Friday, April 29, 2011

A Homeless Revolution Is Unfolding

UPDATE: On April 10th I did a blog post about how I chased down a robber whom I'd witnessed taking a woman's camera. I ended my post rather abruptly and failed to say that the culprit was caught by police less than 5 minutes after I indicated where I'd last seen him and only a half block away from where my chase ended. We don't need to give people a reason to stop feeding the homeless or the cops a reason to clear the homeless out of the parks where they are often fed by churches and other groups of do-gooders.

A Homeless Revolution Is Unfolding

DC Mayor Vincent Gray's budget proposal was released on April 1st with horrendous cuts to Human Services. The homeless advocacy community, service providers and government officials working on Human Services have all been in an uproar over the negative impact these cuts will have if the budget is passed by the DC Council. Everyone is worried. I have DC Councilmen Jim Graham and Tommy Wells on video saying how terrible it's going to be if the budget gets passed as is. (See my YouTube channel at: www.youtube.com/user/EricSheptock)

On Thursday,April 14th COHHO (the Coalition Of Housing and Homeless organizations) held its usual monthly meeting. During that meeting, people discussed the crisis that is being created by Mayor Vincent Gray. Someone asked, "Who's going to tell the poor and the homeless about these cuts to Human Services?" Immediately following that meeting, about a half dozen homeless homeless advocates held a planning meeting in order to organize and strategize around getting the word out to those who will be affected by the budget cuts. I then secured a meeting space at CCNV (the Community for Creative Non-Violence) Shelter, due to the generosity of CCNV Director Rico Harris. On April 26th about 25 homeless people, 3 people from non-profits and 2 housed supporters met in the basement of CCNV (the drop-in) to chart the way forward.

Those of us who are already deeply involved informed the others who are just coming on board about the depth of the developing crisis. We explained that families with small children are already being denied shelter and that, as of April 1st, 2012, CCNV might well be the last year-round homeless shelter in our nation's capital. At the rate at which things are going, there may be at least 5,000 unsheltered homeless on the streets of DC next spring.

The meeting got emotional at times and it wasn't always easy to regain order. Nonetheless we got through it. The fact of the matter is that DC Government:

1 -- Fails to take sufficient steps to prevent homelessness
2 -- Fails to ensure the creation of affordable housing
3 -- Is closing shelters
4 -- Is tearing down homeless encampments.

People are worried and emotional. And there were a lot of strong feelings at the meeting -- understandably.

I was pleasantly surprised to find out that several people in the room are ready to turn up the heat on DC Government. People expressed frustration with the process for testifying in front of the DC Council. Someone explained that the homeless have testified repeatedly in front of the Council, but to no avail. Her words were reminiscent of my first blog post in 2008 about our words going into a "black hole" (http://streatstv.blogspot.com/2008/06/my-black-hole.html) It was said that we need to become more aggressive and militant. People spoke of the tactics used by Mitch Snyder in the 1980's and suggested that we take one from his play book.

Before the meeting was adjourned, several people committed to performing certain tasks. Those tasks ranged from passing out fliers to e-mailing to posting video of the meeting. A woman who wasn't able to attend the meeting told me that she would be at the next one and promised to fill the role of secretary.

However, there are other efforts being made by people to get large numbers of protesters out to the Wilson Building (City Hall) to impress upon the mayor and the council the harm that will be done by the cuts. A woman named Celeste stopped me as I was leaving her church after being fed there. I didn't know who she was until she introduced herself and explained that she knew about me and my homeless advocacy. (It's quite common for people whom I don't know to know who I am, since i am often in the lime light.) Celeste then gave me some fliers to distribute in order to get people to come out to a rally to save social services. No sooner had I begun to circulate these and other fliers when another organizer of the rally called and asked me to speak at the rally,scheduled for May 3rd.

As a matter of fact, there are events scheduled for may 2nd through the 6th which are designed to sway the council's decision in favor of retaining services for the most vulnerable. This, of course, means that I'll be super busy. I'm the main organizer of the may 2nd meeting and a speaker on May 3rd. I'll try to attend events on the other days as well. I'm excited about how the fight to make housing a realized human right is picking up steam.

And while the local fight is gaining momentum, I am also involved in the National Right To Housing Movement as well as the League of Revolutionaries for a New America (www.lrna.org) As a matter of fact, I will attend the "League" Convention in Chicago from May 20th to 22nd. Being that I don't have a paying job, I'll need to do some day labor in order to earn $500 -- $300 to pay back the woman who bought my plane ticket and $200 for pocket money to buy food and other necessities. (The motel was paid for through a donation.) So, you can see that I have my hands full. There's never a dull moment for me.

