WASHINGTON, DC – Seeking to allow the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (the Council) to further build upon its success in helping to prevent and end homelessness, U.S. Senators Jack Reed (D-RI) and Susan Collins R-ME), the Ranking Member and Chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development (THUD), along with Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) this week introduced S. 2801 to officially end the Council’s “sunset date” in October 2028. The Senators are introducing the bill in the hope of ensuring the Council exists indefinitely and continues its mission of reducing and ultimately eliminating homelessness nationwide.
Launched under the Reagan Administration as part of the landmark McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act of 1987, the Council has worked across the federal government and private sector to coordinate homeless assistance nationally. In 2009, the Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing, or HEARTH Act, which was introduced by Reed along with Senator Collins and others, expanded the Council’s role to work with stakeholders to develop a national strategic plan to end homelessness, which has guided its work to develop effective strategies to prevent and end homelessness.
In a statement introducing the bill, Senator Reed expressed the ongoing need for the Council, stating “in our current budgetary environment we must have a wise and creative arm that helps our communities maximize resources and opportunities where possible, ensuring we are actually addressing homelessness, and not contributing to it. The Council is proof that the government can work and save money in the process, and our bipartisan legislation ensures that the Council’s doors remain open until there truly is an end to homelessness nationwide.”
Reed also noted in his statement the results the Council has had in reducing homelessness, stating that “since 2010 when this national strategic plan was first developed, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) reports that overall homelessness has decreased by 13%, chronic homelessness by 16%, and family homelessness by 25%. In addition, we have seen veterans’ homelessness drop by 49%. This progress is not only a result of the more than $600 million federal investment in housing and supportive services through programs like HUD-VASH, but is also because of the direction the Council provides to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and HUD, as well as public housing agencies administering assistance at the local level.”
In order to further these efforts and tackle veterans’ homelessness on the front end, Reed helped include language in the Senate’s fiscal year 2020 THUD Appropriations bill directing the Council to improve the coordination between the Department of Defense, the VA, the Department of Labor, and HUD in order to prevent servicemembers from being discharged into homelessness.
Reed also emphasized that the Council has played a role in helping to save money, citing a statement from the National Alliance to End Homelessness saying that “based on 22 different studies from across the country, providing permanent supportive housing to chronically homeless people creates net savings of $4,800 per person per year, through reduced spending on jails, hospitals, shelters, and other emergency services.”
Reed’s bill has won the support of numerous organizations related to the ending of homelessness, including: The National Alliance to End Homelessness, the Rhode Island Coalition for the Homeless, HousingWorksRI, Council of Large Public Housing Authorities, A Way Home America, Community Solutions International, the National Low Income Housing Coalition, the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, Funders Together to End Homelessness, True Colors United, the Children’s Defense Fund, the National Housing Trust, the National Health Care for the Homeless Council, the Local Initiatives Support Corporation, National Alliance on Mental Illness, Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities Housing Task Force, the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials, the Public Housing Authorities Directors Association, LeadingAge, Heartland Alliance, National Housing Conference, the National AIDS Housing Coalition, Covenant House International, the Forum for Youth Investment, the Housing Assistance Council, Volunteers of America, the Corporation for Supportive Housing, the Technical Assistance Collaborative, and the National Coalition for the Homeless.