Photo by Cheryl Jones of the NEOCH Photo Project
Prevention Dollars and Other Updates from Around the Country
I went to DC the last week in July for the National Coalition Board meeting, and the big news was that NCH hired a new Executive Director to carry the organization forward. There will be details on their website with a reception this fall. (The new ED is not the individual in the photo above.) I wanted to put down a few things that I heard from some of the other members of the NCH Board.
The District of Columbia
There is a lot of anger toward the Mayor for shutting down one of the shelters, but he was going to be at the ribbon cutting of the national street soccer tournament. One other piece of good news is that the City Council was planning to pass a local anti-homeless hate crimes bill. Cleveland already has one, but it is a positive step for a city to recognize that homeless people are targets living on the streets. Hopefully, this is a first step toward increased monitoring and a crack down on these young people who are doing this.
Ever since the Olympics were in Atlanta, it has been rough for homeless people. The city has taken a hostile position on the presence of homeless people downtown, and struggled to close one of the biggest shelters in the region. They have fought in court and before funders and have gone back and forth to try to kill the Metro Atlanta Task Force shelter. The city has seen the public hospitals privatized, closed many affordable housing units, and now they are working to the shelter to try and shut it down.
San Antonio, TX
There is a new program called Haven of Hope that is trying to get started. It is located on 37 acres with many warehouses and buildings for housing. This will be a massive complex that could potentially house thousands of homeless individuals. The program will work with the individuals to find gainful employment as part of their programming on housing and other issues.
The big news out of Florida is the fight over sexually based offenders, and especially the 75 person camp of offenders under one of the overpasses. There is a fight between local council members who want most of the city to be off limits to offenders and the state officials who are sending offenders to live below the overpass.
One of the few cities that seem to using the Homeless Prevention dollars effectively. The County gave the funds over to the large social service provider to set up a collaborative process. Every group is trying to figure out if they can meet the reporting requirements set up by HUD for these funds. Denver social service groups are filling up the green affordable rental units that were built earlier this year and they are now working on a collaboration with the public library for a supportive housing complex. The health care facility got stimulus dollars to move to electronic medical records, and they are working to try to double the size.
There is some development work going on in Billings. Montana was only given a small amount of Homeless Prevention money, and it is very difficult to figure out how to spend such a small amount of money considering the huge need.
There was a substantial increase in family homelessness. There is legislation pending in Minnesota to restrict the use of HMIS numbers. They are using some of the neighborhood money to try to save homes that are foreclosed on especially for refugees and rental property. They are working on repairing the tax credit program to create new affordable housing. Very few corporations were paying taxes since they did not have profits and so therefore there was not much of a pool of available credits to build housing.
They are having a hard time spending the Homeless Prevention dollars. The applications require collaboration, but the groups cannot hire partner agencies to actually implement a collaboration. There was a bill introduced to protect homeless people with a anti-hate crimes bill. There are a few scattered programs to use federal dollars to build affordable housing.
I also attended the Homeless Coalition meeting for the other Coalitions in Ohio. There I learned that only Southeast Ohio seems satisfied with the way that the Homeless Prevention stimulus dollars were being spent. The Three C cities (Cleveland, Columbus, Cincy) all have had one person basically decide where all this new money was going to go. Very few of the activists were happy with how these decisions were made, and do not see many potentially homeless benefiting from these funds. Toledo activists have raised a stink about the process and gone to HUD and the media to raise objections. Dayton is more in a wait and see approach to the use of these funds. The groups traditionally funded to prevent evictions were not funded and the money was divided among groups that had not traditionally provided these types of services.
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