Since I began doing pro bono homeless advocacy in June of 2006, I have not felt as sure that the poor and homeless were ready to stand up for themselves as I do now. It looks as though they've come to realize that this is the real deal and that the government is quite willing to hang them out to dry. Lately, I've heard many homeless people speaking about the impending shelter closures and the loss of vital services. When people ask me about their prospects of getting into HUD housing, I've begun to tell them to stop waiting and to give up hope. The ever-worsening crisis has become the topic of choice at soup kitchen tables. This is not all bad insomuch as it is raising people's consciousness level.

That said, the crisis of capitalism is worsening and the budget cuts are mere symptoms of the disease. As the crisis of capitalism deepens, various societal problems become insolvent. there is no resolution of these problems within the present system. It has run its course. This is why each successive mayor of DC seems to come out more directly against the poor and homeless. The tactics that public officials use to oppress the poor are becoming more overt by the day. Mayor Gray was seen as someone who would be better than mayor Fenty; but, he has turned out to be worse -- a topic that deserves its own blog post. Even so, I'm glad that the homeless are ready to fight.

This is class war!!!!!
It's time for a homeless revolution!!!!!
Let the fight begin in earnest!!!!!

"A riot is the language of the unheard." -- MLK, Jr.

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Thursday, April 14, 2011

DC Mayor Vincent Gray's Proposed Budget Cuts Human Services Spending Disproportionately

Well, it looks like Congress is formulating an agreement on where to cut spending in the federal budget. A government shutdown has been averted once again, though we're not out of the woods yet. They've decided to slash $38.5 billion from the FY 2011 budget (with less than 6 months remaining in this fiscal year). The numbers are still subject to change and the details have not been finalized, though we can be certain that domestic spending on social services will take a hit. The question is "How big of a hit will social services take?". They continue to work on the FY 2012 budget (and hack away at much- needed services).

Here in the nation's capital (which many locals call "the last colony" due to Congress having oversight of what the local government does) DC Mayor Vincent Gray submitted his 2012 budget proposal on April 1st, in accordance with DC Law. On April 8th the DC Fiscal Policy Institute (DCFPI) issued its analysis of his proposal. The DC Council will vote on it on May 24th and again on June 7th. The next 7.5 weeks promise to be rife with contentions over the mayor's budget proposal as advocates for different causes fight to get funding for things that are important to them reinstated.

Of particular interest to DCFPI (which, among other things, aims to protect funding for programs that assist the Districts low-income residents) is the fact that more than two-thirds of the budget cuts come from Human Services, even though the Human Services budget only comprises one-fourth ($1.5 billion) of the city budget of about $6.3 billion in local funds, not counting federal funding for Washington, DC. (With federal funding, DC's annual budget is about $9 billion annually; but, the federal money is earmarked by congress for what THEY think is important.)

The District is grappling with a projected budget shortfall of $320 million in FY 2012 (which begins on October 1st, 2011). The mayor has proposed revenue enhancements of $135 million (mainly through tax increases) and seeks $190 million in budget cuts. If he gets his way, $130 million in cuts will come from Human Services.

Being that understanding budgets is nothing less than a science, many people get lost as I attempt to go into any further details on the budget. So, I'll try to make this as simple as possible. just this morning (April 14th) I was in a meeting with about 3 dozen homeless and housing advocates as well as "budget experts" and nobody was sure as to how things are going to pan out in terms of housing and homelessness. All we could do is take guesstimates.

Not counting money for housing programs, DC spent $55 million on homeless services for FY 2011. $15 million of that is federal TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) money which the District will not have next year. The city is replacing $4 million of that with local money, for a net loss of $11 million or 20% to homeless services. When we factor in the increase in the baseline budget (what it costs to deliver the same amount of services as in the previous year), this means that what appears on its face to be a 20% cut is actually deeper. (For example, the "living wage law" for city employees goes into effect next year,meaning that a greater amount of the remaining $44 million will go towards wages.)

Within DC's budget, housing money and money for homeless services are separate line items. and, while we are losing $11 million in homeless services next year, we are losing much more in funding for affordable housing and other housing programs. In addition to losing $15 million in federal TANF funds, DC will also lose $10 million in federal funds for Permanent Supportive Housing (a program begun in 2008 which houses the District's most vulnerable). They will also reduce the city's commitment to PSH by $4 million and transfer the number of people served by that money to HUD housing (a federal program).

