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Archive for September, 2015

HUD puts teeth into effort to stop criminalizing homeless people

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The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has released a Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) for the Continuum of Care (CoC) Program for $1.89 billion for Fiscal Year 2015. The CoC Program distributes funding to homeless projects in communities throughout the nation. The deadline for applying for the FY 2015 CoC Program Competition is November 20.

For the first time, HUD will examine whether applicant communities are preventing the criminalization of those experiencing homelessness. In a 2014 report, the National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH) found over 70 cities that had or were considering restricting the sharing of food with people who were homeless. Other laws that disproportionately affect people without a permanent home include bans on camping in public spaces, bans on loitering or begging, even limits to the time someone can spend sitting or lying down on a city sidewalk or park bench.

“The National Coalition for the Homeless is pleased to see HUD continuing the federal proactive approach against the continued criminalization of people experiencing homelessness,” state Megan Hustings, Interim Director, NCH. “NCH is the leading homeless civil rights organization in the nation and have been advocating for this position for at least two decades and our advocacy has finally paid off. If communities continue to enforce anti-homeless ordinances, now they risk losing valuable points in their CoC application, which means a potential loss of funding,” continued Hustings.

Specifically, the NOFA states that up to 2 points will be awarded to applicants that demonstrate their communities have implemented specific strategies that prevent criminalization of homelessness, affirm further fair housing, and ensure that outreach is conducted to homeless individuals and families who are least likely to request housing or services in the absence of special outreach.

This is especially critical given the recent Department of Justice [DOJ] statement of interest in the Bell v Boise, et.al. case where DOJ argued that for communities that lack housing alternatives of for homeless people, anti-camping ordinances violate the US Constitutions 8th Amendment as “cruel and unusual punishment” and as “misguided public policy.”

“It is a new day for protecting the civil rights of homeless people. Lets hope that this is a wake up call for communities to now focus on creating affordable housing that will end and prevent homelessness,” states John Parvensky, Board Chair, NCH and CEO of the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless.

NCH is an advocacy organization focused on organizing and giving a voice to those who have experienced homelessness. NCH’s mission is to prevent and end homelessness while ensuring the immediate needs of those experiencing homelessness are met and their civil rights protected.

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