This week, the Alliance hosted a Congressional briefing to highlight the incredible progress towards ending homelessness across the country. House and Senate staffers heard from Alliance partners about their successes to date, and their needs to keep the progress moving forward. Now Congress needs to hear your voice too, especially as the Senate is once again considering healthcare legislation that could hinder your community’s efforts to end homelessness.
Here’s what they learned:
- The problem is significant, but we are still making progress. The homeless services system has continued to reduce homelessness over the last decade. However, the U.S. is short more than 7 million units of affordable housing, and more than 70 percent of low income people pay too much for housing. Without adequate funding, this gap will continue to strain the homeless services system.
- The system is effective, efficient, and innovative. Communities are using data to identify their most vulnerable populations or the areas where their homeless services systems are the most taxed. With this knowledge, they’re developing innovations that often bubble up to the federal level, and are scaled up across the country.
- Federal leadership and resources make progress possible. With grants and guidance from HUD, HHS, and others, Continuums of Care (CoCs) tailor their approach to the needs of their local area.
- Private/public partnerships are essential. Communities are stretching funding in creative and efficient ways. CoCs leverage federal, state, and local funding with philanthropic dollars to maximize impact. Private philanthropy often acts as the convener or catalyst for a systemic approach that brings together all stakeholders to achieve a common goal.
- Mainstream systems play an important role. The homeless system is a crisis system. It can’t solve all of the problems faced by people who experience homelessness. Schools, health care providers, workforce boards, and child welfare systems – and others — must come to the table.
How can you help?
As we head into Fall, Congress is working on items that have a huge impact on your work. To make ending homelessness a priority in Congress, your Senators and Representatives need to hear from you. We need your help with the following:
- First and foremost: Medicaid funding is in jeopardy (again). The Senate is making its final push to repeal the Affordable Care Act. This latest proposal, currently referred to by its original co-sponsors’ names – Graham-Cassidy – makes huge cuts to Medicaid and fundamentally restructures the program. Medicaid is essential in the fight to end homelessness. It enables homeless people to treat physical and mental health needs, and provides services for people in permanent supportive housing. Medicaid coverage also prevents people in poverty from experiencing acute medical or financial crises which may lead to homelessness. Contact your Senators and tell them to:
- Vote NO on any healthcare bill that cuts, caps, or block grants Medicaid, or phases out the Medicaid expansion in any way.
- Commit to protecting coverage guarantees and service affordability for people escaping homelessness, including services for people with severe physical or mental health conditions, and those recovering from substance abuse disorders.
- On the horizon: we need to raise spending caps. The Budget Control Act from 2011 set spending caps, referred to as “sequestration” caps, for a range of federal programs. For the last four years the caps have been raised, two years at a time, by bipartisan, short-term budget deals. The last short-term deal has expired, leaving the Appropriations Committee with less money than last year for non-defense agencies. In a context of rapidly increasing costs in a number of areas, including rising rents for HUD’s rental assistance programs, these cuts represent an even steeper budget shortfall. Tell your Representatives it’s time to raise the caps.
- McKinney-Vento and other homeless services programs need full funding. The Alliance is asking for $2.6 billion in funding for McKinney-Vento in FY 2018. See the attached chart for other programs we think are important, and the relevant asks for each account.