The Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program (HPRP)

Also published on The Huffington Post.

On February 17th, President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) into law.   The US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is administering $1.5 billion of this $787 billion stimulus package through its Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program (HPRP).   HPRP funding is truly significant since it equals HUD’s entire annual homeless assistance budget.

While the overall goal of HPRP is housing stability for those being helped, HPRP funds will provide two-fold relief:

1. Homelessness prevention assistance for households who would otherwise become homeless and

2.  Rapid re-housing assistance for persons who are homeless.

HPRP funds are intended for short- and medium- term financial assistance for housing stabilization, linking program beneficiaries to community resources, and mainstream benefits and helping beneficiaries develop a plan for preventing future housing instability.  It is noteworthy that HPRP funds are not for mortgage assistance nor are they intended to provide long-term support for beneficiaries.

HUD provides the following funding table  to show the intended categories for distribution of HPRP funds:

ActivityFunding Level
Direct financial assistance, such as rental assistance, etc.                 $820,875,000.00
Housing relocation and stabilization services                                    $447,750,000.00
Data collection and evaluation by grantees                                       $149,250,000.00
Grantee administrative costs                                                              $74,625,000.00
HUD will provide training, technical assistance, monitoring
enforcement, research and evaluation activities                                     $7,500.000.00

TOTAL                                                                                          $1,500,000,000.00

By the terms of ARRA, each HPRP grantee must expend 60% of their grant within two years of receipt and 100% of its grant within three years of receipt of its grant.

With a grant minimum of $500,000, funds have been awarded to U.S. territories (0.2 percent of total funding allocation, i.e., $3 million), metropolitan cities, urban counties and states for distribution to local governments and private nonprofit organizations.  There are 540 eligible grantees  and funds have been awarded pursuant to the Emergency Solutions Grant Program, formally the Emergency Shelter Grants (ESG) Program, formula.

Under HRPR, grantees will provide reports on a monthly and quarterly basis and HUD will do remote monitoring. Further, grantees and subgrantees will collect data through the Homeless Management Information Systems (HMIS).

HPRP funds may benefit individuals or families with or without children for any number of months up to 18 months of assistance.  However, these funds are to be paid only to third parties, such as landlords or utility companies, “[i]n an effort to…avoid mismanagement of grant funds.”

The ultimate beneficiaries of HPRP funds, known as “participants,” are those people who are homeless or are at risk of being homeless.  While HUD “allows grantees significant discretion in program design and operation,” it does admonish that “grantees and subgrantees should carefully assess a household’s need and appropriateness for HPRP.”

HUD sets forth the following minimum criteria that grantees of HPRP funds must consider before assisting individuals and families, whether homeless or housed:

1.  Participants must have initial consultation with a case manager who can determine the appropriate type of assistance to meet their needs,

2.  Participating household must be at or below 50 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI).  While income limits are available at http://www.huduser.org/DATASETS/il.html, grantees are advised to use HUD’s Section 8 income eligibility standards for HPRP and

3.  Participating households must be either homeless or at risk of losing its housing and
(1) No appropriate housing options have been identified, plus
(2) The household lacks the financial resources and support networks needed to obtain
immediate housing or remain in its exiting housing.

Regarding the prevention of homelessness, HUD “strongly encourages” its HPRP grantees and subgrantees to assist those individuals and families at the “greatest risk of becoming homeless.”   It asks that grantees and subgrantees remember to ask themselves, “Would this individual or family be homeless but for this assistance?”

Grantees in California include:

Alameda    552,208.00
Alhambra    567,605.00
Anaheim 2,046,908.00
Bakersfield 1,372,351.00
Baldwin Park    605,041.00
Berkeley 1,332,952.00
Chula Vista            819,738.00
Compton    848,514.00
Costa Mesa            560,237.00
Daly City    510,070.00
Downey    611,834.00
El Cajon    512,686.00
El Monte 1,110,506.00
Escondido    709,782.00
Fremont    682,331.00
Fontana    783,380.00
Fresno 3,130,746.00
Fullerton    622,710.00
Garden Grove 1,068,707.00
Glendale 1,346,899.00
Hawthorne            703,261.00
Hayward    703,342.00
Huntington Beach            566,611.00
Huntington Park            656,002.00
Inglewood    918,344.00
Irvine            540,656.00
Lancaster    564,646.00
Long Beach         3,566,451.00
Los Angeles       29,446,304.00
Lynwood    646,575.00
Merced    515,203.00
Modesto    966,016.00
Moreno Valley    732,872.00
Norwalk    633,782.00
Oakland 3,458,120.00
Oceanside    742,791.00
Ontario    997,869.00
Orange    545,636.00
Oxnard 1,124,994.00
Palmdale    615,530.00
Pasadena    908,395.00
Pomona 1,164,766.00
Rialto    546,485.00
Richmond    559,735.00
Riverside 1,383,070.00
Sacramento 2,375,126.00
Salinas 1,013,978.00
San Bernardino 1,455,066.00
San Diego 6,168,104.00
San Francisco 8,757,780.00
San Jose 4,128,763.00
Santa Ana 2,831,989.00
Santa Maria            521,839.00
Santa Monica    553,576.00
Santa Rosa            516,527.00
South Gate            865,273.00
Stockton 1,725,572.00
Sunnyvale    508,191.00
Westminster            511,454.00

