Congress Seeks to Eliminate Key Homeless Program
Law Center Testifies to Protect It
June 24, 2011
As Congress continues to focus squarely on deficit reduction, it is more important than ever for advocates of important federal programs to make their voices heard. At a June 9 Senate subcommittee hearing on a proposal to eliminate Title V of the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty Executive Director Maria Foscarinis did just that.
"Title V requires that the homeless be protected, and it is not the cause of inefficiencies or delays," Foscarinis told the subcommittee. She also said, "protecting the rights of the homeless is not only morally the right thing, it is the most cost-effective."
Title V is an important federal program that grants homeless service providers with an exclusive right of first refusal to apply to own or lease surplus federal property at no charge. This program benefits approximately 2.4 million homeless people annually by linking non-profit groups and state and local governments to government agencies seeking to rid themselves of unneeded properties. It provides emergency and transitional housing for more than 17,000 people, and education and job training for 24,000 people.
Some members of Congress and the administration are seeking elimination of the program. They attribute the federal government's struggles to unload surplus property to Title V, but difficulties selling properties more often stem from their deteriorating conditions, inaccessible locations, and systemic problems with government marketing after the Title V right of first refusal window expires.
A major proponent of changing Title V, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), told Foscarinis, "You are very effective because you have dead-stopped every movement at property reform in the Congress the last 13 years."
"I guess I should be flattered," Foscarinis replied.
Coburn responded: "It's a compliment; you're very effective lobbying for the homeless."
To read the testimony, click here. To see the C-SPAN footage of the hearing, click here. (The Coburn/Foscarinis exchange is at 51:42). The exchange received media attention in such sources as Government Executive and The Oklahoman.
If your organization or an organization in your community has acquired surplus federal property, you can help protect Title V by providing information about how the property is used to serve homeless people. To share information, please contact the Law Center's policy director, Jeremy Rosen, at email@example.com.
We also ask you to contact your members of Congress and urge them to preserve Title V of the McKinney-Vento Act so that homeless services providers can continue to make valuable use of excess government property for critical homeless services.