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Posts Tagged ‘HUD’

Homelessness is No Longer an Emergency: Commentary on the release of the 2020 Annual Homeless Assessment Report

Written by Brian Davis on . Posted in Blog

There was a time in US history, around 35 years ago, that homelessness was an emergency. There were a few long term homeless people who were well known around town (Otis from Andy Griffith Show), but the majority of the population were unfamiliar with the concept of homelessness and when it occurred, religious groups, neighbors and sometimes government would quickly respond. If a family with children were to show up without a place to live, the community would not rest until that family was in a safe space.

We started opening church basements, then government office buildings at night when they were not used, and eventually gymnasiums, but all under the banner of a temporary space while this emergency is dealt with in the United States.  We, the people, all recognized housing was the best for everyone concerned and the leadership of the dominant religions, community groups and local government all had a common set of beliefs that housing was a critical need for a functioning society. This is all to say that the Department of Housing and Urban Development released their 2020 Annual Homeless Assessment Report Part 1 on March 18, 2021, which is the exact opposite of homelessness as an emergency. 

This is not a criticism of HUD.  They stepped up when no other federal agency was willing to take on the challenges of addressing homelessness in America.  The staff at HUD have saved millions of Americans from hypothermia, exploitation, and death with the housing and services they have funded.  Everyone who has ever worked at HUD should be proud of the amazing things accomplished with so little.  They have had to deal with every hole in the US social safety net while attempting to manage the complex world of financing affordable housing. When AIDS was ravishing our community, HUD stepped up with housing opportunities.  When Veterans were not being served well by the Department of Veteran’s Affairs, HUD stepped up with services and housing.  When the opioid crisis was killing Americans at an alarming rate, HUD was there with permanent supportive housing.  

But the reality is that they have institutionalized homelessness as an industry to manage poor people, and unfortunately most of those individuals and family members come from a minority population.  It is now studied, counted, tested, screened, assessed, observed but never solved.  How is it useful to report on the number of homeless people in January of 2020 before a pandemic hit the country if we considered homelessness an emergency?  Sure, if this was an after action report a year and a half after Katrina to tell the American public what went wrong and what we can do better next time, then this would be a useful piece of information.  The 580,466 people identified by HUD in January 2020 who were homeless on that one day may still be homeless today.  They are still living through the nightmare of waking up in the morning not knowing where they will lay their head tonight.  We are still living through this crisis as a nation 35 years on, and we should not be spending our time counting people when so many are sleeping in tents in the richest country on the planet.  

When Hurricane Laura hit Cameron Louisiana in August 2020, FEMA did not send volunteers out to count the number of people who lost their housing and then work on a report for the next 14 months on the demographics of those who lost their housing.  That would be unthinkable and useless information to have.  Presumably by the 14 month mark, all of those people would have settled their insurance claims and would be well on their way to returning to normal.  To the person facing eviction, they feel like a hurricane just hit their life and they want government and community groups to respond with highest degree of urgency.  It is so frustrating and upsetting to see resources spent on an annual assessment, a central intake, a survey to assess the best service for your needs, and a shelter being built to house 400 people a night when the mom is just looking for a safe secure quiet place to rock her child to sleep.  The fact that every city in America now has an Office or Department of Homeless Services and few have a Department of Housing Placement or an Office of Job Referral is the clearest sign that we have made the crisis into a way of life.  

The National Coalition for the Homeless appreciates that HUD recognizes how racist the system has become in saying, “people of color are significantly over-represented among people experiencing homelessness.” That is not really news that needed a study.  Just because members of Congress don’t believe that homelessness is real or that racism exists, we should not have to spend millions on reports for them.  They will continue to stick their head in the sand no matter if there is a report from HUD or just the word of advocates who testify before them.  We could have told you that more people were homeless in January 2020 just based on the increase in requests for food, the kids who reported being homeless in schools across the United States and the call volume to the 211 system.  We really did not need a report to say that American is failing to deliver a basic human right: housing.  The report is deeply flawed in its methodology and we have written about that in the past, but the conclusions are important. Things were bad in January of 2020 and they only got worse during the pandemic.  Now what are we going to do about it?  

