More Vouchers and Supportive Housing Will End Homelessness

This Wednesday, March 6, 2013 photo shows the apartment building at 1475 Madison Avenue in New York. Officials want to demoli
This Wednesday, March 6, 2013 photo shows the apartment building at 1475 Madison Avenue in New York. Officials want to demolish existing areas on public housing properties _ a baseball field, a community center, a parking lot _ and build more than half a dozen brand-new luxury apartment complexes. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Since 2005, the number of people in the U.S. experiencing longer-term (what is known as chronic) homelessness has been cut almost in half.

This stark decrease is attributable in part to bi-partisan efforts in Congress to invest in supportive housing, a seamless fusion of subsidized affordable housing with comprehensive services that help residents address mental health issues, substance use and barriers to employment, enabling them to move beyond the challenges that can contribute to homelessness.

Not only is supportive housing a game changer when it comes to individual success, it is a more cost-effective use of taxpayer dollars.

Inexplicably, however, the federal programs used to bolster supportive housing and save money are under attack, placing at risk the gains we have realized to date.

This is an issue that affects all states and communities, not just the more urbanized ones. The threat to future progress centers on the proposed federal budget passed by the US House of Representatives that includes significant cuts for the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

HUD funding is slashed $769 million in the House's bill. This would mean no new funds for housing to serve people who are chronically homeless; the permanent loss of 40,000 affordable housing vouchers; and drastic cuts in money used to rehabilitate existing affordable rental housing.

The Senate's version of the budget, while not perfect, is better than the House effort. It avoids draconian cuts to HUD but fails to restore and increase the number of much-needed housing vouchers.

Congress has not agreed on a HUD spending bill, likely resulting in a short-term continuing resolution that kicks the can down the road. These temporary stop-gaps make it difficult for providers serving homeless people to perform effective and meaningful planning that delivers results.

When Congress returns in September, they should focus on passing a FY2015 HUD spending bill that restores lost vouchers and allows for new investments in supportive housing. (Find out more at here. )

We must have additional commitments to affordable supportive housing to maximize the promising trend in reducing homelessness across all populations, including, families, children, veterans and the elderly. Back-peddling by some in Congress flies in the face of advances and proven results.

Please join us now in writing, emailing, tweeting, calling or visiting your US Senator and Congressperson to urge increased funding for critical housing programs so that supportive housing can continue to be a cost-effective solution ending homelessness.