Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Sonoma County Villages: A Visit by Sharon Lee of Seattle's Low Income Housing Institute

Sonoma County's Commission on Human Rights, and Julie Combs of Santa Rosa City Council, sponsored the visit of Sharon Lee of Seattle's Low Income Housing Institute in December, 2018, to talk about their successes and challenges with various kinds of village approaches to bringing stability and health to the street population.
-A short review of the problems with encampments and enforcement in Sonoma County; -Details the many advantages of partially self-managed villages; - The key role that the neighborhood and volunteer and donation communities play a part; - How villages look compared to other housing programs: navigation centers rapid rehousing, and the enforcement of anti-camping policies.

Sonoma County Villages: A Visit by Sharon Lee of Seattle's Low Income Housing Institute

Monday, November 12, 2018

Housing First versus the Slogan


Housing First, Versus the Slogan

Yesterday, I hung out in Oakland at a threatened encampment, and sat at their volunteer art table, working for hours on an infographic that can tell this story of the abuse of Housing First. We're always hating on Housing First as activists, and that is quite wrong, in an important way. Utah, for instance, is a kind of heaven relative to us vis-a-vis homelessness, with far higher levels of volunteerism per person, and far fewer homeless on a per-capita basis (we are one of the highest per-capita homeless areas in America.) Utah uses a version of Housing First (HF) approach that is pretty similar to what our officials like. ButHousing First is a powerful, flexible model that is designed to look very different in different places. Here, Housing First in Utah's form is toxic.

The term "Housing First" is not going away, and it's catchy, but for most of California at the moment, the phrase is completely wrong in spirit, and dangerous. We may spend the rest of our volunteer lives righting that wrong, which is built into our very language and basic conceptualization of the task at hand. 

The Distortions of Rapid Rehousing and "Permanent Placement"

Let's start this deconstruction with the most watched and biggest abuse of statistics in our Housing First system, our success with permanent placement. 

Rapid rehousing (RRH), which is subsidies for deposits and initial rent to get a conventional apartment, is a very active county program. Last year, it provided about 90% of the "permanent placement" the county did. In other words, we did virtually no permanent placement outside of RRH. Last year, the county claimed they placed into permanent housing a number of homeless people equal to a third of the people on the street! Catholic Charities crows incessantly about this number while they talk about how we're winning the battle against homelessness. 

It's a fiction. RRH is designed for those who have good jobs or will get one soon, who just need a little help because of something temporary. Many get into the coordinated care system and aren't really homeless yet, or have only been homeless for days or weeks; almost none of them had to actually live on the street. RRH people are a completely different population than those on the street, those who pay far, far more of the cost of homelessness. They're couchsurfing, or with family temporarily, or still hanging on in their apartment while looking for a job, or they just lost their job and need to move, or they're in some other twilight state before falling to street life. I met my first street person two weeks ago who had ever been accepted into rapid rehousing (and she got evicted quickly). Whoever these 600 are, they aren't the approximately 1,800 who are suffering the most from homelessness, so placement of these people, while no doubt useful, has nothing to do with getting people off the street. 

Evictions from rapid rehousing programs– almost 20% last year– have deadly consequences, because it ruins credit, and often dumps people onto the street with no more recourse than the others there. RRH may even end up creating more people on the street through evictions that ruin credit, even if it helps the majority of the program awardees by keeping them off the street. And, in a final knife twist, the county doesn't count many, maybe even most RRH failures as homeless again; we know that many of those 600 who were placed via RRH last year who they're crowing about are now homeless– but we have no idea how many, or who any of them are, because the reporting system is so limited and terrible.

Like all Housing First programs, rapid rehousing can be a miracle for the right person. I like the program. I just hate the high evictions, I hate siphoning money off from street people to care for those less needy, and I hate the county aggressively claiming permanent placement figures as a success. We placed 600 in RRH last year, and homelessness went UP; that should tell you that RRH is not fixing hardcore homelessness, but just cutting it off or staving it off for lots of people. Which is great. But let's not let ourselves be fooled into thinking that that 600 people "placed in permanent housing" through RRH has anything whatsoever to do with the core 1,800 we're trying to stabilize and protect.

