The evidence is overwhelming: collectively, we were able to accomplish an incredible amount when it comes to federal homelessness advocacy in the past year.
Chief among these successes is the fact that, despite deep cuts to many programs in both fiscal years (FY) 2011 and 2012, funding for targeted homeless assistance programs held more or less steady – and, in some cases, even increased! In this calendar year, Congress provided $125 million for more than 17,000 new HUD-VASH (HUD – Department of Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing) vouchers. And this doesn’t even count the fact that Congress increased funding for HUD’s McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants by $36 million in April for FY 2011 in order to get a new program – the Emergency Solutions Grant – off the ground.
These accomplishments are a direct result of the hard work of our partners to educate Members of Congress about homelessness and its solutions over the past year. Moreover, they’re a testament to how much confidence Congress has in your ability to implement effective solutions.
Let’s take a quick look at some of the other highlights of our collective advocacy efforts over the past year:
- More than 50 local and national news stories about homelessness within just a few weeks after the release of State of Homelessness in America, many of them running after advocates reached out to their local media contacts;
- A Runaway and Homeless Youth Act (RHYA) letter writing effort that produced about 200 letters to Members of Congress in just one month;
- Four congressional sign-on letters in support of increasing funding for HUD’s McKinney-Vento programs, and one sign-on letter in support of robust funding for RHYA and Education for Homeless Children and Youth programs; and
- A record-breaking Capitol Hill Day in July, with more than 360 participants attending over 270 meetings with congressional offices representing 42 states.
And that’s just a sampling of what we did together over the past year! It doesn’t even take into account the literally thousands of letters, calls, and other forms of outreach to Members of Congress about topics as varied as general education, appropriations, and the deficit reduction efforts of the “Super-Committee.”
With recent news about deep cuts to some affordable housing programs within the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and high risk for further cuts to homeless assistance and affordable housing programs next year, it’s easy to feel as though our advocacy efforts over the past year were not successful. But the truth is these efforts have paid off, with Congress largely protecting funding for homeless assistance programs.
We at the Alliance cannot possibly express how grateful we are for all of your hard work over the past year or how excited we are to build upon this year’s accomplishments in the coming year.
We’ll need to work even harder, but we are confident, given the strength of our partners across the country, that we can outdo ourselves next year. Stay tuned for another blog post at the end of the month on how you can get involved in 2012!