After many delays and false starts, Congress is entering the final stage in its work to enact government spending levels for Fiscal Year 2018. This will be the climax of an amazing effort by advocates all over the country, to secure appropriate funding to help get homeless people into housing.
I want to thank everyone who’s advocated for better funding throughout last year and into this. The Congressional offices we visit have a good understanding of how homelessness affects their communities, what constituents are doing about it, and how federal funding is making a difference. This is because people working on homelessness have made hundreds of calls, sent thousands of emails, and met in person to build relationships with Representatives and Senators and their staffs.
How exactly the process will play out is unclear. The government may shut down — there seems to be a certain number of people who believe that this is an effective negotiating tactic. Historically, a government shutdown leads to a quick resolution.
More concerning, though, is the possibility of a “full-year continuing resolution.” This would be a final spending bill modeled heavily on the previous year’s bill. It would include no increases beyond what is necessary to maintain existing program capacity. For homeless programs, of course, existing capacity still leaves thousands of people homeless. It will deprive us of what’s needed to help increasing numbers of people who are losing their housing.
The Time is Now
The next week is critical. That’s the timeframe for decisions on raising overall caps on spending. During those discussions, it is important that homelessness is at the top of decision makers’ minds. For that to happen, your leaders need to know that homelessness programs are working in their communities, and that increased resources need to be part of the final budget deal. We will then need to keep a steady drumbeat of advocacy going, until final, detailed spending bills are enacted, probably in February.
Many people reading this have already done a lot of advocacy on this topic. It’s already had an important impact. It’s time to finish that job, with a strong push beginning now until there is an agreement on spending caps, and then until Congress passes a final appropriations bill.
We’ll help in every way we know how. If you haven’t already, make sure you are signed up for our Advocacy Alerts so you can receive the most up-to-date tools and resources for contacting people in Congress, with messages that we know will work. If there are other things we could be doing that would help fire up your community for this work, please don’t hesitate to let us know.
Meanwhile, please keep spreading the word to everyone in your community.