NCH applauds appointment of HUD and HHS Secretaries

Written by Brian Davis on . Posted in Blog

The National Coalition for the Homeless congratulates Marcia Fudge on her appointment as the 18th Secretary of the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and Xavier Becerra on his appointment as Secretary of the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)! See below for more about Secretaries Fudge and Becerra.

Marcia Fudge is as tough as her hometown of Cleveland

If you live in Cleveland for any length of time, you have to develop a thick skin to be successful.  It is tough union town with snow in May, people have no problem telling you how bad you are doing your job and the city has been in the top five poorest communities in the United States for the past two decades.  Marcia Fudge, the new Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio serving as the former mayor of one of the surrounding suburbs and Cleveland’s Congresswoman.  

Marcia Fudge started out her political career as mayor of Warrensville Heights, Ohio, which is best known as the cut through to somewhere else. This small suburb of Cleveland features 90% African American residents and is only 4 square miles.  This experience gave her a great background to chair the Congressional Black Caucus during her years as a Representative for the East Side of Cleveland.  Fudge is especially sensitive to the disparity that exists in the United States for minority populations with development and investments going to predominately white suburbs of Cleveland with majority minority suburbs left behind. 

She was often unopposed in her election to 11th Congressional district in Ohio after the sudden death of her friend Stephanie Tubbs Jones.  This seat is historic in Ohio going back to the first African American nominated to Congress from Ohio, Louis Stokes who served for 30 years.  The seat was gerrymandered to include African Americans in Akron by the racist Ohio legislature in 2012.  This was to limit African American representation in Congress from Ohio to just 2 out of 16 total seats, and so Fudge understands institutional racism.  This will prepare her to rebuild her new agency and its commitment to fair housing after a rough couple of years in which the previous administration focused more on the failings of individuals instead of the systems built to keep people living in poverty.  

Thought during her tenure in Congress, Fudge did not take the lead in supporting people experiencing homelessness, she could be counted on to speak up when seniors or veterans were involved.  These two populations are the third rail of Ohio politics and will get a response if there is a scandal or potential problem with federal funding or bureaucratic entanglement.  When there was a threat to a senior housing property her office was involved, and she was supportive of expanding affordable housing locally.  

Locally, Fudge has been a champion of expanded food stamp benefits, education and voting rights. She was a person who showed up and put in the work everyday to put forward ideas of racial equity and access for low income and minority members of her constituency.  She was not brash about wielding her power, but behind the scenes there was no doubt who was the Mayor of Northeast Ohio.

Fudge will be a huge champion for fair housing and should be good at expanding opportunities for affordable housing in the United States.  She will not criticize people who need help or struggle with housing like some of her predecessors at HUD.  Fudge will be a lot more open to innovative programs and working toward solutions.  She will work for equity in the distribution of resources and access to essential services.  Don’t let her quiet and reserved demeanor fool you. Marcia Fudge is as tough as turning one of those giant container ships down the winding Cuyahoga River of Cleveland. 


Xavier Becerra Takes on the Biggest Health Challenges in the History of the US

Congratulations to the new Secretary of Health and Human Services, Xavier Becerra! Becerra is facing the biggest health challenges to ever face the US and probably a more difficult job than every single one of his predecessors combined. While HUD receives all the attention in the federal response to homelessness because of the obvious link to housing, HHS has more of an impact on the daily lives of homeless people. The first priority for Secretary Becerra is to oversee the huge outlay of funds in the American Rescue Act and ushering the United States through the final push to defeat Covid19.  The HHS Secretary has a huge amount to administer under the American Rescue Plan including:

  • Covid 19 vaccinations for those covered by Medicaid and those uninsured.
  • A re-opening of the Obamacare marketplace with expanded eligibility
  • An expanded role for the CDC in planning, promoting and tracking vaccine distribution.
  • $7.7 billion for state, local and territorial health departments to establish public health workforce
  • An expansion of funds for alcohol and drug treatment and community mental health services to the local community.
  • Additional funds to prevent overdoses, syringe services, and other harm reduction programs. 

