Homeless population growing older

More than half of homeless adults are age 47 and older, according to a recent AARP blog post. This is quite a devastating fact. Older individuals are more prone to health risks and living on the streets will only increase these risks. There have been different statistics of the lifespan of homeless people, and they are quite scary. As the AARP points out, some statistics say life expectancy can be up to age 64, which is about 20 years younger than the life expectancy of the non-homeless population.

Because of these distressing, startling statistics, helping older homeless individuals has never been more important. These individuals deserve our attention as equally as the younger homeless population, but with a little extra care to their health.

This is why we are proud of the organizations we work with to get homeless individuals the medical care they need, and make sure health care is an important focus of our annual Project Homeless Connect. To see many of the service providers available for the homeless in Dauphin County, please see http://www.cachpa.org/HomelessServicesReferenceManual.pdf.

For more about the older homeless population, please check out AARP’s recent blog post: http://blog.aarp.org/2013/03/27/sally-abrahms-old-and-homeless-no-caregive/.

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Spotlight on YWCA of Greater Harrisburg: Helping find homes for homeless veterans

Veterans dealing with economic hardships, mental health and/or addiction challenges make up a significant portion of the homeless population and face the greatest risk of becoming homeless. According to CACH’s Homeless Services Reference Manual, veterans facing poverty have a one in 10 risk of experiencing homelessness over the period of a year. CACH’s 2012 Point in Time survey found that 14.2% of the 281 homeless respondents were veterans.

There are many services available to help homeless veterans, especially for veterans living in Dauphin County and surrounding areas. CACH member organizations in Harrisburg that have programs to specifically serve homeless veterans include Bethesda Mission, Shalom House, and the YWCA of Greater Harrisburg, which are included in CACH’s Homeless Services Reference Manual.

According to Bill Reed, director of veterans services at the YWCA of Greater Harrisburg, the YWCA does a lot of work to help homeless veterans. The YWCA extends these services for homeless veterans to several counties, which include Dauphin, Cumberland, Lebanon, York, Lancaster, and Perry counties.

Pictured above is Bill Reed, YWCA of Greater Harrisburg’s director of veterans services. When the YWCA began offering services to homeless veterans in 2006, Reed had just retired from the military and was hired for the program.

Pictured above is Bill Reed, YWCA of Greater Harrisburg’s director of veterans services. When the YWCA began offering services to homeless veterans in 2006, Reed had just retired from the military and was hired for the program.

Thanks to grants from the Department of Labor, the YWCA offers two key programs to homeless veterans: the homeless veterans reintegration program and the homeless female veterans/veterans with families reintegration program. “Both of these programs are [geared] to helping homeless veterans find employment, which will lead to housing and self-sufficiency,” Reed said. The current annual goal for the Homeless Veterans employment Programs is to enroll a minimum of 94 homeless veterans, and an additional 30 homeless female veterans and/or veterans with families.

According to Reed, the YWCA of Greater Harrisburg also offers three transitional housing programs to homeless veterans through the Department of Veteran Affairs. These programs offer 16 transitional beds, which the YWCA provides through partnership with the Harrisburg Area YMCA. Reed said that there are also five permanent housing positions for chronically homeless, disabled veterans, which are supported through the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

A recent addition to the homeless veterans’ housing programs offered through the YWCA of Greater Harrisburg is Transition in Place (TIP).  This program, which is funded through the Department of Veteran Affairs, offers homeless veterans and homeless veterans with families transitional housing that follows the “Housing First” model.

According to Reed, “It’s transitional housing, but instead of it being in an institutional setting, the case manager and homeless veteran locate an apartment in the community where the veteran would like to actually live permanently.” For this program, the YWCA provides assistance with basic needs, rent, utilities, case management, and employment.  Once the veteran obtains sufficient income for self-sufficiency, they assume the lease and remain at the chosen apartment.

This is the job club room at the YWCA of Greater Harrisburg. It is one of the many services the YWCA offers to homeless veterans, where homeless veterans can work in the online computer lab to find employment.

This is the job club room at the YWCA of Greater Harrisburg. It is one of the many services the YWCA offers to homeless veterans, where homeless veterans can work in the online computer lab to find employment.

