Monday, January 19, 2009

Melville Charitable Trust

Every Night I Hear Melville is Looking for Solutions?

So, does anyone else wonder how many more years the Melville Charitable Trust will be looking for a solution to Homelessness? Every night I hear on NPR that it is funding "All Things Considered" and working on finding solutions to homelessness? So, how is it going for them on this quest for the Holy Grail? Have they found a solution yet? Homelessness has increased every year for the past 20 in Cleveland, so the solutions have not made it to the Midwest. I went to their website and here is what I found:

What We've Learned

After working with more than a hundred grantee partners for over a dozen years we are now convinced of the following:

  1. Homelessness is a solvable problem.
  2. Decent, safe, accessible and affordable housing is indispensable to solving the problem of homelessness.
  3. Providing housing with support services to those who have enduring disabilities is the smart, humane, cost-effective solution to long-term homelessness.
  4. Our society has more than adequate economic capacity to invest in the housing and provide the services that can eliminate homelessness anywhere in America.
  5. Government agencies and officials, as well as our elected representatives on the local, state, national levels must be in the forefront of efforts to end homelessness, investing significant resources in housing and service programs that lead to individual and family independence.
  6. All that is needed to eliminate homelessness in America is the political will to do so.
I think that they could have stopped at #2, but what do I know? So, they have funded the National Alliance, and are big supporters of the Bush 10 year plan strategy. Some of those 10 year plans will expire next year, and I doubt that any city in America will declare victory. So, where are we? In most of America, homelessness is worse than it was 10 years ago. We have built a whole bunch of permanent supportive housing, but have no plans to fund those services long term. We have decimated public and the voucher program in America, and very few are successfully lobbying on their behalf. We have more poor people. We have more populations who find themselves homeless for longer periods of time. We have more families, more individuals from suburban and rural communities, more seniors and more young people becoming homeless. These populations are increasing, and we have seen a steady population of single men. We have fewer jobs that pay a decent wage, more people without health care, more civil rights violations against homeless people, and less housing for poor people.

I cannot think of many areas in the life of homeless people that are better. There are fewer benefits available to homeless people. There are fewer lawyers. It is harder for a homeless person to vote in America. So, the state of homelessness is worse, and yet Melville keeps pumping money into NPR and looking for solutions? What is NPR doing to reduce homelessness by the way? I have to wonder that all the money spent on staff, advertising, shelters, permanent supportive housing projects, National Alliance, and NPR would have helped more people by just providing a family a housing voucher for one year. They could have paid for an entire year of housing for 1,000 people in Cuyahoga County over the 10 years if they had just given away $6.5 million dollars to us. That would have doubled our Shelter Plus Care program and increased our Voucher program by over 7% with $6.5 million.

I hope that all national groups will re-evaluate the decisions (funders, government, and service providers) that have been made over the last 10 years. I hope that activists will look for solutions that do not take a decade or more to come to fruition. We need to have a massive investment in housing. We cannot lose anymore housing. We have to have put people to work and provide those on disability with more money to survive. Or at least we could provide a housing voucher along with their disability check. It is time for a change, and maybe a new statement on All Things Considered for Melville.

Brian
Posts by Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless staff and Board.

8 comments:

CynDe said...

Well, DUH!

Starting with the Reagan Administration the federal government has "borrowed" in excess of $900 BILLION from the Social Security funds. This money is yet to be repaid while PNC takes its government bailout money to purchase the failing National City Bank. I would sure like to know how many people have become homeless (myself included) or died while waiting for disability determination by the Social Security Administration.

Also, in the meantime, the American automobile "Big Three" want their share of the handouts.

Well, since the federal government of the United States of America is "loaning" out my money without my approval, without scrutinizing the "borrowers", I've decided that maybe I should call in the money I loaned the government.

I want vouchers totaling $85,000 that I can redeem with the following:
To the bank that I pay my mortgage payment to - a voucher totaling $45,000 to pay off my mortgage early. Imagine what an impact this would make for every American family that is paying on a home mortgage or is facing foreclosure and homelessness! Give it some serious thought because I don't think this requires an explanation.

Payable to a local contractor of my choosing - a voucher for $25,000 for replacement of my bathroom and kitchen floors that are rotting, to insulate my attic for energy efficiency and any other repairs that are necessary. I will get my home improvements done while, in turn, stimulating the economy by helping support a small business owner.

