In late February, the Bush administration announced over $21 million in funding for homeless programs in Cuyahoga County. They championed an increase in funds nationally, but this is only a small part of the overall picture. Federal dollars have increased to homeless programs in order to renew, at the same cost, all the existing programs. For example, in Cuyahoga County of the $21 million given out yesterday, $18.5 million or 88% is to renew existing programs with no cost of living increases to these programs. That renewal burden has increased each year around the country, and has forced the department of housing and urban development to increase the dollars just to keep the existing services open and operational.
While HUD has had to keep homeless programs open with a larger dollar commitment, they have been conducting a full frontal assault on existing housing programs. Each year the HUD budget has proposed massive cuts to affordable housing, which only causes more homeless people to show up at the shelter doors. HUD has had no problem funding band aid solutions with shelters and expensive but limited housing programs. While at the same time they have tried to eliminate their community to making housing affordable.
It is only a small allocation every year for homeless spread over the entire United States, while housing has received only enough funds to starve it to death. While HUD champions their commitment to making impoverished cities end homelessness in 10 years, which happens to be two years after the current administration leaves office, they continue to cut many of the mainstream programs that homeless people depend on to move into housing. One year of funding homeless programs in the United States is only $1.4 billion (Editor’s Note: According to the budget listed at http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/budget/fy2006/tables.html, this represents less than 0.0005% of the total budget) dollars for the millions of homeless people in America. Compare this also to over $300 billion sent on the record to fund the war in Iraq and a current $100 billion supplemental funding bill pending in congress to support the war.
Just curtailing the Bush tax cuts would support the creation of millions of units of affordable housing. We need the federal government to put forward a strategy for housing everyone living in America. The only way to accomplish this goal is to have a Universal Health Living Wage for everyone working and disabled as well as Universal Health Care paid by the federal government. This may sound like an expensive proposition when we are experiencing record debts for as far as we can see into the future. But, it actually cost us more to put money into the endless black hole of “solving” homelessness for only a few people. The Bush Administration is winning the battle over solving homelessness with words, but is actually creating more and more homeless people on the streets of America every year.