This is a dangerous time. People who are experiencing homelessness, or who have worked in the field, knew as soon as the news came out: homeless people would be especially susceptible to becoming sick, and to experiencing the virus’s worst results. News reports and word of mouth have confirmed this is exactly what’s happening.
There is a community of Americans who care deeply about homelessness, and the response to the pandemic so far has made me immensely proud of this community. All over the country, people are courageously doing the hard work to figure out what’s needed to keep homeless people safe, to make it possible to move into housing. Leaders are stepping up, including a lot of people who didn’t know they were leaders. People are using know-how that’s been painstakingly developed over many years, mixing tried and true techniques with innovation.
And people understand that it’s not just leadership and know-how that makes things happen. There’s a third resource, and nothing gets done without it: money. Advocates have taken that understanding, and acted on it, with great impact. Now it’s time to take that impact to the next level.
Bringing the Field’s Needs to Congress
People working on homelessness have attained a reputation in Congress as a group that can do a lot with a little. So when we tell them there’s a need for more, they listen. That happened with the CARES Act, signed by the President at the end of March, including $4 billion in ESG funding to address homelessness.
It happened to an amazing and unprecedented extent more recently, in the version of the HEROES Act passed by the House of Representatives on May 15: including $11.5 billion specifically to protect and rehouse people who are already homeless, and $100 billion for temporary rental assistance. These funds are enough to provide rapid re-housing for everyone who needs it, and to talk seriously about comprehensive work to prevent large numbers of vulnerable people from becoming homeless.
These developments put us in a place where we have an opportunity to truly prevent increases in homelessness, and protect people who are already homeless, now and for the immediate future. The people who are living with homelessness deserve that kind of help, and the people working in the field deserve that kind of support from the people who represent you.
This will not happen without sustained activism. We’re all going to need to tell elected officials, repeatedly and in many forums, what we need them to do. The time frame is uncertain, but one thing is certain:
It starts now.
What Congress Needs to Know
The first goal is to convince the Senate to put a serious proposal on the table. There are a lot of different reports in the news, but we believe that the Senate will in fact want to have another stimulus bill. Whether funding for homelessness and housing is part of that, and to what extent, will depend on what the Senators hear from their states.
Once the Senate starts moving, a negotiation process will take place. The final result will depend on how much each Member prioritizes these issues.
The House bill, included most of this essential spending items that the Alliance and its partners requested, although did not include the number of permanent rental vouchers we believe is necessary.
The single most important request we have – the one that will be the most immediately helpful for people experiencing homelessness – is a request for an additional $11.5 billion for homeless assistance through the Emergency Solutions Grants program.
Attaining Support from Congress
We know how hard everyone in this field is working, and how important that work is. We also know that there is an opportunity right now that no one will want to waste. In a contested election year, people in Congress will want to be responsive The Alliance has digital tools to make it easy and effective to take action for those ready to take it to the next level, by working with our staff people to build productive relationships with these Congressional offices.
The first thing is to please contact your two Senators through the platform. Get everyone you know to do the same. Then sign up for Alliance advocacy alerts to keep up with things as they unfold on the Hill. And contact Jerry Jones, our National Field Director, about taking up the next level of engagement, by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
People are in danger. You can make your people in Congress into allies in keeping them safe. Please join us.