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

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 …

Read more

Have you celebrated the City of Seattle budget yet?

The advocacy efforts of SKCCH members and allies paid off this budget season! We wrote, emailed, called, and testified about the very real needs of our homeless neighbors in Seattle. Our mobilization helped to secure over a half million dollars in additional funding for homeless services! This increased funding over the next two years will increase shelter capacity and funding for day services in the City of Seattle. These successes include additional funding for: Rapid Rehousing for homeless people ($200,000 in 2013/2014) Additional shelter services ($100,000 in 2013/2014) Additional women’s shelter ($50,000 in 2013/2014) Funding for homeless day-center services including hygiene in downtown neighborhoods ($200,000 in 2013/2014) We want to thank the Seattle City Council for their leadership in making investments to provide for the basic needs of people who are homeless. Check out Nick Licata’s blog post about the 2013-14 City Budget to learn more. With 2,594 people counted sleeping outside on one night in King County during the 2012 One Night Count, we know how important these services are. There is simply not enough shelter to meet the need. This increase in funding will have a real impact for our community’s most vulnerable residents, and we’re just getting started! Stay tuned for our 2013 State Legislative session priorities, and mark your calendars for Homelessness and Housing Advocacy Day on Monday, February 11, 2013.

Coalition Advocacy Mitigates the Loss of the Ride Free Area

The Ride Free Area has been an essential service to people experiencing homelessness and living on low incomes in downtown Seattle for 39 years. When the King County Council directed Metro to eliminate the Ride Free Area, SKCCH members immediately took up the cause and advocated across the County for the implementation of a robust mitigation plan. SKCCH members contacted King County, Metro, and City of Seattle officials, testified at County Council meetings, and organized a postcard campaign to provide relevant and vital about the impact the loss of the Ride Free Area will have on people experiencing homelessness. As a result of coordinated advocacy efforts, the City of Seattle has partnered with Solid Ground to provide a free alternative bus service in the downtown area. The two Solid Ground circulators stop at 7 Metro bus stops along a 4.5 mile route about every 30 minutes. This new route includes Harborview Medical Center and other important First Hill services which could not previously be accessed via the Ride Free Area. The circulator buses provide necessary access to downtown health and human services for people experiencing homelessness; however the days, hours, and stops are significantly reduced compared to the Ride Free Area due to funding constraints.  More information about the Solid Ground Circulator can be found at: http://www.solidground.org/Programs/Transportation/circulator/Pages/default.aspx Do you have any feedback regarding the word from clients, staff, residents, and guests about the Circulator and the effects on people’s daily lives and health due to the loss of the Ride Free Area?  Do you have feedback related to the circulator buses you think SKCCH should know about? If so, contact me at Kathariner@homelessinfo.org or 206-357-3144.  

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 …

Read more