Register today — ‘Helping Homeless Students’ workshop

We are excited to announce that registration is now open for
Helping Homeless Students: McKinney-Vento 101 workshop
Tuesday, August 26, 9.00 – 11.15 a.m.
Highline College in Des Moines, WA
FREE, but pre-registration required!

The Coalition’s “Helping Homeless Students: McKinney-Vento 101″ workshop is designed for school staff, nurses, and case managers to provide an overview of educational rights and common issues for homeless students. Presented by Katara Jordan, attorney with Columbia Legal Services, this workshop will introduce the federal McKinney-Vento Homelessness Assistance Act, which promotes educational stability, school access, support for academic success, and child-centered decision-making for homeless youth, children, and families.

2013-14 Helping Homeless Students GuideIn addition to providing a better understanding of the law, we intend this workshop to serve as a timely, informative, and collaborative platform between school staff and community-based case managers to work together effectively to support homeless students and their families. We’ll cover the basics, and address common thorny issues related to enrollment and transportation; working with unaccompanied youth; and participation in after-school activities. Together we’ll problem-solve and share ideas and strategies for back-to-school and throughout the school year.

By the time you leave the training, you should have both a solid understanding of the McKinney-Vento Homelessness Assistance Act, and valuable sources of information and professional resources to turn to within your local community, your school district, in Washington, and nationally to aid in your work to reach homeless youth at schools.

We are excited to bring staff from Coalition member agencies together with local public school staff to learn about the educational rights of homeless students, and how to support them at the start of the new school year.

Please help us spread the word, and register today!

Note: Registration priority will be given to Coalition members and staff at local public schools.

 

What you need to know about upcoming short-term cuts to Food Stamps.

Today’s post is brought to you by Sara Robbins, Benefits Attorney at Solid Ground and Coalition on Homelessness Board Member. 

At the federal level it’s called Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Here in Washington we call it Basic Food. But many just know the program that helps people who are low income put food on the table through monthly benefits as ‘Food Stamps.’ Keeping the names straight can be hard enough, but there’s something on the horizon that is even more important to be aware of and straighten out…

There is going to be a short-term cut in Food Stamps for some households in November and December.  It is going to be confusing. Be sure to thoroughly read this publication from Washington Law Help that explains the cut.

In the meantime, here are ways you can proactively help folks receiving Basic Food:

  • Emphasize that the benefit loss is for two months only.  Recipients should contact the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) if they do not receive two benefit deposits in January 2015.
  • Ask whether the household has separate utility bills that they pay each month – that is, utilities are not included in their rent.  If so, urge them to contact DSHS immediately to provide this information so they will continue to qualify for higher benefits with NO months of reduced benefits.   
  • Encourage new applicants for Basic Food to let their caseworker know if they have separate utility payments each month.

Contact me (see below) if you have any questions, and please share this publication with any staff that are working with clients/guests! 

Sara Robbins, Benefits Attorney
Phone: 206.694.6741 Fax: 206.694.6777
www.solid-ground.org  www.solidgroundblog.com

The Importance of the Affordable Care Act for Youth & Young Adults

ACAThe deadline of March 31 for signing up for the Affordable Care Act is quickly approaching. However, if you are eligible for Medicaid, you can enroll at anytime, and do not have to meet the March 31 deadline. Our Youth & Young Adult Committee learned this, and much more from Tabitha Jensen, Executive Director of Teen Feed, who came to their meeting this morning and gave a presentation on the importance of signing up young people for the Affordable Care Act. If you are interested in learning more, you can see her presentation: Teen Feed Youth & Young Adult Healthcare Presentation.

Also, please join us for our next meeting on Tuesday, April 8 from 10-11:30am at the Capitol Hill Public Library or on any first Tuesday of the month. 

Sequestration: taking us from bad to worse

Seattle Housing Authority recently accepted 24,000 applications for a coveted 2,000 placements on the Section 8 waiting list. Last week it announced that the 2,000 households had been chosen through a random lottery, but there’s a catch. Due to sequestration, the local housing authority also announced that it would be unable to issue vouchers to any of the selected households in the foreseeable future. This announcement comes amid news that the King County Housing Authority has suspended issuing any new vouchers to households on their waiting list as a result of sequestration. Local Section 8 wait lists are often closed for years at a time because of the overwhelming need for affordable housing in King County. In the space of a few weeks, sequestration has taken the situation from bad to worse, with 2,000 not-so-lucky households added to a wait list that for now looks indefinite.

Our partners at the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance provide a more in-depth look into the effects of sequestration on Section 8 recipients and local housing authorities here. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities provides an overview of the national impacts of Sequestration on Section 8 and other housing and homelessness funding sources.

