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How can Philadelphia’s point-in-time count do a better job of counting families?

January 25, 2019

Generocity.com January 25, 2019

This is a guest post by Daniel Farrell, SVP of homeless prevention and rehousing services at Help USA; Joe Willard, VP of policy at People’s Emergency Center; and Rachel Falkove, executive director of Philadelphia Interfaith Hospitality Network.

Three homeless service pros describe the limitations of current tracking methods and advocate for better data sharing across city agencies.

The number of homeless children and families are systemically undercounted in Philadelphia.

On the night of Jan. 23, hundreds of Philadelphians canvassed the city counting homeless people. The annual effort, known as the point-in-time count, attempts to quantify homelessness throughout the country. Mandated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development(HUD) since 2005, its flawed methodology has not changed since its inception.

It relies on volunteers to canvas geographic areas in the middle of the night, in the middle of winter. It does not count families living in substandard housing. It does not count families living with others, often in unsafe situations, due to severe economic hardship. It does not count children displaced and temporarily staying with relatives or friends because their parent or parents are in shelter. It does not count families sleeping in their car or in abandoned buildings.

[Editor’s note: Philadelphia Office of Homeless Services Director Liz Hershacknowledged this limitation in a Jan. 23 press release announcing the annual count. “We recognize that many people who are living doubled up or in extremely unstable situations need help,” she said, “and we welcome a serious conversation about what the reality is facing millions of Americans — and thousands of Philadelphians. Tonight, we are focusing on one component of America’s homelessness and affordable housing crisis.”]

Emblematic of the issue are Bruce and Jen, who were living on limited income raising their three children. When Bruce was injured at his job, they were unable to pay rent from Jen’s income alone and lost their housing. While bouncing around between relatives and friends’ homes, they applied to shelter on two occasions, but both times the shelter system was full and were denied entry. They stayed in the homeless shelter of Philadelphia Interfaith Hospitality Network (PIHN), a faith-based nonprofit serving families experiencing homelessness.

After three years of couch surfing and close to one year in PIHN’s shelter, they moved into their own rental unit with PIHN’s assistance.

“We were homeless for four years, but had hope for only the last one of those years,” Jen said. “We lived a three-year nightmare.”

Their “uncounted” homelessness left a damaging and traumatic mark on the family as their children were repeatedly displaced from their school, and Bruce fell into a deep depression and developed chronic medical issues. Throughout their first three years of homelessness, Bruce, Jen and their four children were never tallied in the point-in-time counts.

They are not alone.

Statistics of the number of families experiencing homelessness vary widely. For example, Philadelphia’s Office of Homeless Services and the School District of Philadelphia paint an entirely different picture of the number of school-age homeless children and youth.

The HUD-funded homeless service system in Philadelphia counted 2,749 children and youth in Fiscal Year 2018. At the same time, the School District of Philadelphia counted 7,228 students who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence. That is an astounding 260 percent higher rate of homelessness than the Office of Homeless Services shows.

What is happening to the 4,479 children who are not being counted? We do know that third graders experiencing homelessness in Philadelphia score only half as well as their peers on testing, suggesting future costs in remedial education, greater truancy and dropout rates. These are boys and girls, living in our city, without the security of knowing where they’ll sleep tonight.

Why does this matter?

HUD, the federal agency responsible for dispersing hundreds of millions of dollars across the country for homeless services, use the point-in-time count to determine funding allocations. Undercounting family homeless is analogous to undercounting of the general population in the census. Millions of dollars in federal funding are left on the table and families like Bruce and Jen are routinely invisible to the system that is designed to assist them. Unless a family is officially counted as homeless, they are not eligible for an array of housing-based services which helps hundreds of homeless Philadelphians into permanent housing each year.

Federal officials, as well as some researchers, argue the definition of homelessness should be narrowly defined. Currently, it is defined as living in a place not meant for human habitation or in a publicly funded shelter. Why should a family have to be admitted to a homeless shelter to be counted as homeless? Additionally, the shelter system operates at capacity, routinely turning away families from shelter, as Bruce and Jen experienced.

The city has the capacity to aggregate data across agencies to accurately uncover the number of homeless families and their children. It must now have the will to do so. Properly counting incidence of homelessness for families is an important step to adequately addressing and ultimately solving the issue.

