Obama Proposes Funding Increases to Fight Homelessness

written by Steve Berg
March 6, 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.

Ending veterans homelessness – Homeless veterans are the population for whom the progress toward ending homelessness is the most advanced.  Still, two big tasks remain:  First, we need to find every homeless veteran and get them into housing. Second we must establish a system that will prevent veterans from becoming homeless in the first place.

In most communities, Congress has already made the resources available through the HUD-VASH and SSVF programs, as well as older VA homeless assistance programs, to accomplish the first task. Under the president’s proposed FY 2015 budget, another round of 10,000 HUD-VASH vouchers and a significant $200 million increase in SSVF would ensure that every community has the funds to accomplish both.

Ending Chronic homelessness – This budget appears, for the first time, to propose an increase in funding that would be sufficient to end chronic homelessness as well, but only if communities make certain commitments.  At the moment, the exact number of new rent subsidies for permanent supportive housing that this budget would fund is unclear, and will remain so until HUD releases its “congressional budget justifications” sometime in the next couple weeks.

However, the Alliance’s estimate is that the proposed increase would fund permanent supportive housing for over 30,000 chronically homeless people. This would be enough to provide permanent supportive housing to every chronically homeless person, but only if communities do the following:

  • Target turnovers in their existing CoC-funded permanent housing units to chronically homeless people;
  • Reallocate a portion of existing SSO and transitional housing  projects to PSH;
  • Secure agreements with housing authorities and operators of subsidized housing that ensure some percentage of turnovers in those “mainstream” housing programs available to people who are chronically homeless;
  • (Because of sequestration, unfortunately, we haven’t seen any turnover in these programs for most of the last year. Now that Congress passed the FY 2014 funding bill in January, these programs will have sufficient funding to resume housing new people when existing tenants no long use the resources.)
  • Apply for and use new funding Congress provides in the CoC program for permanent supportive housing, targeted to chronically homeless people, and get the money out the door as quickly as possible. This will require that these new projects rely heavily on rent subsidies in existing units.

On the issue of homelessness, this budget request essentially says: this is not a year for business as usual; this is the year to fund the final push to end veteran and chronic homelessness. The funding situation for HUD, and really all non-defense, discretionary programs, is very difficult, but the Administration has clearly stated that this year is the time to make these accomplishments a priority.

Congress, of course, makes the final decisions, and it will be more important than ever that people involved in working on homelessness do everything possible to make sure their representatives in Congress understand the importance of these proposed increases.