09
May
08

Who’s Counting? Parts I – IV

This is the compilation of the four articles that were written on the Subject of HUD/VA methods of counting the Homeless in the United States. It has been condensed into one spot for easier searching and reading…

Who’s Counting? Part I:

(Originally published April 1, 2008)

 

 

I have thoroughly written numerous discourses on the state of homelessness in this nation when it comes to how the Department of Veterans Affairs has been handling it jointly with Housing and Urban Development.

 

I found an interesting quote from John Burroughs (1837-1921), an American essayist and naturalist from earlier last century, who said:

It is always easier to believe than to deny. Our minds are naturally affirmative.

When VA Secretary James Peake stated that Veteran Homelessness fell by 40,000 or 21% of the Homeless Veterans, without explanation as to how the VA accomplished this miracle, he must have been thinking of Burroughs.

 

The now departing HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson, in his 2007 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress, stated that Homelessness had not increased nor decreased in the United States in over ten years. On March 31st 2008, he stated in his resignation speech that during his tenure he had “reduced chronic homelessness.” If homelessness neither went up nor down, how did he reduce it?

 

 

These agencies used the News Media (Fox News, ABC News, CBS News, Associated Press, Reuters) and nonprofits such as the National Alliance to End Homelessness and the National Coalition of Homeless Veterans, among others, to parrot this incorrect information. I strongly fault all of the above for not RESEARCHING before reporting, or following up.

Listening to a political pundit yesterday on CNN he stated,

“The Media hates doing its own homework.”

One agency, a nonprofit that calls itself “advocates”, does nothing more than send numerous emails asking for donations, holds seminars where the attendees have to pay to attend, and receives grants from both the VA and HUD. You might receive their emails frequently. Recently, they sent me the following:

 

Spotlight On…
VA Reports Decrease in Number of Homeless Veterans

vethat.jpgLast week, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) released their annual CHALENG report, estimating that 154,000 veterans were homeless in 2007. This represents a decrease of 21 percent from the 2006 estimate of 195,827. There are a few reasons cited in the report that contribute to the decrease:

· The data collection methodology improved. For the first time, estimates from local VA medical centers were collected at one given point in time within the last week in January similar to when the Continuums of Care conduct their counts. In the past, counts were created using the highest average from any given night. In addition, these numbers were then compared to the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD’s) local point-in-time counts. As a result, many VA sites adjusted their numbers to be more consistent with HUD’s figures.

· VA programs have been working to provide housing for homeless veterans, and 15,000 veterans were provided Grant and Per Diem residential services.

· The population of World War II and Korean War veterans is decreasing, contributing to a lower number of overall veterans.

“Number of Homeless Vets Drops 21 Percent

I liked that last sentence in the first bullet:

 

“As a result, many VA sites adjusted their numbers to be more consistent with HUD’s figures.”

I wrote to them asking for assistance in figuring out this dilemma on how the VA and HUD performed these counts. Their reply was:

 

“The XXXX is unable to speak for either HUD or the VA. Any questions regarding their data or data collection methods should be taken up directly with them.”

If I decided to send emails to tens of thousands of possible donors, I would prefer to know what I was talking about since the above sender received close to $7,000,000.00 in donations previous years annually.

Well since HUD did state that they managed to lose over 35% of the data pertaining to Homeless Veterans, I imagine this did assist Secretary Peake and other VA staffers in reducing Veteran Homelessness.

 

From the Annual Homeless Assessment Report data pertaining to Homeless Veterans:

percent2.gif

percent1.gif

 

35% of the Veterans surveyed data lost and over 55% of the unsheltered and unsurveyed? How does VA or HUD get a Homeless Veterans count at all?

 

Now the media and Homeless Advocates are parroting this report that the reduction in Veteran Homelessness is a miracle. It is not a miracle at all; just a numbers game using omitted, not collected and lost information of uncounted veterans.

