Housing and Homelessness: Opening Doors, Closing Gaps

A new paper was released this week highlighting the link between housing and homelessness. Housing and Homelessness: Opening Doors, Closing Gaps, is the fourth in a series of papers that is designed to demonstrate the value of affordable housing for people and communities across the State of Vermont. While the connection between housing and homelessness is rather clear, there is much more to the issue of homelessness than what may be openly visible.

From the paper:

In Vermont, it’s just as often entire families—parents and young children—who don’t have anywhere warm and safe to go at night, forced onto the streets by inflated rents, bad credit, underemployment, or, like Laurie T., having to make the impossible choice between a roof over their heads or food in their bellies. The mother of an 8‐year‐old and a 13‐year‐old, Laurie lost her apartment when hours were cut at her minimum‐wage job. Leaving the kids with her mother, she and her boyfriend, who was unemployed, used their car as housing. The four eventually found themselves at the Upper Valley Haven, a White River Junction shelter and facility.

Sara Kobylenski, executive director of the Haven and co‐chair of the Vermont Coalition to End Homelessness, says their two shelters—with the capacity to house eight families and 20 adults—are routinely full. Last winter, the staff even had to set up cots in the shelters’ public spaces to accommodate the overflow. Shelters aren’t the only answer, of course, but some families are housed in emergency motels that have been found rundown, filthy, and roach‐infested, with rooms that have so much mold, anyone staying there risks health issues.

Nationwide, five factors are responsible for homelessness: (1) lack of affordable housing; (2) gap between earned income and the cost of available housing; (3) health costs; (4) natural disasters; and (5) relationship problems—in particular, domestic violence. While the latter three are largely circumstantial, the former two are not. 

To read the full paper click here (PDF file).

For more information, contact Chris Donnelly at the Champlain Housing Trust by calling (802) 861-7305 or Kenn Sassorossi at Housing Vermont at (802) 863-8284.

HHS Releases Two New Reports on Using Medicaid to Cover Services for People in Permanent Supportive Housing

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE) released two new reports: Primer on Using Medicaid for People Experiencing Chronic Homelessness and Tenants of Permanent Supportive Housing (PDF file), and a companion document, Medicaid and Permanent Supportive Housing for Chronically Homeless Individuals: Emerging Practices from the Field.

The reports serve as tools for States and communities working to expand services and supports for people in permanent supportive housing. While they focus on services for people experiencing chronic homelessness, the options highlighted in the Primer can be used by States to increase the role of Medicaid in providing supportive services to any individual who requires supportive services to achieve housing stability and improved health and well-being.

To read more on the reports from the USICH website click here.

HUD Orders Rhode Island Housing To Repay $1.1 Million In Grants To Safe Haven Homeless Facility

The Providence Journal recently reported that Rhode Island Housing has been ordered to repay $1.1 million in federal grants because it has failed to document how those funds were spent at a Pawtucket homeless facility. From the article:

The regional office of the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development came down hard on Rhode Island Housing Tuesday and ordered that the agency pay back more than $1.1 million for failing to provide financial controls at Safe Haven, a homeless facility in Pawtucket that shut down this summer.

The Urban League of Rhode Island ran Safe Haven, but Rhode Island Housing was responsible for dispersing funds from the federal Continuum of Care program to the nonprofit facility.

HUD decided to seek the reimbursement of $1,157,573 after Rhode Island Housing “was unable to provide HUD with documentation and assurances that it had established such fiscal control and accounting procedures as may be necessary to assure the proper disbursal of, and accounting for grant funds …” wrote Robert D. Shumeyko, HUD’s regional director. “It is our conclusion that RIH is out of compliance with the terms of conditions set forth in the Grant Agreements governing these projects.”

The time period ran from Oct. 1, 2010, through Sept. 30, 2013.

Rhode Island Housing is barred from using federal funds to reimburse HUD, and the money must be repaid by Nov. 3, unless the housing agency can produce “verifiable evidence” to support the funds drawn from the federal grants.

To read the full report click here.