Becerra is a previous member of the US House of Representatives from the heart of Los Angeles. He spent the last four years regularly challenging the Trump administration as Attorney General for the State of California.  He has the challenge of getting 200 million Americans vaccinated so that we can reach herd immunity and finally be able to gather without masks for Thanksgiving. Then after the pandemic, he still has to lead the second largest of the federal bureaucracies behind the Defense Department.  He will need to restore faith in the Center for Disease Control and return science based research and guidance to many of the departments under his purview.  Becerra will have to reform the internal structure of the Department and take the muzzle off the HHS Inspector General.  The efforts to strip away regulations during the previous administration hit HHS especially hard and demoralized the workforce.  The National Coalition for the Homeless want to see HHS take a more prominent position within the federal government to eradicate homelessness in the United States. 

The National Coalition for the Homeless will urge the new Secretary to take a lead role in ending homelessness in America with a health care related “continuum of care” distributed to local communities targeting homeless people and programs for the 2022 federal budget. Imagine if a federal agency forced the local community to take responsibility for making homelessness a healthcare issue. Think of the resources saved if local communities were given an incentive to take responsibility for all those who lose their housing as a result of their mental health, addiction (including gambling) issues, or just general healthcare debts as well as chronic health conditions.  They could pay for these services with a tax on prescription drugs, alcohol, smoking, and the gambling industry.  If all those with a health related emergency were removed from the shelters and homeless services, we could actually see a light at the end of this long American nightmare of homelessness.  

NCH believes we need treatment on demand that goes beyond just AA and is forgiving of relapses.  We need a mental health system that takes responsibility for life long care in much the same way as the developmentally disabled community provide life long wrap around services.  The HHS Secretary needs to force a complete overhaul of the foster care system nationwide to eliminate the urge for the local community to remove (mostly minority children) because a mother is poor.  We need to push for guaranteed basic income to replace the broken welfare system including childcare, unemployment, and cash assistance. We need HHS to assure that no one loses their housing because of medical debts and that a doctor can prescribe housing as a solution for the guy at the emergency room with a chronic health condition.  NCH believes that psychiatrists and mental health professionals should be available to every single person who becomes homeless and that the industry should be required to volunteer their time in much the same way as attorneys represent indigent clients.  Finally, none of the health care facilities that receive even $1 of federal funds should ever discharge a person to the shelters or the streets. 

NCH applauds passage of the American Rescue Plan

Written by admin on . Posted in Blog

Congress has voted to enact the American Rescue Plan and President Biden signed it into law today! The legislation includes nearly $50 billion in essential housing and homelessness assistance, including over $27 billion for rental assistance and $5 billion in new funding for states and cities to provide housing stability for tens of thousands of people experiencing homelessness.

The $27 billion for rental assistance, combined with the $25 billion provided by Congress last year and a separate $5 billion for utilities in the American Rescue Plan, can eliminate the over $50 billion of rent and utility arrears that renters have accrued during the pandemic and will enable longer-term housing stability for some renters. This success would not have been possible without your incredible advocacy and the unwavering leadership of congressional champions!

The $1.9 trillion relief package provides broad based relief. This new law will: 

  • Extend enhanced unemployment benefits through the summer. 
  • Give millions of people a desperately needed cash infusion of $1,400. 
  • Expand the Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit to help low- and middle-income people. 
  • Fully fund vaccine distribution. 
  • Extend nutrition assistance for hungry children and families. 
  • Provide housing and utility assistance to keep people in their homes. 
  • And deliver aid to states, communities, tribes, and territories to cover safe education in the pandemic, maintain critical services and prevent job layoffs. 

This new law will cut childhood poverty in half. This new law will provide a critical lifeline for millions of people and families who have lost jobs and wages during the pandemic. And, it is vital to fully vaccinating the U.S. population. 

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