A. Webster, July 8, 2015, New Orleans Times-Picayune: “When New Orleans demolished the bulk of its public housing developments after Hurricane Katrina, it replaced the majority of the lost units with Section 8 housing vouchers. The idea was that vouchers would give people who lived in poverty-stricken communities such as Iberville, St. Bernard, B.W. Cooper and Magnolia a choice. Instead of being trapped in public housing developments for generations, they could move their families to areas with less poverty and crime, better schools, access to health care and job opportunities. That was the idea anyway…”

Homelessness in Los Angeles, CA

  • L.A. moves closer to easing limits on seizing homeless people’s belongings, By Gale Holland, June 9, 2015, Los Angeles Times: “The city of Los Angeles moved closer Monday to making it easier to remove homeless people’s belongings from public parks, over opposition from City Councilman Gil Cedillo, who said it was a failed strategy. ‘We have pursued a strategy that does not work,’ Cedillo told the arts, parks, health, aging and river committee, which voted 4 to 1 to approve the new ordinance. ‘The overemphasis on policing is a fetter.’  In 2012, a federal appeals court ruled the city could seize and destroy transients’ possessions only if they posed an immediate threat to public health or were evidence of a crime. The court also required the city to give owners a chance to reclaim their belongings before they are destroyed…”
  • L.A. city homeless committee debuts with calls for restrooms, showers and shelter, By Gale Holland, June 19, 2015, Los Angeles Times: “The Los Angeles City Council’s new homeless committee kicked off Thursday with members calling for the city to provide showers, restrooms and emergency shelter to help indigents survive in the streets with dignity. At the committee’s inaugural meeting, members also discussed developing transitional and bridge lodgings for homeless people while they await permanent lodging, new storage facilities for their possessions and parking lots for people who live in their cars…”

Homelessness in Los Angeles

Los Angeles confronts a spike in homelessness amid prosperity, By Adam Nagourney, June 12, 2015, New York Times: “Construction cranes dot the sky from Century City to the Sunset Strip. Once-downtrodden blocks in downtown and Venice are bustling with restaurants, coffee shops, sparkling new condominiums, theaters and office construction. The unemployment rate has dropped to almost half its double-digit high of five years ago. Much of Los Angeles these days seems the portrait of prosperity.  But a sweeping census of the homeless population in Los Angeles County released last month came as a jolting rebuke to the charities and officials who have proclaimed a mission to end the region’s stubborn problem of people living on the streets. Their numbers spiked 12 percent in two years, cementing Los Angeles’s reputation of having the most intractable homeless problem in the nation — and of being a place of unsettlingly stark class contrasts, on display every day with a staggering number of people living around the clock on the streets, without the extensive network of temporary overnight shelters provided in other places like New York City…”

Low-Wage Workers and Affordable Housing – New York City

For New York City’s working poor, new help in getting out of homeless shelters, By Corinne Ramey, May 18, 2015, Wall Street Journal: “Last summer, a pipe burst in the Bronx apartment where Ayra Garcia lived with her 15-year-old niece. The water damage was so bad that they couldn’t live there anymore. But despite the $31,243 a year that Ms. Garcia then made as a teacher, she didn’t have the savings to pay the three months of rent and a security deposit on a new apartment. With no other options, she and her niece spent five months in homeless shelters…”

Rapid Rehousing

Attacking homelessness with ‘rapid rehousing’, By Tim Henderson, April 21, 2015, Stateline: “Two years ago Jenaie Scott had a $20 an hour cleaning job, which was plenty to cover the rent for a modest apartment on the west side of this state’s capital city. But Scott lost the job in a 2013 downsizing, setting off a downward spiral that led her and 5-year-old son Jyaire into homelessness. ‘I had other jobs, but they just didn’t pay enough, and eventually they put an eviction notice on my door,’ Scott recalled. She and Jyaire moved in with relatives, then begged for space in the back room of a church and finally started sleeping in her car. ‘I came here crying. I was so upset,’ Scott said from the offices of Catholic Charities in Trenton, where she turned for help last year. With her strong history of work, she qualified for a local ‘rapid rehousing’ program, which put her and her son in an apartment within a month…”

