Ending Homelessness Today — Advocacy
Obama’s FY 2016 Budget: Why Homeless Advocates Should Pay Attention
January 26, 2015
When is the President’s Budget Proposal?
The Administration typically releases their budget proposal for the upcoming fiscal year during the first week of February. Unlike recent years, this year President Obama is expected to release his fiscal year (FY) 2016 Budget Proposal early next month (Monday, February 2 to be exact), which will kick off the federal funding process earlier than in recent years. Here at the Alliance, we will be examining the budget closely to determine what it means for programs that serve people experiencing homelessness.
As usual, we will share these insights during a webinar, “President's Budget Proposal - Overview and Impact on Homelessness” next Thursday, March 5, at 12 pm ET. We’re going to be discussing the Obama administration’s proposed funding levels for key homelessness and affordable housing programs, as well as upcoming opportunities for advocates.
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Here’s what Homeless Advocates Accomplished in 2014 (Against the Odds)
January 09, 2015
The second session of the 113th Congress started out unusually, under a continuing resolution, or stopgap funding measure, to avert a government shutdown. This foreshadowed the rest of the year, during which congressional activity could be described as dysfunctional, unproductive, partisan, and chocked-full of manufactured crises.
In this context, 2014 was a challenging year in which advocates for homeless assistance programs fought an uphill battle. However, this did not keep homeless advocates across the country from drawing attention to the need for increased federal funding for vital homeless assistance programs in their communities. In light of the considerable challenges they faced, homeless advocates achieved some impressive gains in 2014.
In early March, the FY 2015 federal funding process commenced on an optimistic note with the release of President Obama’s Budget Proposal, which included various provisions favorable to people experiencing homelessness, among them a proposed $301 million increase for the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants program. While some lawmakers expressed hope that appropriations bills would pass in a timely manner, partisan divides prevailed and gridlock soon set in.
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This Could be Our Last Chance to Advocate for Increased Homeless Assistance Funding in FY 2015
November 07, 2014
With the mid-term elections now behind us, members of the 113th Congress are set to return to Washington, DC next Wednesday, Nov.12 to begin their lame-duck session. During this legislative session, this class of Congress, which is on track to be the least productive in modern history, will have many unresolved issues left to address.
One looming item on their agenda will be finalizing a fiscal year (FY) 2015 funding bill to fund the government past Dec. 11, the date our current continuing resolution, or stopgap funding measure, will run out. If you are an advocate for ending homelessness, here’s why you should care about this bill: our ability to end chronic homelessness by the end of 2016, and make significant reductions among other homeless populations, depends on Congress including a $301 million increase (to $2.406 billion) to the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants program.
The increase, which President Obama requested in his budget proposal, would fund $37,000 units of permanent supportive housing for people experiencing chronic homelessness and put us on track to end chronic homelessness by the end of 2016. If you care about reaching that goal and changing the lives of thousands of vulnerable and disabled people (and if you’re reading this, we’re hoping you do), Congress needs to hear from you that this increase must be included in the final FY 2015 funding bill.
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Here are 5 Steps for Raising the Issue of Homelessness at a Public Campaign Event
October 27, 2014
As loyal readers of our blog are already well-aware, members of Congress are home for recess until about a week after the November 4 election. At the Alliance, we’ve been urging homeless advocates to use this time to engage directly with members of Congress about the issue of homelessness by giving tours of their local homeless assistance programs or setting up meetings with their members of Congress.
But here’s another way you can take advantage of the election season: attend a public campaign event. You can expect that many of the members of Congress who are up for re-election will be making public appearances at campaign events this week. These events can take a variety of forms, from town hall meetings, to informal neighborhood gatherings, to candidate forums or debates. If you want your member of Congress to do something about homelessness, be there, and be prepared.
Here are five steps for engaging members of Congress at public events.