Funding for the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) which helps people who are in imminent danger of becoming homeless will go from $8 million to $2.7 million and the number of households it serves will drop from just shy of 3,000 to 880.

The DC Council recently passed legislation limiting TANF recipients to a combined 60 months in the program over the course of their lives. This law is retroactive and applies to those who've been in the program for 60 months or more even before the law was passed. Other states have implemented the time limit proactively, giving recipients 5 years from the passage of the law to get off of TANF. Benefits for a family of 3 who've exceeded the time limit were just cut from $428 per month to $348 per month as of April 1st, 2011 and will be cut to $257 per month on October 1st.

The District will altogether eliminate the Interim Disability Assistance (IDA) program which gives $270 a month to 1,500 people who've applied for federally-funded SSI benefits while they wait for their federal claim to be processed (which can take up to 2 years). This means that some of the most vulnerable residents of the District will have absolutely no funds as they await federal benefits.

Mayor Gray's budget cuts $18 million from the Housing Production Trust Fund (HPTF) which currently makes money available for the creation of affordable housing.

So, as you can see, the city will spend much less on homeless services, housing and cash assistance for the needy. There is concern amongst homeless and housing advocates that DC is slowly but surely moving toward only providing a bare minimum of services to the poor and homeless of the city. Local law only requires them to provide shelter when it is 32 degrees or colder and 95 degrees or hotter. Furthermore, this law can be satisfied by giving a person a cot in the hall of a government building. April 1st is the official end of hypothermia season. The city has already begun to turn families away from shelter, some having children 5 years old and younger.

DC counted 6,546 homeless people this past January, an increase of 7 people over last year. the DC Metro area which includes the 8 surrounding counties has seen a 10% increase in homelessness since January of 2007 and a 2% increase since last year. But the slower rate of increase can be attributed, at least in part, to the fact that almost 1,000 people in DC Metro were put in Permanent Supportive housing within the past year. With funding for homeless services and housing programs decreasing and many of those housed by these programs in danger of eviction, the number of street homeless in the nation's capital is bound to increase exponentially come April 1st, 2012.

As if the humanitarian crisis that the DC Council is creating is not enough of a concern, there is the federal HEARTH Act to consider. The HEARTH (Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing) Act is federal legislation which, among other things, will require jurisdictions that receive HUD funding to transition newly-homeless people back into housing within 30 days. With much less funding committed to shelter as well as housing assistance or the creation of affordable housing, the city will be unable to meet its federal mandate. This will result in them becoming ineligible for future HUD funding, which will result in them serving less low-income residents. I'm inclined to think that this is all part of their grand design.

The time to fight is now!!!!!

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Sunday, April 10, 2011

I JUST STOPPED A ROBBER

I apologize insomuch as this might read more like a detailed police report than a blog post.
I hope that it will serve as evidence against the robber who I helped to catch today and have therefore included much detail:

I left my church, the Church of the Epiphany (1317 G Street, NW in Washington, DC) at 2:50 PM today. I helped a homeless lady friend lug her belongings to the bus stop a block away as we walked with yet another homeless woman. We saw the bus pass the stop when we were still a half block away. I decided to walk the 2 blocks up to Franklin Park; but, they hadn't felt like walking uphill even for that short distance. After speaking with them for a few minutes, I heard my church's bells ring out the 3:00 hour as I began to walk away.

I arrived in Franklin Park a few minutes after 3 PM, entering from the corner of 13th and I (eye) Streets. I spoke to another homeless lady friend who was sitting on a park bench and then turned my attention toward a group gathered on the far side of the park near K Street. I wanted to see if they were feeding. As I got closer, I recognized the man who was speaking as a member of Praise-N-Thunder (www.praisenthunder.org), a group that feeds the homeless in Franklin Park on the first Saturday of every month. He had come with his church (not with PNT this time) and was preaching to the others while doing a painting that accompanied his sermon (a rather neat thing to watch).

After observing the sermon and painting for a couple of minutes, I decided to walk to the west side of the park near 14th Street and see if either of the 2 groups that were over there had any food left. I walked by both and got the last sandwich from the latter of the 2 groups. I then returned to the artist/preacher whom I've known personally for a couple of years. All he had left were some Snickers minis and bottled water. Immediately after helping myself to a couple of pieces of candy and a bottle of water, I witnessed a robbery.