Largest Budget, not Most Important

Simply put, housing has to be second in priority to basic care and basic shelter of those on the street and in other dire or risky circumstances. We can never let our officials forget that, especially because the slogan we all use seems to say something else.  If you have a refugee camp where you let people die of starvation while you provide a small minority of the refugees perfect, amazing housing, you have a Housing First system that is similar to the spirit of what we have here.

"Housing First" as a slogan is accurate, however, in that the annual budget for building quality permanent housing and related supportive services should be high, probably higher than the amount we spend on raw care in most areas. "First" as in "largest budgetary allocation", because housing is expensive, and we need a lot of it. Not "First" as in "most important." 

There are many occasions in life where the largest budget is not the most important line item. You can spend $1,000 flying to visit your mom, but the $12 gift of flowers you give her when you get there, or the gift of your time, might be far more important. Fire extinguishers are a tiny amount of a retail business budget, but "Fire Extinguishers First" makes a lot more sense when promoting a good workplace than "Business Lease First". We don't budget based on what's more important. In the same way, Housing First as a slogan is meant to motivate people to drive lots of money into housing and related services. That's it. It never meant "fuck care- that takes away from housing, so we can't do it."

What should be happening, as Alice Linn and others intimate, is that we evaluate at every turn how to address minimally acceptable levels of stability, because that is the most important value to address, not permanent housing, per se. It's the equivalent of buying that inexpensive fire extinguisher. Then we allocate what remains after that basic life care to permanent housing and related supportive services. All Housing First should mean as a useful slogan is that the dollars left over, after minimum acceptable levels of care, should be big, because we need lots of housing.

What's going on instead, though, is a kind of opposite: minimal care is being shut down so that housing can be built. This is a Permanent Housing Only model. It's not like Utah at all: Utah first tries to take care of all their unsheltered, and then they place them in permanent homes when they can. 

If you look at the budgeted services portion of the county's recommended HEAP state funds budget, you'll also see another gross distortion inherent in HF: the supportive services portion of the HF mandate is very expensive. In their budget, it's a bit over $1,000 per person per month. 

It's true that many deserving people should have that level of care and expense. Those of us working in this field should all recognize that the budget for homelessness should be 3-10 times the size it is, just so we can take even decent care of this sliver of our population. But the relatively large size of that services budget item ($2 million, a sixth of the HEAP money, for less than 70 people for only 2 years) causes two dastardly things to happen in the real world. 

First, our county builds or buys housing, puts unsheltered people in it, and they either don't include the services that are part of their HF model, or they include the services for a very short time, or they include a shitty version of the services. This is why conservatives who don't understand homelessness, and who like to emphasize "personal responsibility" as the way to beat homelessness, like compromising services and focusing on houses. You can make the housing, and then, while everyone isn't looking, relax on that expensive care portion of the model. They got housing, after all: if they're stupid or crazy enough to "give it up" by misbehaving and getting evicted, the thinking goes, that's their problem. 

We know that, in fact, quality services are what keep people from getting evicted. But there's a lovely optics bonus in their attitude of prejudice against those evicted. People getting evicted from their permanent housing means you can put more people into those units, so your placement numbers into permanent housing can go up. So Sonoma is in this vicious circle at the moment, where the system ignores or makes very unclear how much eviction is going on, and what happened to those people. And the evictions end up being good news for the system, making Catholic Charities and the government shine.

The Vulnerability Game

The second problem is even worse. The high cost of services to their targeted population creates an amazing, astoundingly sharp distinction between winners and losers among the unsheltered. Who are these special few winners? Who are the 4% (~70) of the unsheltered who are getting 60% of available HEAP funding (after mandated youth service allocations)? Why would we even think for a second that that concentration of available monies makes sense in the fight for stability? Well, here are the ones with haloes, with golden tickets:

Families with children
"Very high vulnerability" people.  

