Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Funding and homelessness

Funding to adequately support the work of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and its essential programs that help communities like Dallas and organizations like Central Dallas Ministries (CDM) serve and house the homeless is in danger of being written out of next year's appropriations legislation.

Congress and the President are at odds with each other about the level of funding for any number of federal agencies. The Congressional proposal includes crucial increases to housing and homeless assistance programs. The President intends to veto the overall spending bill.

Congressional leaders intend to offer an omnibus funding bill that split the difference between what the House and Senate have agreed on and what the President has requested. That may sound reasonable, but for HUD programs such action would be devastating.

Any cuts would mean the actual loss of housing assistance for some people currently being served who are the poorest of the poor in the United States. Cities like Dallas, Texas rely on the Community Development Block Grant program (CDBG), low-income housing choice vouchers and Homeless Assistance Grants to develop and maintain quality housing for our low-income neighbors. These funds are good for the poor and they are good for real estate developers who serve the market at the lower end of our economic scale in Dallas.

CDM has benefited from each of these funds in the past in our efforts to house people.

The President's plan would deprive tens of thousands of low-income families of decent housing. At the same time, landlords would lose as well.

The U. S. House and Senate conference agreement currently includes $1.586 billion for McKinney Homeless Assistance Grants, a $144 million increase over fiscal year 2007, and a $25 million set-aside for communities to implement rapid rehousing programs which move families into permanent housing linked to supportive services. Again, both funds relate directly to the housing develop plans we are pursuing today here in Dallas.

In fact, this modest increase for McKinney funding would be sufficient to continue existing homeless activities and fund fewer than 8,000 new units of permanent supportive housing--well below the pace of new units funded between 2001 and 2004. City leaders in Dallas estimate that we need a minimum of 1,000 new units here alone.

Currently, due to the failure of the Congress to pass a new budget, federal programs are operating under a continuing resolution that funds programs under fiscal year 2007 levels. It is expected that Congress will pass an omnibus spending bill before the continuing resolution expires on December 14, this coming Friday.

Please contact your Senators and your Representative in the U. S. House immediately. Ask them to support full funding for the U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in FY2008, as originally proposed by the Congress. Urge them to not support any compromise that would cut into HUD funding for the extremely poor in our nation.

Personal and practical note: Yesterday, I met over lunch with two leaders here in Dallas to collaborate on how to produce more high-quality, permanent supportive housing for the chronically homeless with special attention to the disabled and mentally ill. Our plans cannot be completed without public funding like that provided for in the original HUD budget plan.

Get involved. Contact your U. S. legislators today. Your active involvement will change lives.



Karen Shafer said...

I will definitely make the suggested contacts, as I see weekly the desperate need for emergency, transitional and permanent supportive housing, as will anyone who drives downtown and sees people sleeping on the parking lot at First Presbyterian Church -- last night for the last time -- and now flocking into the newly-reopened (for sleeping) Day Resource Center for shelter.

By the way, I applaud Mayor Leppert and the City Council for acting quickly on a plan for winter shelter for the homeless -- in my memory, the first time it's happened.

Hate to be petulant, though, but did you notice? TWENTY-EIGHT comments and counting on the right to bear assault weapons -- doubtless many of them from Christians -- and not ONE COMMENT from any of these folks on housing for the poor and homeless.

And we wonder why we have such a troubled society. If Jesus were among us, which subject do you think he'd be blogging about?

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