These are my thoughts on what we can expect in Cleveland over the next few years based on my 24 years of experience. I have lobbied in Washington and Columbus for decades and some of these “new ideas or better ways of doing business” have come up before. We have not had all branches of government under one party in both Ohio and with our federal government in decades. So if this is ever going to be implemented it has to happen now. There has never been a better chance to cut funding in human services and put in practice some of the conservative ideas that have been discussed for decades. I also read documents by the Washington Post and others detailing every campaign promise made by Donald Trump over the last year and a half. Overall in 2017 in Cleveland we will most likely continue to struggle with increases in family homelessness, but we should see a reduction in the number of single adults facing homelessness. Here are my observations.
- The Department of Housing and Urban Development is the key government agency providing funds to local community for affordable housing, homeless shelters, and the major funding for services to homeless people. The Trump Administration has appointed Dr. Ben Carson to lead the Department. He has no government experience and spoke in opposition to the fair housing goals of the agency. HUD enforces the Civil Rights era Fair Housing laws to break down barriers for minority, religious minority, gender and those with children facing discrimination. Here are some possible changes in the upcoming year:
- The last publicly funded homeless transitional program in Cleveland will be defunded when the Salvation Army PASS program is converted from beds to rental assistance. Cleveland saw the defunding of 328 beds during the Obama Administration. This will only make it harder for single men to get out of 2100 Lakeside into housing. There will be new funding for single adults to get rental assistance which will ease some of the burden. Homelessness among single adults will most likely decline in 2017.
- We need 50 new shelter spaces for families immediately and 75 by the end of the year as we continue to struggle in 2017 to find shelter beds. Cleveland is compassionate and usually steps up to serve families better. I believe that religious and business leaders will step forward to fund additional shelter space. This could present a conflict with the County over intake rules and counting these homeless people.
- We will most likely see another 2 to 8% cut to our homeless funding. This will mean another program will have to close in early 2018. This is especially likely since we keep reading how the HUD report shows we have decreased homelessness in Ohio based on flawed statistics, but the impact will not be until 2018.
- It is likely that both Public Housing and the Housing Choice Voucher program will see a decline in their budget. They are currently operating at a little under 90% of the funds they need. This means fewer dollars for maintenance, a longer time to get units back on line and fewer staff to process paperwork. Bottom line is that the 21,000 people waiting for Public Housing and the 8,000 on the voucher waiting list will wait longer than the three to five years to get a place. There will also be a debate about transferring public housing properties to become privately funded and administered by private sector developers. This will not have an impact in 2017, but in the future.
- The tax credit program for the development of housing will probably expand. These programs bring down rents, but they do not make them affordable for low income residents.
- HUD subsidized housing is going to be difficult to cut. These are all private landlords but everyone who moves in is subsidized like the voucher program. They have tried everything to reduce costs over the last 20 years, but nothing much has worked. I am going to guess that they will try to cut off lower performing housing which would mean there would not be a change until 2018.
- There will be an attempt to defund fair housing while they “study” better ways to handle discrimination and disputes between owners and those seeking housing. I can see a moratorium on these programs while they investigate the issue.
- It is likely that there will be a debate about time limits for those living in subsidized housing, but those would not have an impact for a couple of years. The debate would open many divisions within the community and would be similar to the “welfare reform” debate.
- We will see a rise in hate crimes against homeless people. Whenever there are more homeless people and government is harmful to homeless people with cuts, hate crimes against this vulnerable population rises. We will probably get help from the local law enforcement, but no relief by the US Department of Justice who will unlikely have anything to do with civil rights, fair housing, hate crimes or discrimination claims.
- Medicaid expansion is unlikely to change in 2017, but has been so helpful to improving the lives of homeless people.
- We actually will most likely have more funding for addiction services/treatment either through the State of Ohio or through the federal government or both because of the opiod crisis.
- Mental health funding looks stable and will face no changes.
- Funding for private hunger programs will mostly likely be stable or may even increase. There will be some changes to food stamps debated in 2017, but not to be implemented until 2018.
- Welfare (cash assistance) will be further reduced to only those engaged in a work program, but this has such a small reach anymore in the community it really has no impact on homeless people.
- The new administration will try to limit Social Security Disability and the Worker’s compensation program for injured workers. Both programs will face greater scrutiny and longer waits. Many homeless people are eligible for disability, but give up because the process takes so long and the rules for being on the program are so restrictive.
- Privacy in the shelters will begin to be an issue with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement asking for data on non-citizens using publicly funded shelters. The local community will have to take a stand if this is going to be an issue.
- Cleveland should be able to significantly reduce veteran’s homelessness in 2017. There will still be homeless veterans but they all should be on a path to stable housing.
- The number of young people who graduate foster care into homelessness should be dramatically reduced in 2017.
by Brian Davis
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