Attention, Congress: Stop the Cuts
On Monday, February 4, representatives of several organizations across the Philadelphia area met with Congressman Chaka Fattah’s Chief of Staff Bonnie Bowser to discuss the looming possibility of 8.2 percent across-the-board cuts to federal housing and homelessness programs.
These legislative meetings, hosted by the Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania, are urging congressional representatives to vote against what is called “sequestration,” the automatic cuts scheduled to occur in March. Due to the American Tax Payer Relief Act, as part of the 2011 Budget Control Act, Pennsylvania would lose $150 million dollars for housing programs. In addition, 6,250 individuals and families would lose their housing assistance and be displaced. The Housing Alliance, joined by other organizations such as People’s Emergency Center, Resources for Human Development, and Project HOME, argue that communities across Pennsylvania cannot afford to slash these programs that have been proven to fight poverty and homelessness.
“These programs saved my life – and I’m not the only one,” noted Louis Thompson, a resident of Project HOME’s St. Elizabeth’s Recovery Residence, who was part of the meeting with Congressman Fattah’s staff. Through federal funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Louis was able to secure a job through Project HOME’s supportive employment program. With great emotion and deep knowing, Louis shared with Chief of Staff Bowser how vital these programs are to homeless individuals, families, veterans and those who are struggling with drug addiction. “These services are comprehensive and helped me get back on my feet. It provides individuals going through recovery a place to start and guidance to live a more stable life.”
The programs that rely on federal funding have been able to make strides in addressing homelessness and poverty in the past few years. Between 2007 and 2010, the McKinney Vento Homeless Assistance Program was able to reduce homelessness in Pennsylvania by 2,000 people. Housing Choice Vouchers cost $6,300 per family annually. Without affordable housing, individuals and families could use other emergency shelters (which cost $13,000 per year), nursing homes ($35,000 annually) or the prison system (costing the state at $42,000 per year). In addition, for every $1 invested into the housing market can generate $2.28 in economic activity, creating employment opportunities, demand for products and tax revenue. These programs provide stable housing, saves the state and government money, and allows for reinvestment in the housing market.
Chief of Staff Bonnie Bowser listened to a wide array of individuals whose lives are affected by these programs, from families with children to veterans and individuals in recovery programs. “It demonstrates that people in the community are concerned,” Louis told her. “Thousands of people have already lost General Assistance, and now other alternatives and supportive programs are on the verge of getting cut.”
“Ms. Bowser was receptive,” Louis noted after the meeting. “She took several notes and made sure that our voices were heard.” Bowser will pass the information along to Congressman Fattah, who will hopefully see the benefits of this investment.
Other legislative meetings are scheduled for later this week, including Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey and Congressman Robert Brady. If you are interested in advocating for these programs, please contact Joyce Sacco, Director of Operations at the Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania, at (215) 576-7044, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Even if you can’t attend one of our legislative meetings, you can help make a difference. Send an email to your Senator through Project HOME’s advocacy alert here: http://statevoices.salsalabs.com/o/58/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=447
Please urge your representatives to support full funding for HUD and USDA housing programs, fund the National Housing Trust Fund, and to strengthen the Low Income Housing Tax Credit. These programs give children safe places to learn and grow, give veterans the chance to come in from off the streets, and allow senior citizens the comfort of living in their own homes. Please support effective housing programs that prevent homelessness and poverty and enhance our economy.