Policymakers Line Up in Support of Federal Homeless Programs

In an indication that Congressional support is as strong as ever for federal programs that prevent and end homelessness, dozens of Congressmen and Senators signed on to “Dear Colleague” letters urging Appropriators to provide strong funding for HUD’s McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants program and the HUD-VA supportive housing (HUD-VASH) program for homeless veterans.  Legislators also demonstrated strong support for the HOME program, which plays a very important role in providing gap funding for affordable housing developments as they gather various permanent forms of financing.

An exceptional number of these funding letters were circulating on Capitol Hill during the past few weeks prompting policymakers to make difficult decisions about which programs to lend their support to.  Advocates who called, wrote or emailed their Senators and Representatives regarding homeless programs are to be congratulated for making their voices heard.

A heartfelt thank you also goes to the Congressional sponsors of the funding request letters.

• Congresswoman Gwen Moore (D-WI) led the McKinney-Vento funding letter, which called for $2.2 billion in funding for Fiscal Year 2013.  In many communities HUD’s McKinney-Vento program is the single most important source of federal funding to help end homelessness.  The program has been strongly supported by Republican and Democrat-led Administrations and Congresses.  Unfortunately, funding was held level at $1.9 billion last year endangering progress at ending homelessness. The President’s budget request of $2.2 billion will help more fully implement the HEARTH Act giving communities the resources to create new supportive housing and invest in other proven interventions such as rapid re-housing and other prevention programs.  The Moore letter supported the President’s request for this program.  View the letter or the text version of its signers.

• Representatives Al Green (D-TX) and Michael Grimm (R-NY) led a Dear Colleague letter for HUD-VASH funding.   HUD-VA Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) vouchers are a key tool to ending veterans’ homelessness by combining a Section 8 voucher with case management services from the Department of Veterans Affairs.  Over 47,000 HUD-VASH vouchers have been funded since 2008 and we’re seeing real results: the latest HUD report showed a 12% drop in veterans’ homelessness in just one year.  The President’s request of $75 million will allow a new round of 10,000 HUD-VASH vouchers to come to our communities to help end veterans homelessness.  The bipartisan Green/Grimm letter supports the President’s request. View the list of signers. 

• In the Senate, Senators Reed (D-RI), Snowe (R-ME), and Schumer (D-NY) led a joint letter in support of both the McKinney-Vento program and the new round of HUD-VASH letters.  View the list of signers.

• Representative Marcia Fudge’s (D-OH) Dear Colleague letter called for returning HUD funding of the HOME program to at least $1.6 billion.  HUD’s HOME program allocates money directly to localities for the purpose of investing in affordable housing creation.  This flexible funding stream has many important uses, but perhaps none is more important than when it serves as a financing gap-filler to keep a development alive while other funding sources are pulled together.  CSH estimates that HOME funding is used in approximately 80% of supportive housing developments that we’ve worked on.  The President’s budget also unfortunately proposes to keep the program level-funded at the low FY 12 funding level of $1 billion; HOME was funded at $1.6 billion in FY 11 and $1.825 in FY 10 and FY09.

• Senators Leahy (D-VT) and Coons (D-DE) led the Senate letter in support of both the HOME program as well as the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program.  View the list of  signers.

Housing First and Supportive Housing on Display in New Orleans

Over 600 policymakers, homeless service providers, advocates and others gathered in New Orleans last week for the first ever Housing First Partners Conference. CSH was a proud sponsor of the event, which was organized by Pathways to Housing and the Downtown Emergency Services Center of Seattle, Washington. Housing First is an approach that moves homeless people directly in to housing, then offers supportive services to help them stabilize their lives. Housing First has gained broad acceptance in many communities as model for those who have the highest barriers to housing stability including mental illness, substance abuse or other challenges.

The conference was an opportunity for people to learn from leaders in the field and from one another, to share best practices, and to explore barriers and frustrations. CSH was strongly represented at the conference by CSH staff who moderated or presented in over a dozen workshop sessions, sharing our experience of how Housing First and supportive housing make an effective model for ending homelessness.

CSH’s Director of Innovations, Richard Cho, had the opportunity to briefly address the conference and reflected, “Years from now, we will look back on this event as marking the moment when the Housing First went from being an experiment on the fringes of practice—viewed by some as one of those crazy idea that would never work—to an established and central part of the effort to end homelessness and to reach the most vulnerable people experiencing persistent crises, disconnection, and exclusion… So everyone here in attendance today can now say that you were there at that critical turning point when Housing First went mainstream, and when all of you true believers, went from outsiders on the fringes of practice, became the insiders and leaders of a national movement.”

Unlocking the Door: An Implementation Evaluation of Supportive Housing for Active Substance Users in NYC Summary Report

This is a summary of the second paper released by CASAHOPE, a joint product from CASA Columbia and CSH. It is designed specifically for a policy audience, particularly government and housing organization administrators who are considering creating similar programs in other parts of the country. This project is funded by the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation.

The full report is also available.

