[Hpn] New GAO Report = Homelessness: Barriers to Using Mainstream Programs

icanamerica icanamerica@email.msn.com
Mon, 10 Jul 2000 17:23:22 -0500

JULY 6, 2000
Homelessness: Barriers to Using Mainstream Programs.
RCED-00-184. 60 pp. (with 9 appendices)  July 6, 2000.

July 6, 2000
The U.S. General Accounting Office
P.O. Box 37050
Washington, DC 20013

Congressional Requesters

Low-income people, including those who are homeless, can receive a wide
range of assistance—such as housing, food, health care, transportation,
and job training—through an array of federal programs, such as the Food
Stamp Program and Medicaid. These programs, often referred to as
mainstream programs, are generally designed to help low-income
individuals either achieve or retain their economic independence and

However, in the late 1980s, the Congress recognized that
existing programs were not effectively meeting the needs of homeless
people. Consequently, to develop a comprehensive federal response to
homelessness, the Congress passed the Stewart B. McKinney Homeless
Assistance Act in 1987. The act established programs providing emergency
food and shelter, those offering longer-term housing and supportive
services, and those designed to demonstrate effective approaches for
providing homeless people with other services, such as physical and
mental health care, education, and job training. Originally, many of the
programs authorized under this act were intended to provide targeted,
emergency relief to the homeless population and were appropriated at
about $350 million in 1987. A decade later, this amount had increased to
about $1.2 billion annually, and much of the assistance these programs now
provide often mirrors the assistance available through the mainstream
programs. Even with this expansion, however, experts generally agree that
the McKinney Act programs, by themselves, cannot adequately meet the
needs of homeless people and that mainstream programs must be made
more accessible to this population.

Concerned about the ability of homeless people to obtain assistance
through federal mainstream programs, you asked GAO to determine (1) why
homeless people cannot always access or effectively use federal
mainstream programs and (2) how the federal government can improve
homeless people’s access to, and use of, these programs. To address the
first objective, we interviewed, and reviewed documents obtained from,
federal officials, representatives of national advocacy and policy
organizations, providers of services to homeless people, and individuals
who were currently or formerly homeless. We focused in depth on barriers
to seven key mainstream programs.


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