5 Things to know from the August 2016 Lunch & Learn

Aug 12, 2016  |  at 9:44 am  |  by sbrown

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The Coalition for the Homeless held a Lunch & Learn on August 4, focusing largely on information and insights from the National Alliance on Homelessness’ (NAEH) annual National Conference on Ending Homelessness, held July 25-29 in Washington, DC. More than 20 people from the Houston area attended the national conference and all of them brought back valuable information to share with their colleagues who are working to end homelessness. In case you missed it (or if you just want a refresher!) here’s what you should know from the August 4 Lunch & Learn:

1. Housing First means no rules, no requirements.
Housing First is a nationally recognized best practice that says housing should be the first intervention provided to homeless individuals; not services, not treatment – housing. The Way Home system is a Housing First system. As such, housing providers who receive Continuum of Care (CoC) funding from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) cannot place requirements on homeless individuals to receive housing. Ana Rausch, Coordinated Access Project Manager with the Coalition, said it best: “A client should never say that they don’t want to enter your housing program because you make them go to group three times a week, or classes, or receive case management. We provide clients with housing without any requirements and then begin offering those services to clients and encouraging them to accept. But their housing should not be contingent on accepting services.”

2. Documenting chronic homelessness can be tough – but there are resources out there!
A chronically homeless individual is someone who has been homeless for more than a year (either all at once or on separate occasions that total a year) and has a disabling condition. Proving homelessness can sometimes be challenging – who can verify that someone is homeless and how? Those of us who have places to live can prove that with things like utility bills; but how do you show proof of what you don’t have? Thankfully, HUD understands and has provided some guidance on documenting homelessness. Click here to take a look at HUD’s resources.

3. Housing – and not shelters – is the key to ending homelessness.
The Way Home knows that permanent housing is the key to solving homelessness, and we’ve seen incredible success with that strategy: since 2012 more than 7,000 individuals have been housed, and 90% of those individuals have remained housed! But all communities are not on the permanent housing bandwagon. Some jurisdictions are “right to shelter” locations, which sounds like (and can be) a good thing; however, many of these jurisdictions end up spending funding on temporary solutions, such as building shelters and paying for hotel/motel stays, instead of being able to focus on permanent solutions like housing.

4. Kush is a big problem in Houston.
Synthetic marijuana (also known as “Kush” or “Spice” among other names) has been an issue in Houston for a few years, and has recently come into the spotlight. Kush is particularly dangerous because it is cheap, easily accessible and not regulated. This means that some users may get Kush that has no potency, while others may get an amount of the drug that is so potent it may cause an overdose with serious effects. Further, with Kush users hanging out in highly visible and concentrated areas, particularly within Houston’s urban core, there is a very visible street population which many community members confuse with homelessness. In short, Kush threatens to undermine the work of The Way Home. While some Kush users may be homeless, it is first and foremost a substance abuse issue. Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner is committed to creating a substance use disorder system that can respond to Kush and ensure that users can get the help they need.

5. Houston was the cool kid at the table at the NAEH conference – and yes, you can sit with us!
We might say this a lot, but only because it’s true: The Way Home is leading the nation in implementing strategies and programs that solve homelessness. Those in attendance at the NAEH national conference have repeatedly said that people across the country are looking at Houston as an example and for inspiration in solving homelessness in their own communities. Since our work began, we’ve made visits to and received groups from major cities across the US such as Orlando, Seattle, Boston, and more! With a 57% reduction in overall homelessness since 2011, an effective end to Veteran homelessness, and strategies that are getting us closer to ending chronic, family, and youth/young adult homelessness; the Houston region is setting the pace for the rest of the US.