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Posts Tagged ‘Policy Advocacy’

Position Statement on Sanctioned Encampments

Written by admin on . Posted in Blog

There are cities throughout the United States moving displaced citizens onto public land typically in tents calling these locations “sanctioned encampments.” It is the position of the National Coalition for the Homeless that housing is a human right which is defined as a safe, affordable, accessible place to call a home. The issue is that by identifying a “sanctioned encampment” cities by default are declaring that there are “unsanctioned” encampments.  NCH does not believe that people who are experiencing a period of homelessness should become involved with law enforcement while trying to survive. 

Photo credit: Justin Sullivan
  • It should go without saying, but in the current divided society with words being distorted to become propaganda for those who want to make it illegal to be without housing, we must say that a tent is not a permanent solution to homelessness.  Secure, safe, accessible and affordable housing should be available to every family or single individual who requests a place to live. 
  • In a free society, a person should be able to congregate with others and peacefully assemble in groups of their choosing not forced to live where the municipal government decides with neighbors of their choosing.
  • No one should be forced by any authority or coerced to choose between a place with large numbers packed together or face criminalization for being homeless and living without shelter. Whether this is forcing someone into a congregate living facility that strips a person of their dignity or sending them to a government sanctioned site to pitch a tent, people living in the United States have always cherished the free will to not be told what neighborhood or municipality to reside in by government or government funded organizations.
  • Persons who refuse forced entry into any facility must not be categorized as “service resistant” and thereby face incarceration or exclusion from services. They should receive trauma informed care by trained professionals and be met with services they request not services forced on them. 
  • In the current environment in which municipal governments have largely given up on affordable housing solutions to homelessness and instead resorted to using law enforcement as the primary point of contact for those without housing, we see a broader trend in which the mere offer of any kind of assistance or social service is enough for local governments and law enforcement to justify penalty, arrest or a threat to withdraw a person’s liberty for those who reject the help.  We believe that sanctioned encampments will be used as permanent placements for local jurisdictions to avoid providing safe, affordable, accessible and permanent housing.
  • Sanctioned encampments are an inexpensive alternative to building housing or shelters that serve the needs of those individuals and families who are experiencing homelessness. 
  • Local governments should not act as nannies for adults and force them to a segregated section of town to live under a set of rules developed by strangers under threat of arrest if the taxpayer strays from the sanctioned encampment.  

At least 2020 ends with a budget deal and pandemic relief

Written by admin on . Posted in Blog

This year has been filled with unpredictability and turmoil. Our way of life has been negatively impacted. We have been forced to distance ourselves from those we love, our co-workers, and our traditions. 

COVID-19 has been incredibly challenging for people experiencing homelessness. Economists estimate that homelessness could increase by up to 32% as a result of COVID-19 related issues.  

With your help, we have been pushing Congress to include both short and long-term housing and other economic relief for everyday people. We are encouraged by the relief package and omnibus budget signed into law by the President this week.

This new $900 Billion COVID-19 relief plan includes:

  • $25 billion for rental assistance (click here see how much your state will receive)
  • Extends the  federal eviction moratorium for 1 month and use of CARES funding set to expire on 12/30/20 to 12/31/21.
  • $13 billion for enhanced Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits.
  • Provides direct payments of  at least $600 to adults and $600 per child. Families with incomes under $75,000/year. (Two parent household up to $150,000)
  • $284 billion for Paycheck Protection Program /small business loans. 
  • $20 billion for small business grants and $15 billion for live event venues.
  • $300 billion for federal unemployment supplement and temporarily keep in place pandemic-era programs that expanded unemployment insurance eligibility, this will allow 12 million people to remain on  unemployment insurance and enhance the 11 weeks of benefits by $300/week.
  • $20  billion for purchase of  vaccines, $8 billion for disbursement of vaccines and also provides relief to hospitals.
  • $82 billion for schools and colleges.
  • $10 Billion Child Care Assistance

The omnibus Fiscal Year 2021 budget passed includes:

  • A permanent, minimum 4% Low-Income Housing Tax Credit rate, as well as disaster housing credits for qualified states, which could result in the addition of more than 130,000 units of affordable housing;
  • A five-year extension of the New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) at $5 billion for a total of $25 billion in new NMTC authority;
  • $4.839 billion for the Public Housing Operating Fund;
  • $3 billion for Homeless Assistance Grants; and
  • $2.765 billion for the Public Housing Capital Fund.
  • The 2020 CoC NOFA is postponed and current programs will be re-funded for one year (which we have pushed for since early in the pandemic!)

We still need more, both short and long term housing and other supports for everyday folks who have been impacted most by the pandemic and resulting economic downturn. We look forward to the new Congress and Administration focusing more on these issues as we move into a new decade!

How can the Federal government plan to End Homelessness?

Written by admin on . Posted in Blog

The U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness announced in June that it would be working to update the coordinated Federal plan to end homelessness. Comments were solicited via the USICH website, though now, all mention of this comment process have been removed.

Below are the concerns and comments that the National Coalition for the Homeless shared:

NCH Comments on the Federal Strategic Plan to End Homelessness
Submitted to the US Interagency Council on Homelessness July 2020

Thank you for your efforts to revise the Federal Strategic Plan to End Homelessness, and to gather comments from stakeholders. However, the National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH) is concerned that the US Interagency Council on Homelessness is not soliciting input from a broad enough audience, nor in a transparent process that includes people who have experienced homelessness as key drafters. 