Alameda County    802,915.00
Contra Costa County         1,421,551.00
Fresno County 1,634,630.00
Los Angeles County       12,197,108.00
Kern County 2,076,503.00
Marin County            659,106.00
Orange County 1,556,026.00
Riverside County 4,276,900.00
Sacramento County 2,396,773.00
San Bernardino County 3,040,382.00
San Diego County 1,925,974.00
San Joaquin County 1,460.619.00
San Luis Obispo Country      855,184.00
San Mateo County 1,166,526.00
Santa Barbara County    829,013.00
Santa Clara County            717,484.00
Sonoma County    817,572.00
Stanislaus County 1,023,163.00
Ventura County    826,094.00

State of California       44,466,877.00

Funding directly allocated to the State of California is the largest state allocation in the U.S. to date and is being distributed to 31 California agencies and local governments.  California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has commented, “This funding will boost efforts helping those who find themselves on the edge of homelessness and add support for the homeless – and it couldn’t have come at a better time thanks to President Obama’s Recovery Act.”

What outcomes are hoped to be achieved through HPRP?

• Reducing the length of stay in shelters or in homelessness
• Reducing the number of people experiencing homelessness for the first time
• Increasing the number of people who are diverted from shelter to stable housing
• Reducing repeat episodes of homelessness
• Reducing the number of people overall who are homeless

For additional information about HPRP, please visit www.HUD.gov/recovery and www.HUDHR.info.

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Do Homeless People Have Rights?

Also published on The Huffington Post.

If you think the public debate about universal health care is loud and sometimes acrimonious, just think about what would happen if we ever start talking about whether homeless people have rights.

What rights would we be talking about?  I couldn’t say it better, so here it is from the Declaration of Independence (July 4, 1776), the unanimous declaration from the thirteen original colonies:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,
that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights,
that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

However, the Declaration of Independence does not contain a list of our rights. We know some of our rights because they are contained in:

(1) U.S. Constitution, particularly the first ten amendments referred to as the Bill of Rights.

(2) Congressional legislation, such as the Americans With Disabilities Act 1990 (ADA) 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq.  and

 

(3) Court decisions through which the courts, ultimately the U.S. Supreme Court, interpret the Constitution and identify rights, such as the right to privacy in Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479 (1965).

 

The terms, “homeless person” or “homeless people” do not appear in the U.S. Constitution. So how to we know what rights, if any, homeless people have?

 

Today, some of the rights of chronically homeless people  are being determined through the courts.  For example, the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California (ACLU/SC) has filed lawsuits against the three Cities of Laguna Beach,  Santa Barbara  and Santa Monica   alleging that their ordinances against sleeping in public places and the enforcement of said ordinances violate the rights of chronically homeless residents who have no other place to sleep.

 

In each of these lawsuits, the ACLU/SC

 

• claims that while there is an insufficient number of homeless shelter beds in each of these cities, the police are intimidating, harassing and arresting their chronically homeless residents for the natural and involuntary act of sleeping in public when there is no way for them to comply with the law;

 

• seeks injunctive relief to prevent the Cities and their police forces from enforcing said ordinances against chronically homeless people; and

 

• requests a declaration from the court that the ordinances in question and the enforcement of said ordinances, violate chronically homeless people’s rights to equal protection under the law,  their rights to be free from cruel and unusual punishment,  their rights to due process of law,  their rights to be free of illegal searches and seizures,  and their rights to freedom from discrimination under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA)

 

There are a few differences among the lawsuits.  The Laguna lawsuit  was brought on behalf of five named plaintiffs, while the Santa Barbara  and Santa Monica  lawsuits were brought on behalf of named plaintiffs and also as class actions.

 

Further, in the Santa Barbara lawsuit,  the ACLU/SC seeks to protect chronically homeless people’s rights from illegal takings of their private property without just compensation.  And unique to the Santa Monica lawsuit,  is the claim that the referenced ordinances and their enforcement violate the rights of chronically homeless to travel and move freely.

 

While the lawsuits against the Cities of Santa Barbara  and Santa Monica  are still pending, the City of Laguna lawsuit  was settled this June.  As part of the terms of this settlement, the City of Laguna agreed

 

(1) to repeal and did repeal those sections of the municipal code relating to camping and sleeping in public places within the City

 

(2) to expunge the records of arrests and convictions made pursuant to the City’s ordinance against sleeping in public and

 

(3) not to cite, arrest or harass people under State law simply for sleeping in public places in cases where there are no reasonable public health or safety concerns.