At first blush, especially if you're conservative, that all sounds great. Women and children in the life boat first. Many, like Catholic Charities and conservative officials, love to romanticize this little list. And, to be fair, it's fine to prioritize children in families (less than 1% of our unsheltered), or those with a high risk of death. Veterans, however, is a bullshit emphasis category, as far as I'm concerned, just conservative romanticism that extends "we support our troops" where it doesn't belong. Every unsheltered person, not just a veteran, has suffered enough in life; everyone deserves whatever veterans do in the way of basic life services and basic dignity. In my experience, the majority of vets handle homelessness much better than the average person, perhaps because of their training, or because of the resilient personalities attracted to the military. They also tend to get excellent medical care, and qualify for other services and housing that makes their vulnerability lower.

But it's that "very high vulnerability" phrase that is the toxic center of HF abuse. Shelter access in particular is deeply affected by this vulnerability bugaboo. The county doesn't take into account, in any way, how much an investment might help make a massive change in vulnerability. For instance (and crudely), if $5,000 could reduce someone's vulnerability from 17 on the scale to 9, they will get zero, because we don't fund people who have (high) vulnerability of 17, no matter what it's for. But if the money might reduce another person's vulnerability from 27 to 25, they get all $5,000. 

There is no "bang for the buck" thinking about vulnerability that wedges itself into the system anywhere; there is only the care of those with the highest vulnerability. What that effectively means is that a $300,000 permanent home and $1,100/mo. for two years of services can easily be allocated for one person with a vulnerability score of 27– but taking that exact same money to transform 50 peoples' lives instead of 1, by buying heated tiny homes and basic life services for two years– that's impossible. A vulnerability score lower than that of the top 10% or so of the unsheltered shuts you out. Never mind that the vulnerability scoring is highly suspect (an important point I can't cover here), that the government thinks you're worth less than 2% of what a sick or drug-addicted person is, or that you're likely going to end up one of those very high vulnerability people in a few years if you don't get help. 

Very related to this is the county's prejudice against "temporary" housing. As activists, we're trying to get people out of the cold, off the streets; we don't care how it happens, because we have an emergency mindset. Our friends are dying. A "bed night", or one person getting safe sleeping for one night, is most of what we care about. In contrast, our Housing First approach doesn't care about bed nights at all– unless you're very high vulnerability, and even then, HF only cares about that bed night if it's in a permanent home. Temporary housing for 50 is seen as taking away that 1 person's permanent housing, so it can't be allowed. 

It's that narrow-minded rejection of mass stability that we're fighting, and the reason we are is because our officials don't get down to the encampments with us and talk with those 50 we're shutting out for the 1. My friends are not real people to them. As is always the case with conservative notions being used in situations where they don't belong. there is far too much distance between the suffering and the decision-makers. If we employed just half of the HEAP money for villages, my calculation shows that we can house about a third of those on the street, and support them for two years. That's without donations and volunteers involved, who are an integral part of this gig. All of the HEAP money being used for villages would house 2/3 of the unsheltered. Now that's making a difference!

Volunteerism and Donation

A hugely important way that all this distortion and abuse of the unsheltered affects our county is that our officials constantly spurn the urgency of volunteerism and donation as key to our success with homelessness. Shelter is simply too big a problem for government to handle alone. Yet the county can't possibly work on even its share of caring properly for the unsheltered while they are fighting our federal lawsuit the way they do, insanely defending their neglect of the basic rights and needs of roughly 85% of the unsheltered (the 3 categories above they emphasize are about 15% of the unsheltered population, with veterans 2/3 of that, at 10%.) Government official silence and police sweeps teach everyone in the county, especially conservatives, that our shelter problem can't be fixed, and that those who disagree are "a few noisy radicals" who should be ignored. Charity gets lost in the picture as essential, as central. By making us who work on providing basic life services the enemy, officials are necessarily silent at every turn about how incredibly powerful it is for citizens to turn toward their unsheltered and help out in simple and small ways. Even the Christian churches in Sonoma county do very little to serve the homeless. And I can't blame them. If the leaders you respect and depend on for guidance on how to help locally ignore the vast majority of the unsheltered, and furiously disparage those who speak best for them– would you help?

Citizens can group together and brainstorm on neighborhood solutions; they can support one-eighth a person's basic expenses in a tiny home with $30/mo.; they can teach education classes, or bring meals, or adopt a friend interested in their vocation or hobby. They can offer odd jobs, interest, rides, and otherwise drag dignity and hope into the picture. These are all things that are being done in Utah and many other caring places.

