Advocacy Resource | September 25, 2013
Housing Choice Vouchers are a key tool for ending homelessness.
• Need. Nationally, 1.5 million people experience homelessness every year, and another 8.5 million families with very low incomes have “worst-case” housing needs, placing them at risk of homelessness.
o Discuss the number of people in your community who are homeless or at risk of losing their housing due to the high cost of rent.
o Discuss how many households your agency served last year that would benefit from a voucher.
• Effectiveness. Rigorous research shows that housing vouchers are effective at reducing and preventing homelessness, even for the poorest families. More than 2 million households use housing vouchers nationally, yet only 1 in 4 eligible families receives any type of federal rental assistance. And, because of sequestration, housing agencies are sharply reducing the number of families they serve.
o See CBPP website for local data on voucher usage. Discuss how many people are on your community’s waiting list for vouchers. Tell a story about a client who is at the top of the list, or had a voucher issued to them and then taken back; or tell a story of someone who has been on the waitlist for a long time, unable to get assistance.
o Provide an example of how your community has a local homeless preference, set-aside, or other partnership with your PHA and how it has been affected by budget cuts.
• Cost savings. By preventing and ending homelessness, Section 8 vouchers save communities money on more expensive systems of care, such as foster care and emergency room visits.
• Supporting children, work, health. Children do better in school, and are more likely to complete high school, when they have a stable home. Four-fifths of voucher holders work, or are elderly or disabled. Housing vouchers allow families to move closer to work and free up resources for transportation and other work expenses. Permanent housing also significantly improves the health outcomes of the elderly or disabled, especially those who present a high cost to Medicare/Medicaid.
o Tell the story of a client who has better access to school, work or healthcare due to a subsidy.
Housing vouchers plus services help end chronic homelessness.
• Proven model. Housing vouchers are used to provide permanent supportive housing (PSH), which has been demonstrated to end homelessness and improve employment and other outcomes for chronically homeless individuals, while reducing public costs.
• Helping Veterans. Approximately 62,600 veterans are homeless on any given night in America, and many of them are chronically homeless. HUD-VASH provides chronically homeless veterans with a safe, stable place to live and the services necessary to heal.
o Discuss the role of PSH in reducing chronic homelessness in your communities. Explain the cost-effectiveness of PSH.
o Discuss the success of a local HUD-VASH program using data.
• I hope you will work with your colleagues on the Appropriations Committee to ensure that the final FY 2014 appropriations bill provides enough funding to protect existing vouchers and replace those lost by sequestration, and provides $75 million for 10,000 new HUD-VASH vouchers.