The President’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2017 maintains housing and homeless assistance funding dedicated to ending veteran homelessness, proposes homeless assistance funding to end chronic homelessness in 2017, and proposes housing and homelessness assistance funding to end homelessness for families and youth in 2020. Given the critical importance of shelter, the budget should provide enough resources to provide shelter for every homeless person without shelter and housing and homelessness assistance funding targeted to other homeless individuals.
The proposed budget for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) does provide $2.664 billion in homeless assistance funding for fiscal year (FY) 2017, including $270 million for the Emergency Solutions Grants program and $2.362 billion for the Continuum of Care and Rural Housing Stability Assistance programs. This funding would provide for competitive renewals of existing units, 25,500 new units of permanent supportive housing to end chronic homelessness, 8,000 new units of rapid rehousing for families, and $25 million to assist homeless youth.
In addition to the homeless assistance funding for homeless families and youth, the HUD budget provides housing assistance funding for homeless families and youth. HUD’s proposed budget would provide $88 million in section 8 voucher funding for 10,000 new housing vouchers for families with children experiencing homelessness and would allow youths exiting foster care the ability to use Family Unification Vouchers for five years.
To reach its goal of ending family homelessness by 2020, the HUD budget proposes new mandatory spending for homeless assistance for families. Specifically, the budget proposes $79 million in new mandatory spending for FY2017 and a total of $11 billion over the next 10 years to serve 550,000 homeless families with children using rapid rehousing and Housing Choice Vouchers.
The proposed budget for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) also increases funding for programs that may reduce homelessness among families and youth. Compared to FY2016 estimated levels and FY2015 actual levels, the HHS proposed budget increases funding for runaway and homeless youth by $3 to 4 million to $57 million, increases transitional living by $1 to 5 million to $49 million, provides $2 million in funding for the prevalence, needs, and characteristics of homeless youth, maintains $17 million in funding for education grants to reduce sexual abuse of runaway youth, and allows existing Chafee Foster Care Independence Program funds to serve young people in foster care through age 23 with additional funding to establish an evidence base for how to best serve older youth in the child welfare system. Also, the HHS proposed budget includes $3.665 billion for FY2017 and $82 billion over the next 10 years to expand child care subsidies for all low-income and moderate-income families with young children.
These proposals would reduce and end homelessness among veterans, chronically homeless individuals and families, and families and youth.
Similar dedication to ensuring that there is shelter for every homeless person and to reducing and ending homelessness among other homeless persons should be included in the proposed budget.
HUD’s proposed budget does not provide enough funding to ensure that there are enough emergency shelters for every homeless person. HUD’s proposed budget provides only $270 million for the Emergency Solutions Grants program. This is the same as the FY2016 estimated level and only $32 million more than the 2015 actual level. The proposed funding for the Emergency Food and Shelter program in the proposed budget for the Federal Emergency Management Agency is only $100 million, which is $20 million less than the FY2016 estimated level and the 2015 actual level. The funding for these programs does not appear sufficient to provide the necessary emergency shelter and other services for the hundreds of thousands of homeless individuals who were without shelter in the latest count in 2015. With the danger that homeless people face when they live without shelter and the fact that almost 40,000 of the unsheltered homeless individuals on a given night are women who may be especially vulnerable to violence and sexual abuse, the budget should include funding so that every homeless person has access to emergency shelter, rapid rehousing, or transitional housing while they are working toward obtaining stable
Although the proposed budget increases some funding for domestic violence programs, it does not increase funding for housing and homeless services for individuals who are escaping domestic violence. Compared to the FY2016 estimated and FY2015 actual levels, the HHS proposed budget does increase funding for the domestic violence hotline by $4 to 8 million to $12 million and increases funding for family violence prevention and services by $1 to 16 million to $151 million. Also, the proposed budget for the U.S. Department of Justice increases overall Violence Against Women Act funding by $9 to 64 million to $489 million for grants to encourage arrest policies, the legal assistance program, and the campus violence account.
Yet, the budget does not provide additional funding for shelter and transitional housing for individuals escaping domestic violence, despite that domestic violence service providers reported 6,000 unmet needs for shelter on a given day in 2014 and HUD data indicate that there were not enough shelters in each continuum of care area for 9,000 to 12,000 homeless domestic violence survivors without shelter in 2014. The HUD budget does not provide specific funding targeted to families or individuals escaping domestic violence and the Justice Budget does not increase funding for transitional housing for domestic violence survivors compared to the FY2016 estimated level. The funding level for transitional housing for domestic violence survivors is maintained at $30 million, the same level as in FY2016 and a $5 million increase compared to the FY2015 actual level. Given that domestic violence actually results in death and leads people to flee their homes, the proposed budget should include funding for emergency shelter and transitional housing for all people who are fleeing domestic violence and have no safe place to sleep.
Although HUD’s Congressional Justifications for FY2017 state that its budget proposes sufficient funding to put HUD on track to meet the goals of ending child, family, and youth homelessness by 2020 and setting a path to ending homelessness overall, its budget does not provide any specific budget proposals to end homelessness for homeless individuals who are not youth or chronically homeless. To truly set a path to ending homelessness overall, the proposed budget for FY2017 should provide funding so that there is emergency shelter or housing available for every homeless person without shelter and every person escaping domestic violence and provide funding to research how to end homelessness for other homeless populations.