Shelter and Housing for the Homeless

  • Tiny houses in Madison, Wis., offer affordable, cozy alternative to homelessness, By Jenna Ross, March 16, 2015, Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune: “On his day off, Gene Cox rose with the sun, pulled a hood over his gray hair and started a pot of coffee.  Deep sleep was still new to him. His first night here, in late February, Cox awoke every two hours, looked around and realized that he was no longer living in his van — which, in cold months, required routinely waking to turn the key and blast the heat.  Cox now has a house. A tiny one. But all 98 square feet are his…”
  • With extended hours, Minneapolis shelters hope to reduce homelessness, By Marion Renault, March 16, 2015, Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune: “Dave Baker shares a bedroom with more than 60 other people, so he knows how precious a good night’s sleep can be. ‘The guy next to you could be snoring, he could be on the phone,’ said Baker, 48, who has been staying at the Higher Ground Shelter in Minneapolis for 14 months. ‘You may be up at 2, 3, 5 and 11 the night before. Any sleep you get in here is a benefit.’  Baker also knows what it’s like to wake up before the rest of the city, since Twin Cities homeless shelters have historically pushed residents out the door around 7 a.m. because of staff shortages or the need to prepare the space for its daytime use.  Now a $100,000 contract from Hennepin County has permitted two Minneapolis shelters — Catholic Charities’ Higher Ground and Simpson Housing Services — to extend their hours so that residents don’t have to depart at the crack of dawn.

Homeless Shelters – Minneapolis, MN

Minneapolis may free homeless shelters from worship spaces, By Jessica Lee, February 15, 2015, Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune: “Minneapolis officials are looking to scrap a decades-old law that requires emergency homeless shelters to be housed in places of worship.  The change would free shelter operators to relocate, expand and provide more suitable accommodations for families and individuals. ‘I’d like to be able to [have beds] in buildings that are meant for human habitation, which are, by definition, not church basements,’ said Stephen Horsfield, executive director at Simpson Housing Services in Minneapolis…”

Concord Monitor Series on Homelessness

Seeking shelter: A cold reality, By Jeremy Blackman and Megan Doyle, December 22, 2014, Concord Monitor: “Robert Glodgett staggered into First Congregational Church last night, tired, hungry, cold – a drifter with nowhere else to go. He slipped a ski cap off his head and dropped onto a couch, alcohol on his breath. A woman walked over. ‘Red!’ she said, opening her arms. This was a homecoming of sorts. Every December for the past five years, Glodgett, 52, has arrived at the Concord church, which doubles as an emergency shelter through March. Night after night, he spends eight warm hours on a makeshift bed, recharging before another grinding winter day. This season, however, will be his last in this shelter. After more than a decade of housing the city’s homeless during the coldest months, First Congregational Church and its sister parish, South Congregational Church, have opted to shutter their operations at the end of this winter. Their decision, finalized this fall, was the result of a growing concern that the city was becoming too dependent on the shelters, which were temporary from the start…”

Homeless Shelter Shortage – Washington, D.C.

D.C. seeks motels to house families this winter amid expected homeless surge, By Robert Samuels, November 5, 2014, Washington Post: “D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray’s administration has been seeking out motels that could be used this winter as makeshift emergency family shelters in an effort to handle the expected surge in homeless families, according to internal documents and interviews with city officials. Securing the facilities could help prevent a repeat of the pratfalls that occurred last winter, when officials said they had no alternative to placing families in Maryland motels and city recreation centers, until a judge ruled that the latter is illegal. At that point, the shelter at the dilapidated, old D.C. General Hospital had filled to the brim, and city motels were booked up…”