Signed by:

  • Family Services Provider Network
  • Daniel Farrell, HELP USA
  • Rachel Falkove, Philadelphia Interfaith Hospitality Network
  • Joe Willard, People’s Emergency Center

Original Article: https://generocity.org/philly/2019/01/25/how-can-philadelphias-point-in-time-count-do-a-better-job-of-counting-families-homelessness/

WHYY: As Philly tallies homeless population, advocates say families are overlooked

January 24, 2019

A coalition of more than a dozen advocacy groups for the homeless in Philadelphia is demanding the city keep better track of the families and children experiencing homelessness or in unstable housing.

Their pleas come as hundreds of people survey Philadelphia’s streets, looking for anyone sleeping in places unsuitable for human habitation, as mandated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The annual canvassing began Wednesday night to supply HUD with the data to evaluate progress in tackling homelessness. The findings also influence the resources directed at the issue.

But the numbers don’t take into account all the families who are living outside shelters and off the streets in other unstable housing arrangements, advocates say.

“A couch is not a bed,” said Jason Miller, CEO of Families Forward Philadelphia, a group that helps provide families with emergency shelter.

“It is vital to shine light on the hidden nature of family homelessness since the point-in-time count findings are being used to define and shape our city’s response,” Miller said.

Advocates and Council members including Bill Greenlee, Helen Gym and Allan Domb are calling for the city’s Office of Homeless Services to partner with the school district to collect and share data on students experiencing homelessness.

They’re also asking that the city track the number of people seeking aid at homeless shelters who are turned away.

Finally, they want City Council and Mayor Jim Kenney’s administration to fund shelters to meet the needs of homeless families, fund more homeless prevention programs and prioritize the creation of affordable housing.

According to point-in-time counts in the city, the number of households with one adult and at least one child experiencing homelessness has slowly declined over recent years.

While the city reports having served more than 2,700 children, advocates say, the Philadelphia School District reported more than 7,200 of its students lacked regular nighttime housing.

For Bruce Thomas, the oversight is personal. He said he and his family experienced unstable housing for 10 years, and while he didn’t meet the official definition of being homeless, he felt like it.

After a work-related injury, Thomas, his wife and four children stayed with different family members so they wouldn’t be sent to separate homeless shelters.

“It’s the people that you don’t see, that need the help also,” Thomas said. “Like they didn’t see me, they didn’t know about me and my family for 10 years.”

Part of the problem is how HUD defines homelessness, according to advocates and City Council members. But the city can do some things to shed light on the scope of families at risk of losing their housing, they say.

“It probably falls on the city even more so because, clearly, the federal government is not doing what we feel is needed in a number of ways to help the most vulnerable people, so it’s on us to do what we can,” said Councilman Greenlee.

Greenlee said, while he can’t get into specifics of how much funding could be allocated to meet the needs of these families, it will be a priority this budget cycle.

Liz Hersh, director of the city’s Office of Homeless Services, said a national conversation about homelessness is long overdue.

“We applaud our local homeless providers and advocates for raising the issue and trying to jump-start a conversation about family homelessness that is a national crisis,” she said.

Locally, she said, the city has released a five-year strategic plan where a top priority is to increase resources to the most vulnerable people.

Original Story: https://whyy.org/articles/as-philadelphia-counts-people-experiencing-homeless-advocates-say-families-arent-accurately-represented/

 

KYW: Hidden homelessness: What overnight census of people living on the street misses

January 23, 2019

January 23, 2019 KYW Radio- by Pat Loeb

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — An army of volunteers will fan out across Philadelphia Tuesday night to count the number of people sleeping on the street. The annual Point-in-Time Count is required for funding by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, but advocates note it overlooks a hidden part of the homeless population.

Bruce Thomas wrenched his back on the job and, within four months, got evicted from the home where he, his wife and four children had lived for 13 years.

“First, we went to my sister’s for a few months. And when we left her house, we went to Delaware, where my wife stayed with her family and I moved back to Philadelphia and stayed in my car,” Thomas said.

Thomas never lived in the street and didn’t use the shelter system because the family would have been split up. But he considered himself and his family homeless.