 

In Congressional testimony on the Grant and Per Diem program regarding transitional bed shortages for Homeless Veterans, the VA said:

 

vaest1.gif

 

Something bizarre here is that HUD used just 80 Continuum of Cares and supposedly the VA used 135 Hospitals and came up with the same numbers in both of their reports!

 

In the 2006 report they also needed more beds, as listed below:

 

vaest2.jpg

 

If they could not count them all before, what has really changed?

 

Here are the amazing figures:

 

The VA states that there are 154,000 Homeless Veterans (including 15,000 in Grant and Per Diem Transitional Beds.)

 

The HUD Annual Homeless Assessment Report States that there are approximately 141,000 Homeless Veterans.

 

If you add the 15,000 GPD Veterans to the AHAR figure you are within 1,000 homeless veterans of each report. A very small margin of difference in counting between 80 Continuum of Cares out of the hundreds of CoC’s that there are and 135 VA Hospitals, or a difference of 55 locations. If HUD can find even with lost data 141,000 Homeless Veterans in 80 locales, how come the VA can only find 1,000 more at an additional 55 counting locations?

 

 

How shameful it is that those appointed to assist homeless veterans, advocate their issues, as well as cover and report what is going on in the nation will not do their homework. That this report is being accepted as fact is a disgrace and those that advocate for homelessness should be taking notice and held to task. Those donations are given for a reason. Do your jobs. You are as responsible as anyone for the dissemination of information, as the media looks to you to be experts as well.

 

Wanderingvet

Part II

From a VA CHALENG official :

“The 2007 CHALENG report does use the AHAR as an important reference. Neither the VA, nor HUD collect social security information to make these homeless counts.”

 

 

*******

Who’s Counting? Part II

(Originally published April 5, 2008)

 

 

Dear Friends and Wanderingvets:

As I stated in Part I, there are problems with a lot of the survey data regarding homelessness in America and the fact that too many are too willing to reproduce this information to the masses. I summed up in the previous article how those that advocate for the homeless as well as the media have not researched but blindly parrot what is told to them brings harm to Homeless Veterans as well as the Homeless population as a whole.

The VA, in trying to say that it is reducing homelessness in America due to the fact that a lot of World War II and Korean War Veterans have passed on, is purely a load of crap. I have received a few emails saying that I am tough on the VA here, but I have a few simple ways to prove what they have stated is incorrect and just something they said to cover that they actually have done nothing new to ease Veteran Homelessness.

Actually the VA considers those that read their memos and reports to be thoroughly pliant to their statements, completely stupid or a combination of all of the previous. In having Senator Daniel Akaka squawking what a great job they have done in reducing homelessness, I am beginning to believe that we need to do a better job in selecting people who we elect to represent us in government.

OK here are some points to consider:

In the Annual Homeless Assessment Report, HUD and the departed Alphonso Jackson stated:

“In comparing these results with those of previous studies, there is no evidence that the size of the homeless population has changed dramatically over the past ten years. Given that the total U.S. population grew by 31 million people since 1996, no increase in the homeless population could be deemed an accomplishment.”

2007 AHAR, Executive Summary, pg. iii

In his resignation speech former Secretary Jackson stated he reduced Chronic Homelessness…

VA Secretary James Peake said Veteran Homelessness declined because:

VA and community programs targeting homelessness, a decline in the number of living World War II, Korean and Vietnam veterans, and an improvement in the way the annual estimate was taken so fewer people were counted more than once were all credited as reasons behind the overall decline

And…

The decline in veterans’ homelessness was attributed, in part, to VA’s success in providing more services for homeless veterans and improved coordination of federal, state and local efforts

VA Memo March 6th, 2008

Gee that is a sad thought that the VA attributes a large portion of homelessness to 60, 70 and 80 year old veterans! Also strange here is that for years Veteran Homelessness was most entirely blamed on Vietnam Veterans…Now the VA blames those pesky World War II and Korean War Vets!

Now here is where Secretary Peake’s theory or the VA’s reasoning breaks down.

If as the VA states now, that one in five( 1:5 )homeless are veterans.

