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…”

State Minimum Wage – Hawaii

Hawaii minimum wage could rise to $8.14 in January, Associated Press, January 25, 2012, CBS News: “A bill moving through the state Legislature could increase Hawaii’s minimum wage for the first time since 2007, but opinions are mixed as to whether elevating the wage floor would help or hinder Hawaii’s economic recovery. According to the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations, the current $7.25 minimum wage is worth 84 cents less than when it was set five years ago due to inflation. A minimum wage increase would help Hawaii workers recover lost purchasing power and encourage more spending that can contribute to the state’s economic recovery, the Labor Department suggests. That’s not the way the Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii sees it, however…”

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – Hawaii

Isle food stamp use rises, By Alan Yonan Jr., March 28, 2011, Honolulu Star-Advertiser: “The number of Hawaii residents signing up for food stamps increased at a faster pace than the national average last year as state officials expanded eligibility for the program to help people suffering from the economic slowdown. Data released recently by the U.S. Department of Agriculture showed that 156,355 Hawaii residents were enrolled in the federally funded program in December, up 16.7 percent from the same month a year earlier. The increase was the 13th largest among the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Nationally, the number of people on food stamps under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program rose 13.1 percent to 44 million in December from a year earlier…”

Funding for Social Services – Hawaii

Social service funding dries up, By Kristen Consillio, February 4, 2011, Honolulu Star Advertiser: “Social service programs for the state’s most needy population will terminate on April 1 to save the Department of Human Services $84 million over the next two years and three months. The department is facing a $116 million budget deficit and will eliminate funding for 41 children, youth and family programs such as Read Aloud America, Big Brothers Big Sisters and the Institute for Human Services. Patricia McManaman, interim human services director, said the department decided to cut funding for the services under the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program so it could keep intact job training and welfare programs…”

School Readiness – Hawaii

Fewer tots deemed set for school, By Mary Vorsino, December 6, 2010, Honolulu Star-Advertiser: “This school year, more Hawaii kindergarten students started school without key skills, fewer had attended preschool and more than half came from low-income families, according to a new state Department of Education readiness report. The figures, all indicators of future academic outcomes for kids, put new urgency to long-term plans for a state-funded preschool program, say advocates and educators. Research has shown that low-income children, those who do not attend preschool and kids who fall behind in kindergarten are more likely to struggle through school than their peers. Educators say the kindergarten readiness report confirms what they have seen on their campuses: The economic downturn has meant many families cannot afford to send their children to preschool…”

Report: Homelessness – Hawaii

Report reveals rise in homelessness, By Mary Vorsino, November 17, 2010, Honolulu Star-Advertiser: “The number of homeless people on Oahu rose 5 percent under one key measure in the last fiscal year, according to a new report that also sheds new light on the health and education of homeless children. Advocates say the study helps illustrate how the recession has driven many households living paycheck-to-paycheck into homelessness. ‘We’re still seeing people struggling,’ said Debbie Shimizu, executive director of the National Association of Social Workers-Hawaii chapter. ‘People are still trying to adjust.’ The report, by the University of Hawaii Center on the Family, said 9,781 homeless people received outreach or shelter services on Oahu last year, a 5 percent increase…”

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – Hawaii

Food stamp eligibility expands, By Mary Vorsino, September 23, 2010, Honolulu Star Advertiser: “About 22,000 more Hawaii residents will be eligible for food stamps starting next month, when the state changes the income cut off for the benefits to up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level — the maximum allowed for the program. The change will further boost participation in a program that has seen skyrocketing growth in recent years and now serves more than 10 percent of the state’s population. Under the changes, a family of four could earn up to $50,736 a year and still qualify for food stamps, formally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Now, food stamp recipients can earn up to 130 percent of the poverty level (or $32,976 for a family of four)…”

Homeless Living on Beaches – Hawaii

Life’s a beach for some homeless in Hawaii, By Mark Niesse (AP), July 25, 2010, The Washington Post: ” Every morning, Tony Williams wakes to the sound of waves crashing on Hawaii’s famed Waikiki beaches and has a spectacular view of the Pacific. But he’s not paying a cent for his priceless vista. Williams is among the growing number of homeless on Oahu taking advantage of inviting beaches and support services in the islands, where they never have to worry about freezing. But homeless encampments on the beach could damage tourism, officials fear, and they are currently weighing several proposals that they say would help the homeless, while also moving them from public view. The proposals include offering plane tickets to the mainland, creating a homeless “tent city” on less visible state land and providing more affordable housing in Honolulu, where rents are among the nation’s highest…”