Homelessness in the US

  • National homelessness: Oregon shows 50 percent drop in number of homeless since 2010, By Stuart Tomlinson, October 30, 2014, The Oregonian: “Oregon is one of 36 states where homelessness decreased between 2013 and 2014, according to the U.S. Housing and Urban Development’s Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress. The report, released Thursday morning, is based on a single-night count made at the end of January of both sheltered and unsheltered homeless people. The Oregon count showed a decrease of 1,658 homeless people in 2014 from a year earlier. Oregon also saw a 38.2 percent decline in homeless people over the past 4 years, dropping from 19,492 people in 2010 to 12,164 in 2014…”
  • Homeless population in Mass. rising faster than any other state, By Katie Johnston, October 30, 2014, Boston Globe: “The homeless population in Massachusetts increased faster than in any other state in the nation, rising 40 percent since 2007 even as overall homelessness in the country declined, according to a report issued Thursday by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development. But less than 4 percent of the homeless in Massachusetts live on the streets — one of the lowest rates in the country. Massachusetts is the only state in the country with a ‘right to shelter’ law that entitles every family to a roof over their heads the day they qualify for emergency housing. As a result, the vast majority of the state’s homeless population are in shelters or transitional housing…”
  • Nevada’s increase in homeless individuals largest in nation, By Yesenia Amaro, October 30, 2014, Las Vegas Review-Journal: “Twenty states saw an increase in the number of homeless individuals between 2013 and 2014, with Nevada experiencing the largest surge of 1,733 more individuals, according to a report released Thursday by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Homeless individuals are defined as people who are not part of a family during their episode of homelessness, according to the 2014 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress…”
  • Homelessness Rose in New York, By Tatiana Schlossberg, October 30, 2014, New York Times: “The number of homeless people living on the streets and in shelters across the country fell this year, according to an annual federal survey released on Thursday. But in New York City, the homeless population continued to grow, swelling in almost every category: individuals, families and the chronically homeless. The report on homelessness, from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, is based on a nationwide ‘point-in-time’ survey conducted on a single night in January as part of the agency’s effort to track the homeless population over time and across the country…”

Unaccompanied Child Migrants

Surge in child migrants reaches New York, overwhelming advocates, By Kirk Semple, June 17, 2014, New York Times: “For more than a month, 16-year-old Cristian threaded his way from his home in rural Guatemala to the United States, hoping to reunite with his father, whom he had not seen in nearly four years. Guided by smugglers, he rode in cars, buses and trains, walked countless miles, dodged the authorities in three countries, hid out in dreary safe houses and went days at a time without food. But Cristian’s trip came to an abrupt halt in March, when he was corralled on a patch of Texas ranchland by American law enforcement agents. Now the daunting trials of his migration have been replaced by a new set of difficulties. Though he was released to his father, a kitchen worker in a restaurant in Ulster County, N.Y., Cristian has been ordered to appear in immigration court for a deportation hearing and is trying to find a low-cost lawyer to take his case . . .”

Decline in Homelessness

Homelessness declines as new thinking fuels ‘giant untold success’, By Noelle Swan, May 28, 2014, Christian Science Monitor: “A radical change in how states address homelessness has fueled a 17 percent decline in homelessness since 2005 – a trend that has withstood financial panic, a foreclosure crisis, and the Great Recession. The new data come from the National Alliance to End Homelessness, which sees the recent success as the “giant untold story of the homelessness world,” according to Stephen Berg, vice president of policy and programs. The shift comes as the prevailing wisdom that homeless individuals need to get a handle on other social problems in their lives. . .”

Homelessness and Housing

  • Spokane County survey finds homelessness is outside the box, By Jody Lawrence-Turner, February 9, 2014, Spokane Spokesman-Review: “Bobby Moore has two kids and no job. The 34-year-old has relied on friends for a place to sleep, but he’s tired of couch-hopping and the imminent threat of living on the streets. Moore is homeless. Nicholas Limbaugh is autistic and struggles to find work because of his social awkwardness. The 20-year-old lives in a shelter that helps young men. Limbaugh is homeless. Jason Frear lives in a tiny trailer along a dirt road with two other men. The metal trailer is propped up on rocks and has no sewer or electricity hookups. Candles light the inside at night after someone stole the car battery that provided electricity. Frear is homeless. Only a fraction of Spokane County’s homeless population – fewer than 100 – match the stereotype of homelessness. Instead of single men living under bridges or in cardboard boxes, Spokane’s homeless are more reflective of everyone else: They are married couples with small children, single men and women, teenagers and single parents. And they live in a variety of shelters, including abandoned buildings, motel rooms, campgrounds, bus and train stations, and cars…”
  • Taking a new approach to end homelessness, By Lonnie Shekhtman, February 8, 2014, Boston Globe: “Roberitine Hunter, a single mother, ended up in a homeless shelter four years ago after a job-related injury forced her to stop working. She started getting back on her feet nearly two years later, when she received state housing subsidies that allowed her to get an apartment and child care for her young daughter. The next piece came when the Metropolitan Boston Housing Partnership, which provided the housing subsidy, referred her to Jewish Vocational Service in Boston, which helped her earn a commercial driver’s license and land a part-time job driving a bus for company that transports people with disabilities…”

