Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Budget cuts could mean funds cut from homeless care organizations

The automatic, across-the-board federal funding cuts that became known as “sequestration” took effect on March 1, 2013, cutting $85 billion from spending. Last week the Congress adopted a new “continuing resolution” to authorize fund the government through the end of the federal fiscal year on September 30, 2013. Homeless advocates had hoped that legislation would be an opportunity to restore some of the cuts in vital safety-net programs for homeless people and those at risk of homelessness. Unfortunately that didn’t happen. In fact, the new continuing funding law actually makes the cuts the “baseline” funding level for the impacted programs, meaning it may be that much harder to restore cuts in the next federal budget.

Care for the Homeless consumers and staff recently visited with several New York City area members of Congress in Washington, D.C., to talk about the impact of the cuts. Our consumers explained there is a need for more, not less, services – especially in New York City where the homeless population is at an all-time record high. What’s more, they said, these cuts threaten real people with losing adequate health care, the opportunity for HIV testing and substance abuse treatment, and the opportunity for housing. In fact, cuts to federal housing programs will mean over 100,000 newly homeless individuals.

Care for the Homeless will suffer losses in federal funding through Health Care for the Homeless grants, Ryan White funding for HIV testing, and cuts in substance abuse treatment funding. More important, these cutbacks make it that much more difficult to fight, prevent and end homelessness. 

Friday, March 22, 2013

CFH garners National attention

Both a Care for the Homeless client, and one of its executive administrators, won major national posts with the National Health Care for the Homeless Council at their national conference in Washington, D.C., last week. Philip J. Malebranche, a client of Care for the Homeless who serves on our Customer Advisory Board, was elected to the National Consumer Advisory Board.

The National Consumer Advisory Board (CAB) is made up of homeless and formerly homeless people from across the country who are involved in the governance of homeless health care programs, who are elected by consumers. The National CAB is a standing committee of the National Health Care for the Homeless Council, with one CAB member serving as a voting member of the Council’s Board of Directors. Mr. Malebranche is a New York native and a graduate of Geneva College in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania. He has lived in Washington, D.C. and in France, and has written on social issues. He also addressed a public rally at Union Square Station in Washington, D.C., during the national conference, and met with a number of Congress members or their staff to discuss federal budget and policy issues affecting homeless people.

Also winning a national position was Debbian Fletcher-Blake, the Assistant Executive Director of Care for the Homeless. She will serve as Chairman-Elect of the National Health Care for the Homeless Council’s Clinician’s Network Steering Committee, and serve on the National Council’s Board of Directors. The Council represents clinics and health care organizations that provide services to homeless people across America, and provides advocacy, research, training and other resources to those agencies. The Council’s main office is in Nashville, Tennessee.

Debbian is a nurse practitioner and directly oversees CFH’s health care operations in our clinics and outreach centers located in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens, and through street outreach operations. She has over 17 years of clinical and administrative experience. She joined Care for the Homeless with a background in chemistry and experience as a public health nurse. She also serves as an Adjunct Nursing Instructor and Preceptor for graduate and undergraduate nursing students.

Care for the Homeless is one of only a handful of health care for the homeless providers in the country to have more than one person sitting on the National Health Care for the Homeless Council Board of Directors. In addition to Debbian, CFH’s Executive Director, Bobby Watts, also sits on the Board.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Care for the Homeless Clients Meet with Members of Congress

Several Care for the Homeless clients and staff traveled to Washington, D.C., last Friday, to meet with members of the New York Congressional delegation or their staff to ask for support of programs and human services vital to homeless and poor people. These issues hold a special importance right now as the U.S. Senate and House are working on government funding for the remainder of the federal fiscal year, through September 30, 2013.  We were able to meet with New York Representatives or staff in the offices of Representatives Nydia Velazquez, Hakeem Jeffries, Jose Serrano, Charles Rangel, Bill Owens and Nita M. Lowey.

Funding cutbacks pose a real and imminent threat to programs homeless and poor people count on including health and human services for homerless people, funding for AIDS testing and services, mental health funding, substance abuse treatment, and virtually every program for housing, tenant assistance and affordable housing. It threatens grants for homeless children, for mobile health and street care services, for educational assistance for homeless children and for nutrition assistance.

Several Care for the Homeless clients explained to lawmakers and their staffs how cutbacks in these programs could affect them.

