by Max Johnson
The current Congressional budget being debated in Washington reduces funding in homeless emergency assistance an average of 27% and makes sweeping changes to the welfare program. The National Coalition on Homelessness released a report entitled "The Unbalanced Budget: The Impact of the Congressional Budget on Homelessness," which concludes that the budget will "dramatically increase homelessness."
The National Coalition surveyed agencies across the United States to compile this report which focuses on those pieces of the federal budget that will likely increase homelessness. They note that "the most vulnerable of our citizens are condemned to poverty and hopelessness while the most fortunate are allocated a disproportionate share of national wealth.
In the commentary preceding the report, the authors wrote, "Too many of our people live in generations of poverty, in despair, in disregard, and in exclusion. Too many of our fellow citizens do not have the equality of opportunity that is the defining force for their futures."
The report sites some fact that they claim go unmentioned in the current budget debate. The report shows that in no state does the combination of Aid to Families with Dependent Children and Food Stamps equal the designated federal poverty level. One in four of the AFDC families live in public housing or receive housing assistance. According to the 1995 U. S. Conference of Mayors' survey, 20 percent of the homeless population were engaged in full or part-time work.
The same incorrect assumptions that have ended General Assistance in Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan and other states are the theories behind welfare reform according to "The Un-Balanced Budget."
The budget is being balanced, according to the National Coalition for the Homeless, on the backs of the poor. "Approximately $400 billion of the $1 trillion in programmatic cuts that are required to balance the budget by 2002 would come from programs targeted to low-income households--roughly twice the share of the federal budget made up by these programs," according to the report.
Locally, the homeless service providers surveyed will see reductions in staff and services. Sue DiNardo, Director of the Salvation Army women's shelter said, "We would have to reduce staff by three to four people and limit intakes to daytime hours. Currently, we turn away 40 to 60 people a week."
Buddy Gray of the Drop Inn center in Cincinnati said, "Our goal to expand the help we give to women would be eliminated. The self help we do would be eliminated. And the whole theory of helping people up by their bootstraps becomes very difficult when our people have no boots."
Templum House for Domestic Violence in Cleveland reports that the cuts will mean that one-third of their budget will be cut, and they will decrease staff by two employees. They try not to turn anyone away, but some ancillary services cannot be offered because a lack of resources.
Cathy Whalen, Director of Chabad House in Cincinnati, said, "We definitely will have to lay off one staff person, and our homeless prevention projects will go."
Prevention money would be cut according to Lakewood Christian Service Center in Cuyahoga County and essential services would be cut. A large number of their clients are Section 8 voucher recipients.
Rosemary Pryor of the YWCA Alice Paul House said that a cut in funding represents about $5,000 in funding for their domestic violence shelter in Cincinnati. "This means the difference between a woman getting a safe shelter and not," she said. Citing the confidential transportation from area hospitals to the shelter as an area that would be cut.
The National Coalition for the homeless adopted the following goals for the federal government to reverse current trends of more poverty, more homelessness, and longer periods of homelessness for individuals:
"1. A long range plan and immediate commitment to reducing poverty and eliminating the structural causes of homelessness including the lack of a livable wage, lack of affordable housing and lack of holistic health care.
2. Ensuring that people are able to sustain themselves during crises times. The nemesis must be defined as poverty not those who are poor. "
Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine published January – February 1996 Issue 13