No sooner had I put the water bottle in one jacket pocket and the candy in the other when I heard about 5 very high-pitched screams. I looked at a scene which was about 60 or so feet from me and tried to interpret whether it was a playful scene or trouble was unfolding. I saw a red-headed woman with an orange jacket who was bent over and struggling with a man who was pulling a black strap over her head to get it off of her shoulder. I then saw her begin to chase him as she screamed that he had taken her camera.

I turned so as to give chase but then hesitated as i realized that my heavy backpack wouldn't enable me to catch him. I began to take it off and stopped. When my friend realized what I was contemplating, he offered to watch my backpack. I then put it down and gave chase.

I had seen the man run across K Street and go eastward to 13th Street. But when I got across the road after awaiting traffic, I couldn't see him. I asked people on the sidewalk which way he had gone. They pointed toward 13th Street, confirming my suspicions. I turned left onto 13th and headed north on the west shoulder, going past the firehouse which is located there. I still couldn't see him. I looked as far as the eye could see and couldn't locate him.

A man came driving out of the alley next to the firehouse and I asked him if he had seen anyone run back into the alley. He said "No". With no more than 30 seconds having elapsed from the time that I'd lost sight of him until the time that I first reached the firehouse, I figured he couldn't have run far enough to get out of sight and must have ducked and hidden somewhere. I turned back toward the firehouse and began to slowly and cautiously peek inside. That's when I found him standing with his back against the narrow sliver of wall that is between 2 garage doors. When he saw me he exited the firehouse and continued up 13th Street.

I chased him as he turned right and headed east on L Street. At that point I pulled my cell phone out of the holster and called 911 to ask for the police. He told me to stop following him and then turned around to chase me. I hung up and ran back toward 13th. he turned to run back toward 12th. I followed. This time he turned and chased me back toward 13th, turned right and ran north on 13th again. I had crossed to the south shoulder of L Street to put some distance between us (not quite at the intersection). I crossed back over to the north shoulder of L Street, went to the intersection with 13th and asked a Hispanic woman which way he had gone. She pointed northward and I spotted him walking. When I saw him going north on 13th, I called 911 again and began to follow at a distance once again.

He turned east by northeast on Massachusetts Avenue, ran toward 12th Street, found a limb that appeared to be approximately 3 feet long and 4 inches in diameter and ran toward me while threatening to kill me. I ran back toward 13th and stopped to see if he was behind me. I saw that he wasn't. However, there was a lot of traffic on Mass Ave at this point and I decided to see if he was hiding between vehicles or if he had, in fact, crossed the street. I couldn't find him and gave up.

A Caucasian man with blonde hair approached me and asked where the man I'd been chasing had gone. I told him I didn't know. He explained that he'd overheard me calling the cops as I ran and that he drove ahead of me to try and find the perpetrator but couldn't. He and I walked toward 12th Street as we spoke. Just then, several police vehicles pulled up and he walked ahead of me to speak to the cops. He then motioned back toward me and walked away.

I was out of breath and breathing heavily as I began to speak to the cops. One of them offered to call an ambulance, but I declined. There was a slight misunderstanding and a cop thought that I was claiming to be the victim. I explained that I was chasing the robber for the victim who was an Irish lady in Franklin Park. An officer explained that there were cops in the park and released me to return there and speak with them. I returned to the park at what would have to have been about 3:40 PM. (I'd chased the man from about 3:15 to 3:30, spoken to the cops for almost 5 minutes and then walked 2 blocks back to Franklin park.)

Upon re-entering the park, I spoke to the man who'd offered to watch my backpack. He told me who he'd passed it off to and i retrieved it. I saw that there were people giving out food that included fried chicken, but went instead to give the officers my account of events.

I spoke to several officers in the park, gave a written account on a note pad, and gave the victim my contact info. After giving the police all of the information that they needed, I walked away. Just then, the 2 ladies whom I'd left at the bus stop earlier called me over. I told them what had just transpired. After speaking with them for a few minutes, I left the park. It was 4:25. I went to the Chinatown Starbucks where I did a Facebook update about the robbery and began to write this.

Having missed several feedings during the afternoon, I had to stop typing this and go to Sunday Suppers, a feeding that occurs every Sunday at 6:30 PM in the parking lot of 4th and K Streets NW. I hung out with friends there for a while, but had to come back and finish this.

