A local man who is currently a participant in our partner agency, Humility of Mary Shelter, has publicly responded to current events in Davenport. In a letter to the editor of the Quad City Times, the participant, unnamed to protect his privacy, addresses “…concerning statements made in the past two weeks regarding the homeless and facilities provided to assist them.”
The statement appears to be a reference to remarks by a local alderman which have sparked a public response of outrage. The remarks were quoted in the Times in conjunction with the city’s closure of Timothy’s House of Hope due to zoning issues. The remarks–and the closure itself–have put compassion as a public policy into the spotlight in Davenport.
Davenport Homelessness Debate
The letter to the editor is notable in that it is a representative voice in response from the population served by Timothy’s House of Hope. Opening with a prayer that no one ever experience homelessness, it proceeds to call leaders into accountability for their remarks against those less fortunate. It continues to say:
Homelessness is a fact of life, which encompasses all walks of individuals with no prejudice to race, color, status, religion, sex, or creed. To the individual that would use the media to publicly degrade myself, or any other person who may be in a less fortunate position than yourself, all I can say is thank you, on behalf of the person who will replace you in public office.
Common sense should tell us that as concerned citizens, in order to prevent more crimes and destitute situations, there needs to be a place provided to offer some help, guidance, information and encouragement. This center, Timothy’s House of Hope, would offer a positive forum for men, women, and young people to live in a city we are all supposedly so proud of.
This week, Davenport considered zoning changes that would allow Timothy’s House of Hope to operate. City staff will draft an ordinance revision that would allow meal service at the site. Opportunity for more public input is forthcoming.
There’s good news today on the federal level for completing Fiscal Year 2017. Congress was able to reach a bipartisan budget deal. That agreement will fund the government through the final five months of FY 2017. Legislators will start voting on it today; and, it’s expected that voting will be completed by Friday. The deal they struck is the result of intense negotiation between Congress and the Trump Administration.
This budget is nowhere near perfect, but at least the bipartisan nature of the bill means we have a bit to celebrate. That is to say, the legislation averts the damage that early budget requests would have inflicted on our nation. The bill, HR 244, protects many important budget priorities, but it falls short on others. Fortunately, some legislators fought hard to protect human needs spending.
Funding for housing: FY 2017–Better than expected!
The budget bill provides $2.383 billion for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants program, representing a $133 million increase in all. This includes:
$40 million for rapid re-housing or other critical activities to assist communities that lost significant capacity after January 1, 2016.
$43 million for homeless youth demonstration projects.
$12 million for the national homeless data analysis project.
Housing programs received more than last year, but still less than the requested amount. Most housing programs received a slight increase in funding. This funding will be crucial because housing units increase with market costs each year.
Another budget soon
On May 15, Congress will begin deliberating the next budget, for Fiscal Year 2018. We must continue to prioritize funding for housing as critical human needs spending. Stand fast to resist additional spending on unnecessary budget items. Your advocacy efforts will apply pressure to make that happen. Thank you for your calls, your emails, and your efforts to ensure that our most vulnerable will have a safe place to live.
National Call in Day April 26 (Wednesday) is urgent to defeat homelessness. When Congress returns to Washington next week, they’ll face a deadline on Friday, April 28 to fund the federal government for the remainder of Fiscal Year (FY) 2017. This is our last chance to make sure they know how important federal funding to end homelessness is to the Quad Cities.
Join the National Call-In Day April 26 (Wednesday) to let Congress know how important federal funding is to ending homelessness here. Call your Senators and Representative that day and amplify the voices calling for federal assistance for housing.
Give your name and say you’re a constituent who lives in their district.
Be brief and to-the-point. Say you support increases to federal supports to end homelessness. [or…Fancy version]: “In order to build on the progress we’ve made towards ending homelessness in the Quad Cities, it’s essential that Congress provides at least $2.6 billion for the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants program in Fiscal Year 2018.”
Thank them for taking your message.
