HUD Puts Teeth into Effort to Stop Criminalizing Homeless People

                       

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has released a Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) for the Continuum of Care (CoC) Program for $1.89 billion for Fiscal Year 2015. The CoC Program distributes funding to homeless projects in communities throughout the nation. The deadline for applying for the FY 2015 CoC Program Competition is November 20.

"The National Coalition for the Homeless is pleased to see HUD continuing the federal proactive approach against the continued criminalization of people experiencing homelessness," state Megan Hustings, Interim Director, NCH.  "NCH is the leading homeless civil rights organization in the nation and have been advocating for this position for at least two decades and our advocacy has finally paid off.  If communities continue to enforce anti-homeless ordinances, now they risk losing valuable points in their CoC application, which means a potential loss of funding," continued Hustings.

Specifically, the NOFA states that up to 2 points to CoCs that demonstrate recipients have implemented specific strategies that prevent criminalization of homelessness, affirmatively further fair housing as detailed in 24 CFR 578.93(c), and ensure that outreach is conducted to homeless individuals and families who are least likely to request housing or services in the absence of special outreach.

This is especially critical given the recent Department of Justice [DOJ] statement of interest in the Bell v Boise, et.al. case where DOJ argued that for communities that lack housing alternatives of for homeless people, anti-camping ordinances violate the US Constitutions 8th Amendment as "cruel and unusual punishment" and as "misguided public policy."

"It is a new day for protecting the civil rights of homeless people.  Lets hope that this is a wakeup call for communities to now focus on creating affordable housing that will end and prevent homelessness," states John Parvensky, Board Chair, NCH and CEO of the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless.

Press Release from the National Coalition for the Homeless

The opinions reflect those of NCH and not necessarily NEOCH