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Here are 5 Steps for Organizing a Congressional Meeting this Fall
October 24, 2014
Now that members of Congress are home in their districts and states for the congressional recess, homeless advocates across the country are using this time to engage directly with them. How can you get involved? We’ve already discussed the most effective way: giving members of Congress a tour of your local homeless assistance program (see this blog post for five tips), but there’s another way to reach Congress this fall. It’s simple: set up a meeting with your member of Congress (or their staff) in their state or district office. Meetings like these set a less formal tone than meetings held in members of Congress’ DC offices and are a great way to build a strong relationship.
Here are five steps for organizing a successful congressional meeting this fall.
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Here are 5 Tips for Site Visits with Congress Members this Fall
October 06, 2014
Right now Congress is on recess, which means members of Congress are in their districts and states until November 12, about a week after the election takes place. During that time, homeless advocates like you can take advantage of the election season to engage directly with members of Congress. How can you do that?
One of the most effective ways is by conducting a site visit. Homeless assistance programs depend on their votes, so giving members of Congress a tour of your local homeless assistance program is a great way to show them the impact their vote makes in the lives of their constituents. Here are five quick tips for organizing your next site visit.
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Congress Went Home. Now’s Your Chance to Talk to Them About Homelessness!
October 01, 2014
For homeless advocates, election season isn’t just about political ads, lawn signs, and round-the-clock news coverage. It’s also a fantastic opportunity to engage directly with members of Congress while they are home in their districts or states for the congressional recess.
Congress will remain on recess until November 12, about a week after the election takes place. Considering that FY 2015 funding is not yet finalized, this upcoming month or so is the perfect time for advocates to give their members of Congress a tour of a local homeless assistance program, set up a congressional meeting, or engage with them at one of their election campaign events.
We want to make sure members of Congress see increasing funding for the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants program as a high enough priority that they are willing to do something about it.
It’s true that Congress has already passed a continuing resolution, or stopgap funding measure, funding the government at FY 2014 levels through December 11, but members of Congress will need to finalize FY 2015 funding at some point. (We’re hopeful Congress will get to that soon after the election).
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225 Mayors Have Signed on to End Veteran Homelessness. Has Yours?
September 18, 2014
We are going to end veteran homelessness by the end of 2015. We have the know-how, the funds, and the political will across the country to make this happen – of this I have little doubt.
A big part of building political will has been the Mayor’s Challenge – a movement that began with the work of the departments of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Veterans Affairs (VA), and the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) and some national nonprofit partners. Mayors across the country (around 225 and growing daily) have committed their communities to end veteran homelessness by the end of 2015.
The public commitment to such a goal is the first step in a long process of getting the job done, but it’s an extremely important one. Prior to the Challenge, just a few federal departments and housing assistance providers scattered across the country shared the goal of ending veteran homelessness (and the hard work to reach it). Now that so many mayors and other elected officials have a stake in reaching the goal, they too are developing plans and taking action to make an impact, and in many cases they’re lending resources and expertise to the fight.
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Dear Advocates: Here is How You Can Make a Difference This November
September 10, 2014
The midterm elections are almost here, and that means you and every other U.S. citizen will soon have a chance to vote not only for your interests, but for the interests of the less fortunate. If you care about homelessness, if you care about availability of affordable housing, if you care about income equality, then you should care about who fills the 435 seats in the House, 36 seats in the Senate, and the countless state and local positions that are up for grabs this Election Day, Tuesday, November 4.
For advocates of people experiencing homelessness and other low-income advocates like you, a great deal is at stake. Programs that serve homeless and low-income people cannot succeed without the support of lawmakers. So it is crucial that we back lawmakers who we know are likely to build bipartisan political will for programs that serve the most vulnerable people in America. That will mean the difference between thousands of people being housed, or thousands living on the streets.
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Call on Congress to End Homelessness! Here’s How
September 04, 2014
After a bit of a lull while Congress was out of town on August recess, the Alliance and our partners are now gearing up for a big advocacy push with a National Call In Week for McKinney funding. Next week, we want to make sure that members of Congress hear loud and clear that homeless assistance programs must be a priority in fiscal year (FY) 2015!
Prior to the recess, Congress did some work on federal funding, but they did not finalize any spending bills. The House passed seven out of the 12 funding bills, including the HUD funding bill that funds many affordable housing and homeless assistance programs, but no funding bills made it through the full Senate. This means that both chambers still have a great deal of negotiation ahead of them in the upcoming months to wrap up this appropriations cycle.
