Congress is on its long summer recess, a crucial period for educating them about homelessness. Before they left, they took an important step: Congress passed a budget deal that included raising the existing caps on overall nondefense spending. This means that they can go ahead and pass bills that set spending levels for specific programs as soon as they’re back in DC after Labor Day.
As usual, one of the Alliance’s priorities this year is increasing spending for HUD’s Homeless Assistance Grants account. Funding for this account has regularly received modest increases from Congress with bipartisan support. This no surprise, given many factors: homelessness is a problem everywhere, the homelessness programs are well regarded, and the people who work in these programs have made advocacy an important part of their work.
This year, homelessness is getting more attention, as so many communities face shortages of affordable housing and increases in homelessness. Because of this urgency, the Alliance is pushing for a larger funding increase than those received in the past several years. To achieve this, we will need help from everyone who believes that reducing homelessness is important, and that their communities’ strategies to ending homelessness can be effective.
The “ask” is straightforward: HUD’s Homeless Assistance programs need $3 billion for Fiscal Year 2020, an increase of $364 million over FY 2019. This amount would be enough to cover rent increases in existing permanent supportive housing, and allow communities to substantially expand the number of new opportunities for people who are homeless to get off the streets and into housing.
Each Member of Congress is important in the process of appropriating funds to federal agencies. They need to know the positive results that HUD homelessness programs have in their communities, and also the setbacks of the increasing homelessness rate. The information you have is valuable to these Members of Congress and their staff: people who work on homelessness every day are the experts.
Advocacy does not take one single shape or form. Use the Alliance’s online tools to send letters to your Representatives and Senators. Invite them or their staff to meet with you and/or visit your program. Get others in your community to do the same – including mayors, business leaders, health care providers, law enforcement, and others who have an interest in ending homelessness.
And please keep in touch! Our staff can provide answers to questions you might receive from a Member’s office, follow up with Members once they’re back in DC, and link people in your community with other national groups that are supportive.