For the remaining $20,000 I want a voucher payable to one of my local car dealerships. I don't need a new vehicle, which will depreciate by thousands of dollars as soon as I drive it off the lot. I just want a reliable newer model car and a transmission for my junker truck. Isn't the object to move inventory and keep the automakers afloat?

Pay me back some of what I loaned and maybe, just maybe I will forgive (but I certainly won't forget) losing my home of ten years, losing my possessions and having to wait nearly three years while government mismanaged my money and paid me (finally) a pittance and without accrued interest.

Melville Trust said...

Hello Brian,

As a staff member of the Melville Charitable Trust, I read your comments with interest. Allow me to jump in and offer my two cents.

I think we agree that homelessness is a solvable problem. The Trust focuses on the creation of supportive housing as a key solution, one that can be used throughout the country. The Trust has spent over fifteen years funding supportive housing solutions in Connecticut (the Melville family’s home state). This focused investment in the state has contributed to significant results (thousands of units of housing) and a strong group of leaders who advocate for real solutions to homelessness, including funding for ongoing services (a very big challenge as you acknowledge). We would be the first to say that this type of change does not happen quickly. It can be frustrating, but for us it is worth the consistent investment. You can visit one of our key grantee partner’s sites to learn more about the advocacy we support: www.ctpartnershiphousing.com .

When you suggest that we might have better used our funding to pay for an entire year of housing for 1,000 people, that’s where we seriously disagree. Philanthropy cannot and should not be the direct funding solution to the nation’s housing crisis. It is not sustainable; frankly, we would run out of money – and pretty quickly.

To be most effective in addressing major social issues such as homelessness, foundations can work to leverage their funds. The Melville Trust does this on a national level when we support the National Alliance to End Homelessness, the National Low Income Housing Coalition, and the Center for Budget Policy and Priorities, among others. Their legislative advocacy has a tremendous impact on the federal and state allocation of funding for housing and homelessness priorities throughout the country (if interested, you can find a list of all of our grantees from the past five years on our website www.melvilletrust.org ).

We also work to facilitate relationships with other funders, again with the aim of leveraging funds as well as sharing ideas. The Trust is a founding member of Funders Together ,www.funderstogether.org , a national network of funders dedicated to ending homelessness.

Our ongoing support of NPR underwrites their tremendous contribution to airing stories about housing and poverty – important reporting you don’t hear in many other places. It is our hope that our tagline might offer encouragement/inspiration for those working in the field or impacted by homelessness, as well as awareness for others who think homelessness is an unfortunate constant in our society.

I appreciate the forum to respond and would be happy to discuss any of these issues further through the blog or otherwise.
Sincerely,

Aimee Hendrigan
Senior Program Officer
Melville Charitable Trust
ahendrigan at melvilletrust dot org

Michael said...

There is a proverb: give a man a fish and he eats that day, teach him to fish and he will eat fish throughout his life.
The same concept applies to many homeless, NO I'm not going to blame them for their plight though many have made unwise choices. Society should be shaped so that we are educated sufficiently to operate in a system that is constructed to prevent us from becoming homeless unless by choice--and there ARE a few that do so choose!
There need to be EXCELLENT schools for all, leading to JOBS that have opportunities for ADVANCEMENT which will enable ALL to obtain ADEQUATE housing.
This is to say there should be pressure to elevate the lower class from it's disadvantaged position.
There is NO justification for this affluent nation having a significant population of disadvantaged persons yet there is little money or research toward correcting this.

Michael said...

