Last month, nearly 1,500 people traveled from all over the country to Washington, D.C. for the Alliance’s National Conference on Ending Homelessness. Almost a quarter of those people participated in Capitol Hill Day, and visited their Members of Congress on Capitol Hill to update them on local progress in ending homelessness and to urge them to make ending homelessness a federal priority.
Based on our State Captains’ “report backs” from more than 289 meetings, we’ve compiled a 2012 Capitol Hill Day Report and Summary. The report highlights the major successes of this year’s Capitol Hill Day. For starters, more than 360 participants went on more than 289 meetings. Five states, including Arkansas, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Dakota, had a 100 percent participation rate, meaning that every person from the state who registered for our conference participated in Capitol Hill Day.
In the 289 congressional meetings, more than 75 of which involved a member of Congress (another record broken over last year), advocates made the case for the following Hill Day Policy Priorities:
- Provide $2.23 billion in FY 2013 for HUD’s Homeless Assistance Grants Program;
- Provide $127 million in FY 2013 for Runaway and Homeless Youth Act (RHYA) Programs;
- Provide $1.35 billion for VA’s targeted homeless veteran programs, including $300 million for the Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) program;
- Provide $100 million for SAMHSA Homeless Services Programs in FY 2013;
- Renew all existing Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers in FY 2013, and provide $75 million for about 10,000 new HUD – VA Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) program vouchers; and
- Prevent further cuts in non-defense, discretionary spending for affordable housing and targeted homeless assistance programs.
It is worth noting that funding for the McKinney-Vento program was the subject of discussion in more than 233 meetings – that’s approximately 81 percent of all the meetings!
This year, the appropriations process has been on a “hurry up and wait” timeline. Both the House and Senate made great strides in producing and passing the fiscal year 2013 appropriations bills. But they stalled toward the end of June before the process was completed, promising to take the measures back up following the election. This put Capitol Hill Day in a slightly different context than previous years. There were no “Dear Colleague” congressional sign-on letters circulating in either the House or Senate, and unfortunately, Hill Day advocates had few concrete, immediate actions they could ask their Members to take.
Instead, advocates focused on inviting their Members on tours of local programs during the upcoming congressional recesses. In fact, they invited nearly 75 Members of Congress on a site visit – that’s more than twice as many invitations as were extended last year! This certainly helped lay the groundwork for the McKinney-Vento Site Visit Campaign, launched in early August, close on the heels of Capitol Hill Day.
As always, the best part of Capitol Hill Day is that the full impact of these 289 meetings could extend beyond the immediate successes outlined in this report. Capitol Hill Day participants realized valuable opportunities to create and strengthen relationships with members of Congress and their staff members. These bonds will prove to have an incalculable impact in the coming weeks, months, and years, particularly as Congress works to finalize the FY 2013 funding bills and tackles some of the bigger budget issues.
The success of this year’s Capitol Hill Day wouldn’t have been possible without people from around the country coming together. The effort of each person, and particularly the 73 volunteer State Captains, who spent countless hours organizing each state’s efforts, allowed this year’s Capitol Hill Day to be one of the most successful yet.
Thanks again to all our wonderful advocates and for yet another fantastic Capitol Hill Day!