Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Local Reports from Around the US

National Coalition for the Homeless March 2011
Local Reports

Minnesota still has General Assistance and they may reform it.

Austin, Texas
The House the Homeless group could not get the city to agree to do away with the prohibition on sitting and lying on the public sidewalk, so instead they convinced City Council to provide an exemption for disabled homeless people. White Noise was introduced at the shelter to try to reduce noise and help people sleep.

New York City
All time record shelter population—40,000 people including 16,000 children—the agencies are struggling with recession and government policy changes that also has impacted services. 113,000 spent time in the shelters in 2010 in New York City. This does not include specialized populations (people with AIDS, Domestic Violence victims, etc. or those sleeping on the streets. There are some rough budget battles ahead in New York with historic levels of need. So far, there is not any proposed cuts to supportive housing because of budget shortfalls. The time limited rent subsidy program that advocates were not big supporters of is being cut because it is a revolving door back to homelessness, but the problem is that there is nothing to replace the program proposed. The rent regulations that put a cap on the local rental market is up for expiration in June 2011. 1 million apartment units fall under this law, which translates to 2.2 million people who could see a large rent increase this year.

Puerto Rico
Hate crimes legislation passed in December to include homeless people. HUD is trying to clean up the use of federal funds by the City of San Juan including problems with CDGB. Housing task force created but did not include homeless advocates. There is a great deal of fighting by many organizations over which group will oversee supportive housing projects.

The Anti-Defamation League sponsored a forum on hate crimes for homeless people—five different police forces attended to learn more about the issue. Boston healthcare providers are trying to work on the issue of housing. They have selected the top 35 homeless users of the emergency room at Boston General, and they are working with other partners in the community to house those individuals. There is going to eventually be a showdown between the criminal justice system with the proximity housing limitations for sexually based offenders and the shelter community who are forced to housed people for long periods of time.


Homeless Management Information System problems with the state demanding social security number as a requirement for getting a bed. HUD stepped in to stop this practice. HUD is going to visit Jeffersonville next week to look at a number of issues regarding homelessness, funding, and planning activities in rural communities. Criminalization efforts on the rise throughout the state of Indiana.

Atlanta, GA

8,000 people attended a rally at the capital around the anti-immigration bill that is making its way through the legislature. Lawsuits expanded to include Emory and United Way about the effort to shut down all services downtown to homeless people. Also, there is a pending HUD complaint that alleges that there is a pattern and practice of discrimination in Atlanta. HPRP is not working and anyone who comes back into the shelters are labeled “not compliant” and are denied any services.

Stimulus money was spent and did a lot of good. Housing Trust created but put no money in it. There is a law making its way through the legislature to demand identification in order to vote.

US. Congress
There is a budget proposal being proposed which will have a cap on welfare programs—including the student loan pell grants, Earned income tax credits, Medicaid, and others. The only thing that progressives are doing is playing defense, and trying to protect programs for the poor. Probably one more continuing resolution and there will be big cuts. Big cuts expected for 2012 budget. Emergency food cut for 2011 and VASH was cuts.

South Carolina
An attempt to cut to Medicare/Medicaid within the state to eliminate all non-essential services. Asked their federal representatives to not cut CDBG because it was so important to local communities, and they got almost the same letter back from both Senator and federal representatives. They basically said, that the deficit is such a threat to America it is worse than a terrorist attack. So brace for massive human services cuts—asking business community/religious community to pick up the slack. Businesses and religious groups are already tapped out and have no more money to help out poor people. The state is also proposing an voting ID provision.

Eviction prevention dollars were cut, but advocates got it restored but were only able to get back 50% of the funding. There was an introduction of legislation to ban discrimination based on source of income/SSI/Section 8. There is also a movement to “Ban the box” provision to prevent employers from asking about criminal background and credit checks in order to get a job. Bill to propose zoning of shelters within Baltimore for any shelter with over 20 people (use regulations). There is a 10 year plan in Baltimore and the city is trying to increase the amount of money for services in order to accomplish these goals.

State hate crimes bill proposed again. $9 billion dollar cut to human services expected because of budget deficit. Eliminated community re-development agency, which was a $1 billion dollar cut. Agencies are trying to scramble to figure out what to do. Safe Ground (Sacramento tent city) is still going strong. Second Chance Act to help those coming out of jail has been used to provide additional housing/services in Sacremento. Trying to create a re-entry center. 95% of the HPRP referrals are to unsubsidized housing. 111 SRO units are sitting empty. Lots of communication among the three big tents cities in the Northwest.

Ft. Lauderdale, Florida
Governor is cutting everything in Florida. ID is a growing problem. Problems with people storing their items without funding. HPRP is not working because the agency does not have any familiarity with working with homeless people. Lots of tension among advocates, and competition among the social service providers.

South Dakota
Government moved significantly to the right. There are budget woes at the state level with debt issues. Expected 10% cut across the board human services cut. There are big cuts to education including cuts at the local level. ID is a problem within the state. Pushing for a housing trust fund and the banks are supporting it and pushing for it to be created statewide ($10 million total, but only expected to get $1 to $2 million). Local groups are trying to creating community awareness about homelessness.


Legislature also move to the extreme right. They have proposed a nullification law that would allow the state to withdraw from federal programs like Medicaid and health care system. They are expected to have massive medicaid cuts, education cuts, senior cuts.


Hate crimes bill passed the house. There is a $1 billion dollar state budget shortfall. Got $3 million restored to the budget for Healthcare for the Homeless in 2010 through federal funding. Colorado Coalition is opening a 98 unit development and a 102 unit apartment is in development (both are supportive housing project). Kreske Foundation has helped fund a Renaissance work program as part of the supportive works program. They will have a Pizza fusion program that employs formerly homeless people. HPRP only measures status after leave the program and not six months down the line, which is a problem with the program. Prevention requests overwhelming the system may not make a difference may only forestall homelessness for a couple of months.


HPRP is working well in the state and they are using it effectively for the mostly rural state.


Massive state budget cuts coming. In order to fund Homeless and Prevention at the same level they need a fee recordation fee increase. Landlords are supporting it the increase because it can help people stay in their apartments. Housing Trust fund unlikely to be funded—50% cut to the program because of the budget deficit. $100 million last year—typically only help other tax credits funded. Hate crimes measure introduced, but unlikely to get out of a committee. State is now helping out with funding the tent city in Seattle.

Brian Davis
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