Made in America: Homeless veterans on our streets during the One Night Count

“Made in America” ~ Photo courtesy of David Entrekin.  All rights reserved.

This photograph by local business owner, citizen activist, and photographer David Entrekin always takes my breath away.  Click on the image to see the larger photo, and you will see the words on the cardboard carefully laid out to make a sleeping surface: Made in America.  That is how I think about homelessness, and it is especially, painfully apt as we think about homelessness among veterans of our armed forces.

At least 62,619 veterans were homeless overnight during the January 2012 one night counts across the nation. This shocking number includes veterans in shelters and transitional housing programs, as well as those who lack even basic overnight shelter.  Last year, the Coalition developed a new part of the One Night Count designed to improve our  knowledge about how many veterans are without basic overnight shelter.

Homelessness among veterans rivets people’s attention.  People who are  quick to think about homelessness as a complex combination of individual shortcomings, societal failures, and economic hard times, come easily to a simple conclusion:  no person who risked his or her life in service to this nation should be shivering under a bridge.

In the last two years, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (the VA) has begun working more deliberately and closely with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to address homelessness among veterans.  The good news is that this effort has meant that new, additional resources, including money, are being directed to reach out to, shelter, support, and house veterans.  When the national 2012 One Night Count results were released a few weeks ago, Secretary Donovan at HUD and Secretary Shinseki at the VA proudly noted a 7% decrease in homelessness among veterans since the January 2011 count.

For our Veterans Interview Project (VIP), we train volunteers to ask short survey questions the morning after the One Night Count, placing them at public meal sites, day centers, employment and hygiene programs, and other locations where a high proportion of people are likely to have spent the previous night outdoors.  Last year we partnered with 16 Coalition member agencies and other organizations, and spoke with nearly a thousand individuals.  Our volunteers asked three simple questions:

  1. Where did you stay last night?
  2. Have you ever served in the U.S. Armed Forces?
  3. Were you ever called into active duty as a member of the National Guard or as a Reservist?

Through this survey, and through our survey of key service providers who work with homeless people and veterans, we showed that at least 163 King County veterans lacked basic overnight shelter on this one cold, winter night.  This information strengthened and informed our local, regional, and national work.

The Veterans Interview Project improved our local count of veterans, but the sad truth is that we know that actual numbers of unsheltered veterans are higher.  Our careful counts are conservative, and not comprehensive. They allow us to state with confidence that at least 163 veterans in our community need immediate and long-term help, among the many hundreds of people who are outside overnight.

On January 25, 2013, we will be conducting our Veterans Interview Project again.  If you are interested in helping the Coalition with this special project, we are looking for people who are available for a three hour shift on Friday, January 25, 2013, and who have experience working with veterans or people who are homeless.  Please click here to fill out a volunteer application. Thank you.

 

Comment on HEARTH and McKinney Vento proposed changes

During our General Membership meeting yesterday, Kate Speltz did an amazing job walking our members through the Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) proposed changes to the Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing (HEARTH) Act as it relates to the Interim Continuum of Care (CoC) rule.  If you think this topic sounds esoteric, than you’re right.  This stuff is really complicated, but it’s also THE legislation that regulates significant funding for homeless prevention, housing, and services federally and at the state level through competitive grants.  The National Alliance to End Homelessness has done an admirable job summarizing the proposed changes and Kate pulled out the parts of the CoC rule which services providers and organizations who serve the homeless would be most impacted by.

The proposed CoC rule will go into effect on August 30th and individuals and organizations are encouraged to submit comments to HUD before October 1, 2012.  Kate is interested in receiving comments from providers and organizations which will help to inform the Seattle-King County response to the proposal, however she encourages all concerned individuals to comment directly to HUD.  Here are two areas in the proposal that Kate thinks service providers and homeless and housing advocates might like to comment on:

  • McKinney Vento allowable funding. The current proposal specifically identifies which services can be paid for with McKinney funding. You are encouraged to review that list for services that you believe are important. Interpretation services, for example, are not currently included in the list.  We know that many housing and homeless service organizations rely heavily on interpretive services when assessing, screening and serving homeless individuals.
  • This proposal also requires states to setup and use a centralized or coordinated assessment system for all people entering the homeless assistance system by the end of 2014.  It isn’t completely clear what it means to coordinate assessment, but the deadline is set.  You might want to comment on the approach and/or the time frame.

If you want to send your comments to King County email them to: DCHS@kingcounty.gov

Send comments directly to HUD through the Federal Regulations website.