The midterms are over, bringing us back to “divided government” where neither party has full control of the House, Senate and White House. I have some actionable thoughts about how it will affect our work with Congress to end homelessness.
We have to get to know lots of new members. There will be an unusually high number of new Members of Congress in January. All of them need to learn about homelessness. Every member of Congress — no matter their party affiliation — wants to be associated with good things going on in the communities they represent, and what we’re doing about homelessness is definitely a good thing. They have an opportunity to help us, so if you have a new representative or senator, make a plan to get access and ask for that help. We can help you make that happen, so contact the Alliance’s National Field Organizer, Rashida Latef at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For good or ill, it will be harder to get things done. Over the past two years we’ve had to put a lot of effort into stopping things like Medicaid cuts and additional work-requirement bureaucracy. These sorts of proposals would be harmful to all low-income Americans and particularly to people facing homelessness. Under the new Congress, these kinds of proposals should have no route out of the House of Representatives. But only if we continue to educate members of Congress about their harmful impacts.
Things that have bipartisan support might be easier. Members of Congress and the administration want to get things done. However, in a divided government, there’s no chance of pushing things through on a party-line vote. That means measures that can get bipartisan support rise to the top of everyone’s agenda. We must take advantage of this to elevate legislation to build and improve local homeless response systems. As we work on larger housing issues through Opportunity Starts at Home and otherwise, it will be a challenge to bring the same bipartisan approach to bigger and more expensive initiatives.
And one more thing:
This post has all been about the new Congress that takes over beginning January 3, 2019. But the current Congress still has work to do!
By the end of the year, Congress needs to finish a spending bill for HUD, including solid funding for homeless and low-income housing programs. We’re planning a major advocacy push the week after Thanksgiving, when they’ll be back for their “lame duck sessions.”
Please stay tuned for how you can participate in this very important effort!