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Busing costs for Mass. homeless students expected to reach $11.3 million in 2012

From Masslive.com

Busing costs for Mass. homeless students expected to reach $11.3 million in 2012

 

Published: Tuesday, February 07, 2012, 6:11 PM     Updated: Tuesday, February 07, 2012, 7:46 PM

By Stephanie Barry, The Republican The Republican

 

The State Auditor announced that projected busing costs for homeless children across Massachusetts will increase almost $1 million this year, nudging up the financial burden for cash-strapped cities and towns under an unfunded mandate.

 

State Auditor Suzanne Bump released the results of a statewide survey that found the estimated price tag to bus transient homeless students within and between school districts will reach $11.3 million this year.

 

Last year’s reported costs reached $10.4 million, according to state figures. The leap is attributed to an approximate 8.5 percent increase in gas prices, and a persistently dour economy driving up the numbers of homeless families, according to Bump’s office.

 

High numbers of families being sheltered in hotels in urban communities also have driven up costs.

 

Some of the state’s highest projected totals for busing homeless students hail from Western Massachusetts including $563,000 in Springfield; $431,000 in Chicopee; and $311,000 in Holyoke – where about 10 percent of the student population is homeless. All are examples of cities where hotel sheltering is prevalent.

 

On top of the enduring and increasingly expensive problem of homelessness, unfunded mandates have long been the bane of municipal and state budget crunchers. In this case, cities and towns are shackled to the busing costs by way of being recipients of millions in federal McKinney-Vento homeless assistance.

 

UnfundedMandateSchooling.jpg

 

The state’s application of the program funds requires both the community hosting homeless students and the community from which the students originate to share busing costs. Bump’s office is urging the Legislature to provide funding to cover the cost for cities and towns in the next budget cycle.

 

Municipal and school leaders support Bump’s call.

 

In Springfield, Mayor Domenic J. Sarno said school transportation is a $23 million line item and a “budget buster” that comes out of the city’s general fund as opposed to School Department coffers. While the half-million devoted to busing homeless students is not a deal-breaker, Sarno said it’s an added burden in challenging fiscal times.

 

“We are 33 square miles, and we are obligated to get our kids to school. We understand that, but it would be very helpful if we were able to work with the school department. There’s got to be a short-term and long-term conversation about how to address this,” Sarno said.

 

Azell Murphy-Cavaan, spokeswoman for the School Department, said about 600 of Springfield’s 25,000 students are homeless and noted that a consistent school placement may be the only normalcy in a homeless child’s life.

 

Click here to read the full article.

 

More Than a Job Final Results from the Evaluation of the Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO) Transitional Jobs Program

MDRC recently released its evaluation of the Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO) Transitional Jobs Program.

 

Overview:

 

This report presents the final results of the evaluation of the Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO). CEO is one of four sites in the Enhanced Services for the Hard-to-Employ Demonstration and Evaluation Project, sponsored by the Administration for Children and Families and the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), with additional funding from the U.S. Department of Labor. MDRC, a nonprofit, nonpartisan social and education policy research organization, is leading the evaluation, in collaboration with the Urban Institute and other partners.

 

Based in New York City, CEO is a comprehensive employment program for former prisoners — a population confronting many obstacles to finding and maintaining work. CEO provides temporary, paid jobs and other services in an effort to improve participants’ labor market prospects and reduce the odds that they will return to prison. The study uses a rigorous random assignment design: it compares outcomes for individuals assigned to the program group, who were given access to CEO’s jobs and other services, with the outcomes for those assigned to the control group, who were offered basic job search assistance at CEO along with other services in the community.

 

 
The three-year evaluation found that CEO substantially increased employment early in the follow-up period but that the effects faded over time. The initial increase in employment was due to the temporary jobs provided by the program. After the first year, employment and earnings were similar for both the program group and the control group.