According to Reed, the YWCA of Greater Harrisburg also sponsors an annual event called the Homeless Veterans Stand Down. This event is similar to CACH’s Project Homeless Connect, but Stand Down is exclusively for homeless veterans. This year’s event, which was held February 22nd through February 24th, served 53 homeless veterans. Reed said this event has grown and increased the services provided through collaboration with a number of agencies and groups that support veterans. One key partner at Stand Down is the Lebanon VA Medical Center, which is a health care organization that provides quality health care to veterans.

According to Reed, in addition to the services provided by the YWCA Veterans programs, several other organizations provided services at the Homeless Veterans Stand Down. These organizations included the Department of Veterans Affairs, Department of Labor, PA National Guard, PA Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, Department of Education, PA Career Links, Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion, Military Order of the Purple Heart, Onsite Health, PA Bar Association, American Red Cross, and the Disability Rights Network. Reed said that many more organizations and individuals provided services and volunteered their time and resources at the Stand Down.

The Homeless Veterans Stand Down offers many services, which include but are not limited to, employment services, medical screenings, dental services, Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD) services, drug and alcohol services, suicide prevention, counseling, legal services, health and comfort.

CACH is very proud to work with the YWCA of Greater Harrisburg and our other members that offer services to help homeless veterans. For more information about YWCA of Greater Harrisburg’s homeless veteran programs, you can contact Bill Reed at 717-234-7931, extension 3126, or e-mail him at wreed@ywcahbg.org.

Homelessness and its detrimental effects on children

This young girl was one of the 42 children who attended the Capital Area Coalition on Homelessness’s Project Homeless Connect event last year. This event targets the hardest-to-reach homeless and provides them with many necessary services, from meal distribution to housing referrals.

This young girl was one of the 42 children who attended the Capital Area Coalition on Homelessness’s Project Homeless Connect event last year. This event targets the hardest-to-reach homeless and provides them with many necessary services, from meal distribution to housing referrals.

According to the National Center on Family Homelessness, more than 1.6 million children were homeless each year between 2006 and 2010, which equals one in 45 children. Last year, CACH’s annual Point in Time survey found that 127 children were homeless in Dauphin County. Of these children, 79 were male and 48 were female. According to the survey, 23 percent of the homeless surveyed were households that had children (63 households).

Many causes exist for family homelessness. The biggest cause is unemployment, according to CACH’s Homeless Services Reference Manual. The following two biggest causes for homelessness among families with children were lack of affordable housing and poverty.

According to the National Center on Family Homelessness, 40 percent of homeless children were under the age of six. Many of these children experience physical and mental health issues as a result of their homelessness. Homeless children are six times more likely to get sick each year than their non-homeless counterparts, according to the National Center on Family Homelessness.  These children are twice as likely to develop learning disabilities when compared to non-homeless children. They also have a higher risk of experiencing violence, as 25 percent have witnessed violence within their families.

Featured in this photo are a homeless mother and her two children who attended CACH’s Project Homeless Connect in 2012.

Featured in this photo are a homeless mother and her two children who attended CACH’s Project Homeless Connect in 2012.

Homelessness really impacts the healthy development of young children. According to an article from the non-profit research center Child Trends, these children are more likely than non-homeless children to develop moderate to severe health, emotional, and behavioral problems, which can range from asthma to depression.

Not only do these children suffer from poor physical and mental health, but they also suffer from hunger and missed educational opportunities.  According to Child Trends, homeless children who lack a stable living environment are twice as likely as non-homeless children to have to repeat a grade, drop out of high school, or be suspended or expelled.

We here at CACH are committed to helping homeless families with children, along with homeless individuals, get the access they need to services that will help them get back on their feet and change their lives for the better. To learn more about CACH and our work, please visit www.cachpa.org.

Domestic violence leading cause of female homelessness

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Yesterday, President Obama signed the re-authorized Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) into law, a big gain that will help protect domestic violence victims from the plight of homelessness. Reauthorization and expansion of VAWA comes after three years of advocacy on the part of the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty (NLCHP) and its partners, according to an article published yesterday by the NLCHP.

According to the NLCHP, not only does VAWA acknowledge sexual assault survivors as a protected class, it also extends housing protections beyond public housing. These protections include all of the housing programs managed through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program.

The NLCHP stated that in order to help prevent the homelessness of domestic violence victims, over 3 million housing units will be covered under VAWA. VAWA also requires housing providers to implement policies for emergency transfers. Another requirement is that housing providers give domestic violence and sexual assault survivors notice of their rights under VAWA during any eviction process, according to the NLCHP.

