Archive for December 30th, 2010

30th December
written by Catherine An

Okay, so there aren’t ten of them and they’re not really resolutions. Actually they’re the Alliance’s Policy Priorities for 2010.

But in this season of resolutions and top ten lists and the general consideration of things that have happened and things to come, I thought we could see them as simply this: things we can do to end homelessness.

Fully implement Opening Doors, the Federal Strategic Plan to End Homelessness

This year, the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness did an amazing thing – they wrote Opening Doors: The Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness. The document outlines strategies and goals to end veterans’ homelessness, ensure every child and family has permanent affordable housing, finish the job of ending chronic homelessness, and end youth homelessness.

If we’re able to turn each of these goals and strategies into real, effective programs, we’ll be well on our way to eradicating homelessness in the United States.

Fund HUD Homeless Assistance Grants program at $2.4 billion in FY 2011

You already know that about the the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants, the federal government’s largest investment in ending homelessness. And you already know about the HEARTH Act, the first significant program reauthorization in 20 years passed in 2009. The HEARTH Act changed funding calculations and made significant improvements to the McKinney-Vento programs, which will now provide more money for prevention and assistance to families, to rural programs, and for administration.

Meeting the $2.4 billion mark will enable communities to implement the changes mandated by the HEARTH Act and also maintain the same level of funding for new projects, including permanent supportive housing and rapid re-housing.

Fund the Administration’s Housing and Services for Homeless Persons Demonstration

This innovative new proposed program is for two voucher assistance initiatives serving people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. The program would provide 6,000 vouchers for families that are linked with services within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Department of Education, and 4,000 vouchers that are linked with Medicaid case management and substance abuse and mental health services. In addition to ensuring that people experiencing homelessness are linked with both housing and social services, it would also help agencies streamline their efforts to serve people more effectively.

Provide $1 billion to expand the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program

You’ve heard the stories: communities testify to the efficacy of HPRP. Our own quarterly reports indicate the difference that HPRP dollars are making in our Leadership Council communities.

In order to adequately address the increases in homelessness caused by the recession and potentially prevent and end homelessness for an additional 200,000 households and create an additional 2,500 jobs for housing search and stabilization specialists, we must continue to invest in this program.

Increase access to permanent, affordable housing for extremely low-income families

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: homelessness is largely a function of the inability to afford housing. In order to increase access to housing for the most vulnerable communities, we can:

Increase the availability of services linked to housing for people experiencing homelessness

With the right services coupled with housing interventions, we can increase the likelihood that people experiencing homelessness gain stability and that people at risk of experiencing homelessness don’t fall into it. There are a number of programs – including the Projects for Assistance in Transition from Homelessness (PATH) program and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) administered by HHS, that can assist vulnerable people and families.

Increase the capacity of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA) and HUD to prevent and end homelessness among veterans

Luckily for us, a lot of this is really happening. The Department of Veterans Affairs is actively working to make good on its pledge to end homelessness in five years.

We can keep up the work and the progress by enacting some bills that were being considered by Congress (before it went on recess), including: the Homeless Veterans and Other Veterans Health Care Authorities Act of 2010 (S. 1237) and the Homes for Heroes Act (S. 1160 / H.R. 403).

End homelessness for 50,000 unaccompanied youth through supportive housing, rental assistance, and services for street youth

If there’s one population that’s gained some serious traction in the last months of this year, it’s youth homelessness. We’ve noted here – and I’m sure you have too – the rapidly increasing number of stories about youth and student homelessness in communities across the country.

And while the attention is important, there are really things that we can do, including:

  • Encouraging Congress to include $165 million for the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act grant programs within HHS to expand Transitional Living opportunities and rapid re-housing activities, and to achieve enhanced family reunification through the Basic Center Programs.
  • Encourage Congress to reauthorize the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) to increase rapid re-housing and family preservation activities.
  • Encourage Congress to increase funding by $20 million within HUD in FY 2011 for the Family Unification Program to offer housing support to youth-in-transition from foster care.