In doing simple math then the reduction of 40,000 homeless veterans should have been reflected nationally… If not this is to be considered an Anomaly in the report? Why would not HUD describe a significant drop in Homeless Veterans?

That means then in this nation that TOTAL HOMELESSNESS IN THE ANNUAL HOMELESS ASSESSMENT REPORT (AHAR) national homelessness should have dropped by over 200,000 people! The statistics could not have just fallen in one category… VETERANS. There is a problem somewhere at the VA in accordance with undercounting and overstating successes.

Since all of the above COORDINATION should have been across the board as it says through every agency down to the local government level. Other than cattle driving the homeless out of their cities and imposing ordinances against sleeping on benches, there is little done at the local level.

As the National League of Cities reported in their Insta Survey on their website:

How have the following conditions changed in your community in the past year?

  • Increase in foreclosures 62%
  • Increase in need for temporary assistance, other than housing 53%
  • Decrease in funding for other programs and projects 35%
  • Decrease in city revenues and/or revenue estimates 33%
  • Increase in abandoned/vacant properties/other forms of blight 33%
  • Increase in cost/risk of bond and capital financing 26%
  • Increase in predatory lending practices 23%
  • Increase in homelessness/need for temporary/emergency housing 22%
  • Increase in out-migration of residents 17%

What groups/organizations has your city been working with most closely in responding to this crisis?

  • 59% Non-profit/civic organizations
  • 35% State government
  • 34% Other local governments
  • 32% Banks/mortgage lenders
  • 29% Churches
  • 26% Neighborhood associations/groups
  • 26% Federal government
  • 18% Other private sector/business
  • 7% Other
  • 15% None

Responses were from 211 cities nationally

Other than begging for help and waiting for the sky to fall, it seems cities are not doing anything to alleviate the issues in their own towns.

Amazingly 15% of cities and many of these are inside HUD’s Continuum of Care are waiting for the sky to fall! Amazingly enough Nonprofits and Churches are the lead the cities are running to. Funny thing in this report is that the cities themselves never mention that they are being proactive in dealing with this crisis. I do not see how the VA is coordinating with all of these LOCAL governments if the cities are waiting on help from above!

That is using the VA reduction factor. It is impossible to state what the VA is saying since as I have shown the VA and Government Accounting Office (GAO) have testified to Congress regarding the VA’s method of NEW ACCOUNTING in 2006!

VA estimates that on a given night in fiscal year 2005 about 194,000 veterans were homeless.12 The estimate, generally lower than the numbers reported prior to 2004, is considered by VA officials to be the best estimate available. VA officials believe that a new methodology and use of local HUD data has improved the estimate, although some homeless veterans may not have been included because they could not be found when the estimate was developed. While VA has increased its capacity to provide transitional housing for homeless veterans in recent years, its program planning efforts indicate that an additional 9,600 transitional housing beds from various sources are needed to meet current demand. VA officials report that they are working to operationalize an additional 2,200 beds for the GPD program.

Homeless Veteran Statistics by year

Gee in 2006 the VA said 194,000 Homeless Veterans for 2005. Their 2007 report is stating 40,000 less now for 2005. In 2004 the VA cut their numbers of Homeless Veterans by 121,000 from 313,000 to 194,000. So in accordance with all the reductions from 2004 to 2005 (imagine that?) they reduced Veteran Homelessness by 161,000 in two years!

Now yes these reports from HUD are from the counts in 2005. Nothing like timeliness in delivery I imagine. What is timely in 2005 is certainly untimely when compared to Foreclosures being the lead story in a lot of the evening news and newspapers of the world for our nation.

In a letter of reply from a VA Official to Wanderingvets about how the HUD / VA Counts work, I received this reply…

“The 2007 CHALENG report does use the AHAR as an important reference. Neither the VA, nor HUD collect social security information to make these homeless counts.”

– VA Official

Do you think he or she missed a memo or Congressional Testimony as stated above?

