During Pope Francis’ visit to the United States, he used his public platform to draw attention to the marginalized in our society. That included people experiencing homelessness.
After his historic Congressional address, Pope Francis left the Capitol to have lunch with 300 low income and homeless people at St. Patrick’s Church in Washington, DC. There he remarked, “Let me be clear. There is no social or moral justification, no justification whatsoever, for lack of housing.”
Suddenly it’s everywhere: Congressional hearings, daily news stories, a pledge from hundreds of mayors. Community leaders and federal officials are talking about ending homelessness for veterans – not as some vague aspiration for the distant future, but by the end of this year, just a few months from now!
What’s going on?
Now that Congress has returned from August recess, the Alliance and our partners are gearing up for a big advocacy push with National Call-In Days. This week, we’re pushing for advocates to urge their members of Congress to prioritize funding for programs that will end homelessness.
On Tuesday, Sept. 15, and Wednesday, Sept. 16, participating advocates from across the country will call their members of Congress to deliver a unified message: raise federal sequester spending caps and fully fund affordable housing and homelessness assistance programs in FY 2016. The Alliance is coordinating these call-in days with Caps Hurt Communities, an advocacy campaign committed to ending the federal sequester spending caps.
Now that we’re approaching the end of the Federal Fiscal Year (it ends on September 30), you may be wondering where spending levels for homeless programs stand. Under normal circumstances, the full Senate and House of Representatives would have passed spending bills by now and they would be working to reconcile them. Circumstance have changed.
Do we have cause for hope or alarm? Well, yes and yes. This phase of the appropriations process has in recent years become so contentious and fraught that it has resulted in government shutdowns and a budgetary compromise (sequestration) that everyone agrees was a bad idea to begin with. So it should come as no surprise that the appropriations process for FY 2016 is, for the time being, stalled.
This July, more than 275 advocates swarmed Capitol Hill during the Alliance’s Capitol Hill Day event to tell Congress about the excellent work federally funded homeless assistance programs are doing in their communities and how Congress can better support them.
Congress is now on recess, so the place for advocates to find members is no longer the Hill; it’s their home states and districts. If you participated in Capitol Hill Day, it’s time to extend the conversation with your member of Congress and show them your program. If you missed out, it’s time to build a relationship.