Ending Homelessness Today — Policy and Legislation
We Have the Funding to End Veteran Homelessness. Now What?
October 09, 2014
Last week, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced it was releasing an additional $207 million in “surge funding” for the Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) program. Later in the week, HUD announced that it was issuing 9,000 new HUD-VA supportive housing (HUD-VASH) vouchers to house chronically homeless veterans.
Clearly, there are a lot of resources coming down the line to help address veteran homelessness. These new resources are meant to help communities find and house every homeless veteran in time to meet our goal of ending veteran homelessness by the end of 2015. This year, VA has released more than $500 million in SSVF grants to nonprofits in every state covering nearly every locality. The money is there (and there might even be more coming soon), so as we’ve discussed in this blog before, the responsibility is now on communities, local VA Medical Centers (VAMCs), and services providers to get the job done.
We have seen great progress so far, but there are still nearly 50,000 veterans without a place to call home. If you are a provider in one of the communities that received surge funding (check here), get involved to ensure these funds are used as efficiently and effectively as possible. Here are some important things you should be doing.
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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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A Senate Committee Passed a Bill to Help Homeless Youth. Now it’s Congress’s Turn!
September 22, 2014
Last Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed a bill by a 15-3 vote with bipartisan support that would reauthorize the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act (RHYA), which had expired on September 30, 2013. Now it’s the full Senate’s turn to vote on this extremely important piece of legislation, which not only reauthorizes the previous version, but includes several improvements on it.
Ever since it was signed into law in 1974, RHYA has been the only federal law exclusively dedicated to homeless youth, ensuring essential services like street outreach, basic shelter, and transitional living programs. The new reauthorization bill, “Runaway and Homeless Youth and Trafficking Prevention Act,” goes even further by increasing protection for youth are victims of human trafficking and sexual exploitation, increasing support for family intervention, and prohibiting discrimination against homeless youth based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
It should come as no surprise that we at the Alliance strongly support the bill.
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Call Congress to End Homelessness: There’s Still Time!
September 15, 2014
Last week, the Alliance hosted a National Call In Week and encouraged homeless advocates and anyone else who cares about ending homelessness to call their members of Congress. If you didn’t get a chance to call, you still have time! We are extending our call in period through this Wednesday, September 17. This is a fantastic opportunity to do something that will take only a few minutes of your time and has the potential to affect the lives of thousands of people.
We need your help convincing Congress to grant the Obama administration’s requested $2.406 billion funding level for the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants program in the final fiscal year (FY) 2015 funding legislation. While Congress is likely to pass the final FY 2015 funding legislation later this year, key appropriators are currently doing preliminary work on it before many of them return home to campaign for the November elections. With further negotiation ahead of them before funding levels are finalized, now is a great time to influence the funding process!
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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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The Homeless Children and Youth Act: Does It Address the Real Problem?
August 14, 2014
Tens of thousands of families with children and unaccompanied youth go unsheltered every night in this country. They are homeless, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has programs to respond to their crises. But they are not getting the help they need because there is not enough money to serve them all.
At the same time, there are millions more families, children, and youth who are housed every night, but not stably or affordably so. They need help to pay for their housing, and HUD has rental assistance that would solve their problems. But only one in four who is eligible will get that assistance, because, again, there is not enough money to serve them all.
Neither literally homeless nor poorly housed youth or families with children are getting the help they need because both homeless services program and housing assistance programs are severely underfunded.
This is why it is perplexing that a new bill, The Homeless Children and Youth Act (S.2653), proposes to solve the problem of youth and families with children who are homeless or who lack affordable housing by expanding the definition of homelessness to vastly increase the number of people who are eligible for HUD’s crisis homeless assistance. But this bill makes these changes without providing any additional resources.
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Here’s What We Can Do to Help End Chronic Homelessness
July 23, 2014
As many of you are already aware, the Obama administration’s plan to end homelessness, Opening Doors, calls for ending veteran homelessness by the end of 2015, ending chronic homelessness by 2016, and ending family and youth homelessness by 2020.
These are audacious goals, to be sure, but the Administration has already shown that it’s serious about reaching them. Since Opening Doors was enacted, the Administration’s budget has built up funding for housing for homeless veterans; the Departments of Veterans Affairs (VA) and Housing and Urban Development (HUD) have put campaigns in place to help communities implement effective practices; and the First Lady has assumed a prominent role as public advocate for ending homelessness.
Now, believe it or not, we have the funding we need to end veteran homelessness, and we may soon have a chance to secure the funding we need to end chronic homelessness. According to the Alliance’s analysis, in order to end chronical homelessness we will need new, dedicated funding for 35,000 to 40,000 rent subsidies, targeted to the chronically homeless population.