Right now, we anticipate that congressional offices will complete much of their behind-the-scenes work on determining final FY 2015 funding levels for programs this month, before their focus inevitably shifts to the election. That’s why, when members of Congress return to session next week, one of the first things they must hear about is the importance of increasing funding for homeless assistance programs.
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Attention Advocates: Here’s Your Chance to Talk to Congress!
June 24, 2014
Every July the Alliance holds Capitol Hill Day in conjunction with our National Conference on Ending Homelessness here in Washington, DC. The event allows conference participants to take advantage of their time in the nation’s capital to meet with their Senators, Representatives, and their staffers.
Last year, Hill Day participants attended nearly 300 meetings with congressional offices from 45 states! Face-to-face time with Members of Congress and their staff is one of the most important ways to take part in federal advocacy by educating members of Congress and to inform them about what’s happening on the ground back in their districts. These meetings are a critical component to ensuring we have the resources (i.e. federal funding) necessary to address homelessness!
By participating in these meetings, you can work to build or establish relationships with your congressional offices, educate your members of Congress on your progress in preventing and ending homelessness at home, and encourage them to support your work.
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Can We Do Better than a $40 Million Increase in Funding for Homeless Assistance?
June 11, 2014
Congressional appropriations (the official word for “funding”) season is in full swing and both Chambers are making significant progress on writing and passing funding legislation for fiscal year (FY) 2015. It’s great news that things are moving forward. In fact, the full House has already passed a couple funding bills already and the Senate is close behind. Those of you that follow this process annually with rapt attention know that this is possibly a bigger deal than it sounds.
But what about those bills? Are they any good? Can we do anything about it at this point? The short answers: Not really and absolutely!
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How Can We Fund Affordable Housing in this Budget Environment?
April 24, 2014
Did you know that the lowest paid workers in America must often work multiple jobs to pay for housing, and many face severe housing cost burdens that put them at risk of homelessness? The latest data show that this income group, which is often made up of households headed by a single parent, persons with disabilities, and seniors, faces a shortage of 7 million affordable housing units. If you think Congress should do something about this, you might be surprised to learn that it already has. Sort of.
Way back in 2008, Congress created the National Housing Trust Fund as part of the Housing and Economic Recovery Act. It was meant to expand the supply of rental housing affordable to extremely low income households.
Fully funded, the National Housing Trust Fund would close the gap between the number of extremely low income renter households and the number of affordable units of housing available to them. That would mean more poor people would be able to afford housing, and fewer poor people would be at risk of becoming homeless. However, it has never been funded. What’s going on?
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Homeless Advocates Send Strong Message to Congress
April 03, 2014
Wow. Simply put, we are blown away. If you recall, on March 12, we launched an advocacy letter-writing campaign to encourage folks to send as many letters as possible before March 31 to your members of Congress asking them to support increased funding for HUD’s McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants in the upcoming fiscal year (FY) 2015.
The letter-writing campaign ends today. We extended it a few days beyond March 31 to match the deadline for the Senate Dear Colleague letter, and, drumroll please… We generated over 711 advocacy actions in just 22 days! So, so many of you took time to reach out to your members of Congress and encouraged others to do the same, and we couldn’t be more thankful! The letter writing was only one component of the 22 days, as many of you made calls to follow up on your letters/emails, alerted your networks, and even circulated petitions!
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Send a Letter to Your Member of Congress TODAY!
March 20, 2014
It’s that time of year again. Not just a seasonal transition into spring - appropriations season has also begun! And it is critical to get involved in the process early to ensure that homeless assistance programs aren’t lost in the shuffle of federal programs vying for Congress's attention this appropriations cycle. We have a great opportunity for you to get involved NOW!
