How Decisions in Washington Could Affect Housing in Waco, Part II – Homeless Assistance Grants

by Phil York, Act Locally Waco Housing and Homelessness Policy blogger

In the Act Locally Waco blog post on May 18, we introduced information about a bill called The U.S. House of Representatives Fiscal Year 2015 Transportation Housing and Urban Development (THUD) bill (HR 4745). In this post, I would like to give you an update on the status of that bill, and also explain how this bill directly affects our goal of reducing homelessness in Waco.

The importance of McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants

A key element of the THUD bill that directly affects Waco is funding for McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants, in particular the Continuum of Care program. (For an excellent description of this program from the National Alliance to End Homelessness, click here.) According to the most recent update on the Mayor’s 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness, agencies and organizations who work with homeless people in Waco have been able to reduce chronic homelessness in Waco by two-thirds since work on the plan was initiated in 2005. The funds Waco has received via the Continuum of Care Grant program have been foundational to the successful implementation of the plan so far, and continued funding will be necessary for on-going success.

In 2013, for example, our Waco community received over a million dollars ($1,040,292 ) through this competitive grant program. Almost all of the money ($977,639) received from this grant went directly to fund needed programs administered by some of the most well-respected non-profits and agencies in Waco, specifically:

The remainder ($62,653) went to pay for the administration of our Homeless Management Information System (HMIS). This is the software that allows us to measure participation in our programs for homeless people and to identify patterns in usage of various services. It is our best source for the information we need to track our progress and to make sure we are working together as efficiently and effectively as possible.

According to the research done in connection with the Mayor’s 10-year Plan to End Homelessness, each chronically homeless person in Waco was costing the city $39,000 in 2005. Best estimates suggest that with the help of the Continuum of Care grant funds, we have reduced the number of chronically homeless people in Waco from 97 (at a cost of $3,783,000 per year) to 32 ($1,248,000 per year). In other words for a $1,040,292 per year Continuum of Care investment, we are generating $2,535,000 per year worth of benefit. And those figures only consider what we have been able to accomplish regarding chronic homelessness; they do not take into account the progress that has been made regarding other kinds of homelessness thanks to Continuum of Care funding.

What does HR 4745 mean to Waco?

President Obama’s proposed 2015 budget included $2.145 billion for Homeless Assistance Grants, a $300 million dollar increase. The House version of the appropriation (HR 4745), proposes keeping the funding at 2014 levels, $2.105 billion.

According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness (NAEH), remaining at 2014 funding levels would be bad news for communities like Waco who depend on money from the Continuum of Care Grant. As the NAEH explains on their website, “Due to expiring multi-year grants and increased renewal demand, the $2.105 billion funding level for McKinney that passed through the House would result in funding cuts to Continuums of Care. If this funding level is enacted, communities will be required to once again make the difficult tiering and prioritization decisions they made for the FY 2013 NOFA (Notice of Funds Availability).”

Where is the Bill Now?

According to Govtrack.us, this bill passed in the House on June 10, 2014 and goes to the Senate next for consideration.

What Can I do?

Remain informed: The most important call to action is for us to remain informed about the current policy landscape. Regardless of your political background or interest, we share common ground in the preservation and long term health of Waco.  You can follow the work of the US Committee on Appropriations by visiting their website: http://appropriations.house.gov/news/. Another useful site for keeping track of legislation is Govtrack.us. This site gives a step by step graphical guide on where policy is within the legislative process.

Speak up: Contact your U.S. House representative and your U.S. Senators. Let your representatives know that the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants, and in particular the Continuum of Care Grants, are making a tremendous difference in the Waco community. The money being spent has directly resulted in reducing homelessness, and it is an investment that saves money both immediately and in the long run. Feel free to use points raised in this blog post as talking points in your correspondence. If your Representative is Mr. Bill Flores, you have the convenience to contact Rep Bill Flores directly via email (https://billflores.house.gov/contact/ ).  The U.S. Senators from Texas are John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, click on their names to find out how to contact each of them.

Connect directly to the mission: There are volunteer and giving opportunities at each of the nonprofits listed in this blog post. Connect directly to the work that is reducing homelessness and making Waco a better place to live for all of us.

Special thanks to Jennifer Caballero, Lead Program Analyst – HMIS, City of Waco, for her technical assistance in this blog post research.

Phil 2Phil York, Director of Development at Waco Habitat for Humanity, is a self-described “policy nerd;” he is also the Act Locally Waco housing and homelessness policy blogger. You can direct questions to Phil to pyork.law@gmail.com. Would you be interested in blogging for Act Locally Waco? If so please email ashleyt@actlocallywaco.org.

 

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