Thank you everyone! Our time is up, and I've had a wonderful and enlightening time answering your great questions. Please consider becoming involved with our effort to end homelessness, and visit our website at

Nan Roman, President and CEO of the National Alliance to End Homelessness, is a leading national voice on the issue of homelessness. The Alliance is a public education, advocacy, and capacity-building organization with a network of over 10,000 nonprofit and public sector agencies and corporate partners around the country. Visit the Alliance website at

Comments: 177 • Responses: 19  • Date: 

Clerk1816 karma

Why are our veterans more prone to being homeless and how can we change the stigma associated with homelessness?

endhomelessness14 karma

Veterans are homeless due to a variety of factors including inability to afford housing, low incomes, service-related trauma (including military sexual trauma), and difficulty making the transition to the civilian workforce, among other things. Stigma related to homeless veterans and homelessness overall is a serious problem, and I think a good way to address it is by focusing on and promoting solutions. The good news is that there is a lot of political and public will for ending veteran homelessness, Congress and the Administration are supportive, and the number of homeless veterans is going down.

deathofcake14 karma

I'm probably going to be homeless come January . What advice can you give me?

endhomelessness16 karma

I am so sorry. I don't know what's available in your community, but I'd try calling 211, and asking if there is a homeless assistance organization that focuses on housing solutions.

CaptainIndustry12 karma

What are your thoughts on the recent spike in 'Helping the Homeless' 'Feeding the Homeless' 'Homeless Makeover' type videos showing up on YouTube?

and second question. Is it bad to give homeless people money? and if so, could you explain why it's that bad?

endhomelessness7 karma

You can end homelessness quickly, but giving someone housing is probably more effective than a makeover --although feeling confident about yourself is a good thing, too. Living indoors makes over people in a little more permanent way -- Pathways to Housing' YouTube channel has some great examples.
I think that giving people money on the street is a personal decision.
Note: not all people asking for money on the street are homeless.

The-Mighty-Monarch9 karma

What would you say to someone who vilifies the homeless, blaming their condition on their own behavior?

How do you feel about HUD regulations requiring or allowing public housing authorities to prohibit admission to family members who have been convicted of certain crimes? Is there a way to make public housing safe without keeping criminals on the streets?

endhomelessness11 karma

The nation has 7 million fewer units of affordable housing than we need, and I think that is more persuasively the cause of people becoming homeless than their behavior -- plenty of people with bad behavior are housed.

I do think that it is possible to house people with criminal records, and I don't think it makes communities safer to leave people unsheltered and exclude them from programs.

davidqharris9 karma

The Coalition for the Homeless is reporting recidivism (return to shelter) of 38% for those rapidly re-housed in New York City. Does that seem likely you?

endhomelessness8 karma

Here is what we found looking at the NYC data: Most communities we have looked at have a lower rate of return to homelessness from rapid rehousing programs than they do from shelter or transitional housing. It is really important to have good data, to analyze it, and to adopt the practices that have the best outcomes.

jkaufmanhorner7 karma

I deeply respect the work NAEH has done over the years and the efforts to end shelter entry by focusing on those earning under 15% of Area Median Income (AMI). A great example was your comment at the Kansas Statewide Homeless Coalition Conference that some communities did not do Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing (HPRP) well because they “made income eligibility levels too high (50%, not 30%, or even 15%, of AMI) and did too much prevention.”* If a state or region remains focused on using a lot of resources for prevention, or at 50% AMI, how is NAEH working to correct this? What would you recommend a local service provider do to encourage a refocusing on households that might actually enter shelter? (*

endhomelessness6 karma

Since resources are scarce, it is critical that we use every single dollar of homeless assistance wisely. We need to focus on interventions that are backed by evidence, and target them to the people who need them most. It is important to remember that 36% of people who are homeless tonight are unsheltered.
Prevention is critical, and mainstream systems such as welfare, housing and child welfare should focus on preventing households in their care from becoming homeless. Very few people making 30% of AMI enter the shelter system. Homeless funds need to be spent on people who are literally homeless. A practical suggestion for refocusing assistance in this way is to make sure that anyone you are assisting with homeless funding has the same characteristics (particularly income levels) as those households already in the shelter system.

jkaufmanhorner4 karma

Great response! And NAEH research shows that it is those close to or below 15% AMI that come into shelters. And yet some regions use a 50% AMI guideline contrary to NAEH's recommendation. How is NAEH encouraging regions to narrow their focus to those below 30% or 15% AMI?

