Money is on the table for more housing. Will we seize the opportunity?

There is a genuine opportunity this year, starting right now, to get substantial new money from Congress for housing people who are homeless.

Something you can do right away is sign your organization on to the Alliance’s letter to appropriators supporting higher funding for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Homeless Assistance account and continued existence for the US Interagency Council on Homelessness.

The hard work is noticed

Last week we got two reminders of how hard the homeless services community is working to make good things happen with the money entrusted to it.

First was the amazing media coverage of homelessness in San Francisco as part of the SF Homeless Project. Repeatedly the coverage showed that Housing First programs are doing excellent work, but they do not have the resources to bring services scale. The attention culminated in a front-page editorial from the San Francisco Chronicle that summed it up: “No resident with a heart and love for this city should accept the status quo.”

Second was the notice of funding availability for the Continuum of Care, setting high standards for effectiveness among those who receive this funding. Watch my video to hear more about this year’s notice.

Both the media coverage and HUD notice remind us how effective the homeless services community is, and how hard they work to have a bigger impact.

Congress is close to getting service providers the money they need

Congress is partway through its process for setting spending levels for federal programs for fiscal year 2017, which starts October 1, 2016. For HUD programs, the Senate has passed its bill, and the Appropriations Committee of the House has passed its bill. While the details of the rest of the process are uncertain, Appropriations leaders from House and Senate will eventually negotiate a final version. That could happen in the next two weeks, or it could happen in the fall, or it could happen (after a temporary extension) after the election or after the new President takes office.

Whenever leaders negotiate a final version, it is important that they include at least the House bill’s proposed amount for Homeless Assistance. The House Appropriations committee included $2.487 billion for the Emergency Solutions Grants Program (ESG) and the Continuum of Care program, an increase of $237 million from the previous year’s amount. This would be the largest one-year increase in this account in the past 20 years. It’s there because the House appropriators are clear that when money goes to homelessness programs, good things happen.

Seize the opportunity to help house more people

Housing First means helping people pay rent, and that costs money. The House bill includes an amount that would allow tens of thousands more homeless people to be housed than the year before. The fact that the House of Representatives, whose current leadership is notoriously skeptical of federal spending, is willing to put this proposal on the table is an opportunity that we have to seize.

Get your organization signed on. After that, if you’re coming to our conference in three weeks, be sure to take part in Capitol Hill Day to meet with staffers for you Congressional delegation. Then, plan to invite your Senators and House Member to visit your program over the summer and learn how important this funding is.

Stay in touch with the Alliance as we follow a plan for as long as Congress takes to get this bill done. The people who actually do the work around the country can have a big impact on this. It’s something that people experiencing homelessness need us to do.