Jason Miller of the Family Service Provider Network says families like the Thomases – that are couch surfing or living in cars – don’t get counted, which means many of them don’t get services.

“The FSPN believes it’s vital to shine a light on the hidden nature of family homelessness, since the Point-in-Time Count is being used to define the unmet need and shape our city’s response,” Miller said.

Office of Homeless Services director Liz Hersh agreed.

“Street homelessness is just the tip of the iceberg,” she added.

Last year’s Point-in-Time Count found some 1,500 homeless children under 18 in Philadelphia; 17 actually sleeping on the street and more than 1,400 in the shelter system.

But Miller says the school district reported 7,000 students who lacked a fixed, regular, adequate nighttime residence.

“Those are children living in our community without the security of knowing where they’ll sleep tonight, if they will be safe or whether they’ll have a hot meal or dinner,” he said.

Hersh says the city does use other data, but the federal government recognizes only street homelessness and shelter residents for its programs.

“That’s why we’ve tripled our homelessness prevention (budget) because we understand those needs are tremendous. There’s way more needs, obviously, than we can meet,” she said.

Council members Helen Gym, Bill Greenlee and Allan Domb promised to include more money in this year’s budget.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story mis-stated the number of homeless children in the shelter system.

 

Original Story: https://kywnewsradio.radio.com/articles/news/hidden-homelessness-what-overnight-census-people-living-street-misses

Univision 65: Government Shutdown Assistance Story

January 23, 2019

January 22, 2019 Univison 65
Government Shutdown Assistance

The City of Philadelphia will offer help for federal workers during government closure.
Univision 65 Genaro Tijerina presents the following report.

VILLAGE VIEW: Project focuses on improving health care for immigrant communities

January 17, 2019

From Main Line Times

Jan 16, 2019

“It isn’t the size of the dog in the fight — it’s the size of the fight in the dog.”

If you ever attended Ardmore Junior High School when Principal Edward Snow was in charge, you heard him shout out this mantra all the time. If you watched any of the recent Eagles wins, you would have thought about Mr. Snow and his adage — a lot.

It’s funny how certain sayings and thoughts, especially poems, pop up often to the surface of your brain. As I write this column, my editor, Thomas Celona, had forwarded to me an email request from a research scientist, Dr. Michael Liebman, who had found an article from 2009 which I had written for the Main Line Times about the wonderful late Dr. William Glicksman.

Since Liebman had been a student at the Overbrook Folkshul under Dr. Glicksman, he did some more googling and found information on Dr. Allen Glicksman, the son who is a researcher at the Philadelphia Corporation for Aging. And thus began a collaboration to understand better the health care needs of older adults in Philadelphia, particularly in the two largest growing aging groups, Spanish-speaking and Mandarin-speaking.

The email made me think of Emily Dickinson’s poem, “A Word dropped careless on a Page …” I mean, you never know what will happen when you consign your thoughts to paper. Or computer. Or who will discover your words and what he or she will do with them once found.

I emailed Dr. Michael Liebman and asked if he would be kind enough to let me interview him for my column. He was! And he was very generous with his time as well. Turns out he had grown up in Penn Wynne, was a graduate of Lower Merion High School, had been the first recipient of the Lower Merion Scholarship, which he used to attend Drexel Institute of Technology (as it was called back then), and he was about to embark on an important research project in partnership with Dr. Glicksman at PCA.

In 2012, Liebman started ipqanalytics with a partner, who is no longer active, Torsten Geers, a Main Liner. They help pharma companies — from developing new drugs, to improving clinical trials, to understanding how to make their drugs more effective and who will benefit from them.

Dr. Liebman has some very interesting titles: adjunct professor of pharmacology and physiology, Drexel College of Medicine; adjunct professor of medicine, First Hospital of Wenzhou Medical University, Wenzhou, China; and invited professor, SCBIT Chinese Academy of Science, Shanghai, China.

He does not speak Chinese, but he told me that most of his Chinese colleagues speak English, and many of his students do, as well, so he has easy access to translators. He travels to China twice a year.

Liebman was with Wyeth and Roche, where he served as global head of genomics at Roche.