Avid blog readers and advocates will know that we’ve launched a Letter Writing Campaign to urge members of Congress to submit Programmatic Requests to their colleagues on the House and Senate Appropriations Committees to fund the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants program at the amount the Administration proposed - $2.405 billion – in FY 2015. We set a goal to send at least 500 letters to members of Congress by March 31. Making a collective effort to send these letters at the same time will strengthen our voice in the conversation and allow us to have maximum impact. However, right now we are aware of just 64 letters that have been sent. With only 11 days left, we have a long way to go to reach our goal, so we really need YOUR help in this collaborative effort to get us across the finish line!
ANYONE can send a letter, and we are making this as simple as possible for you by providing a sample letter that you can modify to personalize before sending to your Members of Congress.
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Here’s Something You Can Do Right Now To Help End Homelessness
March 10, 2014
The President’s Budget Proposal released last week included a proposed $300 million increase for HUD’s McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants. That money would fund all FY 2014 renewals, provide $215 million for ESG, and fund enough new permanent supportive housing projects to help end chronic homelessness by the end of 2016.
Sounds pretty great, if you ask me (or anyone at the Alliance)! So, what’s the catch? Well, the President’s Budget Proposal is just that – a proposal. It’s now up to Congress to embark on the appropriations (a fancy name for “federal funding”) process. This of course represents some good news and bad news. The bad news: this year is a particularly tight budget year (again) and Congress will be fighting for every spare penny, of which there will be very few. Good news: You can impact the process and educate your Members on the importance of providing $2.405 billion for HUD’s Homeless Assistance Grants in FY 2015.
How, you ask? The Alliance has launched an FY 2015 McKinney Letter-Writing Campaign, and we’re hoping to make it as easy as possible for you to reach out to your members of congress.
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Congress Approves Homeless Funding, But How Much?
January 22, 2014
One government shutdown and nearly four months later, Congress finally completed fiscal year (FY) 2014 funding on January 17. We were relieved and excited to see an increase for HUD’s McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants ($176 million increase, including an expansion of ESG funds) and some extra funds for homeless assistance programs within VA.
To jump into some more details, here’s our assessment on the final funding levels and what they mean.
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Advocacy in 2014: Let’s Hit the Ground Running
January 07, 2014
Advocating for increased federal funding can be an uphill battle, there’s no doubt about that. But the reward at the end is more than worth it: increased resources to prevent and end homelessness in America. These past few years, and last year in particular, were difficult, to say the least. (See our 2013 advocacy recap for more information, if, like most people, you just stopped paying to Congress around March of last year…)
Fortunately, 2014 offers us some opportunities we haven’t seen in a while – like semi-regular order for the federal funding process. Right now (yes, like, right now as you’re reading this), congressional appropriators (the folks in charge of federal funding for individual programs – including the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants) are working on finalizing fiscal year (FY) 2014 federal funding. They’re widely expected to do so by January 15, when the current stopgap funding measure expires. This gives us about 7 days to make one last push for increased funding for HUD’s McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants.
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Advocacy Accomplishments in 2013 (Against the Odds)
January 06, 2014
The first session of the 113th Congress, characterized by gridlock and dysfunction, bears the unfortunate distinction of being the least productive session of Congress in modern times in terms of legislative output.
Clearly, 2013 was a challenging year, though that did not keep homeless advocates across the country from drawing attention to the need for increased federal funding for vital homeless assistance programs in their communities. As we begin the New Year, we would like to take this chance to reflect back on many of the accomplishments of our advocates in 2013, which are particularly impressive in light of the unique challenges they faced.
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The Time’s Invisible Child Series: What Can YOU Do?
December 09, 2013
Today, the New York Times posted a five-part series “Invisible Child” documenting one child and her family’s experience of homelessness in New York City. The story of the young girl, Dasani, is powerful and, unfortunately, representative of the experiences of thousands of other children who become homeless each year. I highly recommend that you read the story for yourself. Then I urge you to act.
For too long, our nation’s response to family homelessness has primarily been one of emergency shelters and temporary housing. In many ways, homeless service programs became waiting rooms. A place for families to stay while they worked to increase their income, save their money, and find housing on their own or a place to wait until a permanent housing unit became available in public housing or through a permanent housing subsidy.
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