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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

 

A new group promises long-term support for Puerto Rican hurricane evacuees

March 1, 2018

PlanPhilly.com    WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 28, 2018  by CATALINA JARAMILLO

 

Philadelphia disaster relief organizations have established a new committee designed to help the city support the more than 900 Puerto Rican families who landed here after losing their homes, schools, and jobs in the winds of Hurricane Maria. The move is a major step towards creating the long-term recovery strategy that city officials and community advocates have struggled to create in the five months since the storm caused upwards of $9 billion in damages and displaced hundreds of thousands of U.S. citizens.

Now getting off the ground, the Greater Philadelphia Long Term Recovery Committee will provide disaster evacuees in Philadelphia and its surrounding boroughs a centralized place for services, something needed since Philadelphia Office of Emergency Management’s disaster center closed last December.

The group will be hosted by the local chapter of the National Voluntary Organizations in Disaster (NVOAD), a coalition that assists communities affected by disasters. Julia Menzo, coordinator of disaster preparedness and recovery for Liberty Lutheran and Southeastern Pennsylvania VOAD co-chair, said the committee will gather information from organizations that have been working with evacuees and assign families a case manager to document and digitalize their needs. The case manager’s job will be following up with evacuee families over the longer term as they settle into the city, return home or go elsewhere.

The group still doesn’t know exactly how many Puerto Rican evacuee families are staying in Philadelphia, but as of the last count in December, 875 families had visited OEM’s disaster center, and 380 displaced students had entered the Philadelphia School district.

“By having a way to looking at all the most urgent cases at the same time, we can make some determinations about priorities and then equitably distribute to them,” Menzo said.

Another goal of the new committee is coordinating efforts across local and federal agencies and organizations.

“Recovery is a collective response, from government agencies through community and faith-based organizations,” Noëlle Foizen, deputy director of Philadelphia OEM, said in an email. “Long-term recovery groups bring together all these resources to share information, pool resources, identify possible problems as well as solutions, all with the goal of getting the disaster survivor back on their feet.”

If federal funds are available to the evacuees, agencies in the long-term recovery committee can assist them in locating and securing the resources, Foizen said.

She described the city’s post-Maria struggles as a learning experience that will prove useful in a world of increasingly extreme weather.

“As the United States sees more natural disasters, we, as a region, need to be thoughtful of disasters that hit home, but also afar,” Foizen said. “Hurricane Maria was a new experience for the city. Just as other responses, we look to learn and improve to prepare for the next event.”

VOAD is not new to the region. It’s operated in Philadelphia, Montgomery, Bucks, Delaware and Chester for the past 10 years yet this is the first time it is responding to a disaster that happened outside of the region, and the first time its created a long-term recovery group locally. Menzo, too, expects this won’t be the last time VOAD finds itself in this position.

“The volatility of the world seems to be increasing, so I don’t see an end for the need to respond to unique situations anytime soon,” Menzo said.

Last Friday, Puerto Rican Governor Ricardo Rosselló promised to contact Governor Tom Wolf and FEMA to declare Pennsylvania as a host state and get federal funds for housing for evacuees staying in Philadelphia. A FEMA spokesperson said that the agency has not received a formal request or notification of a host state agreement between Puerto Rico and Pennsylvania.

“So we have to move on,” said Will González, the executive director of Ceiba, a nonprofit that is part of the new committee. “The long-term recovery group will provide access to some national nongovernmental resources in a time when there’s a growing need.”

About 2,500 Puerto Rican families moved to Pennsylvania after Hurricane Maria, according to FEMA. The Greater Philadelphia Long Term Recovery Committee Continues estimates the number will grow to 56,000 by the end of the year, and that about 50 percent of them will be in Philadelphia.

Those still staying in city hotels paid by FEMA’s Temporary Shelter Assistance (TSA) program have less than a month to find funds to pay the three months of rent needed to move to a new place. And those staying with friends and family, sometimes in sofas or in mattresses on the floor, won’t be able to stretch the love a lot longer.

“We have families living in one-bedroom apartment where there are six, seven, eight people in the same room, and places where three families are living in the same apartment,” said Reverend Robertoluis Lugo, director of intervention and prevention development at Asociación Puertorriqueños en Marcha (APM). “They don’t have privacy, they’re on top of each other… it’s too much pressure. They’ll be kicked out in any minute.”

Puerto Rican evacuees can seek help at Catholic Social Services’ Casa del Carmen or APM in North Philadelphia. Other agencies participating are Ceiba, Lutheran Disaster Response, Salvation Army, Philadelphia Office of Emergency Management, United Church of Christ Disaster Services (UCC), and American Red Cross.

 

-— Editors Note March 1, 2018: This article has been updated since its original publication.

 

Original Article – http://planphilly.com/articles/2018/02/28/a-new-group-promises-long-term-support-for-puerto-rican-hurricane-evacuees

APM Sugarcane Festival 2017

June 3, 2017

A photo collage of the images of our 2017 Sugarcane Festival. June 3, 2017

Music by Funk Salsa Urban

 

 

 

APM Sugarcane Festival 2016

June 20, 2016

A photo display of the 2016 APM Sugarcane Festival.

Photos by Simon Bolivar and music by Franco Olivo Y Alto Voltaje.

 

 

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