Momentum Grows for Ending Chronic Homelessness

written by naehblog
March 13, 2014

Ending chronic homelessness seems to be going viral. First, we heard that the numbers of chronically homeless veterans in Phoenix and Salt Lake City had reached zero. Then other cities such as Minneapolis and Columbus, OH announced that they would join in a friendly competition to be next.

Meanwhile, in dozens of cities across the country, the 100,000 Homes campaign is fast progressing toward its goal of housing 100,000 of the most vulnerable people experiencing homelessness. (They’ve reached 89,882 as of today.) One of those cities is Nashville, recently the subject of a 60 Minutes profile of 100,000 Homes showcasing how Housing First makes sense for people and communities.

Here in the District of Columbia, a broad-based coalition that includes the Alliance, has gotten behind a local campaign, the Way Home, which aims to end chronic homelessness in D.C. by 2017.

These are not unrealistic goals. We already know how to achieve them: permanent supportive housing. That means providing immediate, permanent housing options to people who are experiencing long-term homelessness, then providing services to stabilize them in their homes, services like mental health treatment, primary care, and respectful hands-on help.

Permanent supportive housing is the reason for significant declines in the number of chronically homelessness individuals: 25 percent since 2007, from 123,888 to 92,593 in 2013. In many places, it has dramatically reduced the use of shelters, and avoidable emergency and health care services, which has shown officials and politicians the significant public costs of leaving people unhoused.

The Affordable Care Act is extending Medicaid coverage to millions more poor and low-income adults – in states that are taking full advantage of health care reform, that is. In those 24 states and the District of Columbia, health care providers and the people they serve in supportive housing can get a financial boost due to Medicaid enrollment.

And now – more good news: the President’s 2015 budget proposal has a plan for providing the housing capacity needed to finish the job of ending chronic homelessness.

As the Alliance’s Vice President Steve Berg wrote in his blog on the budget proposal, the proposed funding for the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) would be enough to provide permanent supportive housing for 30,000 chronically homeless people.

But that will happen only if Congress provides the amount the president has proposed for HUD’s McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants program: $2.405 billion. (You can help the Alliance advocate for that by joining our letter campaign – it would be a small investment of time on your part that could have an amazing impact on the lives of thousands of vulnerable people.)

Clearly, momentum toward ending chronic homelessness is building. Just as clearly, sufficiently funding programs that work is critical. Congress may have the final say, but they are accountable to you, the people. Indeed, with so much at stake, and the end within sight, 2014 is not a year for business as usual.

This is the time for you to make your voice heard.