Child Care Subsidies – Hawaii, Ohio

  • Hawaii cuts result in 10% fewer families taking preschool aid, By Mary Vorsino, June 2, 2010, Honolulu Advertiser: “The number of families receiving state subsidies to cover preschool tuition costs has dropped by about 10 percent after the state’s decision to decrease the amount of help families can get, and providers say parents appear to instead be opting for cheaper, unlicensed care or leaving their children with relatives. The subsidies, which cover a portion of childcare costs, are provided on a sliding scale based on income. In certain cases the reduction in subsidies meant parents who were paying $120 a month for one child’s care now have to pay $540. Providers also say they’re expecting more decreases in families getting subsidies, which were cut in February, as programs set up to help residents tackle the new financial stresses of lower subsidies end or run out of money…”
  • Fewer parents eligible for child care subsidies, By Meredith Moss, May 29, 2010, Dayton Daily News: “To earn more money to support her family, 22-year-old Clarrissa Moore took on a second job. That decision turned out to be a disastrous one for the Dayton mother and her 3-year-old son, Jaiden. Not only did the extra job put her over the limit for child care help, but it was simply too exhausting. By the time she resigned, and then reapplied for the child care subsidies she needed, she was turned down. The state income requirements had changed and Moore was no longer eligible. Moore is just one example of Ohioans being impacted by state budget cuts that took effect in July 2009…”

Medicaid and Managed Care – Hawaii

Hawaii’s Medicaid switch produces mixed results, By Mary Vorsino, May 24, 2010, Honolulu Advertiser: “Fifteen months after the state switched its Medicaid insurance program for more than 42,000 low-income seniors and disabled residents from a fee-for-service model to a managed care one, advocates say two firms hired to administer the program have improved services and beefed up provider networks. But some point to cases involving patients who have seen cuts in care or who have struggled to navigate the Mainland-based plans because of language barriers or other reasons as continued areas of concern. New statistics on the Quest Expanded Access program illustrate that mixed bag. The numbers show both insurance companies – ‘Ohana Health Plan and Evercare – have decreased the average processing time for claims, from a high of 22 days to about 10, and increased the number of participating specialists…”

Application Process and Delivery of Benefits – Hawaii

  • Backlogs for aid may grow, By Mary Vorsino, May 6, 2010, Honolulu Advertiser: “The state has abandoned a controversial cost-cutting and modernization plan for benefits eligibility offices, a plan that included laying off 228 workers. But officials warned that without the changes, big backlogs for food stamps, cash aid and other applications will continue to grow. The state could also face federal penalties for failing to process applications in a timely way, Department of Human Services director Lillian Koller said yesterday…”
  • Override vote ends plan to close welfare offices, By Mark Niesse (AP), May 6, 2010, Honolulu Star Bulletin: “The state Department of Human Services has called off a plan to close all the state’s welfare eligibility offices and lay off 228 public employees. A law passed by the Legislature last week stopped the state from moving forward with the proposal to close the state’s 31 welfare locations and replace them with two new processing centers in Honolulu and Hilo, said Human Services Director Lillian Koller. Republican Gov. Linda Lingle vetoed the law, but the Democrat-controlled Legislature’s override prevented welfare office closures on the neighbor islands and required public hearings before they could be consolidated on Oahu…”