It’s critical that these issues be considered now, because whatever spending level is adopted now will likely become the “base-line” level for the next budget scheduled to go into effect on October 1, 2013. One of the points we made to the lawmakers is that most domestic programs for poor and homeless people are already operating under dramatic cuts adopted in 2011.  Clients also spoke with the policy makers about Medicaid, the causes of homelessness and the programs and services that have been most important to them. 

Monday, March 18, 2013

Care for the Homeless Executive Director keynotes National Convention with call to end the evil of homelessness

Care for the Homeless Executive Director Bobby Watts brought more than 800 delegates to the National Health Care for the Homeless Council Conference in Washington, D.C., to their feet with a declaration that “Homelessness is evil, and we must end it.”  Watts, in the conference’s keynote address, said, “we have to stop accepting the unacceptable, tolerating the intolerable, and end the evil of homelessness.”

“It was public policies that created modern day homelessness,” Watts said, “and we can end homelessness with better public and social policies.” Watts noted that “modern day homelessness” is only about 35 years old, and tracks with federal cutbacks in spending on affordable housing for very-low-income tenants and cutbacks to human service and safety net programs.

Watts spoke about asking college classes what they thought the causes of homelessness were, and getting answers including individuals became homelessness because they had mental problems, significant health problem, had a substance abuse problem, lost their job, didn't develop adequate job skills or had a criminal record. Watts explained that all those causes were right, but that instead or just looking at them from the individual point of view we should also view them from a societal perspective.

Looked at that way the causes might be thought of as society not having developed an adequate mental health or medical health system, or substance abuse treatment system, or enough affordable housing, or jobs or an adequate education and workforce training system.” Thought of that way, we can optimistically fight homelessness and realize how important and cost effective providing adequate resources are.      

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Health Education’s Full February

The Care for the Homeless Health Education team is always busy, but in February, the team had three large-scale initiatives they implemented at many of our service sites. 

Teen Dating Violence and Healthy Relationships
Workshops were delivered to:
       Increase understanding of teen dating abuse
       Identify and define roles of abuse
       Identify warning signs of an abusive partner
       Explore reasons why people stay in abusive relationships
       Increase help-seeking behavior among teens involved in abusive dating relationships
       Promote healthier approaches to dating relationships and conflicts
       Help teens understand their rights and responsibilities in a relationship.

HIV Awareness
Workshop delivered to:
       Define what HIV/ AIDS is
       Identify modes of transmission
       How to recognize the symptoms
       Explain prevention methods
       Explain treatment options
       Understand the HIV rapid testing method used

Healthy Heart Awareness
Workshop delivered to:
       Discuss basic heart anatomy, physiology and function
       Define common heart diseases
       Review risk factors for heart disease
       Reinforce heart disease prevention methods.
Screenings offered in the medical clinic for
       Blood pressure
       Blood glucose levels
       BMI and waist circumference
Screenings were followed up with individual counseling by medical providers and Health Educators.

For more information on Health Education, click HERE

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Care for the Homeless Director Watts to Give Neibacher Address at National Health Conference Event in Washington

Care for the Homeless Executive Director Bobby Watts has been chosen to give the annual “Susan L. Neibacher Address”, which is the keynote speech of a breakfast plenary session of the National Health Care for the Homeless Council’s national conference on Thursday, March 14, at the Hyatt Regency Capitol Hill hotel in Washington, D.C. He will speak to several hundred health care administrators, clinicians and homeless advocates from across America about “Homelessness as a Public Health Epidemic."

The speech is a particularly meaningful one for Watts because it is named for Susan L. Neibacher who was the founding Executive Director of Care for the Homeless in 1985. Not only was Neibacher an effective and inspirational organizer and administrator, she was also a mentor to Bobby Watts.

In addition to being one of New York City’s oldest and largest providers of health care and human services to people experiencing homelessness, Care for the Homeless also operates a 200-bed shelter for medically frail women in the Bronx, “Susan’s Place”, also named after Susan Neibacher. We also advocate for public policies to ameliorate, prevent and end homelessness.   

Watts is a nationally recognized expert in health care and service provision to people experiencing homelessness. He also serves on the New York State Medicaid Redesign Team’s Affordable Housing Workgroup, the Board of the NonProfit Coordinating Committee of New York and is Treasurer of New York’s Black Agency Executives organization. He holds a Master of Public Health and Masters in Epidemiology from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. He has more than 25 years of experience in direct service provision to homeless, mentally ill, HIV-positive and substance abusing populations.