Philanthropy by large donors is especially hurt with officials' neglect. Almost all large donations happen by fundraisers working in tandem with caring officials who help with publicity and legitimacy– so virtually no money is being spent on the Sonoma county unsheltered by caring, wealthy people. Why would a wealthy person help the enemies of officials they want to influence and please by, say, funding tiny homes the officials have made plain they hate?

All this, without even us activists realizing it, is part of the county's Housing First approach. When officials do their very best to scatter and never speak about the unsheltered, we lose their leadership, guidance, and example to guide our citizenry. We have largely lost the battle before we even start, because informed, caring leadership cannot be absent in this struggle.

Shelter Crisis Declaration

One constant refrain from officials has been that they can't provide tiny home and other villages on public land because of the liability they take on. Thanks to the recent shelter crisis declaration, that objection is no longer true. The shelter crisis declaration prohibits the government from being sued for anything they do to "mitigate the shelter crisis," unless they are grossly (criminally) negligent, and it allows them to waive "any and all ordinances" that get in their way. What I'm trying to get across right now, to anyone who will listen, is that we should be pushing to use alternative, very inexpensive building methods to build multiple units of permanent housing on public and private land, while we can put lots of pressure on the county to waive "any and all ordinances" to get it done. We can provide them permanent housing, and stop this abuse in the name of siphoning money away from permanent housing. 


I'm not sure that Survival First is the right universal catch phrase to contrast with HF– maybe. We do have to clarify the various toxic elements hiding behind the deadly simplicity of our Housing First slogan and approach. Adrienne and I and many others have used Stability First. We're trying to elevate the concept of stability (emergency housing, initial case management, basic life services, eliminating criminalization.) The notion of stability is powerful, we've found, in that it helps one think of a set of basics pretty easily, at least with a tiny amount of training; it's not totally intuitive to the uneducated, though, so using it is more instructive than intuitive. 

Survival may not resonate with the public as well as it should, either, because I believe they find it unbelievable that survival is the true context of this battle. But like Stability First, using it provides an opportunity to expand on the concept uses, i.e., how death really happens on the street, both to individuals we know, but also in general much, much earlier in life than with other citizens due to conditions and tragic circumstantial changes that occur on the streets. 

I suspect we're stuck with using a plethora of slogans and approaches to assail this HF battlement. Let's try these and any other handholds we can work, and come up with signs/graphics that help get the care-vs-housing abuse and distortion across. 

Survival First
Stability First
Care AND Housing
Stop Making Housing the Enemy of Care
Housing First, Not Housing Only

Hey "Housing First" Junkies: First Address the UN and Commission on Human Rights Declarations, Settle Our Federal Disabilities Suit, Then Go Build Expensive Housing.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Homes For All: What Works Conference


For those who could not attend the Oct 12th Homes For All: What Works Conference, the video of the event is here in four segments:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

Sunday, November 4, 2018

The Overselling of Rapid Re-Housing

The Overselling of Rapid Re-housing
by Sharon Lee
Executive Director
Low Income Housing Institute, Seattle, WA.
Published in Shelterforce November 28, 2017

Rapid re-housing, originally a strategy to prevent homelessness for households experiencing a temporary financial crisis, is now being promoted widely as a broad solution. But in a high-cost area, it’s possible it might do more harm than good.

The Dibaba family of three are refugees from Ethiopia. After staying in a refugee camp, they arrived in Seattle and ended up homeless. Both adult members of the household are disabled. The mother suffers from depressive pseudo dementia. While it has been a struggle, she tries to remain positive. Their 8-year-old son thrives in school and basketball. Living in transitional housing for homeless families at Columbia Court, the family pays 30 percent of their income, $156 per month, for a two-bedroom apartment operated by the Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI).