And here below HUD talks about Social Security data being used in the AHAR.

The analysis provides estimates of the number and characteristics of sheltered homeless people based on de-duplicated records of more than 100,000 people who used emergency shelters or transitional housing at any time during the three-month period from February 1 through April 30, 2005. Before obtaining a count of homeless persons in a community, it is necessary to review HMIS records to ensure that people who received services from more than one provider or who accessed services multiple times are counted only once. De-duplication is the process by which information on homeless clients within a program or across several programs is consolidated into individual, unique client records. 2 National estimates of the number of sheltered homeless people and descriptions of their characteristics are derived from this de-duplicated sample.

2007 Annual Homeless Assessment Report: 12 Chapter 2: Sources of Data on Homeless Persons

2 De-duplication involves comparing personal identifiers (such as Social Security Number and date of birth) in order to check that multiple records for the same person are counted only once.

So what is the VA using to count Homeless Veterans? See Part III of Who’s Counting?, coming soon.

Wanderingvet

*******

Who’s Counting? Part III

(Originally published April 23, 2008)

(Abandoned Homeless campsite Seattle suburb)

Dear Friends and Wanderingvets…

This is Part III in a series of how Local, State, and Federal agencies undercount homelessness in this nation through intentional and unintentional methodology…

In King County Washington, there is the Seattle King County Coalition on Homelessness who came up with these 2008 Unsheltered Homeless Counts. At the rate that HUD and the VA processes data currently this data will show up correalated in the 2010 – 2011 homeless year reportings.

King County 2008 One Night Homeless Unsheltered Homeless Count

King County, Washington is 2,126 square miles. that means according to this count, they found over 1.23 homeless people per square mile of county.

They would have found more if King County and the Continuum of Care that HUD boasts about had really counted…

Federal Way, WA found 90 Homeless in 21 sq. miles for an actual total of 4.28 per sq. mile..

Renton found 44 Homeless in 22 sq. miles for a total of 2 per sq. mile.

Auburn found 40 Homeless in 21 sq. miles for a total of 2.1 per sq. mile

Seattle found 1976 Homeless in 84 sq. miles for a total of 23.52 per sq.mile

Kent found 65 Homeless in 28 sq. miles for a total of 2.32 per sq. mile

White Center found 58 Homeless in 3.4 sq. miles for a total of 17 per sq. mile

Now not counting the North End, or East Side of the county which is undertiminate space 187 Homeless People counted or the Night Owl Busses 171 Homeless People…

In the other 179 sq. miles covered out of 2,126 of this Continuum of Care… they managed to find 2273 Homeless People for a real average of greater than 12.6 Homeless People per sq. mile of actual spots that they really searched!

These searches were conducted by volunteers only. These volunteers only went to areas where they knew Homeless people normally congregate or slept at. This report is actually not at all conclusive of how many Homeless people were ACTUALLY sleeping outside unsheltered in King County, Washington on this night in January 2008. Also the counters do not go into abandoned buildings (of course for safety reasons) and also do not enter private property.

Abandoned Tarp and clothes bag(Abandoned bag of clothes and tarp)

The SKCCH is careful to note that these numbers are an undercount entirely! There is no possible way to count all of the Homeless in King County, Washington. Of Course both HUD and the VA do know this.

Unfortuately when HUD reported that Homelessness remained neutral in this country (754,000) and then the VA’s Secretary Dr. James Peake made the outlandish statement that homelessness amongst Veterans declined by 40,000 veterans or 21% of those homeless, they were supposedly quoting from data gathered in 2005. The exact undercounted numbers reported.

With all that is going on with foreclosure up 62%, demand for shelter up 22%, emergency support up 28% and so on… Isn’t that like telling the man that died of a heart attack to relax based on his check up two years before? Our fore fathers did not celebrate V-J day two years after the end of World War II. What is HUD and the VA celebrating here.

