Written by Scott Sowle Nov. 2, 2005
Homelessness has been around for years beginning in the Civil War era and continuing. During the Depression many people without homes became known as "hobos" or "tramps". In the 70's they became known as homeless. Today most Americans accept homelessness as a part of mainstream life.
When doing a Google search on homeless news during the first weeks of September, you found endless articles related to Katrina homeless and in October articles on Pakistan and the earthquake homeless. Today the same search only brings up a handful of homeless articles. The homeless issue was pushed to the front of every Americans mind for a brief period, but they now have once again shelved it in the periphery of their awareness. The needs before hurricane Katrina or the earthquake in Pakistan of the new homeless are the same as those who were living in poverty or homelessness before these natural disasters.
When most people think about homelessness, they envision the old unkept man with a bottle, sitting on the bench or in the alley. The fastest-growing homeless group is that of families, which account for nearly 40% of the homeless. These families typically have a wage earner, but due to the low wage and availability of affordable housing, they end up homeless.
The McKinney Homeless Assistance Act passed by Congress in 1987 is the only major response by federal legislators. This legislation provides funding for many services including healthcare, education, job assistance and housing for adults and children. Most cities use the McKinney Act to help them provide solutions in ending homelessness.
The National Coalition for Homeless and US Interagency Council on Homelessness promote the 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness. This plan has been implemented throughout the US in major cities. Through the 10 Year Plan we may be able to eliminate chronic homelessness. The major encumbrance is that communities need to decide they want to end chronic homelessness.
Through the efforts of many, more affordable housing, the living wage, and long term programs, chronic homelessness may be eliminated along with tax payer's dollars being saved.
This last week saw the US House of Representatives pass the Government Sponsored Enterprises regulatory legislation (H.R. 1461) that prohibits non-profit and public organizations who do voter registration, with their own funds, from applying for and receiving grants from the Affordable Housing Fund. We are also seeing a push for major cuts in Medicaid and Medicare benefits, which together cover more than 25% of Americans.
The Senate Finance Committee and House Energy and Commerce Committee each approved budget packages last week that call for cuts to Medicare and Medicaid. The Finance Committee package calls for a spending reduction for both programs of $10 billion over five years, and the Energy and Commerce Committee bill would reduce spending only in Medicaid by $9.5 billion during the next 5 years.
The cuts at the Medicaid and Medicare are aimed towards co-payments. Millions of Americans rely on Medicaid and Medicare for their insurance and an increase in co- payments may lead individuals to forgo insurance completely.
The recent action by Congress' aimed to cut the budget will have an effect on how service providers and organizations can deal with the chronic homeless. During the next two weeks the two houses of Congress are expected to approve the changes to bills in order to slow the growth of federal spending. In an effort to help the homeless and low-income it is important that you contact your Representatives concerning these cuts during this week and encourage other cuts rather than those which effect Medicaid and Affordable Housing.
(c) SL Streets 2005