Rates of Homelessness – Hawaii, North Dakota

  • Hawaii homelessness still rising in wake of recession’s job cuts, By Mary Vorsino, May 5, 2010, Honolulu Advertiser: “Despite signs of an economic recovery, advocates warn that many Hawai’i families are still teetering close to homelessness – or falling into it – as they run through their savings. Shelters islandwide report a steady flow of people coming in who are direct victims of the recession, after losing their jobs or seeing their pay or hours cut. And preliminary results from the state’s annual homeless point-in-time count, conducted in January and to be released this month, show homelessness rose 10 to 15 percent from last year in parts of O’ahu, advocates who oversaw the survey said…”
  • Homeless numbers on the rise in metro area, By Helmut Schmidt, May 5, 2010, Forum of Fargo-Moorhead: “Kelvin Pederson and Bruce Wang can tell you a thing or two about homelessness. Pederson, 55, hasn’t had a place of his own for a year. Wang hasn’t had a true home for six years by his reckoning. The two residents at Moorhead’s Churches United for the Homeless said a loss of cheap housing, transportation and lack of credit are among the biggest issues that keep people homeless in the Fargo-Moorhead metro area. ‘I can starve to death and have a roof over my head,’ Pederson said. ‘Or eat and be homeless,’ said Wang, finishing the thought. Both have noticed an increase in the number of homeless people in the area. ‘Every day there’s people looking for beds,’ Pederson said. A survey released Tuesday of North Dakota homelessness – which included Moorhead – backs that up, showing double-digit percentage increases in homelessness the past two years…”

Homelessness and Housing – Texas, Hawaii

  • Count of Dallas County homeless finds fewer living on the streets long-term, By Kim Horner, April 26, 2010, Dallas Morning News: “Homelessness in Dallas County increased 1 percent – to 5,750 – during another year of difficult economic times, according to a new survey by the Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance. But the annual count, conducted Jan. 28, showed major progress in the city’s efforts to combat long-term homelessness among those with mental illnesses and addictions. The number of people considered chronically homeless dropped 14 percent. And the number of families on the street also dropped. ‘We’re trying to end chronic homelessness, and we got that number to go down significantly this year,’ said Mike Rawlings, a businessman who serves as Dallas’ homeless czar. He attributed the success to new permanent supportive housing programs that provide apartments and services, such as mental health care…”
  • Honolulu homeless move tents onto sidewalks in legal loophole, By Mary Vorsino, April 24, 2010, Honolulu Advertiser: “In the wake of a ban on tents in city parks that police started enforcing Monday, more homeless appear to be setting up camp on sidewalks – something the city says is legal as long as they don’t block pedestrian traffic. Yesterday, several advocates and urban Honolulu residents said they had noticed more people living in tents or makeshift shelters on sidewalks recently. But advocates also pointed out that the ban prompted a good number of people to move into homeless shelters or to get on waiting lists for shelters…”

Application Process and Delivery of Benefits – Texas, Hawaii, Indiana

  • Food stamp frustration is valid, state audit report says, By Corrie MacLaggan, March 30, 2010, Austin American-Statesman: “Applying for food stamps in Texas can be quite a chore, according to a new state auditor’s report. Need to ask a basic question? Forget the phone. Workers often don’t have time to answer questions by phone and their voice mailboxes tend to be full, the report says. Instead, applicants ‘make unnecessary trips to a local office, in which they sometimes sit for hours just to ask a question or submit a document,’ says the report released Tuesday by State Auditor John Keel. ‘Crowded lobbies, long waits, and delays in eligibility determinations clearly resulted in frustrated clients,’ the report said. The report describes an inefficient system in which 80 percent of cases are kept on paper and a lack of experienced workers is contributing to problems processing applications accurately and within the 30 days required by the federal government. It recommends using technology such as automated kiosks and allowing applicants to check the status of cases online, an option the state now makes available only to certain applicants…”
  • State auditor questions social services agency’s no-bid deal with ex-colleague to fix welfare problems, By Robert T. Garrett, March 31, 2010, Dallas Morning News: “State Auditor John Keel has questioned why state social services officials awarded work to a former colleague without seeking other bids, when his offer to curtail processing errors is good for only one-fifth of Texas’ 3.3 million food-stamp recipients. Keel also chided Health and Human Services Commission officials for seeking help last summer from former deputy commissioner Gregg Phillips’ company, though they ignored for nearly two years a similar offer by a Plano firm already on contract. Earlier this month, The Dallas Morning News reported that Phillips, who played a major role in the state’s botched privatization of eligibility screening for assistance programs, is making money trying to help Texas fix the problems that resulted…”
  • Human Services to lay off 228 workers, By Mary Vorsino, March 30, 2010, Honolulu Advertiser: “The state Department of Human Services will lay off nearly half of its 517 workers who process applications for government benefits and will shut down 31 eligibility offices statewide under a cost-cutting plan set to go into effect June 30. The plan, which has been strongly opposed by advocates for the poor and several lawmakers, is expected to save about $8 million and DHS officials say it will actually speed up wait times by allowing people to apply on-line and over the phone, congregating workers in two main offices and streamlining workloads. The plan comes at a time when DHS is seeing increases in requests for Medicaid, cash assistance, food stamps and child care subsidies as families struggle to make ends meet. The increase in applications has meant significantly longer backlogs in processing requests for help…”
  • Disputed welfare practices don’t hold up in court, By Jon Murray, March 31, 2010, Indianapolis Star: “When Gov. Mitch Daniels pulled the plug in October on a privatization contract that was the cornerstone of an aggressive welfare services modernization plan, he said it simply didn’t work. But the arrangement’s inefficiency, lost paperwork and wrongly denied benefits weren’t the only problems. A judge has ruled that parts of the modernization push also violated the law. Two recent rulings from a Marion County judge and a third from Clay County delivered a new slap to the state’s welfare services agency over several practices, including the handling of denials for some benefits and appeals for others. The Indiana Family and Social Services Administration is forging ahead by testing a new ‘hybrid’ plan in some places. In the meantime, dozens of counties still operate with vestiges of the aborted modernization attempt — and with one of the two disputed practices…”

