Search This Blog

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

"Highlights from The NAEH Conference" By, Carol Walter, ED of CCEH

HUD Deputy Secretary asks HPRP Providers to Serve Higher Risk Households

The National Alliance to End Homelessness Conference on family homelessness began this morning with more than 600 registrants, a record. Nan Roman, the President of NAEH and Mark Johnston, Deputy Secretary at the US Department of Housing and Urban Development delivered the morning plenary. Here are some highlights:

Mark Johnston-HUD:

“HPRP has been a roller coaster ride for everyone, and I feel like I am sitting in the last car.”

The program represents the first stable resource through the federal government geared toward preventing homelessness.

National information so far shows higher use of funds for prevention than rapid re-housing. HUD is concerned about this because it is hard to get prevention right. The right person for this program isn’t every needy family who walks through the door.
“You need to keep asking yourself this question [as you select who you serve with prevention dollars] but for this assistance, will this household be homeless.?” I noticed he said will be homeless, not may be homeless.

Johnston stated that while some believe HUD has given mixed messages on targeting, grantees should re-read the notice (regulations) if they are wondering who HUD wants them to serve. HE emphasized that additional risk factors could be applied. They expect that this program will serve the same profile of people through prevention as have been served in shelter. This may differ from community to community. (See Hud's Additional HPRP Eligibility Criteria Suggestions)

Johnston said that while stability is the goal, reducing homelessness by serving people who are shelter bound is HUD’s priority and will define success,.

Countering what many around the country, and in CT, have expressed as concerns that programs will be seen as failures if they target people who may not sustain their housing, Johnston provocatively stated, “If data shows that no-one you serve [in prevention] eventually becomes homeless it most certainly means that your program didn’t target correctly.” Said Johnston

All of this makes me realize that HUD, and admittedly CCEH, are worried that our early cautions not to target chronically homeless people for HPRP (and no-one things we should, that is why we fight for Supportive Housing) have backfired and people are setting the bar way too high for HPRP to actually prevent homelessness in communities.
Nan Roman-NAEH:
People are to be commended for the excellent work in implementing HPRP so quickly. Government and community-based providers have done a remarkable job.
All indications point to a very difficult time for extremely low-income people over the coming months, and family homelessness is on the rise.
Early experience with HPRP nationally is cause for concern: communities have spent far more money on prevention than rapid re-housing and much of the prevention funding is going to households closer to the 50% annual median income than the very, very low income households.
Many HPRP resources around the country are going to families who wouldn’t become homeless ‘but for’ this assistance as intended. She referred to the effect of over-generalizing as ‘air-conditioning the outdoors’.
The majority of people near 50% AMI, and the ‘newly unemployed’ families who so many communities are serving through prevention will never become homeless, research says.

Favorite Quotes:
Norm Suchar-NAEH

Kathryn Gale-Almenda County, CA

Afternoon session on evaluating HPRP.
“Prevention programs always start messy and get better with time”, Norm Suchar

Kathryn Gale:
“The Almeda County prevention program prioritizes people who are doubled up over people with eviction notices. The majority of people who use shelter (Norm confirms this is true nationally) come from doubled up situations. Very, very few people who are legally evicted ever become homeless.”

“No-one should be saving money for a security deposit or first months rent in your shelters today. Get them out. That is what HPRP is for.”
“No-one should be waiting for their housing authority unit or a section 8 which is being finalized in shelters today. Get them out.”