Liebman also works with a Norwegian pediatric rare disease foundation, The Nathaniel Adamczyk Foundation, which is interested in pediatric ARDS (acute respiratory distress syndrome).

Dr. Glicksman is director of research and evaluation at PCA, with an undergraduate degree from Temple and a PhD in sociology from Penn. He has a colleague at PCA, Lauren Ring, who is also working on the project. The Borchard Foundation is funding the initial research, which will allow them to run four focus groups, two in each community they wish to study — Asociación Puertorriqueños en Marcha (APM) and at the Philadelphia Senior Center, the Coffee Cup (for Chinese) — and they will translate results. They will be asking them their needs, what services they know are available, how do they learn about services, how do they choose.

Despite the chaotic situation at the Mexico-U.S. border, the biggest change that’s coming is that the number of white and English-speaking older adults is declining and the number of Spanish and Chinese-speaking older adults is increasing. The majority of the Spanish-speaking population are from Puerto Rico, then the Dominican Republic. The grant started Jan. 15. Then they have to go through human subjects review.

Some of the questions they are planning to use on the focus groups are: Is there a native language newspaper? TV station? A social media channel?

We look forward to hearing about the results of their research and hope for better outcomes for health care in our immigrant communities.

Bonnie Squires is a communications consultant who writes weekly for Main Line Media News and can be reached at bonniesquires.com. She hosts the “Bonnie’s Beat” TV show at Radnor Studio 21 and Main Line Television.

 

State andFood First Philly: Local Public Health Actions Grant Finished Off Strong!

January 15, 2019

January 15, 2019 – Food Fit Philly

On December 18, 2018, Get Healthy Philly held a final THANK YOU meeting to close out our four years of work under the CDC’s State and Local Public Health Actions (SLPHA)1422 Grant. A major component of this was working on environmental changes to increase healthy food in institutional settings and the community, and to support walkable and active communities.

Some of the highlights of our work can be found in this PowerPoint and resources are also available on this site and by contacting our team.

Healthy Food

  • Training and technical assistance to city departments serving 200,000+ people to implementing nutrition standards, in partnership with Health Promotion Council.
  • Working with over 18 health care institutions serving more than 700,000 people annually on Good Food, Healthy Hospitals, in partnership with Common Market and the American Heart Association.
  • Providing support to small stores to increase the offerings of healthy food, particularly produce, and health-related services and resources with the Food Trust.
  • Connecting restaurant owners with community leaders on sodium reduction with the Temple Center for Asian Health.
Karen Shore and Edgardo Bones from The Food Trust, with Jen Aquilante, Get Healthy Philly (center)

 

From left to right: Jillian Dy, the Common Market, Catherine Bartoli, Get Healthy Philly, Michelle Gross, Health Promotion Council

Physical Activity/Joyful Movement

  • Launched Philly Powered campaign to promote and inspire everyday physical activity in Philadelphia
  • Offered free and low cost programming including fitness at pools, yoga at community schools and training for first time run/walkers for the Boxers Trail 5K
  • Launched walk leader training and walking groups with WeWalkPHL in partnership with Parks and Rec and the Fairmount Park Conservancy
  • Walkable Communities training, organizing and connecting
  • Stairwell Promotion for Employers, including the City of Philadelphia
    Kim Jordan, Fairmount Park Conservancy and Kelli McIntrye, Get Healthy Philly
From left to right: Bridget Palomba, formerly with Asociación Puertorriqueños en Marcha (APM), Kelli McIntyre, Get Healthy Philly, Lamont Jefferson, APM, Misha Rodriguez, APM
Tim Wagner, Roots2Rise and Kelli McIntyre, Get Healthy Philly

Health Justice

  • Convened the first ever Health Justice summit with partners
  • Supported community projects for the Summer 2018 Health Justice partners
From left to right: Tre’Cia Gibson and Tiffany Nguyen from Rebel Ventures. Zakiyyah Ali from North Philly Peace Park.

We look forward to continuing to find ways to partner and work to make healthy choices easier across the city.

