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Tag: homelessness

HUD Faces Major Cuts Under Proposed 2018 Budget

On March 8, The Washington Post reported on considered budget cuts to HUD, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, within the yet to be released 2018 presidential budget proposal. As the Post shared, the Trump administration was in the process of considering “more than $6 billion in cuts” to HUD “according to preliminary budget documents obtained by the [Post]” (Jose A. DelReal, The Washington Post).

Ben Carson, the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under President Trump. CC Image courtesy of Gage Skidmore on Flickr.

Sourced from said documents, “HUD’s budget would shrink by about 14 percent to $40.5 billion in fiscal 2018” year (Jose A. DelReal, The Washington Post). Although the preliminary plans maintain the “same level of funding to rental assistance programs and avoids reductions that could directly put families on the street,” many important portions and programs of the department could be squeezed or cut off completely. Primary losses will be seen within building maintenance, community development projects, and the department’s emergency discretionary funding.

Of primary concern, the proposed budget targets the public housing capital fund, cutting funding by $1.3 billion. As the Post describes, big ticket repairs within public housing facilities will essentially be put completely on hold, exacerbating the “tens of billions in backlogged repairs already [plaguing] the country’s 1.2 million public housing units.” Deteriorating conditions within public buildings will surely have a negative quality-of-life impact on families that rely on public housing.

Meanwhile, a complete removal of the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program is proposed. The CDBG, which has existed for over four decades and has for years has “enjoyed bipartisan support in Congress,” focuses on “[developing] viable urban and rural communities, expanding economic opportunities and improving quality of life, principally for persons of low- and moderate-income” (hud.gov). Providing grants to local governments, the program presents a wide framework in which local governments can easily adapt grant money for housing related community needs, so long as local projects fit within one of the CDBG’s three national objectives of:

  1. Providing benefit to low- and moderate-income persons
  2. Eliminating slums or blighting conditions
  3. Addressing urgent needs to community health and safety

These grants currently impact nearly 12 million Americans yearly. The reach of the program is astounding, each year benefiting 130,000 disabled peoples, 71,000 homeless shelter residents, and 400,000 senior citizens. The grants also provide for homeless, battered spouses, and AIDs patient services, impacting nearly 650,000 people in need in the 2016 fiscal year. In the past grant money has been used for long-term recovery projects in lower Manhattan following 9/11 and disaster relief for natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina (hud.gov).

Houses built in Mississippi following Hurricane Katrina.

Recent CDBG projects like the creation of a new bike trail in New Orleans, the construction of affordable housing units in Milwuakee, and other housing and community initiatives will end following the program’s complete loss of funds (Jose A. DelReal, The Washington Post).

Aside from the CDBG program, the HOME Investment Partnership Program, “which provides block grants for local communities to build affordable housing” and the Choice Neighborhoods program, aimed at investing and redeveloping low income communities, will be fully cut (Jose A. DelReal, The Washington Post).

Meanwhile, large reductions in funding will be seen elsewhere—housing voucher programs will be cut by “at least $300 million,” housing for the elderly will “be cut by $42 million,” and housing for those with disabilities by $29 million. For Native American communities, the Indian Community Development Block Grants (ICDBG) program will be cut by 20% (Jose A. DelReal, The Washington Post). This is a major setback for native populations, which witness a 25.9% poverty rate, an 8% overcrowding rate within households, and an average annual per capita income of only $16,716. These figures compare drastically to a national average of 13.4%, 3%, and $27,041, respectively (hud.gov). The reduction in funding to the ICDBG program will heighten already dire housing situations for these communities.

The president released his Budget Blueprint last past week, and it appears that much of the initial considered HUD budget cuts are maintained. Although it remains ambiguous as to whether the public housing capital and operating funds will sustain major cutbacks, given that they fail to be directly addressed in the president’s brief 1 page summary of HUD’s 2018 funding, it is clear that HUD faces dramatic cuts. With a 2018 budget constraint of $40.7 billion, down from $46.9 billion in the current fiscal year, the department faces an overall 13.2% decrease in finances. What remains on the chopping block, as discussed above, includes the totality of the Community Development Block Grant Program, the HOME Investment Partnership Program, the Choice Neighborhood Program, and the Section 4 Capacity Building for Community Development and Affordable Housing Program.

If these cuts are to progress, serious consequences may be felt throughout low-income communities across the US. As it is, and as we have seen in Evicted, this year’s Go Big Read selection, housing affordability and stability, and strong community structure, are key to the success of families throughout the country. However, many low-income Americans cannot attain these needed support systems. According to a recent report by the National Low Income Housing Coalition, throughout the US, only 30 affordable housing units are available on average per 100 low-income families. In certain states like Florida, California, and Nevada, this situation is more dire, with only 27, 21, and 15 affordable housing units available per 100 families, respectively (Tanvi Misra, Citylab). An inability to afford housing leads to a cycle of unsuitable living conditions, eviction, homelessness, health consequences, lack of proper education, and much more.

A view of an affordable housing complex in Santa Monica, CA. CC Image courtesy of Calderoliver on Wikimedia Commons.

Many of the to-be-cut programs allow for more affordable, properly functioning, and stable housing situations for low-income households, permitting families to set down roots, integrate wholly into the local education system, and create key relationships with neighbors. These processes have lasting positive effects not only on their individual prospects, but on the community as a whole. A loss to HUD funding will slow or reverse many of these key benefits that many low-income and marginalized groups rely on for betterment and upward mobility.