National Call in Day April 26
Some background info explains how important it is to make the call now.
Last Spring, the House Appropriations Committee voted to provide $2.487 billion for McKinney in Fiscal Year 2017–a $237 million increase. An increase like this would allow our community to house 40,000 more people experiencing homelessness than this year.
With your voice, we can urge Congress to do the right thing for people in need.
Thanks for making a short call to make a big difference on National Call in Day April 26. But you can call anytime. So don’t delay.
Families and communities–like ours in the Quad Cities–need some resources to thrive. We’ve relied for years, for instance, on federal housing assistance. Grant money from the U.S. Departments of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Agriculture (USDA) helped vulnerable people find stability by helping them into safe homes. That, in turn, has increased stability to the Quad Cities.
When families have stable, affordable homes, they can find jobs more easily, move up economically, do better in school, and stay healthy. Studies back this up. Affordable housing brings many positive effects. It promotes community development. And it boosts our local economy and our job creation.
Federal investments in affordable housing have already lifted millions of families out of poverty. Actually, five million in 2015 alone! Without help, many would live on the streets or in substandard or overcrowded conditions. Others might go without food, medicine or other basics because too much of their limited income has to pay the rent.
Quad Cities housing today
Despite their proven track record, HUD and USDA affordable housing programs haven’t gotten enough funding. What’s happened as a result? Today only a quarter of those who qualify for housing assistance get the help they need. And, the need continues to grow.
More people rent their homes than ever before. Because housing supply and rental assistance haven’t kept up with need, rents are rising everywhere. So, more families spend most of their income just keeping a roof over their heads. Homelessness rates are rising in many communities. On top of that, much of our nation’s affordable housing is deteriorating. What exists often isn’t appropriate for people with disabilities.
It’s not just us in the Quad Cities. Every state and congressional district is affected.
What to do?
We wish there was an easy answer. Since every community is different, so are their housing needs. But, we do know that we have to:
save and restore the affordable housing that we do have;
create more units of affordable housing for low income families; and
increase rental assistance and other programs that help make housing affordable.
None of that can happen without federal investment in affordable housing.
But, the Budget Control Act of 2011 decreased funding for affordable housing and community development programs by imposing low federal spending caps. These spending caps limit Congress’s power to invest in housing solutions. Just one example is that HUD housing and community development funding was $4.3 billion lower in 2016 than in 2010.
Result? It’s harder to house low income seniors, people with disabilities, families with children, and other vulnerable folks. Any further budget cuts—such as those we’re facing in the proposed federal budget–will undermine even more of the federal safety net for housing.
What’s on the horizon?
Since the Budget Control Act went into effect, Congress made some short-term agreements to increase spending beyond the budget caps. These agreements provided very limited budgetary relief. They also required parity for defense and non-defense spending (cuts to one should mean equal cuts to the other). That helped. It temporarily eased the pressure on affordable housing. But low spending caps will return in the 2018 fiscal year, unless the White House and Congress act again.
The budget cuts that are on the horizon threaten affordable housing and community development investments even further. (see chart, right) And that threatens millions of low income families. We need Congress to lift the spending caps and keep parity for defense and non-defense programs. That will bring the greatest highest level of funding possible for affordable housing.
The Upshot Is…
Yes, we have to work to reduce the U.S. deficit over the long-term. But balancing our budget shouldn’t be done on the backs of our low income families. Instead, we need to invest in the resources families and communities need to thrive. That builds stronger communities. And strong communities build a strong nation.
HMHI will keep you updated on ways you can help create the kind of national policy that will strengthen our nation. Visit our website frequently. Or better: sign up to receive our free e-news. We’ll stay in touch with you on ways you can help our lawmakers protect low income families and strengthen our Quad Cities.
For more information, we recommend A Place to Call Home by the Campaign for Housing and Community Development Funding (CHCDF) of the National Low Income Housing Coalition from which the information in this article derived.