Reed Announces Plan to Help Reduce Homelessness
PROVIDENCE, RI -- In an effort to help local communities reduce homelessness nationwide, U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) today unveiled bipartisan legislation to provide over $1.8 billion for targeted homelessness assistance grant programs. The Community Partnership to End Homelessness Act of 2007 would increase current levels of funding for homelessness assistance grants by $350 million and allocate $250 in additional funding for homelessness prevention initiatives. "Homelessness is an extremely complex and pervasive problem that touches every state across the nation," said Reed, a senior member of the Banking Committee, which oversees federal housing policy. "This bill will increase federal investment in helping America's neediest citizens and ultimately move them from homelessness to independence and self-sufficiency." The Homelessness Research Institute at the National Alliance to End Homelessness reports that as many as 3.5 million Americans -- including 1.35 million children -- experience homelessness each year. Studies show that on any given night approximately 744,000 American men, women, and children are without homes. "The higher cost of living and lack of affordable housing have made even more Rhode Islanders vulnerable to the effects of homelessness. With more people living from paycheck to paycheck, an increasing number of families are on the brink of becoming homeless," noted Reed. "We cannot afford to ignore this problem. Homelessness leads to untold costs, including expenses for emergency rooms, shelters, and foster care. This legislation combines federal dollars with new incentives to help local communities prevent more families from becoming homeless. It is a wise investment of federal resources that will save taxpayers money in the long run by preventing homelessness, promoting the development of permanent supportive housing, and optimizing self-sufficiency." Reed, a former Army Captain, noted that many homeless people have served our country in uniform. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) estimates that on any given night nearly 200,000 veterans are living on the streets or in homeless shelters across the country. "After they leave the service, some veterans struggle with issues ranging from substance abuse to post traumatic stress disorder," said Reed. "A lot of our homeless vets need treatment for mental health issues and ongoing support to get back on their feet. For many of these individuals, housing alone, without some attached services, may not be enough. These are people who made great sacrifices for our country and we need to make sure they have access to the healthcare and benefits they earned." The Community Partnership to End Homelessness Act seeks to reauthorize the landmark McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act of 1987 to help communities break the cycle of repeated and prolonged homelessness. It would simplify and consolidate three competitive U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) homelessness assistance programs into one program and allow more funding to flow to communities that can demonstrate a commitment to accomplishing the goals of preventing and ending homelessness. Additionally, the bill would: Create a new $250 million prevention initiative that would allow communities to apply for funding to prevent homelessness. This would allow cities and towns to serve people who have moved frequently for economic reasons, are about to be evicted, live in severely overcrowded housing, or otherwise live in an unstable situation that puts them at risk of homelessness. The program could fund short- to medium-term housing assistance, housing relocation and stabilization, and supportive services. Require HUD to provide incentives for communities to use proven strategies to end homelessness. These strategies would include permanent supportive housing for chronically homeless people, rapid re-housing programs for homeless families, and other research-based strategies that HUD, after public comment, determines are effective. Provide local communities with greater flexibility to spend money on preventing homelessness. Communities that demonstrate results - reducing the number of people who become homeless, the length of time people are homeless, and recidivism back into homelessness - would be allowed to use their homeless assistance funding more flexibly and to serve groups that are at risk of becoming homeless. Allocate thirty percent of total funds available nationally for permanent housing for individuals with disabilities or families headed by a person with disabilities. At least ten percent of overall funds would be to permanently house families with children. Create a more flexible set of requirements for rural communities by modifying HUD's long-dormant Rural Homelessness Grant Program. Under the new requirements, a rural community could use funds for homelessness prevention and housing stabilization, in addition to transitional housing, permanent housing, and supportive services. The application process for these funds would be streamlined to be more consistent with the capacities of rural homelessness programs. Reed's bill has 13 cosponsors: Senators Wayne Allard (R-CO), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Kit Bond (R-MO), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Susan Collins (R-ME), Daniel Akaka (D-HI), Hillary Clinton (D-NY), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Carl Levin (D-MI), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Joe Lieberman (I/D-CT). Groups endorsing the Community Partnership to Help End Homelessness Act include: The National Alliance to End Homelessness; the U.S. Conference of Mayors; the National Association of Counties; National Association of Local Housing Finance Agencies; National Community Development Association; the National Housing Conference; the Corporation for Supportive Housing; National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI); Consortium for Citizens With Disabilities Housing Task Force; Habitat for Humanity; Technical Assistance Collaborative; and the Housing Assistance Council.