A DISSERVICE TO THE HOMELESS

It is with great sadness that i say that the actions of the perpetrator are hurtful to the homeless in that it gives the police and the public a reason not to want the homeless in the park. Too many incidents like this could cause public officials to forbid anyone to feed the homeless in the park. As it turns out, there are some soup kitchens that only feed 5 days per week and the homeless are heavily dependent on the do-gooders who feed in the park. that is all the more reason for myself and others to do all we can to keep the park safe and to ensure that there is civil behavior there. People need to eat.

FINALLY, I saw indications that this could lead to some racial tensions in the future. As i returned to the park, I found out that another Afro-American had also attempted to chase the Hispanic robber. Then, during a short break in the investigation, I was approached by several Hispanic men who were unhappy about me having turned the robber in. They explained that he was upset about having his picture taken. I explained that you can't stop someone from taking your photo in a public space. The other Afro-American man made remarks about the Hispanics being responsible for all of the problems in the park and efforts that might be made to stop people from feeding the homeless. I saw a recipe for racial tensions there, but hope it doesn't come to that. One can only hope.

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Monday, April 4, 2011

HEARTH Act: Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing

On May 20th, 2009 (exactly 4 months into his term), President Obama signed the HEARTH Act (Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing) into law. The legislation had the lofty goal of moving all who become newly homeless back into housing within 30 days. It also allows for a person or family who is about to become homeless within 14 days, having no other form of support or assistance at their disposal whereby to avoid eviction, to be helped. Now, almost 2 years later, HUD (the Dept. of Housing and Urban Development) is still devising regulations and working on implementing the HEARTH Act.

The impending and imminent publication of those regulations was the reason that NAEH (the National Alliance to End Homelessness) invited dozens of homeless service providers and advocates to an information-gathering meeting at the N Street Village Women's Shelter on Wednesday, March 30th, 2011. Upon publishing the regulations, HUD is mandated by law to allow for public comment. But it is important for all who are affected by the new regs -- the homeless, those living in HUD housing or any public housing, service providers and advocates -- to gain some understanding of the implications of the new regulations before attending the HUD meeting, so that they can ask informed questions.

What is probably most significant about this legislation is HUD's new definition of "HOMELESSNESS" which includes:

-- Those who will be homeless within 14 days without having sufficient familial and/or financial supports

-- Families with children

-- Unaccompanied youth

-- Those who are unstable (having moved at least 3 times within the last 90 days or having a poor employment history).

In lieu of the fact that different government agencies define homelessness differently, agencies that receive HUD funding will be allowed to apply to HUD for special permission to use up to 10% of funding to assist those who are considered homeless by the definitions of any of these other agencies though not by HUD's definition. This should eliminate a lot of bureaucratic red tape.

In an effort to further decrease the ravages of bureaucracy, HUD will allow for the creation of "unified funding agencies" within locales. HUD has historically managed all local contractors directly. They will begin to allow qualifying agencies to apply for status as a unified funding agency. After being designated as such, an agency can then compile a collaborative application to receive funding for all HUD-related projects within their respective locales and will receive 3% of the combined value as their administrative costs. (This 3% is ON TOP OF the administered funds, not SUBTRACTED FROM them.)

HEARTH will differ from other efforts to address homelessness insomuch as it will shift its focus from:

1 -- Programs to Systems
2 -- Activities to Outcomes
3 -- Shelter to Prevention
4 -- Transitioning to Rapid Re-housing

1 -- Whereas the government has been in the habit of devising programs that address widespread problems AFTER they've developed, HEARTH is designed to put systemic safeguards in place that PREVENT large numbers of people from becoming homeless.

2 -- HEARTH avoids giving recipients of housing assistance long lists of things they must do to comply with "program rules" and replaces this with a demand on service providers to produce outcomes.

3 -- HEARTH puts less resources into the creation of shelter and more into homelessness prevention on a case-by-case basis.

4 -- HEARTH moves away from slowly transitioning people into housing and aims to rapidly re-house people.

Another notable difference is that what was formerly known as the Emergency Shelter Grant (ESG) will now be known as the Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG) and the money will be re-purposed as follows:

The Emergency Shelter Grant was a pre-determined amount of money that cities received in order to provide shelter. It was used to fund shelter renovation, operating costs, services and homeless prevention. It could be used to assist people who earned less than 50% of the area median income (AMI).

The Emergency Solutions Grant will continue to do most of what the emergency Shelter Grant did, but with 2 significant differences. It will only be used to assist those making less than 30% of the AMI and 40% of this funding will eventually be used for HPRP-type programs. (HPRP stands for "Homelessness Prevention and Rapid re-housing Program" and was a temporary program created as part of the "Stimulus Package".) Locales will not be required to decrease the amount of money that they spend on shelter; but, as their annual allotment increases, they will be required to put the additional monies into prevention programs until they meet the 40% requirement.