After nearly four decades of advocacy on behalf of those experiencing homelessness, NCH believes that any further Federal Strategic Plans to End Homelessness must be made in direct partnership with people who lived the experience of homelessness. The true experts, people with this “lived experience” of homelessness know first hand the effects of Federal policy and as such, can hone in on what changes can be made to achieve the goal of ending mass homelessness in the United States. 

Further, any Federal Strategic Plan to End Homelessness must:

  1. Have clear and quantifiable goals, objectives and action steps. The plan should include a timeline, parties responsible for implementation, and a description of funding needs and sources. 
  2. State that housing is a civil and human right, as a safe, stable home is the foundation for human development, student achievement, economic survival and community health. 
  3. Identify the systemic causes of homelessness, including structural racism, redlining, and other disinvestment in black and brown communities. The plan and its objectives should be written with a clear equity lens. 
  4. Affirm that any efforts to criminalize people, or the daily survival acts of people, who live outdoors – things like urban camping bans, food sharing restrictions, and limits on when and where people can sit or lie down – are counter-productive, cause trauma, and should be halted or reversed in city code.

If you were to propose one new initiative that the federal government is not doing now what would it be?

  • Fund Permanent Supportive Housing from the Housing Choice/Section 8 Program (with program changes that provide flexibility for criminal/credit/tenant issues)   
  • Do not dismantle COVID-19  response networks, maintain the CDC guidelines for encampments including access to sanitation and water  
  • Decisions and priorities on use of funds should be locally driven not HUD driven 
  • Return to funding transitional housing, both in scattered sites and through rental assistance 

Outside of prior USICH federal strategic plan focuses, what else might the federal government do to prevent and/or reduce homelessness?

  • Increase workforce development programs that train people experiencing homelessness as Peer Advocates to supplement the current homeless provider workforce. 
  • Listen to people who have/are experiencing homelessness and include at decision making tables on types of programs that work. 
  • Equity in funds – ensure tax credits, bonding, appropriations, etc. reserve funding for people at risk of or experiencing homelessness and rental housing at below 30% of median income
  • Strengthen the interagency coordination of resources for livable incomes and employment (both FT and part time/contracted/gig/piece work and migrant/day labor) and public assistance including unemployment, SSI and Social Security.  
  • Universal Health Care/Immediate and voluntary access to medical services for all individuals, youth, families experiencing or at imminent risk of homelessness.
  • A guaranteed opportunity for permanent housing that is affordable at their income for all individuals, youth, families experiencing or at imminent risk of homelessness.

What is one activity the federal government is doing that you believe should be deprioritized?

  • Coordinated entry – Implementation is inconsistent and costing millions in HUD TA, and systems often lead to discriminatory and unethical service delivery
  • Point in Time count – It is archaic and an inaccurate system- does not count people in programs where most of the homeless funding is going to: permanent supportive housing and rapid re-housing
  • HMIS –violates Data Privacy, HIPPA laws
  • HUD controlled process of how funds should be used by communities
  • HUD’s homeless definition -utilize one homeless definition (the Department of Education’s definition or similar) across all agencies.

What is one activity that the federal government is doing well and that should be prioritized? 

  • The Youth Advisory Boards Model should be implemented in the Adult population. People who have/are experiencing homelessness need to be voting decision making members of the Federal and all State Interagency Councils and at CoC level and funded agencies.
  • The Veteran model that includes dedicated vouchers (VASH), Transitional Housing, workforce development (HVRP, CWF), Healthcare to scale and prevention (SSVF) should be mirrored that can be accomplished with substantial increases for targeted homeless programs through HHS and DOL.

Overall, what would you say the top 3 federal priorities should be as they relate to preventing and ending homelessness?

  • Listen to people who have/are experiencing homelessness. Decisions and priorities on use of funds should be locally driven with people who have/are experiencing homelessness not HUD driven. 
  • HUD programmatic changes: Funding Permanent Supportive Housing from the Housing Choice/Section 8 Program (with program changes that provide flexibility for criminal/credit/tenant issues), Rapid Re-Housing must include a livable income component to be able to pay rent after subsidy ends (employment and /or public assistance access/ housing assistance)
  • Creating a Unified definition of homelessness across federal agencies and Immediate and voluntary  access to emergency housing/shelter for all individuals, youth, families experiencing or at imminent risk of homelessness.

In terms of homelessness, what areas are in need of greater attention at the federal, state, and local levels?

  • Affirm the Right to Housing and protection of the civil rights of people experiencing homelessness. 
  • Listen to people who have/are experiencing homelessness and include at decision making tables on types of programs that work. 
  • Fund Expanding Affordable Housing Stock to Pre-1970 Levels.
  • Expand and fund the use of innovative housing approaches: Tiny Homes, Shared Housing, Small Market FMR’s, Community Choice in Service Delivery, homeownership, scattered site/rent subsidy transitional housing
  • Expand homeless prevention to include eviction protection, a right to counsel, and cash assistance 
  • Universal Health Care
  • Expand fair housing protections to prevent rental redlining and source of income discrimination.
  • Coordination and placement into housing opportunities that are affordable for people being discharged from correctional/ mental health/chemical health/physical health/etc. institutions.

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