They receive supportive services including case management, ESL classes, after-school tutoring, mental health, and healthcare. After completing a one-year lease at Columbia Court the family received assistance from the on-site case manager to move into subsidized low-income housing. Every year, thousands of immigrant/refugees, survivors of domestic violence and people of color successfully exit homelessness to stable housing as a result of transitional housing programs like Columbia Court.
In April 2017, however, federal funding for Columbia Court terminated because of HUD’s change of policy that prioritizes “rapid re-housing,” which provides three to nine months of short-term rental assistance in private market housing, over longer-term transitional housing. Six other transitional housing programs that received HUD McKinney-Vento funds to house homeless families, veterans, young adults, and people living with mental illness were also dropped from the local Continuum of Care and cut from HUD funding.

Why is the Seattle Human Services Department on a path to dismantle a robust and effective stock of transitional housing in favor rapid re-housing, a relatively new program that puts vulnerable homeless families into private market housing with only short-term rent assistance?
The Problem
Seattle is in the unenviable position of having the third largest homeless population in the nation, right behind New York City and Los Angeles. The 2017 Point-In-Time Count, taken on a cold wet night in January, documented 8,522 homeless people in the city of Seattle, 45 percent of whom were living unsheltered on the streets. King County experienced a 19 percent increase in homelessness from the previous year. Seattle also has the fastest growing rents and housing costs in the country.  The average rent for a one-bedroom apartment is $2,069; for a two-bedroom, $2,803.

City officials are desperate to reduce the number of homeless people. The mayor and the Human Services Department turned to two national consultants for recommendations on what to do.  Focus Strategies and Barbara Poppe and Associates were hired and in 2016 issued their reports on Seattle’s Homeless Investment Policy.

The Focus Strategies report gives the city false hope that by largely getting rid of transitional housing and reinvesting those funds into rapid re-housing, that all homeless people could be sheltered. The consultants talk about “right-sizing” homeless programs, instead of addressing the need to add additional units of affordable housing or more resources. Here are some excerpts from the Focus Strategies report:
  • “Expanded affordable housing is not a precondition for reducing homelessness. The community has to commit to making an impact on the problem with the existing housing inventory…”
  • “All unsheltered families and single adults could be sheltered by the end of 2017 and significant system resources could be shifted to rapid re-housing.”
  • This includes bringing rapid re-housing to scale and cutting back investments in lower performing transitional housing, permanent supportive housing, and other permanent housing.”
  • “We have identified $11 million that can be shifted from low and medium performing transitional housing to create new rapid re-housing….”
Text Box: The National Alliance to End Homelessness, HUD, and 
other supporters have a fervent, almost cult-like devotion to rapid re-housing as a solution for all. . .
Unfortunately, while rapid re-housing might be considered a best practice for some communities, it is not working for Seattle and other high-cost cities. Our market rents are too far out of reach for low-wage earners, people without employment history, the chronically homeless, and those living with a disability. Rapid re-housing may be the ideal program for a small segment of the homeless population, but it will not help most of them.

Six executive directors of agencies that primarily serve people of color wrote to the Seattle City Council about this problem. “Many of us operate rapid re-housing as well as transitional housing programs,” they wrote, “so we know firsthand who can succeed in which program. Rapid re-housing does not work for the majority of highly vulnerable and chronically homeless populations, especially in a high-cost market like Seattle.  Three to six months of rent support to live in market-rate housing is inadequate for a disabled head of household, a person with mental illness or a family on refugee assistance or TANF.  Many cannot increase their income quickly enough and address language/cultural barriers, mental health, substance abuse and domestic violence.  Local data shows about half the participants in rapid re-housing fail in the program. Others become cost burdened, have to double up or move out of Seattle…”
Transitional Housing Works in Seattle 
Local data collected from programs in Seattle, published in the Focus Strategies Seattle/King County Homeless System Performance Assessment Report, show that in Seattle, transitional housing is a superior model, with a 73 percent success rate in exiting homeless families to permanent housing, whereas rapid rehousing is only 52 percent effective. Despite this, the consultants conclude that since rapid rehousing is cheaper at $11,507 per household, compared with $20,000 for an individual or $32,627 for a family in transitional housing, it should be the preferred option.