 
CEO significantly reduced recidivism, with the most promising impacts occurring among a subgroup of former prisoners who enrolled shortly after release from prison (the group that the program was designed to serve). Among the subgroup that enrolled within three months after release, program group members were less likely than their control group counterparts to be arrested, convicted of a new crime, and reincarcerated. The program’s impacts on these outcomes represent reductions in recidivism of 16 percent to 22 percent. In general, CEO’s impacts were stronger for those who were more disadvantaged or at higher risk of recidivism when they enrolled in the study.

 
The evaluation includes a benefit-cost analysis, which shows that CEO’s financial benefits outweighed its costs under a wide range of assumptions. Financial benefits exceeded the costs for taxpayers, victims, and participants. The majority of CEO’s benefits were the result of reduced criminal justice system expenditures.

 

 

Click here to access the executive summary.

Click here to access the full report.

 

Important Video Message from HUD Secretary Donovan

Secretary Donovan recently issued a video message directed to Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG) recipients and subrecipients, Continuums of Care (CoCs), and other organizations partnering with HUD to end homelessness.  In addition to highlighting your success in carrying out the Homeless Prevention and Rapid Re-housing Program (HPRP), he is calling on ESG recipients to:

1)      Invest an unprecedented percentage of your funding in rapid re-housing: We’ve learned from HPRP that rapid re-housing programs make the biggest impact on homelessness and should be given the highest priority under ESG.

2)      Collaborate with CoCs: Keep planning smarter.  Better coordination creates better results for homeless families and the American taxpayer.

3)      Focus on results and collecting quality data in the Homeless Management Information System (HMIS): This data is essential to measuring what works and what doesn’t.  Accurate HMIS data will also enable us to gain a more informed understanding of the problems of homelessness in our communities.

 

Watch Secretary Donovan’s message by clicking here or view the HD version.

 

Policy 2 Practice: The Intersection between Homelessness & Domestic Violence

SAVE the DATE! CONFERENCE 2012

 

Policy 2 Practice: The Intersection between Homelessness & Domestic Violence


April 27, 2012  @ Northeastern University


 

JOIN: Mental Health Practitioners, Policy Makers, Advocates, Community Partners

SHARE: Resources and Identify strategies

HELP: Families succeed


 

CO-SPONSORS:

  • Casa Myrna
  • Northeastern Univ MPH Program/Urban Public Health
  • Carney Hospital
  • Northeastern University Office of Institutional Diversity & Equity
  • Northeastern University Bouve College of Health Sciences
  • Sarah Gorham Women’s Missionary Society

 

 

For more info, visit: www.BrookviewHouse.org

 

Social Finance Releases White Paper on Social Impact Bonds

Social Finance, Inc. recently released a white paper on the use of social impact bonds to promote social change.

 

The Commonwealth will be the first state in the nation to pilot social impact bonds to address challenging social problems.  One of the issues they will look to address first will be chronic homelessness.

 

Click here to access the white paper:  A New Tool for Scaling Impact: How Social Impact Bonds Can Mobilize Private Capital to Advance Social Good.

 

 

President Obama Announces Housing Plan, Including $1 Billion Funding for NHTF

From the National Low Income Housing Coalition

 

President Obama Announces Housing Plan, Including $1 Billion Funding for NHTF

February 1, 2012

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Wednesday, February 1, 2012

CONTACT: Amy Clark, amy@nlihc.org, 202.662.1530 x227


President Barack Obama announced a far reaching set of proposals today to help Americans who are struggling to afford and keep their homes. While much of what the President wants to do will provide needed assistance for individual homeowners, the needs of renters, especially low income renters, are also addressed.

 

The plan calls for a $1 billion investment in the National Housing Trust Fund to develop, rehabilitate, and preserve rental homes that are affordable for households in the bottom 30% of income. Analyses by NLIHC and others show that there is a large and growing shortage of homes that people in this income group can afford. There are only 31 affordable and available rental homes for every 100 households with income at or below 30% of the area median. Increasing the rental housing stock is also the intent of a pilot program that will convert foreclosed properties into rental homes.

