Floor Statement Introducing the Community Partnership to End Homelessness Act
MR. REED: Mr. President, I introduce, along with Senators Allard, Mikulski, Bond, Durbin, Collins, Schumer, Akaka, Clinton, Whitehouse, Levin, Brown, and Boxer, the Community Partnership to End Homelessness Act of 2007, CPEHA. This legislation would reauthorize and amend the housing titles of the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act of 1987. Specifically, our bill would realign the incentives behind the Department of Housing and Urban Development's homelessness assistance programs to accomplish the goals of preventing and ending homelessness.
According to the Homelessness Research Institute at the National Alliance to End Homelessness, as many as 3.5 million Americans experience homelessness each year. On any one night, approximately 744,000 men, women, and children are without homes.
Many of these people have served our country in uniform. According to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, nearly 200,000 veterans of the United States armed forces are homeless on any given night, and about one-third of homeless men are veterans.
Statistics regarding the number of children who experience homelessness are especially troubling. Each year, it is estimated that at least 1.35 million children experience homelessness. Over 900,000 homeless children and youth were identified and enrolled in public schools in the 2005-2006 school year. However, this Department of Education count does not include preschool children, and over 40 percent of homeless children are under the age of five. Whatever their age, we know that children who are homeless are in poorer health, have developmental delays, and suffer academically.
In addition, many of those who are homeless have a disability. According to the Homelessness Research Institute, about 23 percent of homeless people were found to be "chronically homeless," which according to the current HUD definition means that they are homeless for long periods of time or homeless repeatedly, and they have a disability. For many of these individuals and families, housing alone, without some attached services, may not be enough.
Finally, as rents have soared and affordable housing units have disappeared from the market during the past several years, even more working Americans have been left unable to afford housing. According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition's most recent "Out of Reach" report, nowhere in the country can a minimum wage earner afford a one-bedroom home. Eighty-eight percent of renters in cities live in areas where they cannot afford the fair market rent for a two-bedroom rental even with two minimum wage jobs. Low income renters who live paycheck to paycheck are in precarious circumstances and sometimes must make tough choices between paying rent and buying food, prescription drugs, or other necessities. If one unforeseen event occurs in their lives, they can end up homeless.
So why should the federal government work to help prevent and end homelessness? Simply put, we cannot afford not to address this problem. Homelessness leads to untold costs, including expenses for emergency rooms, jails, shelters, foster care, detoxification, and emergency mental health treatment.
According to a number of studies, it costs just as much, if not more in overall expenditures, to allow men, women, and children to remain homeless as it does to provide them with assistance and get them back on the road to self-sufficiency.
It has been 20 years since the enactment of the Steward B. McKinney Homeless Assistance Act, and we have learned a lot about the problem of homelessness since then. At the time of its adoption in 1987, this legislation was viewed as an emergency response to a national crisis, and was to be followed by measures to prevent homelessness and to create more systemic solutions to the problem. It is now time to take what we have learned during the past 20 years, and put those best practices and proposals into action.
First and foremost, our bill would consolidate HUD's three main competitive homelessness programs, Supportive Housing Program, Shelter Plus Care, and Moderate Rehabilitation/Single Room Occupancy, into one program called the Community Homeless Assistance Program. The consolidation would reduce the administrative burden on communities caused by different program requirements. It also would allow funding to be used for an array of eligible activities maximizing flexibility, creativity, and local-decision making.
Second, the bill would create a new prevention title that would allow communities to apply for funding to prevent homelessness. This would allow them to serve people who move frequently for economic reasons, are doubled up, 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. The program would be authorized for up to $250 million in fiscal year 2008.
Third, the bill would 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.
Fourth, HUD would be required to provide incentives for communities to use proven strategies to end homelessness. These strategies would include permanent supportive housing for chronically homeless people, rapid rehousing programs for homeless families, and other research-based strategies that HUD, after public comment, determines are effective.
Fifth, thirty percent of total funds available nationally would be allocated for permanent housing for individuals with disabilities or families headed by a person with disabilities. At least 10 percent of overall funds would be allocated for permanently housing families with children.
Sixth, 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.
Finally, leasing, rental assistance, and operating costs of permanent housing programs would be renewed for 1 year at a time through the section 8 housing voucher account, provided that the applicant demonstrates need and compliance with appropriate standards.
There is a growing consensus on ways to help communities break the cycle of repeated and prolonged homelessness. If we combine Federal dollars with the right incentives to local communities, we can prevent and end long-term homelessness.
This bipartisan legislation seeks to do just that. It will reward communities for initiatives that prevent and end homelessness.
Groups that are endorsing the Community Partnership to 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; Consortium for Citizens With Disabilities Housing Task Force; Habitat for Humanity; Technical Assistance Collaborative; and the Housing Assistance Council.
The Community Partnership to End Homelessness Act will set us on the path to meeting an important national goal. I hope my colleagues will join us in supporting this bill and other homelessness prevention efforts.