Real estate so often focuses on home ownership and the sector of the population that can afford to own a home. It is important that we also open up our eyes and acknowledge the homeless that live in our community, our country. President Obama's Administration has recently renewed support of local homeless housing and service programs. What homeless programs exist in your community and how can you get involved?
U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan recently announced nearly $1.6 billion in grants to renew support for 7,100 local homeless housing and service programs across the U.S., Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Provided through HUD's Continuum of Care Program, the funding will ensure these local projects remain operating in the coming year, providing needed housing and support services to those persons and families experiencing homelessness.
These grants support a variety of programs, including street outreach, client assessment, and direct housing assistance to individuals and families with children who are experiencing homelessness. HUD will award additional grant funding to support hundreds of other local programs in the coming weeks.
"Whether it's helping to rapidly re-house families with young children or finding a permanent home for an individual with serious health conditions, HUD is working with our local partners to end homelessness as we know it," says Donovan. "Over the last few years we have changed the trajectory of homelessness in America, but we need bipartisan support from Congress to fully fund proven strategies that have created this downward trend. The evidence is clear that the cost of doing nothing far exceeds the cost of finding real housing solutions for those who might otherwise be living on our streets."
"In the face of budget cuts from sequestration, Continuum of Care and grantees were forced to make difficult choices and do as much as possible to advance their local efforts to end homelessness with fewer resources," says Laura Zeilinger, executive director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness. "Communities are making the smart choice, investing HUD funds in evidence-based, cost-effective programs. Now we need help from Congress to fully fund these programs and provide communities with exactly what they need to reach the goals of Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness."
HUD funding will allow local providers to continue offering permanent and transitional housing to homeless persons as well as services including job training, health care, mental health counseling, substance abuse treatment and child care. HUD is continuing to challenge local communities to reexamine their response to homelessness and give greater weight to proven strategies, from promoting "Housing First" to providing 'rapid re-housing' for homeless families with children and permanent supportive housing for those experiencing chronic homelessness.
Continuum of Care grants are awarded competitively to local projects to meet the needs of individuals and families experiencing homelessness in their community. The grants fund a wide variety of programs from street outreach and assessment to transitional and permanent housing for homeless persons and families. HUD funds are a critical part of the Obama Administration's strategic plan to prevent and end homelessness
In 2010, President Obama and 19 federal agencies and offices that form the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) launched the nation's first comprehensive strategy to prevent and end homelessness. Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness puts the country on a path to end veterans and chronic homelessness as well as to end homelessness among children, family, and youth. The Fiscal Year 2013 grants awarded today were reduced in part due to last year's automatic across-the-board budget cuts under sequestration.
Donovan says, "Like last year's sequestration, any reduction to HUD's homeless assistance programs has a negative impact on local communities' ability to reduce the number of persons living in our shelters and on our streets. It is my hope that Congress will consider the President's 2015 budget request to fully fund these local programs so we can meet our nation's goals of ending homelessness as we know it."
The President's 2015 Budget seeks $2.4 billion for Homeless Assistance Grants, $480 million above the 2012 enacted level. This level of funding maintains the approximately 224,000 HUD-funded beds that assist the homeless nationwide and expands rapid re-housing and permanent supportive housing.
HUD recently announced its 2013 estimate of the number of homeless persons in America. Approximately 3,000 cities and counties reported 610,000 homeless persons on a single night in January of 2013, down 6.1 percent since 2010. During the same time, HUD found significant declines among the long-term or chronic homeless population (15.7 percent) and veterans experiencing homelessness (24.2 percent).
For more information, visit www.hud.gov.
Resources for Vermonters:
COTS - http://cotsonline.org