While homeless service providers may know the value of Housing First, Congressional lawmakers must also understand the critical role that Housing First plays in getting people experiencing homelessness back into housing. Communicating the importance of Housing First will be especially critical in the coming months: pending legislative threats may soon undermine federal investments in best practices.
The U.S. House of Representatives introduced legislation on May 17, 2023 to undermine Housing First. The Housing Promotes Livelihood and Ultimate Success (Housing PLUS) Act (H.R. 3405) is sponsored by Representative Andy Barr (R-KY-6), an influential lawmaker who sits on the House Committee on Financial Services. This committee has jurisdiction over the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and its housing and homelessness programs.
If enacted, the Housing PLUS Act would undermine federal investments in proven solutions to homelessness. Despite opposition to this bill, the Alliance and its partners remain committed to working with all Members of Congress to expand and strengthen real solutions to homelessness.
Protecting Approaches that Work
We must take this opportunity to educate and advocate about what we know works. Here is some information that you can use in your outreach and advocacy.
Find out if your Representative is a cosponsor of the Housing PLUS Act, which means they have formally associated their name with the legislation. Generally, the more cosponsors a bill has, the more support there is for that bill.
Whether or not your Representatives is already a cosponsor, it is urgent that you still reach out to their office.
- If lawmaker is already a sponsor, your outreach and advocacy could result in their decision to de-cosponsor the bill.
- If a lawmaker is on the fence, your outreach and advocacy could result in their decision to not cosponsor the bill.
- If a lawmaker is unsupportive of the bill, your outreach and advocacy could result in their being more proactive in fighting against this bill.
Be ready to argue against misinformation about Housing First.
Remind your Representative’s office of the successes on reducing veteran homelessness. This progress has been the direct result of much-admired programs that rely on a Housing First approach: HUD-VASH and Supportive Services for Veterans Families (SSVF).
What You Can Do Right Now
Now is the time to reach out to your Members of Congress and their staff know how helpful Housing First has been to your community. It’s important to communicate how Housing First has helped to get people off the streets, even people with the most acute needs, and into permanent housing; and how Housing First has allowed your community to avoid many costs of homelessness associated with emergency care, corrections, and law enforcement. There is no Senate version of the Housing PLUS Act yet, but the other side is trying very hard to recruit a Senate champion, so please educate your Senators about Housing First as well as your Representatives.
As the shortage of affordable housing continues to drive up homelessness, the last thing we should do is downgrade or eliminate Housing First, the most effective approach at getting people housed. Instead, we should be scaling up Housing First so that more people eligible for homeless services can also benefit from the housing and services of Housing First.
Homelessness may be increasingly politicized across the country, but together we can still remind Members of Congress that the Housing First approach is effectively serving communities across the nation.