Lack of Federal Funding Exacerbates
State-of-Emergencies in Cities
Author Randy Shaw writes that on September 23, 2015, The New York Times wrote, “to date, no city has claimed to have the perfection solution to homelessness.”
This comes on the heels that the national attention that increasing homelessness in major cities such as New York City, San Francisco, Madison and Los Angeles has gotten.
In September 2015, two major U.S. cities, Los Angeles and Portland, Ore., announced that homelessness had reached emergency levels.
In Los Angeles, where homelessness in the city and county has increased 12% since 2013, city leaders said they would announce a state of emergency and devote $100 million to the problem.
In Portland, Ore., Mayor Charlie Hayes announced the city is in the midst of a housing emergency, a move that, if approved by the city council, may allow the city more discretion to waive zoning codes and rapidly convert city-owned buildings into shelters.
Writing for The Atlantic’s City Lab blog, Kriston Capps argues that
“Local governments acting by themselves can only do so much to stop the national scourge of homelessness. They are working under incredible pressure to prevent homelessness at a time when federal policies are actively exacerbating the crisis.”
And Shaw maintains that local governments and their leaders do know that there is a solution to homelessness – permanent supportive housing. Affordable housing combined with support services can help individuals with mental illness and other disabilities end their homelessness.
What stands in the way of creating more affordable housing and truly ending homelessness is the lack of funding from the federal government.
“The Times article on homelessness across American cities ignores the federal government’s abandonment of its historic responsibility to provide safe and affordable housing for all Americans. Even the current effort by House Republicans to slash federal housing programs is curiously absent from an article describing rising homelessness across the nation.
That’s how wildly successful the national Republican Party has been in concealing its refusal to provide the funding necessary to resolve a problem that overwhelmingly impacts heavily Democratic cities.”
Funding for the federal Housing Choice Voucher program is critical to creating supportive housing and ending homelessness.
“If Congress allocated money to address homelessness like it does for new weapons systems, the nation’s homeless problem would be solved in five years. Solved. Those who think that substance abuse and mental health problems are the problem and not un-affordable housing must believe that starting in 1982 thousands suddenly decided they preferred living on the streets to being housed. And that they have continued to make this choice despite being able to afford rent.
The truth, of course, is that people were just as troubled in the 1970s as today. The difference is that homelessness did not become a national crisis in the United States until the federal government jumped ship.”
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