Honolulu Star Bulletin Series on Homelessness

Hawaii’s Homeless, series homepage, Honolulu Star Bulletin:

  • Fix the problem a roof at a time, By Mary Adamski and Susan Essoyan, February 17, 2010, Honolulu Star Bulletin: “The homeless situation can seem overwhelming to the point where some observers just throw up their hands. ‘When we look at the people who are homeless, sometimes there’s a feeling that, gosh, there are so many of them and they’re growing and there’s nothing that we can do about it,’ said Sylvia Yuen, director of the Center on the Family at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, which tracks data on the homeless. But she and other experts say that homelessness is a multifaceted issue that can be tackled piece by piece…”

Public Housing Proposals – Hawaii

Hawaii tackles unpaid rents, By Mary Vorsino, February 11, 2010, Honolulu Advertiser: “Incoming public housing tenants could be subject to credit checks and visits to their current home under proposals meant to better screen applicants and cut down on delinquent renters. The planned changes are troubling some advocates, who say making it harder for low-income people to get into public housing will only worsen the housing crisis. But public housing officials say the changes are meant to decrease the number of tenants who fail to pay or who damage units, spurring costly repairs that add up quickly. And they point out that other public housing authorities already take similar steps. In December, more than 20 percent of the thousands of households in public housing were behind on their rent, with the Hawai’i Public Housing Authority owed as much as $1 million. The planned screening measures are part of other proposed changes to decrease rent delinquency in public housing, including speeding up evictions, and come as the agency attempts to tackle an aging public housing inventory, deal with budget shortfalls and catch up on tens of millions of dollars in backlogged repairs…”

State Budgets and Social Services

  • Cuts would dramatically shrink Nevada safety net, By David McGrath Schwartz, February 9, 2010, Las Vegas Sun: “During Gov. Jim Gibbons’ State of the State speech Monday, he told Nevadans to prepare for a smaller state government. Although the list of what he wants to jettison is not finalized, and some of these cuts need legislative approval, lawmakers privately have signaled that many will go through. The cuts would run from the dramatic – allowing more mentally ill to become homeless – to the mundane – eliminating vacant positions…”
  • Hawaii DHS restructuring may cut 200 jobs, close 50 offices, By Mary Vorsino, February 9, 2010, Honolulu Advertiser: “More than 200 state workers who process applications for government assistance programs could lose their jobs, their union said, and at least 50 eligibility offices statewide could close under a cost-cutting proposal that advocates are worried will make it harder for the poor to access key social services. The state Department of Human Services said the planned reorganization is aimed at improving efficiency and lowering costs, but also stressed that the changes are still in the planning stages and no decisions have yet been made…”
  • Cuts outlined to shore up social services, By Shira Schoenberg, February 6, 2010, Concord Monitor: “The Department of Health and Human Services laid out dozens of proposed cuts yesterday, in an attempt to fill an anticipated $43 million hole in its budget for this fiscal year. Hospitals will bear a large portion of the cuts, but the impact will be felt everywhere, from child care centers to nursing homes. Most of the shortfall is due to the economy, which has driven more individuals to seek state services…”

