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First Lady Michelle Obama Announces Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness

Andrea Kurtz, Director of the Ten-Year Plan to End Chronic Homelessness in Winston Salem and Denise Neunaber, Executive Director of the North Carolina Coalition to End Homelessness, eagerly await the announcement at the White House

Andrea Kurtz, Director of the Ten-Year Plan to End Chronic Homelessness in Winston-Salem, and Denise Neunaber, Executive Director of the North Carolina Coalition to End Homelessness, eagerly await the announcement at the White House

“When a veteran comes home kissing the ground, it is unacceptable that he should have to sleep on it.” – FLOTUS Michelle Obama on ending veteran homelessness

I had the honor of representing North Carolina at the White House last week for the announcement of the Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness. Seeing the First Lady impassioned about the issues that we work on day in and day out and putting her energy behind the solutions we advocate every day was awe-inspiring. This challenge is giving all of us who work in the field the energy we need to finish the job.

It was amazing to hear our nation’s leadership speak about homelessness with such a deep understanding of this complex issue. You can share in the experience. Watch it here:

Read transcripts of the First Lady’s remarks

Mayor Joines from Winston-Salem is in! Not only is Mayor Joines in for the challenge, but ending veterans homelessness in Winston-Salem is possible within the year. Phoenix and Salt Lake City are already at zero.

Eliminating homelessness among veterans is something we can do: it’s within our reach with the resources available from the White House, HUD, and the VA. In the January 2014 Point-in-Time Count, which provides a snapshot of homelessness on one given night, there were 1160 veterans experiencing homelessness in North Carolina. Of these, 15% were unsheltered, 39% were staying in emergency shelter, and 46% were temporarily residing in transitional housing.

Mayor Joines shouldn’t be the only leader in North Carolina who signs on to the challenge. All North Carolina communities should make the pledge and help us get to zero homeless veterans.

View the complete list of leaders from across the country that have joined the challenge.

Check out what the White House includes in their guidance on how to end homelessness among veterans. You’ll probably recognize them as the strategies NCCEH supports.

To aid the mayors in pursuit of the goal of ending homelessness among veterans, the federal government has provided resources and enforced programs to strengthen our country’s homeless assistance programs.  These resources and reforms, when implemented in local communities, can include:

  • Using a Housing First approach, which removes barriers to help veterans obtain permanent housing as quickly as possible, without unnecessary prerequisites;
  • Prioritizing the most vulnerable veterans, especially those experiencing chronic homelessness, for permanent supportive housing opportunities, including those created through the HUD-VASH program;
  • Coordinating outreach efforts to identify and engage every veteran experiencing homelessness and focus outreach efforts on achieving housing outcomes;
  • Targeting rapid rehousing interventions, including those made possible through the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Supportive Services for Veteran Families program, toward veterans and their families who need shorter-term rental subsidies and services in order to be reintegrated back into our communities;
  • Leveraging housing and services resources that can help veterans who are ineligible for some of the VA’s programs get into stable housing;
  • Increasing early detection and access to preventive services so at‐risk veterans and their families remain stably housed; and
  • Closely monitoring progress toward the goal, including the success of programs achieving permanent housing outcomes.

Read the full White House Fact Sheet 

 What you can do

  • Support and implement the strategies listed above
  • Contact your local leaders and Governor McCrory to ask them to join the challenge (find out how here)
  • Find out more about the Mayors Challenge on HUD’s website

Let’s take on the challenge and get to work!

NCCEH Comments on Supportive Housing Development Program

NCCEH submitted comments on the NC Housing Finance Agency’s Supportive Housing Development Program (SHDP). The SHDP expects to award approximately $4 million in 2014. The SHDP is important sticks and bricks funding for homeless and permanent supportive housing programs.

NCCEH appreciates the opportunity to provide comments on the Supportive Housing Development Program’s application and criteria for funding.  The SHDP is an important resource for programs that serve the homeless and persons with disabilities.

NCCEH appreciates HFA staff’s commitment to ensure that the program is adjusted to recent changes in larger funding streams and best practices. We applaud the efforts to integrate changes into the program and offer the following suggestions to support this direction:

  • Eligible Residents

The program’s definition of homeless should be updated to reflect the definition of homelessness in HUD’s Final Rule published on December 5, 2011. READ NCCEH’s FULL COMMENTS

More information on the Supportive Housing Development Program can be found here. Once the application is finalized, it will also be posted to the SHDP webpage.

Big News in Healthcare Reform: The Benefits Exchange Opens October 1, 2013

By now you have heard a lot of different predictions and opinions about the Affordable Care Act (ACA), otherwise known as “Obamacare.” Over the past four years, there have been many changes to healthcare and health insurance, including the closing of the Medicare “donut-hole” and allowing young adults to stay on their parent’s health insurance until 26 years old. These changes are significant, but one of the biggest changes to the system takes place in just 64 days!

On October 1, 2013, open enrollment begins in the Benefits Exchange! The Benefits Exchange will be a new marketplace that allows individuals, families, and small businesses to shop for the best insurance plan to fit their needs. Each state has their own Benefits Exchange, and in North Carolina it will be run by the federal government.

Benefits Exchanges are for those who wish to purchase health insurance. Subsidies are available for anyone who earns between 133%- 400% of the Federal Poverty Level. To see Federal Poverty Levels for 2013 click here.

