National Homeless Awareness Week and Housing in Alabama

Written by One Roof’s Community Outreach Coordinator, Stacy Oliver. 

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National Hunger and Homeless Awareness Week takes place each year the week before Thanksgiving, and this year it will be honored across the United States from November 16 -22.  As a part of our mission to equip and empower central Alabama to prevent and end homelessness through advocacy, education, and coordination of services,One Roof is observing this week by raising awareness of the barriers to housing and solutions for ending homelessness.  One solution that we, in partnership with the Low Income Housing Coalition of Alabama, would like to suggest during Homeless Awareness Week is a dedicated revenue source for the Alabama Housing Trust Fund.

For the past four years, One Roof has been advocating for more safe, decent, accessible, affordable housing for homeless men, women, and children in central Alabama.  In recent years it has become clear that there is an overwhelming shortage of affordable housing units for the number of families who need them.  Many of the phone calls we receive in our office come from families who are working as hard as they can, but still have to seek rental or utility assistance in order to stay in their homes.  Additionally, that rental and utility assistance is scarce and runs out quickly each month due to the overwhelming number of people who need it.  Many other families call us in need of shelter or other services after they have lost their housing.  On any given night in 2014, 139 families will experience homelessness in central Alabama because of a serious lack of safe, decent, accessible, and affordable housing.

 One Roof implements a region-wide information system and case management tool called PromisSE, which records homeless services that are being used and helps us understand where there are gaps in services, trends in homelessness, and other important data.  At this time, our numbers reflect a very serious, dire need in our state — and that need is for more places for people (and especially families) to call home.

 While it may seem like a fairly simple statement to make, One Roof believes that the answer to ending homelessness is having a home.  At this time, we know that families are struggling to meet even their most basic needs while holding on to their housing.   We know that it is nearly impossible for 30% of low income renters to afford a modest two-bedroom home at fair market rent.

Having a dedicated revenue source for the Alabama Housing Trust Fund would mean that more families could feel empowered to live healthy, independent lives.  Their children can have a safe place to sleep at night, and the family can afford to put a warm meal on the table.  We feel so strongly that Alabamians should know about what the Alabama Housing Trust Fund can do to end homelessness, that at 6:00 PM on Friday, November 21, at the YWCA Central Alabama, we want to honor National Homeless Awareness Week by inviting our community to a documentary screening about homelessness followed by an educational session on the Alabama Housing Trust FundWe want all members of the community to feel welcome to attend, ask questions, and learn about this smart solution to ending homelessness in our state. In addition to the documentary screening, One Roof is hosting an educational homeless simulation activity in Railroad Park on Thursday, November 20, at 6:00 PM.

We need our neighbors to know about what amazing things could happen if the Alabama Housing Trust Fund had a dedicated revenue source.  To learn more and get involved in our two Homeless Awareness Week events, we invite everyone to register online by visiting One Roof’s website, www.oneroofonline.org.  For any questions or concerns, contact One Roof’s Community Outreach Coordinator, Stacy Oliver (stacy@oneroofonline.org).

Enacted in 2012 without funding, the Alabama Housing Trust Fund can be used to construct and rehabilitate affordable homes, both for rental and homeownership opportunities. It could also be used for down payment assistance or for emergency repairs to keep people in their homes. A trust fund is a flexible source of funding to address a community’s most pressing affordable housing needs. It is time for Alabama to invest in its communities and its people and capitalize the Housing Trust Fund. To learn more about the Alabama Housing Trust Fund, please visit www.alabamahousingtrustfund.org

 

Let’s Talk about the NFL just One More Time

Image taken from Chicago Tribune online. Click image for CT article.

Let’s Talk about the NFL just One More Time

An important national discussion about domestic violence and child abuse has been ongoing since accusations against NFL players Adrian Peterson and Ray Rice were first publicized a few weeks ago.  The national dialogue thus far seems productive; individuals and organizations alike are asking the NFL to hold its players accountable for their actions. This call to action suggests that as a culture, there is some meaningful work being done to ensure that violence against women and children is a thing of the past.  Public outrage over these players’ violent actions — and the NFL’s uncommitted response to them — has made conversations about ending domestic violence and child abuse more of a priority.  The recent news coverage of these cases has raised awareness about child abuse and domestic violence, but it has also triggered an entire movement that finds violence against women and children completely socially unacceptable.  If our heroes are condemned for committing violence against others, in theory it would mean that such violent behavior is unacceptable in society at large.

In our office, conversations surrounding the NFL and the Peterson and Rice cases have raised a few questions.  Why did it take the harm of Peterson’s son or Rice’s now-wife to draw national attention to the fact that violent and abusive behavior is, in fact, unacceptable?  How has there been such an apathy toward the violent behaviors of our cultural figures and role models?

We’ve also asked this:  if it takes such public evidence of the violence being inflicted on women and children to begin a conversation about stopping it, what will it take for our country to have a national discussion in which homelessness and the effects of homelessness are deemed unacceptable?

The leap from talking about domestic violence and child abuse to a conversation about homelessness itself is not a far-reaching connection to make.  Victims of domestic violence make up 15% of the individuals who are homeless on any given night in our continuum alone.  Many of these individuals (usually women) are fleeing from abusive partners with their children. They have had to choose homelessness for themselves and their children in the face of a violent and abusive relationship.  The fact that homelessness could be an ultimatum for anyone trying to leave a domestic violence relationship should be unacceptable.

