State, local budget cuts may increase homelessness, says new brief

State and local budget cuts are leading to increased vulnerability and may ultimately lead to increases in homelessness. This conclusion appears today in a new brief from the National Alliance to End Homelessness.

A key finding in the brief, entitled Economy Bytes: Effect of State and Local Budget Cuts on Homelessness, is the identification of nine states where an elevated level of vulnerability exists. This designation reflects:

  • a homelessness rate higher than the national rate,
  • multiple risk factors for increasing homelessness, and
  • cuts to either public sector jobs or public assistance.

Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Louisiana, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington, DC.. Four states among these nine have the highest levels of vulnerability because they made cuts to both public sector jobs and public assistance. These four states are Arizona, Louisiana, Oregon, and Washington, DC .

U.S. map showing areas of increased vulnerability to becoming homeless. Courtesy of National Alliance to End Homelessness.

The brief, which is the third in the Economy Bytesseries, also details how in the past two fiscal years (2010 and 2011), 24 states and the District of Columbia made cuts to public assistance and 34 made cuts to public sector jobs.

Today, in a related news event, the Senate passed and the President signed the Budget Control Act of 2011. What will that mean for future U.S. budgeting? What will happen next? Here’s a concise summation from the National Alliance to End Homelessness:

… the Act sets up a bipartisan committee, comprised of senators and representatives selected by each chamber’s leadership, tasked with reducing the deficit by an additional $1.5 trillion over 10 years. This committee must agree on where the necessary spending cuts or revenue increases will come from by November 23, 2011, and the committee’s plans must be approved by both the House and Senate by December 23, 2011. If a deal is not reached by December 23, cuts will automatically be triggered that would cut spending across the board (defense and non-defense spending) by $1.2 trillion spread evenly over 10 years. Programs targeted toward low-income individuals and families would largely be exempt from these automatic cuts, though the specifics of this provision remain unclear.
The national Catholic social justice lobbying group NETWORK reminds its members that:

A moral budget prioritizes programs that provide for those who are poor and vulnerable.

Let us work toward a moral budget that keeps people in appropriate, safe and healthy housing and allows families to live together.

This video news clip from Colorado Springs details local fears of how upcoming budget cuts could affect every sector of their community, including those on disability:

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