Yesterday, September 19, the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee marked up and voted in favor of S 1518 – the Community Partnership to End Homelessness Act, legislation introduced by Senators Reed (D-RI) and Allard (R-CO) to reauthorize the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants (Continuum of Care) program.
Advocates and communities have won, in S. 1518, significant new resources and tools, including those that will help at risk families and prevent homelessness. S. 1518, as amended in Committee, would do the following:
Expand the definition of homelessness to include doubled-up households that move continuously and never establish a residence, i.e. “couch surfers;”
Provide significant new funding to prevent homelessness for people who are at risk of homelessness, doubled up, living in hotels, or in other precarious housing situations;
Provide new resources to immediately re-house families that lose housing;
Tailor funding to the needs of rural communities, enabling them to assess where the need for assistance is greatest;
Include families in the definition of chronic homelessness.
Although some had been asked to do so, the Senators chose not to expand eligibility for limited homeless assistance to millions of doubled up households: this step would have at least quadrupled the eligible population without quadrupling the money available, thus drawing significant resources from families and individuals who are currently living in shelters, abandoned buildings, cars, and on the streets. Instead, the Committee adopted a well-crafted compromise (first bullet of above paragraph.)
The bill does several other very important things.
Designates 20 percent of total funding to the Emergency Shelter Grants program, now called the Emergency Solutions Grant Program, and dictates that at least 40% of ESG funding goes to homelessness prevention and rehousing for homeless people and people who are doubled up, in hotels or in other precarious situations. This provision ensures that every community receives funding for prevention that it can use to house doubled up families that are most at risk of ending up on the streets. This is instead of the creation of a new prevention program as was recommended in earlier versions of the legislation.
Funds renewals of permanent housing outside of the homeless assistance account, freeing up homeless assistance resources for people who are currently homeless.
Authorizes $2.2 billion for homeless assistance.
Creates a simplified, more flexible program for rural areas and ensures that they have a better chance at getting funding than under the current program.
Includes a unified 25 percent match while grandfathering any grants that previously had a lower match requirement.
Includes incentives to build on the progress we have made at housing homeless people with severe disabilities.
Allows 7 percent to be used for administrative costs for project sponsors, as well as 3 percent for collaborative applicants and 6 percent for collaborative applicants that are also unified funding agencies.