State Budgets and Medicaid Programs

  • Medicaid, while caring for more, faces big budget challenge, By Deborah Yetter, February 9, 2010, Louisville Courier-Journal: “During his 20 years as an electrician, Eric Sachse never sought any type of public assistance. But then Sachse, a 38-year-old single father in Louisville, lost his job – and health insurance for him and his son, 9. So last month, Sachse signed son John up for the Kentucky Children’s Health Insurance Program, a Medicaid program that covers children of low-income parents. Although Sachse doesn’t qualify for Medicaid himself, he said getting coverage for his son is what counts. ‘I was just really fearful of how I was going to take care of any health care situation,’ he said. As the economy has worsened in the past two years, Kentucky’s Medicaid rolls are rising faster than at any other time in the past decade, adding poor, disabled and low-income people at the rate of 3,400 a month…”
  • Hawaii may delay payments to Quest health plan, By Derrick DePledge, February 7, 2010, Honolulu Advertiser: “The state Department of Human Services has warned health insurance companies that the state may not make payments for Quest – the state’s health plan for low-income families – for the last quarter of the fiscal year, leaving insurers to absorb about $300 million in medical expenses until at least July. The potential delay in payments has stunned insurers and alarmed health care providers, who worry a delay could jeopardize the ability of insurers to cover claims, which would cause cash flow problems and influence how some providers care for Quest members…”
  • Tennessee hospitals push for tax to offset cuts to TennCare, By Chas Sisk, February 9, 2010, The Tennessean: “The Tennessee Hospital Association’s members will push for a temporary tax on their revenues to reduce cuts to the TennCare program proposed last week by Gov. Phil Bredesen. The association’s board voted Monday to approve a one-year ‘coverage fee’ of 1 percent to 2 percent that would raise money for hospital services scheduled to receive less funding from TennCare. The fee likely would go into effect July 1 and would not be passed along to patients, association officials said. The group also will lobby the state to dip further into reserves and to use any additional revenue that comes into the state to reduce TennCare cuts…”
  • Medicaid cuts ‘devastating’ to rural hospitals, By Heather Stanek, February 8, 2010, Fond du Lac Reporter: “Rural hospitals around Fond du Lac say a proposed assessment will help them avoid cutting services or raising prices. Ripon Medical Center and Waupun Memorial Hospital are two of the 59 critical-access hospitals across the state dealing with cuts in Medicaid payments. In an effort to slash costs, the state reduced its Medicaid reimbursements by 10 percent, leaving hospitals to pick up heftier bills for caring for low-income patients. Waupun Memorial, part of Agnesian HealthCare, stands to lose $300,000 annually due to Medicaid cuts, said DeAnn Thurmer, WMH chief operating officer. About 10 percent of the hospital’s patients depend on Medicaid. The Wisconsin Hospital Association and Rural Wisconsin Hospital Cooperative are drafting a legislative bill that would help restore federal dollars to rural hospitals…”

TANF Enrollment – Hawaii, West Virginia

  • Hawaii’s welfare numbers rising for first time in decade, By Mary Vorsino, December 27, 2009, Honolulu Advertiser: “For the first time in a decade, the number of Hawai’i families receiving state- or federally funded cash benefits is up from the year before as the economic crisis hits the state’s poorest in what advocates say illustrates the scope of need in the community. Advocates also worry more increases are still to come. This year, the average welfare caseload in the Islands increased by about 4 percent compared with 2008 – or by about 300 families. ‘This is the safety net,’ said Debbie Shimizu, executive director of the National Association of Social Workers-Hawai’i, adding, ‘This group is probably going to get bigger…'”
  • Welfare program for jobless on rise, By Sara Gavin, December 28, 2009, Charleston Daily Mail: “After declining steadily for the past decade, temporary welfare payments from the state to families who have exhausted all other benefits are on the rise again. WV WORKS, administered by the Department of Health and Human Resources, was restructured in 1997 to provide temporary assistance to families who have exhausted other benefit avenues. The program initially carried a caseload of nearly 38,000. It is part of the larger cash assistance program known as Temporary Assistance to Needy Families. WV Works cases had been declining steadily over the past decade, bottoming out at about 9,000 statewide. But over the past 18 months officials have seen a steady uptick of about 1,800 additional cases, bringing the new total to almost 11,000 in West Virginia…”