 

“The U.S. housing crisis has many dimensions and the President will take on a complicated array of different problems,” said Sheila Crowley, President of the National Low Income Housing Coalition.  “Attention to the longstanding affordable housing shortage for the lowest income Americans is essential to a balanced approach to fixing our housing market.”

 

The President also wants to expand eligibility for the existing Home Affordable Mortgage Program (HAMP), the loan modification program, to include properties that are occupied by renters or will be available for rent. Research by NLIHC reveals that approximately 40% of homes that are at risk of foreclosure are occupied by renters.

 

Funding the National Housing Trust Fund will put people in the hard hit building trades back to work. So will the $15 billion that the President is seeking to repurpose foreclosed and vacant properties across the country.

 

The major homeowner assistance in the President’s plan will help current homeowners who owe more on their homes that their homes are valued to refinance with lower interest rates and reduce their monthly payments. If Congress approves the proposal, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) will be able to assist middle income homeowners who do not have federally-insured mortgages.

 

“Housing advocates of all stripes should come together to move the President’s plan forward,” said Crowley. “The foreclosure crisis, precipitated by unregulated greed, led to a recession from which we will not recover until we can all agree to fair and sensible housing solutions.”

Advocacy Alert From National Alliance

Because of your particular interest in Continuum of Care programs, the National Alliance to End Homelessness is writing to make sure you know about a vote coming up on HR 32, a bill to expand access to the Continuum of Care programs to those who are currently living doubled up with friends and family by expanding the HUD definition of homelessness. The Alliance is strongly opposed to HR 32, as it aims to meet the needs of doubled up children in the worst possible way – by diverting CoC resources away from those who are literally homeless, sleeping in shelters or on the streets, and applying them to families able to rely on friends or family.

 

What’s Happening?

Tomorrow, February 7, the Insurance, Housing, and Community Opportunity Subcommittee of the House Financial Services Committee will vote on HR 32, which would expand the HUD definition of homelessness to include people who qualify under several other federal definitions, including the one used by the Department of Education. Click here to access full text of the bill.

 

Why is the Alliance Opposed?

 

 

The legislation is well-intentioned but would have disastrous consequences. It would make an estimated additional 2.35 million children (and their parents) eligible to receive transitional housing and permanent supportive housing without providing any additional resources to serve them. We believe strongly in the importance of matching the most intensive interventions to the people with the most intensive needs. We believe that other affordable housing programs – including Section 8 and public housing – need to do a better job of serving people who are doubled up, but that the CoC programs are designed to meet the basic needs of the most vulnerable people who have literally no other place to turn and who have fallen through every single other safety net (both public and private).

 

As you all know only too well, there are insufficient resources to serve even those currently defined as homeless. Expanding program eligibility would hurt the most vulnerable people who literally have no roof over their head. Resources cannot be expected to expand to meet this nearly seven-fold increase in the number of children counted as homeless. As a result, every CoC dollar spent on someone living with family or friends is a dollar NOT spent on someone sleeping on the streets, in shelter, or in places not meant for human habitation.

 

In addition, as you know, under the HEARTH Act, all people who meet other federal definitions of homelessness are eligible for homelessness prevention assistance. The new definition has only been in effect for a month, and it is far too soon to throw out a new, compromise definition without seeing how it plays out.

 

What Can I Do?

Please contact your representatives’ DC offices and explain the drawbacks of HR 32 – especially if your representative sits on the subcommittee that will be voting on the issue tomorrow. Please feel free to share this one-page policy brief with congressional staff.

 

We know this is a controversial issue, but we are deeply concerned that this bill will have the unintended consequence of taking CoC resources like transitional housing and permanent supportive housing away from the people they were designed for – people who are literally homeless and have very intensive service and housing needs – by giving them to people who are currently in housing.

