Taking Action for Housing
TAKING ACTION FOR HOUSING
A little over a year ago, Project HOME opened the application process for our newest affordable residence, Ruth Williams House at the Gene & Marlene Epstein Building, which would have 88 units of affordable housing for persons who were experiencing or at risk of homelessness. Over a thousand people lined up, some staking their place in line a whole day early. That scene told a story: the massive gulf between the availability of affordable housing and the great need for it.
Today, Project HOME joined with thousands of people from across the country to do something to close that gap. The Our Voices, Our Homes campaign is mobilizing a Housing Week of Action calling on Congress to increase funding for affordable housing.
Project HOME and the Vote for Homes Coalition, in partnership with other local housing advocacy organizations, organized a Philly Housing Call-In Day. (You can still participate in the National Call-In Day on Monday, May 7.) The large community room at our 1515 Fairmount Avenue building was transformed into Call Central, complete with registration and orientation, phone scripts and educational materials, contact information and, of course, lots of phones. For three hours, several coalition members and volunteers coordinated the effort, and many people came in and out, making their calls, letting their voices be heard.
The long lines last year for affordable housing here in Philadelphia are not an anomaly nationwide. Studies show that there is a stock of about 4 million affordable rental homes across the nation—while there are 11.2 million extremely low-income households in the United States. And that doesn’t include millions of working but low-wage Americans whose housing is tenuous at best.
The proposed Trump federal proposed budget for fiscal year 2019 would only worsen the situation—with over $40 billion in cuts to the Department of Housing and Urban Development. That’s a 22 percent decrease from the 2018 budget.
Several of the volunteers overseeing the call-in action were Project HOME residents. Doug Yochum was one of those volunteers. For Doug, who has a home at Project HOME’s new Ruth Williams House, this was personal. He lives with a disability and depends on social security benefits. Several years ago, he was a victim of the affordable housing crunch—he simply couldn’t afford the efficiency apartment he was in, and consequently landed in shelters. Looking at the dozens of persons in the room making calls—most of them low-income like himself—he said, “Everybody has a voice. A closed mouth doesn’t get fed.”
Another Project HOME resident, Simmone Lewis who lives at Francis House of Peace (FHOP), said that it felt empowering “to have input into the process, and not just voting.” Legislators need to hear from us, she said, because “these cuts are throwing working people out—they have a job but they’re still unable to pay the rent.”
Another FHOP resident, Evockeea Wayenahan, underscored that for persons like herself who have experienced chronic homelessness, it’s very important to know you can maintain your housing “so you don’t fall back into old patterns.”
We don’t want to see more long lines of desperate people and families waiting hours just for a chance – possibly a slim one – to have a decent roof over their heads. Congress must again hear from advocates that we need to continue a bold and sustained commitment to ensure that everyone has a safe, accessible and affordable home.
Raise your own voice! You can still call or email your elected officials in Washington and ask them to support funding for affordable housing. You can learn more about the National Housing Week of Action here.