endhomelessness3 karma

Through our capacity-building work, we help communities structure their systems to take this approach. Through our education work, we try to build the knowledge behind the efficacy of this approach . Through our advocacy, we work with the federal agencies and Congress in the hope that they will adopt this policy.

jkaufmanhorner3 karma

Thank you! When you say "this approach" do you mean a target below 30% AMI or 15% AMI?

endhomelessness3 karma

I'd say 15%, but you should look at your shelter data.

jkaufmanhorner3 karma

Does NAEH have a statement about this AMI targeting that can be sent to policy makers? And how did NAEH lose the HPRP debate so that it was set at 50% instead of closer to 15%?

mthompson47 karma

Hi Ms. Roman, I would like to know what is the Alliance's plan on assisting individuals who are homeless with co-occurring disorders such as chemical dependency?

endhomelessness3 karma

Our plan is to house them.

jhilljr6 karma

What is the best thing the average person can do to help?

endhomelessness3 karma

Take a look at this blog post that my colleague Steve Berg did on this subject recently:

NOTE: The first thing he suggests is to contact your Member of Congress about the federal budget!

BaconBoss16 karma

Most messed up situation or story you've heard about a homeless person

The best success story you've heard

endhomelessness6 karma

Success story -- the large reductions in chronic homelessness, including among veterans, in places like Utah are exciting. Also, the fact that homelessness among families is starting to go down.
On an individual level, I think it's fantastic EVERY time I hear the story of someone who was homeless and gets into an apartment.
Messed up -- homeless children, people who are sick living on the street, people who die while they're homeless.

AubreyPlazasButtHair5 karma

If you could enact one national law to attempt to end homelessness, what law would it be?

Also, what's your favorite Christmas song?

endhomelessness11 karma

The Housing Commission of the Bipartisan Policy Center, of which I am a member, recently recommended that every low income family or individual who needed housing assistance should receive it. I think this would do more than any other single law to end homelessness.

"I'll Be Home for Christmas"

jcmaguire5 karma

Hi Nan, What do you think about transitional housing? Is there an important place for it, or is it time to let it go? I haven't seen much data in support of it, but some people seem very attached to the idea.

endhomelessness4 karma

Research indicates that many of the people who currently receive transitional housing could do better with help returning more quickly to their own housing. At the very least, we should be shifting more resources to this approach and focusing any transitional housing on higher need people who might benefit from it such as people in early stages of recovery from substance abuse or homeless youth.

Moose_Hole5 karma

Aren't there people who want to be homeless? Like they really like camping or travelling? If these people exist, you can't really end homelessness.

endhomelessness9 karma

In my personal experience, I have not met anyone I would say wants to be homeless. They often choose camping, etc. over the alternative of shelter, rules, etc. Sometimes people have mental illness, and it takes a while to reach them. But pretty much everyone wants a home.

cthouse12 karma

Do you support housing mobility programs that seek to move low-income people, often of color, out of urban areas and into (wealthier, whiter) suburbs?

endhomelessness1 karma

I think an important principle in regard to housing is choice -- and it also seems to have the best outcomes. People generally have the best information about where they will find opportunities and challenges for themselves.

cthouse12 karma

Thanks for your response! A couple of quick follow-ups, if I may:

Are there times when urban residents just may not know that housing affordable to them exists in communities that they aren't familiar with, and that giving them this info would open up more housing options?

Does actual housing discrimination prevent more "opportunity" moves out of cities? Or perhaps, does the assumption of such discrimination discourage urban folk from even looking beyond their own communities?


endhomelessness1 karma

Choice does involve knowing your options, and certainly people need information and counseling to help them make good choices. Good points!

FringeVaginaSciences2 karma

In my area there is a huge debate over the bulb,, what are your thoughts on encampments?

endhomelessness3 karma

Housing is the solution to homelessness -- not encampments.

frud-2 karma

I have been thinking of quitting my job and doing absolutely nothing for a couple of years. Will your program feed, clothe, house, and give me medical care for the course of my endeavor?

endhomelessness5 karma

Bad decision on your part. Given what I have learned from working on homelessness over the years, being homeless is not a pleasant condition. Remember, over 215,000 people per night don't even have a bed in a shelter.