New York Times: Homeless Families, Cloaked in Normality

Homeless Families, Cloaked in Normality

By ALAN FEUER
February 3, 2012
New York Times
 

ON the sixth day she was homeless, Tonya Lewis overslept. She woke in the dark, in Room 6E at the 93rd Avenue Family Residence, a privately run shelter in Jamaica, Queens. It was 4:45 a.m. She was already running late.

 

Rousting her children — Unique, 15, and Jacaery, 2 — from their beds, Ms. Lewis got them dressed and started shoving DVDs and diapers into two bulging tote bags. When the boys were ready — sleepy, sullen, hoodied, backpacked, in hats and winter jackets — she pushed them out the door (“Come on, we gotta go!”) to begin their daily routine.

 

It went like this:

 

They took the Q54 bus five stops to the J train. They took the J train 14 stops to Broadway Junction station. Unique hopped off and transferred to the C train, then the S train, then walked a distance to his classes at the High School for Global Citizenship in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn. Ms. Lewis, with Jacaery (pronounced Juh-CARE-ee) still in tow, transferred from the J to the L train. She took the L to the B6 bus in Brooklyn, which she rode to East New York, where she worked for an hour, and then reversed course — the B6 to the L to the J — to get Jacaery to his day care center in Bedford-Stuyvesant by 9.

 

All told, the odyssey required four hours, six trips on the subway and three trips on the bus, and suggests the changing nature of homelessness in New York. Unlike in the 1980s, when the crisis was defined by AIDS patients or men who slept on church steps, these days it has become more likely that a seemingly ordinary family, rushing about on public transportation with Elmo bags and video games, could be without a home.

 

Of New York’s more than 40,000 homeless people in shelters — enough to fill the stands at Citi Field — about three-quarters now belong to families like the Lewises and are cloaked in a deceptive, superficial normalcy. They do not sleep outside or on cots on armory floors. By and large, their shoes are good; some have smartphones. Many get up each morning and leave the shelter to go to work or to school. Their hardships — poverty, unemployment, a marathon commute — exist out of sight.

 

Underlying this transition is a cascade of events, both economic and political. For the past three years, city officials say, 30 percent of New Yorkers seeking shelter have done so because of evictions, many connected to the financial crisis. (Domestic violence and overcrowding were other chief reasons.) At the same time, a disagreement over money between city and state officials last spring led to the cessation of a rent-subsidy program designed to shift the homeless from shelters into apartments. For the first time in 30 years, there is no city policy in place to help move the homeless into permanent homes.

 

MS. LEWIS, a health care aide, was evicted last month from her home in Far Rockaway, Queens. She was working full time for Able Health Care Services of New York, making about $500 a week tending to an autistic man. In August, because of cuts in Medicaid, her hours were reduced by half. Six weeks ago, she separated from her husband, Gregory Pitters, a maintenance man, who, before he lost his own job, earned $600 a week. On top of this, the $1,000 rent subsidy Ms. Lewis was receiving from the city, through the now-defunct program Advantage, ran out. Her apartment, a small two-bedroom, rented for $1,200 a month. She now makes $210 a week. She owes her landlord $4,280. The problem was mathematical, she said: “I can’t afford the rent.”

 

She was in Brooklyn, on Halsey Street and Broadway, where Jacaery was in tears, when she said this. He often throws a tantrum when his mother leaves him at day care. At the center, a cheerful place with cubby holes and construction-paper cutouts, an attendant flung Jacaery over her shoulder. He wept and wailed and kicked his legs as his mother walked away.

 

At 38, Ms. Lewis has three sons with three men. She rarely sees the father of her oldest child, Tarrick, who is 19 and lives in Brooklyn with her mother, Delores Lewis, and one of her younger brothers. Unique’s father died years ago and, as a rule, is not discussed. Ms. Lewis said she hoped to work things out with Mr. Pitters, Jacaery’s father, who is living with his mother in the Bronx. “We’re in this situation partly because of him,” she said. “He apologized. But like I said, ‘Apologies are not acceptable right now.’ ”

 

She was back on Broadway, headed for her agency’s office, when her cellphone rang. It was a former boyfriend, Gary Wade, who was recently released from the Dutchess County jail. Mr. Wade wanted to meet Ms. Lewis at the Halsey Street J stop; at the station, he demanded her assistance in tracking down a lawyer who had represented him before he went to jail. The lawyer had his watch, he said, and his “very expensive Cartier glasses.”