In actuality, transitional housing at Columbia Court has cost the city $2,780 per family for one year and $5,560 if their stay is extended to two years. A family at Martin Court, another LIHI project, is costing the city $2,439 for one year and $4,878 for two years.  These numbers are nowhere close to the $32,627 for transitional housing cited by the consultant. Each program and its actual cost to the city should be evaluated individually; it is reckless to make drastic across the board cuts as recommended by the consultants.

Additionally, since close to half of homeless families fail out of rapid re-housing in Seattle, the real cost to the city should include the cost of re-housing those families.  Going through rapid rehousing and returning to homelessness also brings additional short- and long-term costs in terms human suffering and more limited options going forward as families get evicted, have judgments entered on their records with possible garnishments, and have their credit ruined.

They can end up worse off than before entering rapid re-housing.

Housing First

If rapid re-housing were operated along a Housing First model (as recommended by HUD) to meet the needs of all homeless families, it could cost considerably more than $11,507 per household.  For example, a homeless family on TANF (receiving $521 per month in Washington state) can only afford to pay $156 per month in rent. If they are placed in a $2,000 two-bedroom apartment, the program would not only have to pay their first and last month rent, security deposit and moving expenses, but also cover the cost of staffing for housing navigation, employment search, and connection to services.  If the budget is $11,507, this means there is not enough money to cover rent after four or five months. A family is then left to sink or swim.  If the household not able to pay the $2,000 rent on their own in that short time, they will have to break the lease and face eviction.

Even a parent who gets a full-time job at Seattle’s minimum wage of $15 per hour would have to pay 77 percent of their gross pay on that $2,000 two-bedroom apartment. The cost of taxes and utilities would quickly consume 100 percent of their income, leaving nothing for food, clothing, transportation, healthcare, and other living expenses.  This does not count as no longer being at risk of homelessness.
The National Alliance to End Homelessness states: “Rapid re-housing assistance should end. . . when the individual or family is no longer facing the threat of homelessness.”  If Seattle’s rapid re-housing program followed this standard and met the needs of families or individuals who could not earn sufficient income to pay for market-rate housing within a few months, the rental assistance would have to be extended for a year, two years, or even more. This would quickly bring the cost of rapid re-housing to $40,000 to $50,000 per household. The cost of subsidizing the monthly rent on a $2,000/month market-rate apartment is far more than the cost of a $700/month rent-restricted transitional housing apartment sponsored by a nonprofit agency.
Local Housing Markets Matter
Barbara Poppe and Associates point to rapid re-housing programs that work in Houston, New Orleans, Salt Lake City, and other cities. Market rents in those communities are less than half of Seattle’s. Unlike Seattle’s very tight housing market, vacancy rates in those cities are much higher. In Houston (before the flood) one could easily find a two-bedroom unit for $750. The average two-bedroom in New Orleans is $1,137.  The average rent for a two-bedroom unit in Salt Lake City is $1,092. A HUD study on families in rapid re-housing who return to homelessness states the obvious: “Families living in a community with relatively high FMRs return to homelessness, on average, 2.24 months earlier than otherwise similar families who live in communities with lower rent levels.”

The city’s consultants also failed to look at rapid re-housing through a racial justice and equity lens. The overwhelming majority, over 80 percent, of Seattle’s homeless families are people of color, primarily African-American and African immigrant households.  About 50 percent of the adults or heads of households are disabled. Many rely on TANF, refugee assistance, and are marginally employed or unemployed.  Many are survivors of domestic violence.

Rapid re-housing as a primary strategy for ending family homelessness would result in the displacement of more African-Americans and persons of color from Seattle. The Black population is already down to 7 percent in Seattle. Focus Strategies noted that homeless families in rapid re-housing in San Francisco have to move 60 miles or more away from the city to find rental housing. Where would our families in Seattle have to move to in order to find cheap rent? Are they likely to relocate to places of opportunity or too far-flung counties away from their communities, jobs, and services? Little research has been done locally to look at racial disparities in outcomes that affect persons of color in rapid re-housing.
Organizing to Save Transitional Housing
Columbia Court and the other transitional housing programs received a reprieve through 2017 due to advocacy from housing advocates, the community, and the Seattle Human Services Coalition, which is composed of nonprofit housing and human services organizations During the 2017 budget process, the Seattle City Council also raised issues with this policy and funding shift away from transitional housing. Under the leadership of council member Lisa Herbold, the council voted unanimously to “back-fill” the loss of HUD funding by allocating resources from the city’s general fund. Columbia Court and the other transitional housing programs were saved—at least for 2017.

