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2nd August
written by Catherine An

In light of the debt ceiling agreement, we thought we’d keep our eyes on the economic climate. There’s little doubt that the agreement reached by Congress and the Administration will have an impact on the next budget process – and the homeless assistance funds that get appropriated during that process – and we’ll be posting about that as soon as we have a clearer picture.

But today, we turn our eyes to our latest publication. In this edition of our Economy Bytes series, we examine state and local budgets and how they affect funding for direct services to people experiencing or at risk of experiencing homelessness. The Economy Byte is complemented with the first in a new series – Data Point ­ - which examines homeless assistance program funding at the state/local and federal levels.

What we find is this: 54 percent of funds for homeless assistance programs come from state and/or local resources – resources that are jeopardized given the fiscal climate that many states are experiencing. States across the country have had to make sometimes severe budget cuts to balance their books at the same time that lawmakers in Washington, D.C. are tightening their belts reducing the aid going to states.

Hardly a promising picture for ending homelessness.

Moreover, in the Economy Byte, we go one step further to gauge risk factors for homelessness. Using data that we collected in The State of Homelessness in America, we determine vulnerability of homelessness. We took into account:

  • States where the rate of homelessness is higher than the national rate (21 per 10,000 people),
  • Existing risk factors for homelessness as outlined in The State of Homelessness in America, an Alliance report released in January 2011,[1]
  • State cuts to cash assistance or public sector jobs.

We found that nine states experienced all of the following: 1) rates of homelessness higher than the national rate, 2) multiple risk factors for homelessness identified in State of Homelessness in America, and 3) cuts to cash assistance or public sector jobs. The states include Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Louisiana, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, and the District of Columbia.

Of these nine states, four have experienced the first two factors as well as cuts to both cash assistance and public sector jobs at the state and local levels; these states include Arizona, Louisiana, Oregon and the District of Columbia.

Suffice to say that the budget situations at the state, local, and national levels – and the resulting cuts to assistance programs, specifically assistance programs targeted at very low-income people and families – may increase the risk and incidence of homelessness in the country.

Is this what you’re seeing in your community? How have budget constraints and concerns affected your local programs? Please let us know!

To find both Economy Bytes: Effect of State and Local Budget Cuts on Homelessness and Data Point: Homeless Assistance Program Funding – Federal vs. State and Local Assistance, please visit the Alliance website.

[1] Risk factors include unemployment, foreclosure, housing cost burden, uninsurance, and doubling up.

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