Domestic violence is considered to be one of the leading causes of homelessness among women and their families. At the regional level, domestic violence was a primary cause of homelessness among 8.2 percent of 281 surveyed homeless individuals in the Harrisburg and Dauphin County area last year, according to CACH’s 2012 Point In Time survey.

At the national level, the numbers are much greater. For 22 to 57 percent of homeless women, depending upon region and study, domestic violence is the immediate cause of their homelessness, according to a NLCHP fact sheet. A 2003 study conducted in 10 locations in the United States found that almost all of the 100 participating homeless mothers had either experienced or witnessed domestic violence in their lifetimes.

According to the NLCHP, there is a significant correlation between domestic violence and homelessness. Ninety-two percent of homeless women surveyed had experienced severe physical or sexual assault at one point in their lives. Sixty-three percent of these women had been victims of violence by a partner, according to the NLCHP. Thirty-two percent of the surveyed women had been assaulted by their current or recent partner.

According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness (NAEH), domestic violence survivors often find themselves isolated by their abusers from support networks and financial resources. As a result, these survivors may not have a steady income, a good employment history, a good credit history, and/or landlord references. They also tend to suffer from panic disorder, anxiety, major depression, and substance abuse, according to the NAEH.

Fulfilling the needs of these homeless domestic violence survivors is key to helping them live better lives. According to the NAEH, these survivors have both short- and long- term needs when it comes to housing. One short-term need is for them to have safe housing away from their abuser.  A long-term need is for them to have access to safe, stable, and affordable housing away from their abuser once they get back on their feet, according to the NAEH.

Raising awareness of homeless issues

Welcome to the Capital Area Coalition on Homelessness’s blog!

The Capital Area Coalition on Homelessness, also known as CACH, has recently started to build a social media presence within the past two weeks. With the start of using social media, CACH has launched a social media campaign to raise awareness of homelessness and its issues. CACH created a Facebook page two weeks ago and a Twitter account last week. In addition to this blog, CACH will also be creating a YouTube account in the following two weeks.

Goals of campaign

This campaign was launched to fulfill part of CACH’s mission of educating its community to help prevent and reduce homelessness in the Capital Region. This campaign was also launched because there have been several myths surrounding the real issue of homelessness. It is our goal to dispel these myths and help reduce misinformation about homelessness.

We are hoping this campaign will especially resonate with faith-based organizations, churches, shelters, social and human service providers, local non-profits and businesses, local and state governments, and university students. Other important groups include people who are homeless, near-homeless and formerly homeless, along with homeless veterans and homeless youth.

Each year, CACH hosts Project Homeless Connect, an event that targets the hardest-to-reach men, women, teens, and children who are homeless or living on the street. Pictured above are guests having lunch at last year's event.

Each year, CACH hosts Project Homeless Connect, an event that targets the hardest-to-reach men, women, teens, and children who are homeless or living on the street. Pictured above are guests having lunch at last year’s event.

What CACH plans to do

We will share stories and videos that highlight issues of homelessness, along with facts that dispel myths that have been created about homelessness. One common myth is that homeless people do not have jobs. According to CACH’s 2012 Point-In-Time Survey, 19.6% of our homeless population in Dauphin County is employed. We want to put a spotlight on various aspects of homelessness and share positive stories of those who are homeless or have been homeless.

How supporters can participate

Anyone who has an interest in CACH’s mission of helping prevent and reduce homelessness is invited to “Like” us on Facebook (www.facebook.com/CapitalAreaCoalitiononHomelessness) or “Follow” us on Twitter (twitter.com/cach_pa). Feel free to subscribe to our blog as well. Please spread the word about us to your friends and family to help CACH gain more of a social media presence and help spread awareness, and help us out by sharing content that particularly interests you. We also want supporters to have meaningful conversations about homeless issues on our social media platforms, so please do not be afraid to share your thoughts and insights. We look forward to engaging more with our supporters on our social media platforms!

To learn more about CACH, visit www.cachpa.org. You can also check out our “Home Run” report from last year, which gives an update on CACH’s accomplishments to fulfill our 10-year plan to end long-term homelessness in the Capital Region: http://www.cachpa.org/HomeRun_RevisdCACHadopted_April2012_Final.pdf.