Upcoming Supportive Housing Webinar for Bankers

The Office of the Controller of the Currency and (OCC) the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) are holding a free webinar: Ending Homelessness: How Banks Can Finance Permanent Supportive Housing

Based on the OCC’s recent newsletter entitled “Ending Homelessness: Funding Permanent Supportive Housing,” which included a feature on CSH, the webinar will focus on bank financing for supportive housing. Bankers will learn from experts how to finance supportive housing by investing in low-income housing tax credits, pre-development loan pools and more.

CSH’s President and CEO Deborah De Santis will be among the speakers, which inclue USICH’s Executive Director Barbara Poppe, OCC’s Deputy Comptroller for Community Affairs Barry Wides, and Managing Director at the Huntington National Bank Joseph Molnar.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012 2:00 PM – 3:30 PM EDT

Regsiter today!


CSH Provides Guidance on SSA Policy Questions

In January, the Social Security Administration (SSA) requested comments on a series of questions they posed related to Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) benefits for people experiencing homelessness who reside in emergency shelters.

According to federal statute, people receiving SSI/SSDI who reside in publicly funded shelters (which are narrowly defined by SSA and rarely apply to any shelters today) can only receive benefits for six months out of any 9 month period. This rule is outdated and was established at a time when emergency shelters were funded and provided services very differently than they do today.

SSA’s questions asked experts to relay experiences with this rule, the impact it has on people experiencing homelessness and their access to basic services including health care. SSI/SSDI benefits are vitally important to residents in supportive housing and CSH opposes any suspension of benefits, especially while homeless.

CSH submitted comments, which were due Monday, March 12, and explained how people access emergency shelters, the wide range of services they provide and the negative effects of suspending SSI/SSDI for this very vulnerable population.

Read CSH’s submitted comments.

SSI/SSDI Outreach, Access and Recovery (SOAR) Initiative Continues Excellent Outcomes

Last week, Policy Research Associates, Inc (PRA) released 2011 data illustrating the effectiveness of SOAR in expediting SSI/SSDI applications for people experiencing or at-risk of homelessness.

SOAR is a federal program, funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, that helps states and communities increase access to Social Security disability benefits for people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness and who have mental illnesses or other co-occurring disorders.  The initiative does this by creating collaborative partnerships between state and federal government agencies that allows case managers and clients to more easily navigate the SSI/SSDI application process.

Since 2006, 44 states have implemented SOAR processing over 15,000 applications.  Overall, those using the SOAR process have an overall SSI/SSDI application approval rate of 71%.  Without SOAR only 10–15% of homeless populations have their disability applications approved.  This connection to benefits establishes an income for those experiencing homelessness with complex health conditions and gives them a way to pay their portion of subsidized rent.  The SOAR initiative has many lessons that can be spread to more places and transferred to other populations of SSI/SSDI applicants.

For more information on SOAR outcomes and lessons learned go to – http://www.prainc.com/soar/.

Not a Solo Act

Updated in 2012

Supportive housing brings together three very different disciplines: housing development, property management and supportive services. To be successful it requires effective collaboration. Not a Solo Act is a how-to workbook for successful collaborations and a prevention guide for predictable crises.

2012 Federal Policy Priorities

CSH’s 2012 Policy Priorities document is intended for policymakers to help them understand the programs that are most helpful to create supportive housing; for advocates as a tool to organize locally with or to take to their legislators and representatives; and for other interested parties who want to know more about CSH’s strategic focus.

CSH Announces Social Innovation Fund Grantees

Today CSH announced the recipients of our Social Innovation Fund grants. The four teams of organizations will work with CSH to create solutions that link supportive housing and healthcare. Together, we’ll build integrated models that improve the health of the vulnerable men and women who are caught in a revolving door of hospitals, emergency rooms, detox and other crisis health services—while also reducing costs to public systems.

Grantee teams include supportive housing organizations, primary and behavioral health care providers, managed care organizations, public sector partners and others led by:

·         Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation (San Francisco, CA)

·         Connecticut AIDS Resource Coalition (Connecticut)

·         Economic Roundtable (Los Angeles County, CA)

·         Catholic Social Services of Washtenaw County (Ann Arbor/Washtenaw County, MI)

These grantees not only reflect the most compelling and feasible program models, but also represent a fascinating mix of approaches. Together, they will provide housing and health care to more than 500 individuals over the next two years. Read more about them on our Social Innovation Fund webpage.

Grantees were chosen from among a highly competitive pool of 33 proposals—more than we ever anticipated. It’s clear that we are on the verge of a new national movement.  And while it’s disappointing that we could not support more of the proposals that we received, we feel a sense of urgency and excitement to expand our initiative beyond the four sites.  CSH is committed to looking for additional resources to support the other promising housing and health care models we were fortunate enough to learn about, and to support this new movement to make housing a platform for healthy futures.

For now, we’re incredibly excited to work with, support and evaluate these first four initiatives. Keep an eye on our blog for the very latest in the weeks and months ahead.

read the press release