While those who earn below 133% of the FPL or with no income will not be able to purchase health insurance benefits, there will be a way to apply for Medicaid in the Benefits Exchange. Just remember, that in North Carolina in order to qualify for Medicaid, you need to either be:

  • a child;
  •  a family with dependent children;
  • or an aged, blind, or disabled individual who meets income limits.

Do you want to know more about the Benefits Exchange for yourself, your agency employees or those you serve? The important thing to know is you don’t have to wait until October 1st to get answers. The federal government has a new website HealthCare.gov (Cuidadodesalud.gov) and a toll-free number (1-800-318-2596) that you can go to NOW for answers to your questions so you are prepared for October 1, 2013. Check out these resources today; so you will know what to do on the new Benefits Exchange.

Winston-Salem participates in Youth Count!

During the recent Point-in-Time Count, Winston-Salem was one of nine sites for the first national Youth Count!, an interagency initiative to develop promising strategies for counting unaccompanied homeless youth, up to 24 years old, through innovative implementations of HUD’s 2013 Point-in-Time (PIT) count.

Amy Sawyer, U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness Regional Coordinator and former NCCEH board member, participated in the count and chronicled the experience in the US ICH blog.

The commitment to connecting with people in Winston-Salem and Forsyth County, North Carolina was evident during their Point-in-Time (PIT) count, starting in the evening on January 30th and ending late the next day. While temperatures reached an unseasonably warm 71 degrees earlier in the day, by the time the volunteers gathered at Bethesda Center  for coffee, snacks, and training, the temperature had dipped to 54 degrees, with driving rains and threats of tornadoes and flooding giving an even deeper sense of urgency to the work the volunteers were embarking on.

“This is a search and rescue operation!” stated Teri Hairston, Program Assistant for the Ten Year Plan to End Chronic Homelessness at the United Way of Forsyth County, during the training.  “We see this as a chance to connect with every person who is homeless, and even if we’re just planting a seed for later, we use what we learn tonight to help everyone get into housing”


NCCEH Comments on Revised Service Definition for ACT Teams

As part of the recent settlement with the Department of Justice, the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) is revising the service definition for ACT Teams (Assertive Community Treatment Teams) to reflect greater fidelity to Dartmouth Assertive Community Treatment model. ACT  Teams provide vital mental health and tenancy support services for individuals with severe and persistent mental health diagnoses. NCCEH recently submitted comments on the proposed Revised Service Definition for ACT Teams posted by DHHS:

Response to Request for Comments

NCCEH appreciates the opportunity to provide comments on the Draft Assertive Community Treatment Team Medicaid Billable Service.  ACT Teams are an integral part of the mental health service continuum in North Carolina, and these teams provide services for many individuals who are homeless or at imminent risk of homelessness. As is highlighted in the State’s recent settlement agreement with the Department of Justice, ACT Teams play a key role in assisting individuals to obtain and maintain permanent, affordable housing in integrated community settings. Stable housing integrated into the community is one of the most crucial resources that we can provide to individuals within the MH/DD/SA system. Many service providers find that stable housing is a key part of treatment and recovery for the beneficiaries of their services. READ NCCEH’S FULL COMMENTS

Buncombe County Achieves Gold!

Congratulations, Buncombe County! On January 4, 2013, Buncombe County and its SOAR work group were awarded the SOAR Community Certification Gold Level. Buncombe County is only the second county, after Durham, to achieve the Gold Level.

Gold Level Certification reflects Buncombe County’s commitment to educate consumers and health care providers about Social Security Benefits, link eligible consumers to SSI/SSDI income and health care benefits, and develop successful partnerships with key community stakeholders to support SOAR applications.

The success of the SOAR program depends not only on the dedicated SOAR caseworkers who help individuals to complete applications, but also on the communities and institutions that support SOAR caseworkers in their work.  Community support and investment is critical to maintaining a sustainable, successful SOAR program.

SOAR Community Certification provides specific and concrete stepping stones to success for communities interested in building a lasting SOAR program.  NC SOAR Certified Communities are able to benchmark themselves against other cities and counties in our state, receive feedback and specialized technical assistance from NCCEH on current strategies. To find out more details about SOAR Community Certification, please visit our website.

2013 Point-in-Time Count

In the face of some severe weather, the North Carolina Point-in-Time Count was held this past Wednesday, January 30th. Communities across the state conducted a count of people who were literally homeless according to HUD’s definition, meaning they were residing in emergency shelters, transitional housing programs, or unsheltered situations like parks, cars, and encampments on the night of the count.

The Point-in-Time Count is a snapshot of who is homeless on a given night. This snapshot includes not just the number of homeless people, but also more in-depth information – like gender, age group, family composition, veteran status, and rates of mental illness, substance use, and domestic violence – that communities can use to better understand existing need and to design programs to meet that need. Data is also used at the community, state, and national levels to track trends in homelessness and to measure our progress in ending it. (For more details on how this data is used, see our previous post about the impact of Point-in-Time Count data.)

NCCEH collects data from all North Carolina communities to compile the statewide count, and we post the data on our website to make it accessible to everyone who wants to understand more about the scope of homelessness in our state. We’ll post the 2013 counts as they are received. You can view the data from past years’ counts now on our PIT Count data page.

If you have questions about the North Carolina Point-in-Time Count, please contact NCCEH Operations Manager Nancy Holochwost.


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