Immediate Communication with U.S. Representatives Needed FWD

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Fri, 30 Jul 1999 22:52:19 -0700 (PDT)


[bounced] FWD via Sonny Covington:

ACTION ALERT
July 28, 1999


Oppose Legislation to Block Grant HUD McKinney Programs

Immediate Communication with U.S. Representatives Needed

BACKGROUND:The Stewart B. McKinney Homeless Assistance Act of 1987 and
subsequent amendments established a number of targeted housing and services
programs for homeless persons. Those administered by the U.S. Department of
Housing and Urban Development (HUD) are Emergency Shelter Grants, Supportive
Housing, Shelter Plus Care, and Section 8 Moderate Rehabilitation for Single
Room Occupancy Dwellings. These programs are known collectively as "HUD
McKinney" programs.


The House Committee with jurisdiction over housing issues has developed
legislation to restructure the distribution of HUD McKinney funds.
Representatives Rick Lazio (R-NY) and Barney Frank (D-MA), Chair and Ranking
Member of the House Banking and Financial Services Subcommittee on Housing and
Community Opportunity, introduced the Homeless Housing Programs Consolidation
and Flexibility Act (H.R. 1073) on March 11, 1999. The Subcommittee passed the
bill and made amendments on April 15, 1999.

The most dramatic change to HUD McKinney programs in H.R. 1073 is that funding
would be distributed via block grants to localities and states instead of via
the current Continuum of Care (CoC) SuperNOFA process. Grant levels would be
based on a pre-determined formula˝initially the CDBG allocation˝regardless of
need or merit, as is current practice.

The National Coalition for the Homeless, National Health Care for the Homeless
Council, and˝from what NCH understands˝most state and local homeless coalitions
and many public officials oppose H.R. 1073, now that the CoC process has
stimulated greater collaboration, integration, and non-duplication than ever
before. HUD has also communicated its opposition to H.R. 1073.

STATUS: The Housing and Community Opportunity Subcommittee approved H.R.
1073 on
April 15, 1999 by voice vote, with only one dissenting vote. The bill may be
attached to FY2000 appropriations legislation (see House Cuts HUD McKinney
Funds). U.S. Representatives must hear from their constituents right now so
that
they have the benefit of learning the views of homeless persons, advocates, and
providers from their communities before voting on the legislation.

To help gain support for the bill, Subcommittee members amended it to include a
discharge policy requirement. However the policy is so loosely worded that
it is
more loop-hole than substance. The amendments also call for funding the
continuation of Shelter Plus Care projects outside the Continuum of Care
process
(since beneficiaries of this program are typically no longer homeless). NCH has
requested this action for three years. However, NCH believes that continued
funding of Shelter Plus Care could be accomplished more effectively through the
appropriations process--and thus continues to oppose H.R. 1073 despite the
potential addition of this "sweetener" provision.

ACTION: Contact your U.S. Representative and urge him/her to vote against H.R.
1073 and to make a statement in opposition to the bill on the House floor.
Furthermore, urge your U.S. Representative to communicate his/her opposition to
the leadership of the House Banking and Financial Services Committee. Because
H.R.1073 may be attached to FY2000 appropriations legislation, first call your
U.S. Representative. Then, follow-up with a letter.

HOW TO COMMUNICATE WITH CONGRESS

By Phone˝ Call the Capitol Switchboard at 202/224-3121. Ask the operator to
transfer you to your RepresentativeÝs office. When you reach that office,
explain that you are a constituent and ask to speak with the staff member who
handles housing or homelessness issues.

By Letter˝Address letters to REPRESENTATIVES AT: The Honorable [Full Name of
Representative], U.S. House of Representatives, Washington, DC 20515; Dear
Representative [Last Name:].

NOTE: Please send a copy of any correspondence you send and receive to the NCH
staff contact listed below.

DISCUSSION POINTS: Points to include in your communication include:

H.R. 1073 would distribute funds to states and localities on a formula basis
regardless of need or merit. Under this formula system, many states and
localities will lose millions of HUD McKinney funds regardless of the
successful
outcomes of their past activities or their creative new ideas.

The primary rationale that supporters of block grants offer for the
mechanism is
that it provides grantees the flexibility to address local needs as they see
fit. Since this flexibility occurs already through the Continuum of Care (CoC)
process, a pure block grant is not necessary.

H.R. 1073 will seriously limit HUDÝs role in overseeing state and local
expenditures of HUD McKinney funds. Federal fiscal oversight is appropriate
given that homeless families and individuals are our most vulnerable population
and that the funds that Congress has made available to address homelessness are
so limited compared to the need.

Without limited HUD oversight, state and local governments could divert HUD
McKinney funds to mainstream housing, health, social services and other
activities also in desperate need of funding, or expand definitions of program
eligibility˝in either case leaving those persons now homeless without housing
services intended to address their unique needs and life circumstances.

Without limited HUD oversight, state and local governments could use HUD
McKinney funds merely to "manage" homelessness˝or worse, to advance
anti-homeless regulatory and zoning agendas˝rather than pursue the more
efficacious approaches that have been demonstrated to bring permanent
resolution
to this issue through the Continuum of Care process.

H.R. 1073 does not offer a workable plan for assuring funding for supportive
services, and in fact jeopardizes the viability of targeted homeless services
programs administered by other federal departments. Effective responses to
homeless peopleÝs housing needs must be coupled with effective responses to
their supportive services needs. To address one without the other, as is the
case with H.R. 1073, is to leave the homeless population vulnerable to future
episodes of homelessness.

The benefits of the bill are outweighed by the devastion it will cause in
communities with strong, successful Continuum of Care programs. Many of the
proposals to increase spending on social programs could be better realized
another way--for example, the continued funding of Shelter Plus Care could be
effectively accomplished through the appropriations process without endangering
other programs.

The current process for distributing HUD McKinney funds stimulates services
integration and public-private collaboration. The CoC process gives state and
local public, nonprofit, and private entities and consumers˝working
collectively˝full decision-making authority over needs assessment and
priority-setting in their own jurisdictions. The collaborations fostered by the
CoC process have resulted in effective housing and supportive services programs
targeted to the homeless population.

Contact: Mary Ann Gleason
202/737-6444, x. 310; maegleason@aol.com



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--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

H. C. Sonny Covington
I CAN! America Resource Center
P. O. Drawer 3444 - Lafayette, LA  70501
318-781-0216  Fax 318-268-9529
icanamerica@usa.net

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