Congress to Consider Legislation Threatening Homeless Services Program Today
Press Type: Press Release Associated Program: Housing
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Members of Congress will today consider proposals to suspend or eliminate a federal program that provides services to more than 2 million homeless persons each year at a time when homelessness is rising dramatically.
The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform will conduct a hearing today considering four legislative proposals that threaten Title V of the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, a law that allows homeless service providers to acquire unused federal property, at no cost, to provide housing, job training, and other services to people who are homeless.
The National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty has been a vocal opponent of these proposals. Maria Foscarinis, the Law Center's executive director and a primary architect of the legislation that created Title V, will testify before the Committee today. In her prepared remarks, she will say, "These proposals threaten the existence of a longstanding and successful anti-homelessness program without providing any evidence of the cost savings their proponents use to justify the damage to Title V."
Since 1987, Title V has given qualified homeless service providers the legal right to receive suitable vacant, underused, and surplus federal real property at no cost. Title V links nonprofits and state and local governments in need of land or buildings with federal agencies seeking to divest themselves of excess property.
Before the recession, more than 3.5 million Americans experienced homelessness each year, including 1.3 million children. According to the U.S. Conference of Mayors, family homelessness has skyrocketed during the recession, with unemployment and a lack of affordable housing driving a 9 percent increase in the last year. More than 70 percent of officials surveyed for the report expect family and individual homelessness to increase further in 2011.
Efforts to suspend or eliminate Title V are in direct opposition to the U.S. government's stated commitment to ending homelessness and living up to its human rights obligations. In June 2010, the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness released Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness. The plan's central tenet is that "no one should experience homelessness-no one should be without a safe, stable place to call home." In November 2010, following a review of U.S. human rights policy by the UN Human Rights Council, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development agreed to take further measures to reduce America's homeless population as part of an overall strategy to address human rights issues.
Foscarinis will testify, "Homelessness is now increasing at dramatic rates. This is no time for Congress or the Administration to reverse its commitment to the lowest income Americans."
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