There are also 139 homeless families with dependent children on any given night in our continuum (Jefferson, St. Clair, and Shelby counties).  In homeless families, according to the National Center on Family Homelessness (NCFH), about 83% of homeless children are exposed to at least one serious violent event by age 12.  And children experiencing homelessness have three times the rate of emotional and behavioral problems compared to non-homeless children.

We also know that people who experienced trauma, abuse, and homelessness as children are more vulnerable to homelessness as adults.  NCFH also reported that 63% of homeless mothers experienced severe physical assault by an intimate male partner, with 44% of homeless mothers reporting that they had lived outside their homes at some point during childhood.  For more statistics about family homelessness, take a look at this fact sheet from NCFH.

Violence is often part of the experience of homeless women and children.  The ongoing national conversation about child abuse and domestic violence is an important conversation to have, and it draws attention to the unacceptable pairing of violence and close relationships (of partners, of husband and wife, of child and parent).  But what is not being discussed on a national level is how the effects of this kind of violence often coincide with homelessness.  This is no coincidence; the link between violence and homelessness is strong.

One Roof’s mission is to equip and empower our community to prevent and end homelessness through advocacy, education, and coordination of services.  Educating our community about the inherent violence attached to homelessness and advocating for more conversations about homelessness is just part of how we see change happening — so that no one experiences homelessness.

When will it also become unacceptable that for many women fleeing domestic violence, youth fleeing abuse or neglect, or homeless families, homelessness is sometimes the safer or only option?  When will homelessness as a condition for someone to live in become unacceptable?

Member agencies serving women and children:
Pathways
First Light
Salvation Army

Member agencies serving women fleeing domestic violence:
SafeHouse of Shelby County
YWCA of Central Alabama

Member agencies serving homeless youth:
Family Connection/Project Hope
Youth Towers

Member agencies serving homeless families & families in crisis:
Family Guidance Center
YWCA Interfaith

 

Important Updates from One Roof’s PromisSE Team

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One Roof’s PromisSE Team, Andy Childers (left) and Nathan Salter (right)

Important Updates from One Roof’s PromisSE Team

Nathan Salter, One Roof’s PromisSE Coordinator, has written the following blog post to update HMIS users and our members on some upcoming changes and important information.

NOFA Update (More than $8 million Annual Grant through HUD) 

As we enter the busy fall season, the PromisSE team enters into the exciting time that surrounds the end of the Federal Fiscal Year on September 30th. The beginning of the new Federal Fiscal Year on October 1st marks the beginning of AHAR season and oftentimes the announcement of NOFA (Notice of Funding Availability) for agencies with Continuum of Care grants.

The AHAR, or Annual Homeless Assessment Report, provides the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) with a standardized set of data to present to Congress explaining the state of homelessness in the United States.  Each year the PromisSE team, in partnership with agencies who provide housing, completes the AHAR locally.  Then the University of Pennsylvania combines all the local reports with the annual PIT (Point-in-Time count) data to form a single, uniform report for Congress.  Our housing partners will have a reduced timeline this year to complete data cleanup with the initial AHAR reports, which are due by November 14th (a final version is due by December 12th).

In the spirit of short timelines, the Notice of Funding Availability, or NOFA, will also have a much tighter deadline.  The competitive application must be submitted by One Roof no later than October 30th, which means that there will be interim deadlines for projects.  Stay tuned for said timeline.

Training for 2014 HMIS Data Standards & PromisSE Policies and Procedures

We have received what should be the final details relating to the 2014 HMIS Data Standards that are effective October 1, 2014.  As promised, One Roof’s PromisSE team will be providing a mandatory training where we will go over the 2014 HMIS Data Standards in addition to the new PromisSE Policies and Procedures. Since not all Federal partners have released their program specific guidebooks the training will be a general overview of the universal requirements.

The Jefferson County Office of Community & Economic Development is graciously hosting our training at the 2121 Building.  The 2121 building is located at 2121 8th Avenue (Reverend Abraham Woods BLVD) North with parking located on lots and the street around the building. The training room is located on the 5th floor.

Please register online for the training and e-mail Nathan Salter directly if there are any questions or concerns (nathan@oneroofonline.org).

PromisSE Merger

On October 1st after everyone has completed training the PromisSE system will be upgraded so that users can begin operating in compliance with the 2014 HMIS Data Standards.

Finally, the PromisSE team is coming to the end of a nearly two year process of expanding into Florida. Over the years our organization has enjoyed being a frontrunner in a variety of ways. The transition from a statewide implementation as PromisAL to a multi-state implementation as PromisSE is a great next step.

As the lead HMIS agency for PromisAL, One Roof managed nearly 400 users in 108 agencies serving 61 counties in Alabama.  As the lead HMIS agency for PromisSE, One Roof will be working with nine continua of cares to manage roughly 500 users in nearly 200 agencies serving clients in Alabama and Florida.

The initial effects of the merger will be a new web address that denotes our regional coverage. Users will receive an email the evening before the changeover letting them know about the new web address and instructions for the an updated PKI certificate.  As time progresses, agencies will begin to notice clients and programs from the new Florida continua of cares.

As these exciting changes unfold, please remember that the PromisSE team is always just a call or email away to answer any questions that may arise.

Nathan Salter:  nathan@oneroofonline.org

Andy Childers:  andy@oneroofonline.org

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