 

Ms. Lewis bought Mr. Wade a MetroCard, hoping he might go away. Instead, he tagged along as she ran errands: dropping off her timecard in Downtown Brooklyn and riding the A train to the end of Queens, where she visited a welfare office to pick up documents she needed for a new apartment.

 

On the train, she briefly fell ill, sweating, breathless. Mr. Wade ignored her.

 

He refused to leave until someone bought him lunch. It was 12:30 p.m. Ms. Lewis could not get rid of him.

 

THERE was a time when the shelter system in New York was unquestionably Dickensian. Families slept overnight on benches at the Emergency Assistance Unit, a notorious intake office in the Bronx. Many were placed in rat-infested welfare hotels. A vicious legal battle between the city and advocates left even picayune details of shelter operation — the availability of milk-bottle warmers, for example — up to the courts.

 

These days, families seeking shelter appear at the Prevention Assistance and Temporary Housing Office, a gleaming modern building, also in the Bronx, with artwork on the walls and an airport-like “departure lounge.” Advocates say that policies put in place by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg have made it harder to gain entrance to the system, but for those who do get in, the intake process generally lasts 6 to 10 hours, and most families find a place the day they apply. One-third end up in city-run shelters, including some hotels, another third are placed in privately run facilities, like the one the Lewises entered in Queens, which has 54 units, each about 700 square feet, each with its own kitchen and bathroom.

 

A family stays in a shelter an average of nine months, but there is no restriction on the length of stay. Rules encourage people to move on: families are not allowed to bring in their own furniture or decorate the walls. The city tries to place families near parents’ jobs and children’s schools, but it does not always succeed. On the ground floor of the shelter that housed the Lewises is an office where caseworkers help residents manage welfare benefits and improve their résumés in hopes of finding better work.

 

The problem is: How do families get out of a shelter once they get there?

 

In 2004, Mr. Bloomberg announced an ambitious plan to reduce homelessness by two-thirds over five years by building housing units, by putting more restrictions on those trying to enter the system and, most controversially, by no longer giving homeless families priority in receiving public housing or what is known as Section 8 assistance, which gives people federal vouchers under which they pay no more than 30 percent of their income for privately rented apartments.

 

At the time, officials said that other New Yorkers at risk of being homeless — the disabled, for example, or former foster children — should have first claim on available public housing. (Each year, 5,000 to 6,000 public-housing units turn over and are sought by more than 100,000 people on a seven-year waiting list.) They also said that because Section 8 vouchers were in short supply, families were entering shelters as a shortcut to obtaining them. Once the practice ended, the argument went, the number of homeless people entering the system would decrease.

 

That didn’t happen. At 40,000 people, New York’s shelter population is higher than it has ever been. (In 2001, when it hit 25,000, the city’s commissioner of homeless services was quoted in The New York Times as calling it “a temporary crisis.”) On any given night, 6,000 homeless men and 2,000 homeless women bed down in facilities for single people, and an additional 15,000 parents and 17,000 children sleep in family shelters. Then there are the individuals living on the streets whom the city counted last week in its annual Homeless Outreach Population Estimate. (The numbers will be available in March.)

 

In place of Section 8 priority, Mr. Bloomberg established the Housing Stability Plus program, which provided five years of rent subsidies that declined in value 20 percent each year. In 2007, he introduced Advantage, which Ms. Lewis was using. The $140 million-a-year program offered two-year subsidies of about $1,000 a month, but only if recipients received job training or worked. The state and federal governments supplied two-thirds of the financing for Advantage, while the city administered it.