The funny thing about all of this is that no one in the media or running for office is saying anything is amiss? Everyone is saying: Oh the economy is bad and that at one time the politicians were saying “We have to help our Homeless Veterans”. Now that there is some sort of numbers juggling going on, there seems to be some confusion amongst the politicians, and this numbers juggling will definitely impact low income housing and funding for homeless programs in the future. Unfortunately since the funding for the coming years will be based on HUD and the VA’s requests being based on their use of their own low reporting. So Homeless Veterans are going to get it in the neck again from the VA it seems.

How are they going to explain the numbers for this year in the future?

Wanderingvet

*******

Who’s Counting? Why We Count, Part IV – The Final Conclusions:

(Originally published May 3, 2008)

Dear Friends and Wanderingvets:

In researching these articles, talking with other advocates and agencies that compile these reports, I admit I have become overwhelmed at the laxness of the public, media, municipal, state and federal governments / agencies, as well as the tirelessness of agencies trying to keep the issues of homelessness in this country at the forefront.

The first is the VA and HUD:

HUD has stated that homelessness in America has remained neutral at 754,000 Homeless Person in this nation. If you consider the fact that demands for emergency housing are up 22% according to the National League of Cities that number could be up and above 920,000 people. One can also infer from this 22% increase that the numbers of unsheltered homeless are skyrocketing since shelter space is limited

The VA in turn has concluded that they reduced homelessness among veterans by 21% or over 40,000 veterans. According to an email from the National Alliance to End Homelessness, the VA said this feat was due to the fact that WWII and Korean War Veterans are passing away at a rate of 1,000 a day. The VA is also mentioned in this email that the VA had 15,000 veterans in transitional housing. Odd Fact: In 2006 the VA only had about 9,600 beds in 2006 Congressional Testimony. (see graph below)

GPD Report 2006

In interviews with the volunteer agencies that enumerate the Unsheltered Homeless, they have clearly stated that it is physically impossible to count all of the Unsheltered Homeless in the United States.

HUD and the VA though in understanding this impossibility, have decided that this number is THE NUMBER to be transmitted to the public and be used for record purposes.

Congress will either have to understand that this fictional number presented by HUD and VA is not even close to what the actual numbers of homeless are in this country. That HUD and the VA will have managed to create an argument in our congress to reduce funding for homeless and other housing programs by downplaying the actual numbers.

The fact that in 2008 according to CNN there is over 680,000 foreclosures so far… Not all of those families will end up on the sidewalks as their new home, but a portion have. This 680,000 reflects Housing foreclosures only. It does not take into account the record number of rental or apartment evictions in this nation.

HUD also states that families and individuals are not eligible for services or aid until they have been homeless for a week. That staying with a friend or family member does not make one homeless either, no matter if the families or individuals are “doubled up”.

Under HUD and VA guidlines, their definitions of what they have added to the McKinney-Vento definition of what homelessness is creates “gray areas” which allows both agencies to disqualify the homeless for whatever reason they decide. Often their explanation is “Oh we are doing it this way now”.

HUD lost over 35% of the data from surveyed veterans. In other words, a lot of the homeless are otherwise unclassified as being veterans or not. A lot of the homeless from these counts that were in shelters during this time frame were never asked any questions at all regarding their veteran status.

One of the saddest facts is that Hurricane Katrina Homeless Statistics are not included in the 2007 Annual Homeless Assessment Report.

Katrina occurred after the counting period and is not included. HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson has since resigned over contracting issues in New Orleans.

Of Course the VA agrees with these numbers and have double and triple checked them. (See page below from New 2007 CHALENG report)

Look at all the columns including the Census column. When was the last time you answered a Census?

As I proved also, if you take the 2005 numerology and subtract 15,000 that the VA claimed to have in rehabilitative housing you end up with the same numbers as what HUD ended up with in 2005. It is a miracle. The VA has 7 columns to HUD’s counting the homeless in shelters and a few volunteers in select areas to match up exact numbers.

All we can call it is a MIRACLE!

No we cannot it is B.S. From the VA and James Peake should be ashamed.

Wanderingvet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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