But things are about to change. This fall, the Seattle Human Services Department is competitively bidding out $30 million in funding for homeless programs in 2018 through a request for proposal (RFP). These funds include a mix of federal, state and local resources. The Department proposes to reduce overall funding for transitional housing from $4.6 million in 2016 to $2 million in 2018, a 56 percent reduction. In comparison, funding for rapid re-housing is proposed to expand from $3.8 million to $8 million, a 110 percent increase.

Currently, transitional housing programs house 2,667 individuals, or 43 percent of King County’s sheltered homeless population. This is a significant housing resource that keeps people safely housed and off the streets.
Don’t Be a Blind Follower 
Homeless advocates and policymakers should be wary of consultants who promise pie-in-the-sky solutions, that they can “right size” homeless programs (which often translates into “cuts”), and that they can end homelessness with no additional resources. Instead of focusing on expanding the low-income housing stock, which costs real money, they look at the existing landscape as a zero-sum game, thereby giving elected officials an excuse to not invest more in ending homelessness.
The National Alliance to End Homelessness, HUD, and other supporters have a fervent, almost cult-like devotion to rapid re-housing as a solution for all, without taking into consideration different population groups, the unique needs of each family and individual, and the local housing market. Blindly following what is considered a national “best practice” will not work for all communities.  Local market conditions and housing availability must be seriously considered when choosing how to allocate resources between transitional housing and rapid re-housing.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Nominated Uses of HEAP Funds in Sonoma County

November 1, 2018

The figures below represent my best guesses as to what might be necessary to fund the projects that have been talked about by the public and private entities competing for HEAP funding.  We are a long way from actual budget amounts, but I thought that t was important to start to put some ballpark amounts into the categories of expense that the state will allow.
The five elected members of the Homeless System of Care Leadership Council will meet on Thursday, Nov 8th, and chose 25 members for the Technical Advisory Committee from the 70 applicants.  The chosen Technical Advisory Committee will meet on Tuesday, November 13th to review FY 2019-20 Homeless Services Funding Policies, and to select their four representatives on the Leadership Council.  On Saturday, December 1st, the Homeless System of Care Leadership Council will meet to adopt the 2019-20 Homeless Services Funding Policies.  
          Gregory Fearon

Eligible Uses of HEAP Funds (from California Homeless Coordinating and Financing Council)
                                                                                                      Requested Services:
Street Outreach
Health and Safety Education
Criminal Justice Diversion Programs
Homeless Prevention Activities
    RV Park (HA!, Seb)                                                                                   
    Safe Parking (HA!)                                                                                  
Other Service Activities
Rental Assistance or Subsidies:
Housing Voucher (SR)
Rapid Re-Housing Programs (GB)
Flexible Housing Subsidy Funds (HA!)                                                              400,000.00
Eviction Prevention Strategies (SR)
Capital Improvements:
Emergency Shelter
Navigation Centers
Transitional Housing (CC, SR)                                                                         2,000,000.00
Permanent Supportive Housing (CSN, CC)                                                      3,000,000.00
Small/Tiny Houses (HA!)                                                                                    500,000.00                 
Improvements to current structures (SR)                                                             300,000,00
Youth:  (17%)                                                                                                  2,058,919.47
Administrative Costs:   (5%)                                                                           604, 565.55
Coordinated Entry (SR,CO)
Hand-washing Stations (HA!, SR)                                                                        50,000,00
Public Toilets (HA!, SR)                                                                                     200,000.00                       
Showers (HA!, SR)

Total Available                                                                                             $
Total Requested                                                                                               9,113,485.02
Remaining Amount                                                                                         2,997,806.48
CO = County
SR = Santa Rosa
Pet - Petaluma
Seb = Sebastopol
HA! = Homeless Action
CC = Catholic Charities
GB = Gale Brownell