THE BLOG
04/08/2013 01:36 pm ET Updated Jun 08, 2013

Why Sequestration Would Increase Homelessness

For Jason, the hospital emergency room was practically his home. Literally. He lived on the streets for nearly five long years, making frequent visits to the hospital -- dozens and dozens of times -- because of a pestering chronic disease and no healthcare insurance. The nursing staff knew him by name, often times giving him food and a few bucks to survive.

That urban health center was the closest place to being a home for him, until the agency I run was able to land him a rare Section 8 housing voucher that subsidized rent for a new apartment. Jason was finally off the streets and in his own home, supported by a case worker and cocooned in a safe and healthy environment so he could deal with his chronic disease.

But who would have thought a bunch of polarized, powerful political leaders from both sides of the political aisle of Washington, D.C. could threaten Jason's new home?

For many people, including Jason, just the pronunciation of the word sequestration, let alone the definition, was difficult. But for die-hard political activists, sequestration meant longer wait times at the airport, reduced military spending, and cuts in healthcare.

The sequestration saber-rattling on the other side of the country pronounced the end of White House tours and the annual Easter egg hunt, cuts that would never affect Jason or the thousands of other Americans living in subsidized housing.

But when the federal government seized part of the funding of numerous important public programs, subsidized housing was one of them. Nearly 140,000 impoverished families and individuals would be affected.

In San Francisco, $21 million of funding for housing was cut. They responded by ceasing the issuance of new housing vouchers. In Los Angeles, the funding reduction meant both cutting housing vouchers as well as making current holders of housing vouchers, like Jason, pay $100 to $200 per month more in rent.

For those who are the "working poor" -- people who work low-paying jobs and need help to pay rent -- a couple of hundred dollars per month increase would hurt significantly but may not force them onto the streets.

But for Jason, and those who struggle with chronic health issues, disabilities, or the lingering effects of being homeless for years, the demand for more money for rent is disastrous.

If sequestration becomes a permanent solution to balancing the federal budget, this housing disaster will force people like Jason back onto the streets. These cuts of subsidized housing funding have become a Hurricane Katrina-like disaster for people clinging to the government for housing assistance.

But in this case, the hurricane was caused by Uncle Sam, not Mother Nature.