The Administration’s budget request asks for a $300 million increase in HUD’s homeless assistance for just that purpose. Congress’s initial response has not included it, but we believe they can be made to come around. And this is the year to do it – funding that is included for rent subsidies in the FY 2015 Continuum of Care is the last funding that will be on the streets in time to house people before the end of 2016.
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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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Is Congress Providing Enough Funding to Fight Homelessness?
May 14, 2014
The year of sequestration, 2013, may be over, but homeless programs are still waiting for the final hammer to fall when The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announces which Continuum of Care projects will and won’t get funded. The impact of Congress’s decision to underfund HUD’s homelessness programs in Fiscal Year (FY) 2013 won’t be good for the people served by those programs. And while homeless programs won’t face downsizing in FY 2014, their prospects in FY 2015 are far less certain.
Congress provided a healthy increase in funding for homeless assistance in the FY 2014 appropriations bill. Spending for Continuum of Care program won’t go down, and we could very well see spending on Emergency Solutions Grants go up. Nevertheless, you can expect HUD to continue encouraging homeless programs to become more efficient by reallocating funding, improving program models, and re-housing more people
But that brings us to FY 2015, which Congress has already begun to work on. It was supposed to be another decent year. The Murray-Ryan budget agreement, which increased discretionary spending above the sequestration amount for 2014, added an additional $2 billion for FY 2015 for nondefense discretionary spending, not much in a nondefense discretionary budget of around $500 billion, but enough for a tiny amount of breathing room.
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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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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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Obama Proposes Funding Increases to Fight Homelessness
March 06, 2014
The Administration’s fiscal year (FY) 2015Budget Proposal, released on Tuesday, March 4, proposes, among other things, significant new resources for homelessness programs, including a $200 million increase for a program that serves homeless veterans and their families. If Congress enacts these budget requests, communities will get the resources they will need to meet the goals of ending veteran homelessness by the end of 2015, and ending chronic homelessness by the end of 2016.
Here is a quick rundown of what we should be able to accomplish with these funding increases and the tough work communities around the country will have to undertake.
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Here’s Why You Should Care About the President’s Budget
February 27, 2014
Next Tuesday, March 4, the President is expected to release his fiscal year (FY) 2015 Budget Proposal. The Budget Proposal is intended to outline the Administration’s funding priorities and serve as a guide for Congress as it moves through the federal funding process (appropriations process). In the last few years, though, Congress has operated largely independently as it moves through the process, paying little heed to the Administration’s proposals. So why do we still care about the President’s budget proposal?
Well, first and foremost, the release of the proposal usually kicks off the federal funding process for the upcoming fiscal year. It’s the first step in a long process and offers us the opportunity to begin working with members of Congress and get in on the ground floor. Advocating early and often for robust funding for key federal programs, such as HUD’s McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants, is the best way to ensure that these programs have sufficient funding to do the work of ending homelessness in our communities.
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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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Homelessness in 2014 - A Look at the Year Ahead
January 02, 2014
It looks like 2014 may be a year of recovery. The economy, which for people at the top has already recovered very well, appears to be creating more accessible jobs for people at the bottom. Localities that were battered by sequestration will not, it appears, have to suffer through further cuts in federal support. While big problems that cry out for nation-wide policy solutions will go from the “might-do” list to the “campaign issue” list, many smaller, consensus-based solutions that require some action by the federal government may follow the example of the “small deal” budget agreement reached last month. And there seems, just maybe, to be some emerging consensus that we need to do more about the level of poverty and economic inequality in America, of which homelessness is one of the most shameful results.
This all means that the amazing community of people working to end homelessness in the United States has a decent chance of substantially reducing the number of people living in shelters and on the streets, as was occurring before the Great Recession started. This will require making use of the assets we have – increased knowhow, bipartisan political support, and funding opportunities in some key areas.
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Act on the NOFA Cuts!
December 16, 2013
In the upcoming year, communities will have less funding to address homelessness. The up to 5 percent cuts that communities will face in the fiscal year (FY) 2013 NOFA (Notice of Funding Availability) for the Continuum of Care (CoC) are a direct result of sequestration and other congressional funding decisions. Fortunately, we can be proactive about the tiering process and work to make sure that HUD’s Homeless Assistance Grants funding never go short-funded again.
Tomorrow, the Alliance is hosting a webinar on planning for your NOFA application and working with your Members of Congress to ensure that subsequent NOFAs provide sufficient funding for renewals and even new projects. The webinar will also explore Richmond, Va’s approach to the NOFA and what steps that community is taking to ensure the cuts have a minimal impact on their efforts to address homelessness.
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