4 Ways States Can Help Solve Homelessness

written by Lisa Stand
November 25, 2013


Forty-six states are gearing up for legislative sessions – most of them starting up in January. All of them can do something in 2014 to end homelessness. If state lawmakers hear enough from constituents, they will do something. Here are 4 initiatives that advocates should be urging their governors and state legislators to consider:

  1. Use Medicaid funds to improve services in permanent supportive housing, so vulnerable adults can be re-housed with the supports they need to thrive where they live. In around half the states, leaders have yet to take advantage of substantial federal funding under the Affordable Care Act. If chronic homelessness is to end in those states, Medicaid expansion must be a priority.  Further, health care reform should work hand in hand with homeless assistance and improved mental health services.  In all states, communities know what’s needed from state Medicaid policy to make more progress on homelessness. They need to be part of the conversation.
  2. Enact a budget with new approaches to paying for homeless assistance. In many instances, homeless families need only short-term assistance as a boost back into permanent housing. States can fund rapid re-housing programs that give communities flexibility – for instance, to pay a deposit or a few months’ rent. Governor Bob McDonnell in Virginia has been a leader with rapid re-housing, and communities are responding
  3. Create or strengthen dedicated funding streams that will lead to housing for diverse groups of residents – including people with very low incomes, disabilities, and histories of homelessness. Advocates in California are working on such a measure. S391, the California Homes and Jobs Act, has passed the Senate and now must garner a majority of the state’s Assembly.
  4. Make interagency cooperation a priority.. There is too much fragmentation of programs intended to help communities support vulnerable people. Housing departments, Medicaid agencies, mental health and substance abuse offices – all must work more closely together to make the most effective use of state and local dollars. Many states have interagency councils on homelessness – a good first step. 

The Alliance encourages community leaders and homeless advocates to make their voices heard in their state capitals. Visit the Advocacy page at endhomelessness.org to find tools and materials to help make the case for state policies to address homelessness. A recent Alliance webinar featured rapid re-housing in Virginia and S391 in California – two examples of state initiatives that can make a difference.

If you missed the webinar, you can view the recorded version below. And be sure to check out the Alliance’s new State Advocacy Guide with tips and tools for ending homelessness one state at a time.