Ending Homelessness Today — Policy and Legislation
What Does the $1.1 Trillion Spending Bill Mean for Homeless Assistance in 2015?
December 16, 2014
It has been an interesting few weeks here in DC, as negotiations over another spending bill dragged on just ahead of yet another government shutdown. In the midst of negotiations, Democrats and Republicans alike expressed their approval over some parts of the bill and dismay over others. But just last week, both houses of Congress passed the $1.1 trillion spending bill for federal programs for fiscal year 2015. President Obama is expected to sign it into law soon.
The good news is that we won’t have another government shutdown, and that important Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) programs held on to the increases in funding they got last year. To do that, the spending bill provides $2.135 billion for the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants program. The bad news is that’s $271 million less than President Obama requested and that organizations like ours had been advocating for. Funding McKinney at the higher level would have helped us secure 37,000 rent subsidies necessary to meet the goal of ending chronic homelessness by the end of 2016.
That didn’t happen. In this post, I want to focus on the impact that I believe we can expect the passage of this spending bill will have on funding for programs that serve people experiencing homelessness, specifically those under HUD’s Continuum of Care (CoC) and Emergency Solution Grants (ESG) programs, as well as for the Section 8 voucher program.
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What Do the Election Results Mean for the Fight to End Homelessness?
November 10, 2014
Divided government is part of what America does. The idea that neither Congress nor the president should be able to accomplish much by themselves is written right into the Constitution. Looking back over the past 20-plus years, it appears Americans think that’s not enough, that it’s important that neither party controls both branches.
One result of last Tuesday’s election is that, for the third time in a row, a president who began his administration with both houses of Congress in the hands of his party will end his Presidency with both houses of Congress in the hands of the other party, even though he was elected to a second term. Americans are showing, maybe, that they don’t want the federal government to move forward unless Congress and the president can reach a consensus, agreed on by both major political parties.
History shows us that the goal of ending homelessness is one place where that kind of consensus can exist. Just look at the last two years of the Clinton administration and the last two years of the Bush administration: during each period the president worked with a Congress controlled by the party that opposed him; we still made real progress.
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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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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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