The outcomes that HEARTH focuses on are termed "community performance measures" and are as three-fold:

1 -- Length of a person's or family's homelessness (as opposed to measuring their progress as they attempt to exit homelessness)

2 -- The number of times a person or family returns to homelessness

3 -- How many people become homeless for the first time.

HEARTH moves away from simply providing more permanent housing (such as HUD housing) and encourages the use of proven strategies for ending and preventing homelessness. Such strategies include the rapid re-housing of families with children. All agencies that receive HUD funding will be required to assist all minors (under the age of 18). HUD is charged with gathering information about and instituting other proven strategies as well.

REFLECTIONS:

While, the HEARTH Act sets lofty goals and seems quite ambitious on its face, those of us who've had any experience dealing with federal policies in the past know that such policies, though well-intentioned, don't always meet there goals and often have poorly-designed goals. (This might begin to explain why Congress is presently debating over whether or not to fund the Mckinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, published in 1987.)

One of the major concerns that was raised was the emphasis which HEARTH puts on a "rapid transition to housing". Being that HEARTH puts a great deal of emphasis on performance and results, it is not yet known if Washington, DC and other jurisdictions with similarly designed shelter systems will need to overhaul their shelter systems.

Washington, DC presently runs several different types of shelters. The majority of them are "low-barrier" shelters. In a low-barrier shelter a person is not required to have identification or to give their real name. If they are on the lam or an undocumented worker, law enforcement is not called on them (so long as they don't commit a crime within the shelter). They may come in high or drunk (so long as they don't bring drugs or alcohol into the shelter). Low-barrier shelter is designed to encourage people to come out of the elements so that they don't freeze or fall into traffic while drunk.

However, people are not required by low-barrier shelters to enter into any programs or show that they are doing anything to end their homelessness. This runs contrary to the objectives of HEARTH. Since the "low-barrier" designation was created by DC government and a failure to produce results will adversely affect the District's HUD funding, it stands to reason that the local shelter system might be re-configured.

It was pointed out during the meeting that, when financial trouble strikes, a family stops paying utilities and/or rent first. This is often the beginning of a downward spiral that can lead to them eventually losing everything. It stands to reason that, rather than attempting to end or prevent homelessness, time could be better-spent addressing poverty as a whole.

All too often, those experiencing poverty are sent to numerous agencies for various forms of assistance that address very targeted aspects of a person's life. They must apply for food stamps. Then they must go to a different agency for help paying the rent or utilities. then they may need to apply separately for TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families). And who knows what else they may need to apply for. Then they might even be expected to look for a job or to attend job-training courses. That said, being poverty becomes a full-time job. And let's not even discuss how much work goes into being homeless.

It was mentioned during the meeting that people need income from employment and/or subsidies in order to exit homelessness,as money problems are at the root of many people's homelessness. This speaks to why some see homelessness as an intractable problem. It is a multi-faceted issue and much of what would need to be done to end homelessness doesn't fall within the purview of the agencies charged with ending homelessness. The agencies that deal with homelessness usually don't deal with people's income. This creates a seemingly irresolvable disconnect.

During the meeting, I gave my spiel about the need to mandate the creation of affordable housing. Though I don't see that happening anytime in the near future, it is an absolute necessity. the lack of affordable housing is the primary reason for homelessness in the united States. and, in my humble opinion, any plan to end homelessness is incomplete without strong legislation that mandates the creation of affordable housing being put in place. Nonetheless, the governments of our nation support the free-market economy and prefer to allow landlords to charge exorbitant rents.

Finally, while I can appreciate the emphasis that HEARTH puts on preventing homelessness, a key form of prevention is overlooked. The system fails to assist most people until AFTER they become homeless. Those who are becoming homeless for the first time don't know where to turn and don't learn what systems are in place to help those in danger of becoming homeless until it's too late. There is no legislation in place that forces landlords to apprise people of their rights or to inform them of agencies that will help them pay the rent. For many people, their first encounter with a housing counselor takes place after they enter shelter. This represents a serious flaw in the system.

That said, I commend the efforts being made by the federal government to end homelessness. How well they'll do remains to be seen. HUD's regulations and the eventual implementation of the HEARTH Act are still in the works. So, stay tuned and be sure to give your input when the regs are issued. Will this latest legislation put a dent in the homeless population? One can only hope.

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