 

“I don’t believe for a second that every family in shelter needs a permanent housing subsidy,” said Robert V. Hess, who served as the commissioner of the Department of Homeless Services from 2006 to 2010. “What many people need is an opportunity to get back on their feet and develop their own income. Over time, they can build savings and move into their own homes.”

In June, however, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, citing budget problems, cut the state’s financing for Advantage, and because the city would not pick up its portion, the program was discontinued. Among those arguing for the end of Advantage was the Coalition for the Homeless, an advocacy group that has long supported homeless people. While it might seem counterintuitive, the coalition lobbied against Advantage in hopes of pushing the city into again offering the homeless priority for public housing and Section 8 vouchers, of which about 4,000 become available each year.

 

The situation has led to litigation. The Legal Aid Society sued the city in 2011 to prevent it from ending benefits for the last 8,000 families still enrolled in Advantage. On Friday, a judge lifted an injunction that had forced the city to keep paying benefits. A hearing on the matter is scheduled for this week.


Click here to read the full article.

Clark: Training Our Workers to Succeed, Today and Tomorrow

Boston.com recently ran an op-ed by State Senator Katherine Clark discussing her support for legislation aimed at increasing the number of workers in the Commonwealth with middle-skills credentials through job training and education.  Access to training and well paid jobs is an important component of ending family homelessness.

 

From Boston.com

February 2, 2012 10:02 AM

 

Clark: Training our workers to succeed, today and tomorrow

By State Senator Katherine Clark

 

Massachusetts has lost one third of its manufacturing jobs since 1990, and yet it has become conventional wisdom that the key to our competitive growth is increasing highly paid jobs performed by college graduates.  But as the 2010 report Massachusetts Forgotten Middle-Skill Jobs demonstrates, it is actually “middle skills” occupations, jobs that require more than a high school diploma but not a four-year degree, that make up the largest segment of job growth nationally and here in Massachusetts.

 

Middle-skill jobs represent 44 percent of all jobs in the Commonwealth and are predicted to grow with demand in sectors like healthcare, biotechnology, renewable energy, information technology and high-tech manufacturing.  As the Middle Skills report shows, Massachusetts has underinvested in vocational and technical education and public education.  Home to some of the world’s leading colleges and universities, Massachusetts ranks only 47th in investment in public education.

 
In Governor Patrick’s state of the state address, he emphasized the importance of preparing our workforce for middle-skill jobs and using our community college system to better train and educate people to meet the growing demand. The Governor stated that currently there are 120,000 unfilled middle-skills positions in Massachusetts that, if filled, would halve our unemployment rate.

 

I have cosponsored legislation aimed at increasing the number of workers in the Commonwealth with middle-skills credentials through job training and education.  This legislation acknowledges that we must focus both on the next generation of workers coming out of high school and those adults currently in the workforce or looking for work who need new skills now.

 

This bill would establish five to seven Regional Skills Academies, geographic clusters of community colleges, vocational-technical high schools, community-based organizations, and employers that are aligned to the Commonwealth’s economic development strategy. This focus on increasing the number of Massachusetts residents ready to work in the fastest-growing sectors of our economy will be a critical part of our recovery and economic strength in the decades to come.

Click here to read the remainder of the op-ed.

Motivational Interviewing with t3

Training Opportunity:

Motivational Interviewing with t3 

 

Join t3 (think. teach. transform.) in Boston on February 21-22 for a two-day workshop on Motivational Interviewing (MI) led by Ken Kraybill and Katie Volk. MI is a person-centered, goal-oriented, guiding method to enhance motivation to change. This evidence-based approach is relevant for care providers of all disciplines. The workshop is designed for participants new or relatively new to MI and will be highly interactive with opportunities for practice and feedback. Participants will also have the opportunity to take part in a research study to explore strategies to help practitioners retain MI skills after onsite training. Learn more and register today!