Amidst growing concern for families, the National Alliance to End Homelessness this week is holding its 2015 Conference on Ending Family and Youth Homelessness. Many participants already know too many families, children and youth are homeless or unstably housed, and a commitment of additional resources is crucial if we are to effectively address the underlying causes of their plight.
The U.S. Government has targeted the year 2020 to end family homelessness, which means we must begin in earnest today if we are to see success tomorrow.
Why is this focus so important? Because we know children and youth suffering the traumas of unstable housing and homelessness are at greater risk of becoming homeless adults. If we really want to prevent homelessness and end it, we have to attack the problem before the cycle begins.
We need to help families, children and youth find stable housing and much-needed services now.
As a starting point, President Obama's FY2016 Budget provides more assistance to prevent and end homelessness amongst families, children and youth. Congress should quickly form a bipartisan consensus of support and get behind the effort.
The president's budget includes increased funding for federal initiatives including:
- $177.5 million in Special Purpose Vouchers that target homeless families, victims of domestic violence, veterans, tribal families experiencing homelessness, families engaged with the child welfare system and youth aging out of the foster care system
- An additional $277 million to restore affordable housing assistance vouchers lost due to draconian funding cuts
- A proposed Upward Mobility Project that uses U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) block grant funding to test and validate promising approaches to help families become self-sufficient, improve children's outcomes and revitalize communities.
- An expansion of the Performance Pilots for Disconnected Youth allowing communities to blend funding to support at-risk youth and improve outcomes
- Runaway and Homeless Youth Act (RHYA): serves homeless youth by meeting their immediate needs, providing long-term residential services, and conducting prevention and outreach efforts to move youth out of homelessness. The President requested $123 million for RHYA, a $7 million increase above the current level. In addition, the budget proposal includes $2 million for a national study on homeless youth
- McKinney-Vento Act's Education for Homeless Children and Youth (EHCY): removes barriers to the enrollment, attendance, and success of homeless children and youth in school. The President requested $71.5 million for EHCY, an increase of $6.5 above the current level
We are particularly proud of the president's decision to adopt a proposal we advocated last summer - allocation of $20,000,000 for new incremental affordable housing voucher assistance through the Family Unification Program.
We have experience helping families, children and youth facing homelessness and unstable housing. Our Keeping Families Together pilot has become a national model for using supportive housing to stabilize families with children at risk of homelessness and recurring involvement in the child welfare system. In addition, CSH is recognized as the impetus behind the development of an ID tool that is universally used to identify Homeless Transition Age Youth most in need of supportive housing.
We wholeheartedly endorses the call to end homelessness for families, children and youth within the next five years, and urge President Obama and Congress to dedicate the resources necessary to make this happen.