The hearing focused on legislation introduced by Subcommittee Chair Judy Biggert (R-IL), H.R. 32, which would expand the HUD definition of homelessness to align with the definition of homelessness used by the Department of Education. The expanded definition would count children living in “doubled-up” situations as homeless.
The National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) submitted a letter for the record commending Ms. Biggert for bringing issues of homelessness among children, youth, and families to the attention of Congress. At the same time, NLIHC expressed reservations about the expanded definition of homelessness while HUD is still in the process of generating regulations for implementation of the HEARTH Act.
While there are a number of policy interventions that can mitigate the effects of homelessness on children, the fact remains that children, families, and society will all be better off if we can intervene to prevent homelessness from the outset. This can be done by assuring that sufficient resources are provided to ensure that all households have access to housing that is affordable to them. One way to assure access to affordable housing for these households is through the capitalization of the National Housing Trust Fund, said NLIHC President and CEO Sheila Crowley in the letter.
The HEARTH Act also introduced changes that make it easier for children and families to be served by HUD programs.
In particular, HEARTH expressly allows for HUD programs to serve persons who are defined as at risk of homelessness, it expands the definition of who is considered homeless and now includes qualifying families and children in the definition of chronically homeless said Mark Johnston, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Office of Special Needs, HUD, in his written testimony.
And in her December 18, 2011 post, Huffington Post blogger Pat LaMarche writes in, “An Open Letter to Santa,”about the homeless children who traveled to Washington D.C. to testify at last week’s hearing and ask for the support of The Homeless Child and Youth Act of 2011. She points out that according to the National Coalition for the Homeless that the average homeless person:
Is 9 years old,
Changed schools twice in the last year, and
Experiences homelessness as the results of domestic violence.