 

Morgan Olsen
Student Assistant, Go Big Read Office

Gov. Walker’s New Budget Proposal Includes Funding to Fight Homelessness

Street Pulse, Wisconsin’s Homeless/Marginalized Newspaper, recently reported exciting news surrounding Governor Walker’s 2017-2019 Executive Budget: the proposed state budget will include major funding and program developments that will directly impact, and possibly improve, homelessness and housing scarcity in Wisconsin (Street Pulse).

As the article in the March 2017 issue shares, for the first time in 25 years there will be an increase in funding directed towards fighting homelessness.

Governor Scott Walker, pictured here, and Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch recently proposed increased funding for homelessness prevention in the Wisconsin 2017-2019 Executive Budget. CC Image courtesy of Gage Skidmore on Flickr.

Highlights of the budget include:

  1. $500,000 per year in TANF funds for intensive case management services for homeless families within homeless shelters – services will focus on financial counseling, school enrollment, professional networking, and enrollment for unemployed or underemployed individuals in W2 or FSET programs
  2. Piloting of prioritization of Housing Choice Vouchers for the chronically homeless – pilot program will give priority for housing vouchers to individuals who are deemed chronically homeless, hopefully curbing homelessness rates
  3. $660,800 yearly expansion of Open Avenues to Reentry Success (OARS) to five additional counties – program focuses on serving mentally ill patients following release from prison so they may more easily adapt to life after serving sentences, thus decreasing risk for homelessness
  4. Provide $75,000 in funds for pilot homeless employment program based on Albuquerque’s “Better Way” initiative – pilot will provide homeless individuals with work experience and routine through municipal jobs like park maintenance
  5.  Mend Wisconsin’s transitional housing statute – remedy will ease the process of granting funds to support homelessness prevention and rapid rehousing
  6. Create Homeless Services Coordinator position within the Department of Health Services – Coordinator will work with homeless agencies and municipalities to develop a waiver program for homeless housing transition; waiver program will support housing searches, tenant training, and appropriate documentation so as to ensure successful housing placement for homeless individuals

These proposed tenants of the new 2017-2019 budget provide a stronger support system for homeless individuals and those grappling with the housing epidemic currently occurring in America. Furthermore, this framework allows for a wider safety net for those facing eviction in the state of Wisconsin, like those Matthew Desmond worked with in Milwaukee.

 

 

Morgan Olsen

Student Assistant, Go Big Read Program

 

To learn more about Street Pulse newspaper and it’s unique approach to combating homelessness in Madison, check out this article by the Isthmus.

 

Madison Schools Address Needs of Homeless Students

The most recent piece in the Wisconsin State Journal’s series on homelessness examines the relationship between a child’s insecure housing situation and their education. According to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, 1,414 students were identified as homeless throughout the 2014-15 school year in the Madison School District, and even this count is most likely lower than the actual number. Homelessness causes unique stresses for students experiencing it as anxieties about what they will eat and where they will sleep distract from the concentration needed to focus on school. Yet a review of research by the Family Housing Fund reveals that early and constant intervention by schools can minimize and reverse the effects of homelessness.

K’won Watson, a six-year-old at Hawthorne Elementary School, experienced these efforts first-hand while living with his mother and baby brother at the Salvation Army homeless shelter. When he enrolled in kindergarten in October 2015, he received school supplies and free lunches in addition to getting his school fees waived. Further assistance was provided by the district’s Transition Education Program, which was founded in 1989 and works to help homeless students. K’won received intensive reading support and was able to work with Hawthorne’s positive behavior support coach. This network of assistance provided the resources and stability K’won needed in order to concentrate in class.

Unable to find housing after exceeding the maximum amount of time families are allowed to stay at the Salvation Army shelter, K’won’s mother moved their family back to Chicago in the middle of the school year, a sadly common occurrence for students at Hawthorne Elementary. Still, the teachers and support staff there hope they were able to make a positive impact on him.

Says teacher Jani Koester, “If we’re going to break the cycle of homelessness, we have to look at the needs of the children. They have to have hope that their lives can be different.”

You can read the full article by the Wisconsin State Journal here.

Addressing Homelessness and Affordable Housing in Madison

The Wisconsin State Journal’s series on homelessness in Madison includes an article entitled “Madison, Dane County move slowly on big responses to homelessness” that discusses some of the steps taken to address homelessness in the city.

The Dane County Homeless Services Consortium is putting together a “single priority list” in order to “place the most vulnerable [homeless individuals] in public, nonprofit and private housing units” and off the streets. Debra Scott, 57,  “suffered the daily indignities of the homeless and was also in poor health, needing hospitalization and two surgeries, eventually with no place to recover but her 2006 Dodge Caravan. After a year on the streets, she placed near the top on a new community list that prioritizes cases based on the length of time being homeless, disability and the risk of serious harm or death.”

Scott now lives in an apartment on the North Side of Madison, where she pays 30 percent of her income in rent and the Community Action Coalition pays the rest. Scott says, “In my whole life I’ve never, ever had such a place. I absolutely love it here. It’s quiet. People are respectful. There’s no drug trafficking going on. I’m lucky…I’m grateful. I’m grateful every day.”

While Scott’s story is ultimately one of hope, the article goes on to discuss the overwhelming need for affordable housing and opportunities for the homeless to live indoors (not just shelters or on the streets) across Madison.

You can read the article in its entirety here.