ICAN! America (
Mon, 27 Dec 1999 21:24:45 -0500

NCH Criticizes Congress and the Administration
for Forgetting "The Forgotten Americans"


CONTACT: Mary Ann Gleason, Executive Director, 202/737-6444, x. 310
The National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH)

WASHINGTON - The National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH) said a newly released
study on homelessness was a stark condemnation of the protracted destruction by
our policy-makers of our 'safety net' system, commitment to which must be
sustained by any decent society.

"Americans now will understand we have clearly created a two-tiered system in
this country that proclaims equality of opportunity, but doesn't offer it. They
now will know we have created a system that grossly overcompensates some and
then condemns others to shelters or the streets because the minimum wages they
earn or the disability assistance they receive cannot possibly allow them to
afford housing in this economy, nor have access to the health care or support
systems they need," said Mary Ann Gleason, Executive Director of NCH.

"We have to do it one way or the other - either people are able to earn livable
incomes to meet basic necessities, or we establish and fund housing and health
care that assures their long-term stability. The American people are telling us
enough is enough. As they walk past individuals sleeping in doorways who are
markedly burdened by poverty, mental illness, or addictions, or living with the
consequences of child abuse, they know something has gone awry. Twenty years of
public policy that has severely eroded the possibility of millions of Americans
being able to sustain themselves financially, and get the housing, health care
and support services they need - that's the real story behind homelessness,"
Gleason continued.

"This report tells the American people that what politicians and talk show hosts
have been telling us for years about the flaws and choice of individuals who are
homeless has been a lie. What we are looking at is a failed economic and social
system that is not willing to share the bounty more equitably. A remarkably
successful economy that cannot be held accountable to the social good of
disabled persons, those suffering from the consequences of no health care or
inadequate foster care systems, unfair wages, child abuse or unequal education,
must re-examine its priorities."

NCH criticized the Clinton Administration for not substantively attending to
this issue with the vigor the President promised before he took office. "But
there is still time," Gleason said. The study, The Forgotten
Americans-Homelessness: Programs and the People they Serve, was prepared by the
federal Interagency Council on the Homeless (ICH) and released December 8th by
Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Andrew Cuomo.

"Homelessness should have been eliminated by now. Instead, in urban, suburban
and rural communities all across America, families and individuals are forced
into homelessness at a far faster rate than people are able to successfully move
out of it, in part because of the inflated cost
of housing in our current economy," said Gleason.

The lack of housing affordable by the lowest income Americans has been
documented for decades. In 1978, HUD's budget was almost twice, in today's
dollars, what it is today. You cannot remove access to housing by disabled
individuals who only receive $6,000 a year in disability income, or by minimum
wage workers, who earn only $10,700 a year, and not expect increased
homelessness. Congress and the Administration need to look at themselves in the
mirror to understand why homelessness continues. Increasing homeless dollars,
while decreasing housing dollars makes no sense. Members of both parties need to
create not simply housing programs, but sustained housing policy that is fair to
all Americans, not only to those who own their own homes, and are given
significant tax deductions to do so.

NCH acknowledged the tireless advocacy of Secretary Cuomo on behalf of persons
experiencing homelessness, but remarked that HUD action alone is insufficient.
"The study points out yet again that the ending and preventing of homelessness
requires more than a housing response. It also requires universal access to
appropriate health care and supportive services, adequate incomes and the
enactment and enforcement of civil rights protections. We urge the President to
activate all the members of his cabinet, to create and fund housing, health and
socio-economic policies that can leave a legacy worth having regarding our most
vulnerable citizens," said Gleason.

NCH particularly chastised HHS for its negligence, especially in light of the
study's findings that many homeless persons face extraordinary health and social
challenges. "Dereliction of duty," commented Gleason in characterizing that
department's current activity level on homelessness. "There's been a dearth of
substantive proposals coming out of HHS, despite the fact that endless studies
funded by HHS have demonstrated effective ways to prevent and end homelessness.
We just don't understand why Secretary Shalala won't move serious initiatives
out of the department for the White House to take on. That absence of leadership
has resulted in grave consequences for disabled persons, foster children,
victims of domestic violence, families moving from welfare to work who do become
homeless, as well as those who don't have to become homeless, if only the
Department would commit to doing what we know how to do."

As a short-term response, NCH urged the President to expand funding in his
forthcoming budget request for the several assistance and prevention programs
targeting homeless persons. NCH also called on the President to issue an
executive order that would instruct all federal departments and agencies to take
actions to end and prevent homelessness and support persons experiencing

The National Coalition for the Homeless, founded in 1982, is a national network
of homeless persons, state and local homeless coalitions, housing, health, and
other service providers, and others who work proactively to end and prevent
homelessness in this nation.


H. C.  Sonny Covington
I CAN! America, LLC
Voice 1.800.678.5774
Fax     1.505.209.2619