GIVE HOUSING A VOICE: TOOLKIT FOR HOMELESS PERSONS

Overview: According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), there were roughly 554,000 homeless people living in the United States on a given night last year and 193,000 of those people were “unsheltered,” meaning that they were living on the streets and had no access to emergency shelters, transitional housing, or Safe Havens.  The nation is currently facing one of the most severe affordable housing crises in history and those living in poverty are the most significantly affected.  As the gap between increasing housing costs and stagnant incomes widens, the result is that more people become homeless.  The solution to homelessness is straightforward: housing.  However, in many places across America, there is simply not enough available affordable housing. Without this housing stock, many homeless Americans are likely to continue to cycle in and out of homelessness.  The priority now must be to expand the supply of affordable housing. To do this, there is a need to increase the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s ability to serve and house low-income individuals.  By connecting people experiencing homelessness to housing and services, they have a platform from which they can address other areas that may have contributed to their homelessness, such as employment, health, and substance abuse.

Talking Points on Creating Affordable Housing for Homeless Persons

Housing Affordability and Homelessness

Two trends are largely responsible for the rise in homelessness over the past 20-25 years: a growing shortage of affordable rental housing and a simultaneous increase in poverty.  Furthermore, a lack of affordable housing and the limited scale of housing assistance programs have contributed to the current housing crisis and to homelessness.  The lack of affordable housing has led to high rent burdens, overcrowding, and substandard housing. These phenomena, in turn, have not only forced many people to become homeless; they have put a large and growing number of people at risk of becoming homeless.  To combat the increasing rates of homelessness in the United States numerous housing organizations—Urban Institute, Housing Partnership Network, National Housing Conference

National Housing Conference, Coalition for the Homeless, and Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies—have begun to identify some of the innovative solutions that cities, states, and nonprofits have turned to help solve the concurrent affordability shortage and create housing.  These methods include inclusionary zoning, removing parking minimums, changing building codes to make it easier to rehab older buildings, and new funding models.

Homeless Assistance Programs

Two homelessness-focused housing models that have been demonstrated to end homelessness are:

Permanent supportive housing: Permanent supportive housing is long-term rental assistance and supportive services.  It is targeted to individuals and families with chronic illnesses, disabilities, mental health issues, or substance use disorders who have experienced long-term or repeated homelessness.

Rapid re-housing: Rapid re-housing provides short-term rental assistance and services.  The goals are to help people obtain housing quickly, increase self-sufficiency, and stay housed.

Additionally, there are public housing and voucher programs that are also in place.  Administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, public housing and voucher programs provide decent and safe affordable housing for low-income people and play a critical role in reducing homelessness.

Housing Choice Voucher Program (commonly known as “Section 8“) has become the dominant form of federal housing assistance.  The program, which provides vouchers to low-income households to help them pay for housing in the private market, has been found to reduce homelessness.

Public housing is federally funded housing that is rented at subsidized rates to eligible low-income families, the elderly, and persons with disabilities.

Strategies

1) Share your own story.  Talking from your own personal experience or of someone, you know who experienced homelessness is powerful.

2) Educate the public how affordable housing could help eliminate homelessness in the United States.  There is a clear correlation between a lack of affordable housing and homelessness.  The solution is clear as well in that cities need to strengthen their commitment not just on homeless services, but also on building more affordable housing.

3) Market the proposal in a more attractive manner.  Present a case for affordable housing that proves its value to the community and share evidence showing the lack of negative externalities.  Develop an empathetic approach to embody the ideal emotional and behavioral approach to the topic. Appeal to your audience by allowing them to imagine the hardships of homelessness and that housing should be a basic human right, not a privilege.

Resources

A map of America’s homeless problem reveals the best and worst states for affordable housing (Business Insider)

Affordable Housing Crisis Forces U.S. Homeless Numbers Up for First Time Since Great Recession (Newsweek)

America’s Affordable Housing Crisis is Driving Its Homelessness Crisis (Fast Company)

Assisting Homeless People (Volunteers of America)

Estimating the Number of Homeless in America (The Data Face)

Homeless Assistance (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development)  

Homelessness, Step by Step (The New York Times)

Housing Help: Help for the Homeless (USA.gov)

Missed Opportunities: Youth Homelessness in America (Voices of Youth Count)  

National Alliance to End Homelessness (EndHomelessness.org)

National Coalition for the Homeless (NationalHomeless.org)

National Health Care for the Homeless Council (NHCHC)

Need Housing Assistance? (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Exchange)

New York/New York III Supportive Housing Evaluation, NYCDOHMH+NYCHRA+NYSOMH

Preventing Homelessness Goes Beyond Affordable Housing  (HuffPost)

Solving affordable housing: Creative solutions around the U.S. (Curbed)

Understanding Homelessness (UnderstandHomelessness.com)

United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH)

Why isn’t homelessness seen as a national crisis? (Curbed)

“Homeless Persons” Success Stories

From Homeless to Housed: Leslie Mann’s Story of Growth

Relaying Hope through Activism: Lanette Hughes Inspires Through Artwork

Is a homeless person you know in need of supportive housing?

Local agencies provide a range of services, including food, housing, health, and safety.  Contact a national hotline or locate an organization near you.

Check to see what shelter and housing and human or social services programs your state offers. The types of facilities vary.  Research the best options by calling or visiting housing websites to determine:

Apply for more permanent public or subsidized housing. Typically, there are waiting lists for public and subsidized housing, so apply as soon as possible.  

Homeless Assistance:

Learn more about affordable rental housing and the programs the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development provides.

Is a homeless person you know in need of supportive housing?

Local agencies provide a range of services, including food, housing, health, and safety.  Contact a national hotline or locate an organization near you.

Check to see what shelter and housing and human or social services programs your state offers. The types of facilities vary.  Research the best options by calling or visiting housing websites to determine:

Apply for more permanent public or subsidized housing. Typically, there are waiting lists for public and subsidized housing, so apply as soon as possible.  

Homeless Assistance:

Learn more about affordable rental housing and the programs the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development provides.

Search for a home provided by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to purchase on HUDhomestore.com.

Contact a housing counseling agency in your area or call 800-569-4287.

Find HIV/AIDS housing and services near you.

Find assistance to avoid foreclosure near you or call the Making Home Affordable hotline 888-995-4673.

Get assistance with home improvements.

File a housing discrimination complaint.

Find tenant rights assistance.

Programs for Homeless Youth:

Transitional Living Program for Youth – provides homeless youth with stable, safe living accommodations for up to 21 months.

Street Outreach – services include education, outreach, access to emergency shelter, survival aid, counseling, information and referral, crisis intervention, and follow up support.

Runaway and Homeless Youth Basic Center Programs – provide emergency shelter services to run away and homeless youth.

Programs for Homeless Veterans:

Homeless Veterans Assistance Center – services include opportunities to return to employment, safe housing, health care, and mental health services.

VA Homeless Veterans Resources – coordinates VA services with community agencies and federal, state, and local governments to help veterans.

Programs for Homeless People with Mental Illness:

Projects for Assistance in Transition from Homelessness (PATH) -assist to individuals who are homeless or at risk of homelessness and have serious mental illnesses.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email