Original site: http://foodfitphilly.org/slpha-highlights/

The Latino Heartbeat of PA Society – Al Dia News

December 7, 2018

 

6ABC – Visions 2018: Hurricane Maria, one year later Evacuee Stories

September 27, 2018
Original story: https://6abc.com/4351614/
Hurricane Maria
It has been one year since Hurricane Maria tore through the Caribbean. On the island of Puerto Rico, the damage was devastating with the death toll recently raised to nearly 3,000 people. Univision’s Ilea Garcia has the story of some folks making a fresh start here in Philadelphia.GPLTRCAsociacion Puertoriquenos en Marcha | APM
1900 N. 9th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19122To help evacuees from Hurricane Maria: (click ‘DONATE’ and note ‘GPLTRC’) 

6ABC Visions – Hurricane Maria 1 Year Later

September 26, 2018

Full Story: https://6abc.com/society/6abc-celebrates-hispanic-heritage-month-2018/3972682/

6abc Celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month 2018

This year, we are honoring the tireless work of our local Latino leaders for assisting in the recovery efforts from Hurricane Maria on the Island of Puerto Rico, as well as here in Pennsylvania.

Friday, September 21, 2018 08:36PM

6abc proudly celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month 2018. This year, we are honoring the tireless work of our local Latino leaders for assisting in the recovery efforts from Hurricane Maria on the Island of Puerto Rico, as well as here in Pennsylvania. Thousands of Puerto Ricans, American citizens, are displaced and living here in Philadelphia and the surrounding region. See how local influencers and non-profit organizations are doing their best to help transition these families into their new home. Watch our video above to find out ways that YOU can help the effort.

If you wish to donate, click here.We’re celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month with a Special Visions 2018. We dive into the red-hot immigration debate and share the powerful story of a young woman making her American dream come true. We meet the man who made the biggest hand-to-hand drug bust in U.S. history…. plus, a father and son looking to MAKE history. We’ll tell you about the gift that saved a life and how evacuees of Hurricane Maria are weathering one year after the storm.

Note: The show is set at Indigo Arts Gallery, inside a new exhibition called Five Cuban Outsiders. All of the artists featured are self-taught and working in a variety of mediums from painting to sculpture and works on paper. Several started creating art when they were struggling with mental illness.

Five Cuban Outsiders
Indigo Arts Gallery
The Crane Arts Building
1400 North American St., #104, Philadelphia, PA 19122

The Immigration Debate
According to a new government study, the foreign born population in the United States is at its highest share since 1910. Those new numbers come as the political debate over immigration has reached a fevered pitch.
New Sanctuary Movement of Philadelphia | Facebook

Shut Down Berks Coalition

Berks County Residential Center
1040 Berks Road, Leesport, PA 19533

Visions 2018 dives into the red hot immigration debate, and shares stories of inspiring Hispanic Americans.

Meet Liliana Velasquez
Fifty percent of immigrants in America are from Latin America and each has an often powerful story to tell. Jeannette Reyes recounts the harrowing journey of a 14-year-old Guatemalan girl who risked her life for a better life.
Liliana Velasquez: Dreams and Nightmares 

Loco in the Badlands
It is the stuff of movies: An agent working deep undercover, posing as a drug kingpin in an operation that led to the biggest hand-to-hand drug bust in U.S. history. Dann Cuellar has the story.

Pedro ‘Loco’ Villegas: Loco in the Badlands

Hurricane Maria
It has been one year since Hurricane Maria tore through the Caribbean. On the island of Puerto Rico, the damage was devastating with the death toll recently raised to nearly 3,000 people. Univision’s Ilea Garcia has the story of some folks making a fresh start here in Philadelphia.

GPLTRC

Asociacion Puertoriquenos en Marcha | APM
1900 N. 9th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19122

To help evacuees from Hurricane Maria: (click ‘DONATE’ and note ‘GPLTRC’) 

Coatesville HS Football Father and Son

A Coatesville father and son coach and quarterback are on the road to making gridiron history. Walter Perez has their story.
Coatesville Red Raiders Football Ricky Ortega 

Gift of Life
Every day, 20 people die waiting for a life-saving transplant, and The Gift of Life is working to raise awareness in the Hispanic community, specifically, where religion reasons can often make Latinos reluctant to donate.