Evictions from Public Housing

Nonprofit points to benefits of preventing evictions, By Megan Woolhouse, January 23, 2014, Boston Globe: “The state could reduce homelessness and save millions in shelter and other costs by finding ways to prevent evictions from public and subsidized housing, according to a report by a nonprofit housing group. HomeStart Inc., in coordination with the Boston Housing Authority, used its report to track its efforts to intervene in evictions from public housing and to provide financial counseling to poor families. The report said Home Start has prevented more than 500 evictions from the authority’s properties since 2010, not only saving families from homelessness but saving taxpayers thousands of dollars…”

2013 US Homeless Count

  • New report: Big drops in veteran, chronic homelessness, By Marisol Bello, November 21, 2013, USA Today: “The number of homeless veterans and people who have been homeless for at least a year has dropped significantly, according to the latest survey by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The number of homeless veterans fell 24% over the past six years, to 57,850, and the number of chronically homeless people decreased 25% to 92,590. Overall, there were 610,040 homeless people in the USA, a 9% drop from 2007, according to the annual count of the homeless. The survey counted people at a given point in time this past January. The number of homeless families, which shot up during the recession, also decreased 8% since 2007 to 222,200, the report shows.”
  • Number of homeless people declines in annual count, By Carol Morello, November 21, 2013, Washington Post: “The number of people who were counted as homeless on a single night this year declined by almost 4 percent, with the biggest drops among families, veterans and those who have been homeless the longest, according to figures released Thursday. Across the United States, 610,000 people were homeless on the night in late January when the annual count is conducted. Most were living in emergency shelters or some form of temporary housing designed to be transitional, but one third were living in unsheltered locations, such as the streets and in fields…”

Homelessness and Housing

  • A new start for KC’s homeless as shelter eliminates daily lines for beds, By Lynn Horsley, November 13, 2013, Kansas City Star: “Every afternoon for 30 years, as many as 100 men and women have lined up behind reStart’s homeless shelter in downtown Kansas City, waiting for overnight stays in a grim dormitory. They got a free meal and bunk bed in a crowded room. They had to leave during the day, often to wander the streets and then return to line up again each afternoon. But by the end of this week reStart is declaring, ‘This is the end of the line.’ Literally. No more lining up. Instead, single adults will stay in rooms of four to six people that they can call home while reStart helps them find long-term housing. It’s part of a national trend to end chronic homelessness, and it’s showing early signs of success in Kansas City…”
  • Huge increase of mentally ill homeless in Alameda County, By Doug Oakley, November 14, 2013, Contra Costa Times: “The number of homeless people in Alameda County with severe mental illness jumped by 35 percent in just two years, according to a census taken earlier this year by a consortium of local agencies called EveryOne Home. The overall number of homeless people in the county was slightly higher since the last count two years ago, up 86 at 4,264, according to the report released Tuesday night. It did not break out individual cities within Alameda County. When the count was taken during the spring, 1,106 homeless identified themselves as having a severe mental illness, up from 818 in 2011, the report said…”

Homelessness and Housing – New York City

In New York, having a job, or 2, doesn’t mean having a home, By Mireya Navarro, September 17, 2013, New York Times: “On many days, Alpha Manzueta gets off from one job at 7 a.m., only to start her second at noon. In between she goes to a place she’s called home for the last three years — a homeless shelter. ‘I feel stuck,’ said Ms. Manzueta, 37, who has a 2 ½-year-old daughter and who, on a recent Wednesday, looked crisp in her security guard uniform, waving traffic away from the curb at Kennedy International Airport. ‘You try, you try and you try and you’re getting nowhere. I’m still in the shelter.’ With New York City’s homeless population in shelters at a record high of 50,000, a growing number of New Yorkers punch out of work and then sign in to a shelter, city officials and advocates for the homeless say…”