Conversely, disadvantaged children are left to learn to--be disadvantaged.
We are told and choose to believe that they DESERVE their situation because they choose to be but that concept somehow doesn't carry to the affluent.There is a proverb: give a man a fish and he eats that day, teach him to fish and he will eat fish throughout his life.
The same concept applies to many homeless, NO I'm not going to blame them for their plight though many have made unwise choices. Society should be shaped so that we are educated sufficiently to operate in a system that is constructed to prevent us from becoming homeless unless by choice--and there ARE a few that do so choose!
There need to be EXCELLENT schools for all, leading to JOBS that have opportunities for ADVANCEMENT which will enable ALL to obtain ADEQUATE housing.
This is to say there should be pressure to elevate the lower class from it's disadvantaged position.
There is NO justification for this affluent nation having a significant population of disadvantaged persons yet there is little money or research toward correcting this.
The affluent by large insure their children learn the behavior necessary to become also affluent. Conversely, disadvantaged children are left to learn to--be disadvantaged.
We are told and choose to believe that they DESERVE their situation because they choose to be but that concept somehow doesn't carry to the affluent.There is a proverb: give a man a fish and he eats that day, teach him to fish and he will eat fish throughout his life.
The same concept applies to many homeless, NO I'm not going to blame them for their plight though many have made unwise choices. Society should be shaped so that we are educated sufficiently to operate in a system that is constructed to prevent us from becoming homeless unless by choice--and there ARE a few that do so choose!
There need to be EXCELLENT schools for all, leading to JOBS that have opportunities for ADVANCEMENT which will enable ALL to obtain ADEQUATE housing.
This is to say there should be pressure to elevate the lower class from it's disadvantaged position.
There is NO justification for this affluent nation having a significant population of disadvantaged persons yet there is little money or research toward correcting this.
The affluent by large insure their children learn the behavior necessary to become also affluent. Conversely, disadvantaged children are left to learn to--be disadvantaged.
We are told and choose to believe that they DESERVE their situation because they choose to be but that concept somehow doesn't carry to the affluent.There is a proverb: give a man a fish and he eats that day, teach him to fish and he will eat fish throughout his life.
The same concept applies to many homeless, NO I'm not going to blame them for their plight though many have made unwise choices. Society should be shaped so that we are educated sufficiently to operate in a system that is constructed to prevent us from becoming homeless unless by choice--and there ARE a few that do so choose!
There need to be EXCELLENT schools for all, leading to JOBS that have opportunities for ADVANCEMENT which will enable ALL to obtain ADEQUATE housing.
This is to say there should be pressure to elevate the lower class from it's disadvantaged position.
There is NO justification for this affluent nation having a significant population of disadvantaged persons yet there is little money or research toward correcting this.
The affluent by large insure their children learn the behavior necessary to become also affluent. Conversely, disadvantaged children are left to learn to--be disadvantaged.
We are told and choose to believe that they DESERVE their situation because they choose to be but that concept somehow doesn't carry to the affluent.

Michael said...

Sorry this somehow mis indexed!

Art Vanden said...

One of the most vile of scams is that so many "homeless advocacy" groups are in it for their salaries and not much more. There was a "charity" in Fresno advertising nationally as "motorhomes for the homeless" an advocacy group who's plea for donations of higher end motorhomes to help the homeless... Well in reality they were selling motorhomes to to lots around southern CA to advocate for homeless people's need for housing (printing brochures) Their president claimed a vast salary and they had a large staff "no homeless of course" to shift the donated motorhomes into their pocket and of course "help the homeless"

I've volunteered some advertising on my website because by the sound of their mission statement, they sounded like they were really doing something beautiful and needed.

So, upon some complaints from members on the site I did some further investigation (I volunteered) in the Fresno area... It would seem that their entire budget went to "advocacy"??? Hmmm??? they obviously were doing damn good, big office, plenty of staff... All to produce a flyer/advertisement describing the need for the homeless to have homes...

POVERTY PIMPS... ALL "advocacy groups are indeed POVERTY PIMPS.

Just look at the facts of how much the Melville Trust donates to NPR for their name recognition... Now, look at how much they have given to actually "print their flyers" and 700k over the past ten years to a Connecticut educational program is a spit in the face of all homeless people.

Now let's see Melville trust disclose their hierarchys salaries, I would bet it is alot more than they helped the homeless with.

los angeles donate car charity said...

I agree that homelessness is a solvable problem. The government should deal with this.

fritzwilliam said...

There are aspects to homeless advocacy programs other than to simply throw money at the problem. We at the Ventura News-Commenter have recently dedicated our support to the National Coalition for the Homeless, based in D.C., and therin lies the nub of the matter.

NCH "lives" at the source and lobbies Congress. That's right, lobbies. And believe it or not there are some forms of lobbying that don't involve lining the pockets of politicians. The SOPA demonstration of last week is a great example.

The most immediate fear facing all of us is the the growing national trend toward the criminalization of homelessness. NCH backs legislation that would disqualify cities and communities from receiving federal funding for so-called “affordable” housing programs [Below Market Rate (BMR) and others] as the penalty for enacting homeless criminalization statutes.

Now we're getting somewhere. Let's get the BMR housing contractor "toadies" off our backs and hit them where they live -- in their pocketbooks. We could all get together and do this -- lobby our Congress people with emails and phone calls promising the loss of our support for their reelection while the very thought of homelessness criminalization still hangs in the air.