[Hpn] Funding for Homeless Program Urged: Federal Shelter Plus Care ... in Danger ...

Morgan W. Brown norsehorse@hotmail.com
Sat, 20 Oct 2001 18:27:21 -0400


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-------Forwarded article-------

October 20, 2001
Los Angeles Times <http://www.latimes.com>
[Los Angeles, California]
National News section
THE NATION
Funding for Homeless Program Urged
<http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-000083619oct20.story>

Housing: The federal Shelter Plus Care plan for the disabled is in danger of 
losing its benefits in 2002.


By JOCELYN Y. STEWART, TIMES STAFF WRITER


Housing advocates across the nation are urging Congress to renew funding for 
a program that they say is desperately needed to house disabled people who 
might otherwise be forced to live on the streets.

More than 500 mentally and physically disabled people in Los Angeles, once 
chronically without homes, are in danger of being thrown back on the streets 
a year from now if Congress does not restore funding threatened by the 
House, said Natalie Profant Komuro, director of policy and legislative 
affairs for the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority.

Profant Komuro's concerns echo those of housing advocates around the country 
who say the Shelter Plus Care program assists about 30,000 households, 
including about 1,228 in Los Angeles. Under the program, disabled people who 
had been homeless receive rental subsidies used at housing sites that also 
offer supportive services, such as counseling and job training. Because the 
housing is permanent, residents have a dependable base from which to rebuild 
their lives.

Advocates view Shelter Plus Care as an effective way of reaching the 
hard-core homeless--those who have been without shelter for two years or 
more and who suffer from disabilities, including mental illness.

"It really has had amazing results," said Steve Berg, vice president of 
programs and policy at the National Alliance to End Homelessness, based in 
Washington, D.C.

"These are people most everyone else has given up on, people who are living 
a nightmarish existence, and also costing taxpayers a lot of money."

Last year Congress set up a special account and appropriated $100 million to 
fund renewals, with local projects periodically reapplying for funding. The 
special fund insured that Shelter Plus Care would not have to compete with 
other types of homeless programs for funding.

This year the program had the support of the president and the Senate. The 
Senate included nearly $100 million for the program in its 2002 budget--the 
amount requested by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

But the House budget included no funds for the program in 2002, with some 
lawmakers saying enough money had been set aside for Shelter Plus Care in 
the last budget.

"They chose not to fund it this year, based on information that a lot of the 
money from last year had not been spent," said Daniel Gage, communications 
director for Rep. James T. Walsh (R-N.Y.), who heads the appropriations 
subcommittee that oversees the funds.

But the House majority also worried that "this program was going to continue 
to grow and grow beyond a manageable rate," Gage said.

Representatives of HUD declined to comment, but supporters of the program 
argue that there are not sufficient funds to cover renewals. "The thought 
was it had been funded for 2001 and funded for 2002," Berg said. "That was 
not the case."

In July, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Oakland) and Rep. John J. LaFalce (D-N.Y.) 
introduced an amendment to secure funding for renewals. But the amendment 
was defeated.

Supporters say they hope the money can be restored during conference 
committee, when the House and Senate versions of the legislation must be 
reconciled.

After hearing such concerns, Walsh's office said this week that the 
congressman is now willing to consider funding renewals for the program this 
year.

Without the money, some of the housing subsidies will begin to disappear 
about a year from now, said Berg, of the National Alliance to End 
Homelessness.

In Alameda County, there are an estimated 13,000 homeless people and many 
more at risk of being homeless, said Andrew Sousa, press secretary to Lee. 
About 410 households in that county would be in jeopardy. In Syracuse, N.Y., 
150 of 300 units could lose their subsidies, said Buck Bagot of the National 
Shelter Plus Care Coalition.

If Congress does not deliver the money, Shelter Plus Care will then have to 
join the larger competition for homeless funds from HUD, battling against a 
wide variety of other programs. That, in turn, could lead to cuts in other 
homeless programs, supporters worry.

"That has a severe impact on what else we can do in the city of Los 
Angeles," said Mary Maher, assistant director for Section 8, the federal 
housing assistance program for very low-income families. "It would 
absolutely reduce the amount of new homeless people we can help, which is 
really the big issue."

Fear about the possible reductions have spread among housing providers and 
their clients, said Sandra E. Cox, executive director of the Coalition of 
Mental Health Professionals and Consumers Inc. in Los Angeles. "They're 
frightened because they think they will become homeless again."

Residents of the Figueroa Street apartment building run by the coalition 
suffer from chronic mental illness. Many are taking psychotropic medications 
to keep them stable, Cox said. At a time of national crisis, the threat of 
losing their homes has increased the stress on those most vulnerable to its 
effects.

"If these folks lose their housing, it would be a major trauma, not only for 
them . . . [but] for this city," Cox said. "The homeless population that is 
now housed would be thrown back on the streets."

On Thursday, Donald Barber, a tenant of the Figueroa Street apartment 
building, spent part of his day on the phone with the office of Sen. Dianne 
Feinstein (D-Calif.).

"We need this housing issue settled as fast as possible so we won't lose our 
grants," Barber said.

Several residents of the coalition's apartment building and others 
throughout the city have written letters encouraging lawmakers to continue 
support of the program.

They tell of having lived on the street, in cars and in garages. They credit 
Shelter Plus Care with saving their lives and restoring self-worth. They 
make simple pleas.

Wrote one man: "Don't make me homeless."

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Morgan <norsehorse@hotmail.com>
Morgan W. Brown
Montpelier Vermont USA



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