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NerdWallet’s Top 5 Advocates for the Homeless

Personal Finance

Homelessness is a national problem as well as a local one, affecting strained budgets and emergency systems, communities and families, and children’s development and future. The statistics are staggering: on any given night, over 400,000 individuals are homeless. To tackle such an immense problem, we need systemic and individual solutions. Here we highlight five nonprofits that attack homelessness on all fronts, providing policy solutions as well as helping individuals and families. With limited resources and staff, these admirable organizations nevertheless manage to provide services to those who are homeless today and advocate for those who might be homeless tomorrow.

National Health Care for the Homeless Council: For Reforming Health Care to Include Everyone in the Community

The NHCHC confronts the health care challenges faced by the homeless head-on. Its hundreds of hands-on providers of primary care, local agency directors and advocates all work together to provide quality care for those who so often have to do without. But while hundreds of people contribute to the NHCHC’s effort, its staff numbers only twenty. Yet this small team is able to train doctors, work with organizations, outreach and educate, and advise public policy – quite an impressive list. The Council recently received a highly competitive grant from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation to conduct a  ten-city demonstration using formerly homeless Community Health Workers to help reduce inappropriate use of emergency rooms. We’re in a health care crisis as it is – imagine how much worse your health would be if you didn’t have a warm house to return to or a dependable source of nourishment to rely upon. We honor the NHCHC for bringing together doctors, advocates, policymakers and community members to address one of the defining issues of our time.

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100,000 Homes: For Outcomes Guided by Data and Fueled by Communities

An initiative of Community Solutions, the nationwide campaign has a straightforward goal: find permanent housing for 100,000 homeless people by 2014. By leveraging its volunteers’ enthusiasm and passion; best practices from Toyota, GE and other private-sector innovators; meticulously gathered and analyzed data; and the wisdom collected from the over 150 participating communities, 100k Homes has built an effective model to solve – not manage – homelessness. Using a model called the Vulnerability Index to identify those most in need, communities rally to get more people into permanent housing faster. 100k Homes works with communities to survey the homeless population, gather useful and timely data, compare progress to similar areas, and commit to long-term strategies to lift people out of homelessness. And they’ve proven their results, too: the communities have housed 20,600 individuals and families to date, on target to make their 2014 goal. They’ve also collected a wealth of data, developed a replicable model, and shortened the communities’ time to place a homeless person from 300-400 days to a mere 20-30. Now those are results. From one data-driven nerd to another, thanks.

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Coalition for the Homeless: For never turning away a person in need

Every night, a record-high 44,000 people will sleep in shelters in NerdWallet’s founding city of New York. It gets worse from there. Thousands more won’t even have emergency shelters; they’ll sleep on the streets and public places, uncounted and despairing. Into this bleak landscape steps the Coalition for the Homeless, providing everything from food and emergency grants to job training, advocacy, eviction prevention and programs for children. Perhaps most inspiring is their promise to help every person who comes through their doors, no matter how complex their difficulties, with the conviction that every person deserves respect and a safe, stable place to live.

The Coalition’s advocacy arm is also addressing a major policy concern: For the first time, unprecedented levels of homelessness notwithstanding, New York City has no program to transition the homeless into permanent housing. The Coalition is working with the City Council and Speaker Christine Quinn to address this economic and moral imperative.

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Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless: For turning small efforts into big gains

The Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless believes that people are always willing to chip in to solve their community’s problems – they need only be asked. With this all-for-one mentality, the Coalition is developing a website helping homeless children find shelter, pursuing policy changes that will house 1,600 MN families, and streamline deliveries between government services and nonprofits. In the words of a community member,  “You’d be hard pressed to find any grassroots homeless organization that does more good to advance the cause of ending homelessness with so little funding and barebones staff. Yet their passion, their unwavering commitment, and just plain hard work get enormous things done in the world of homeless advocacy and education.”

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Campaign to End Child Homelessness: For advocating for the 1 in 45 children who suffers from homelessness

The National Center on Family Homelessness’ Campaign to End Child Homelessness starts with a powerful message: “It is unacceptable for any child to be homeless for even one night.” It’s a tall order, given that, according to their statistics, more than 1.6 children experience homelessness every year. But by increasing awareness to galvanize communities, working with policymakers to draft system-wide solutions and helping existing organizations improve their services, the Campaign is working to ensure that no child will suffer the emotional, physical and psychological effects of being without a home. The Campaign is fighting on all fronts to address an issue that affects individuals, communities and nations.

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