 

After the City of Santa Monica passed their ordinance against sleeping in all public places, I asked a high-ranking Santa Monica official a question.  I said, “Of course, homeless people cannot sleep on private property, that’s against the law of trespass.  However, now that the City of Santa Monica has passed a law against sleeping in all public places, where are homeless people to go?”

 

He answered, “Into the sea.”

 

If every city with an insufficient number of shelter beds were to pass an ordinance against sleeping in all public places, there would be no place for a homeless person to sleep.  This is the real danger facing homeless people.

 

The rights that the ACLU/SC is seeking to protect are the rights that belong to all of us — in this case, the rights of disabled people who are homeless to sleep in public places and to exist in these United States.

 

A Sign of the Times: Homeless Veterans

Also published on The Huffington Post.

We’ve all seen a homeless man on a street corner holding a cardboard sign that read something like, “Homeless Veteran… Can You Help?”  We might have asked ourselves, “Could that sign be true?”  The answer is yes!

How many homeless veterans are there?  Who are these homeless veterans?  How can a person who has served our country become homeless?

While we know from the US Census 2000 Veteran Data that there are 26,549,704 veterans living in the US and Puerto Rico , we do not know the exact number of U.S. veterans who are now homeless.  Estimates of the total number of homeless veterans differ greatly.

For example, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) estimates that 154,000 veterans are homeless each night, while over 300,000 veterans are homeless at some time during the course of a year.

However, in 1996, The Urban Institute (UI) with the National Survey of Homeless Assistance Providers and Clients (NSHAPC) determined that of the 2.3 million to 3.5 million people who are homeless during the year in the United States, 23% or 529,000 to 840,000 of them are homeless veterans.

Regardless of the exact number of homeless veterans, there are two definitions that must be met in order for former military personnel to be classified as homeless veteran.  First, a person must first qualify as a veteran for purposes of Title 38 benefits as one who has served in the active military, naval, or air service and was not dishonorably discharged.

Second, a person must meet the definition of “homeless individual” as established by the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act:

(1) an individual who lacks a fixed, regular, and adequate 
nighttime residence; and
(2) an individual who has a primary nighttime residence that is 
-

(A) a supervised publicly or privately operated shelter 
designed to provide temporary living accommodations (including welfare hotels, congregate shelters, and transitional housing 
for the mentally ill);
(B) an institution that provides a temporary residence for 
individuals intended to be institutionalized; or
(C) a public or private place not designed for, or ordinarily 
used as, a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings.

Who is a homeless veteran?  Homeless veterans have one or more of the following characteristics:

•  nearly 95% of homeless veterans are male, while 5% are female

•  45% of homeless Veterans have some kind of mental illness

•  over 70% of homeless veterans suffer from alcohol or drug abuse

•  47% served in the Vietnam War

•  53% served in World War II, Korean War, Cold War, Grenada, Panama, Lebanon, Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan), Operation Iraqi Freedom, or the military’s anti-drug cultivation efforts in South America.

•  67% served in the military for more than three years

•  33% served in a war zone

While it is unfortunate that anyone becomes homeless, veterans are more likely to become homeless than civilians.  Why is this? No one knows for sure.

Researchers have found that military service is not a sole factor causing homelessness.  Rather, studies suggest that military service can be a factor that can lead to personal experiences that can lead directly to homelessness.

For example, in “A Model of Homelessness Among Male Veterans of the Vietnam War Generation” from The American Journal of Psychiatry, authors, Robert Rosenheck and Alan Fontana pointed out that two military factors, combat exposure and participation in atrocities, contribute to “four post-military variables:

(1) low levels of social support upon returning home, 

(2) psychiatric disorders (not including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD),

(3) substance abuse disorders, and

(4) being unmarried (including separation and divorce)

 

Thus, the study determines that it is these “four post-military variables” that can directly lead to homelessness for many veterans.

Combat-related post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), has been found not to have a direct relationship with homelessness.  Further, it has also been found that homeless combat veterans were no more likely to be diagnosed with PTSD than combat veterans who were not homeless.

Homeless veterans also face the same factors that challenge homeless civilians, including the shortage of affordable housing, unavailable employment opportunities and substance abuse.

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What is being done to help homeless veterans?

Since 1987, the VA has been the only federal agency providing hands-on assistance directly to homeless people.  However, over the course of a year, the VA only reaches 33% or 100,000 of homeless veterans.  Thus, 200,000 veterans must seek assistance from local government agencies and service organizations in their communities.

The U.S. Department of Labor Homeless Veterans’ Reintegration Program awards grants to grantees that provide case management approaches to link the veterans to training and employment opportunities.

Homeless veterans may find additional assistance through programs funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

On February 17th, President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Action 2009 which included $1.5 billion for the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program (HPRP) through which grantees can provide services to prevent and house homeless people.

As we await the implementation of HPRP, possibly the most effective programs for homeless veterans at this moment are the 250 community-based, nonprofit, “veterans helping veterans” groups.”

Pictured, in connection with this article, is the amazing sculpture, “Homeless Warrior,” by legendary sculptor E.D., Miracle copyright 2008.