A person sleeps on the sidewalk.
Photo courtesy of Mihály Köles/unsplash.com

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) recently announced that it would funnel more than $1.4 billion to more than 4,400 homeless programs in 2005, marking the largest amount it has ever committed to combat homelessness in one year. 

This is the fourth consecutive increase for programs that serve the homeless population. The funds will be distributed across the country and result in $75.5 million for programs in Washington, D.C., Virginia and Maryland. New York will receive $139.7 million, California $228 million and Florida $66 million. 

“At a time of war, the President is still keeping his commitment to the urban agenda,” said HUD secretary Alphonso Jackson. “The funding announced represents the largest level of support for an unprecedented number of projects on the front lines serving people who would otherwise be living on the streets.” 

The Bush administration has the goal of eliminating chronic homelessness (defined as an individual who has been homeless for more than a year) by 2010. It is estimated that more than 700,000 people will receive the housing and assistance they need to become self-sufficient. 

HUD is awarding two types of grants. The first, Continuum of Care (CoC) grants, provide permanent and transition housing to homeless persons. In addition, these grants fund important services including job training, health care, mental health counseling, substance abuse treatment and child care.  The second, Emergency Shelter grants, convert buildings into homeless shelters, assists in the operation of local shelters and fund related social services and homeless programs. 

Most of the funding announced for the Washington metropolitan area will be awarded competitively through CoC grants, totaling $69.9 billion or 6% of total CoC grants given around the country. 

Emergency Shelter grants amount to $821,000 for DC, $2.4 million for Maryland and $2.6 million for Virginia. These grants are based on a formula for community need and help state and local governments create, improve and operate emergency shelters for homeless people. They also may support other essential services such as job training, health care, substance abuse treatment, childcare and homeless prevention.  

“The grant will let existing programs continue and allow for some new initiatives,” said Michael Stoops, executive director of the National Coalition of the Homeless. “The new initiatives will service the chronically homeless by moving the homeless from the streets to permanent housing.” 

Mike Gelagle, executive director of the Community Partnership for the Prevention of Homelessness, said that of the $16.2 million slated for the Washington D.C. area, 1.5 million would go to new projects for the chronically homeless. The Community Partnership for the Prevention of Homelessness, the Community Council for the Homeless and the United States Veterans Initiative have programs that will benefit from the added monies.  

Still, others saw the announcement as simply a renewal of their existing services and anticipate an eventual reduction. Lori Kaplan, executive director of the Latin American Youth Center, said, “For the most part, the announcement represents renewals and I foresee cuts as a result of the current administration’s anticipated budget reductions for domestic programs“. 

Additionally, this increase comes as the federal government is cutting billions from other programs that help the poor and disadvantaged. For example, President Bush recommends in his 2006 budget that the $4.7 billion Community Development Block Grants be cut, with the funds moving to programs in other departments.  Community block grants go towards improving low-income communities with programs like job training and housing rehabilitation.