Gift of Life | Get involved Registry
401 N 3rd Street, Philadelphia, PA 19123

Diego Tribute 
Diego Castellanos has been a fixture at 6abc for nearly half a century. The longtime host of 6abc’s Puerto Rican Panorama is retiring this year. Dann Cuellar looks back on his legacy of contributions to Philadelphia’s Latino community.
Puerto Rican Panorama

 

End of temporary FEMA housing for Puerto Rican evacuees won’t be catastrophic in Philly

September 1, 2018

WHYY: Original Post: https://whyy.org/articles/end-of-temporary-fema-housing-for-puerto-rican-evacuees-wont-be-catastrophic-in-philly/

When Charlie Pérez and wife Daisy Rivera Pérez arrived in Philadelphia with their three teenage daughters last December, leaving behind their two sons and everything they knew, they felt completely disoriented. Hurricane Maria had just destroyed most of what they had in their hometown in Puerto Rico, and they had nothing here.

“I didn’t even know where Pennsylvania was, to be honest,” Charlie Pérez said in Spanish. “We jumped with our eyes closed.”

The first four months were hard. They stayed in a one-room hotel in Center City paid for by FEMA’s Transitional Sheltering Assistance program, and found jobs cleaning shoes and cleaning in a thrift store while their daughters went to school. But then, with the help of a coalition of organizations created to help Puerto Rican evacuees, the Pérezes found resources, friends, better jobs, and, finally, a three-bedroom house to live in near Lancaster Avenue, in West Philadelphia.

“Nonprofit organizations here helped us enormously — they gave us clothes, they guided us, and they helped us to move forward,” said Perez, a retired Puerto Rican policeman now working as a social worker for Asociación Puertorriqueños en Marcha (APM).  “Little by little, we feel more adapted, and at home.”

The Perez family is one of about 184 in Pennsylvania that benefited from FEMA’s short-term housing assistance, a program that started last Oct. 31 and has been extended four times — the last deadline was Friday, Aug. 31. But on Thursday in Massachusetts, U.S. District Judge Timothy Hillman extended the program for two more weeks, setting a definitive checkout end date of Sept. 14.

“It’s not going to be a dire situation for us that the program is ending, we have been anticipating this for months,” said Julia Menzo, who leads the Greater Philadelphia Long-Term Recovery Committee.

According to FEMA spokesman Juan A. Rosado-Reynes, as of Friday there were still 1,032 families living in hotels under the TSA’s hotel-voucher program in 27 states and Puerto Rico. In Pennsylvania, only 21 families are still in hotels. Menzo said they know of three in Philadelphia.

The long-term recovery group has been able to secure funding and housing from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development and the Philadelphia Housing Authority. According to Menzo, PHA has provided housing for 25 families so far. Latino and faith organizations have provided assistance for other families, giving them resources to pay for first and last months’ rent and security deposits, furniture and more. The recovery group is processing 35 more cases.

“Housing stability is still a major issue,” Menzo said. “But as far as the TSA program ending —  that’s not going to be catastrophic for Philadelphia.”

Pennsylvania is in better shape than other states that received similar or even smaller numbers of evacuees. In New York, 42 families are still in hotels; there are 38 in Connecticut, 135 in Massachusetts, and 322 in Florida. Menzo said that’s a result of the work done by the Long-Term Recovery Committee, which has been working with TSA families since February.

“Outreach really made a difference,” Menzo said.

Carlos Torres, a single Puerto Rican father, spent six months in a hotel with his 16-year-old son, Carlos Jr. He suffered with every TSA deadline, thinking he would have to live in the streets. Finally, by the end of June, APM helped him pay the first three months of rent for an apartment in North Philadelphia.

“We are much less stressed now,” Torres said in Spanish. “We’re still starting, but God will help us.”

Torres works part time as a security guard at the Lillian Marrero branch of Philadelphia’s Free Library, and he’s applying for a cleaning job in the same Center City hotel he stayed in during his first months in Philly. His son studies at Congreso and hopes to become a nurse.

“I’m more than grateful for these opportunities, and I feel happy,” Torres said. “Philadelphia is my second home now — Puerto Rico is always going to be my home, but here I have a roof to live under. In Puerto Rico, I don’t.”

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