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Reed, Collins Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Prevent U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness from Being Shuttered

Published on March 29, 2017

WASHINGTON, DC -- In an effort to prevent and end homelessness, and ensure that states and communities have a comprehensive strategy and coordinated support from the federal government, U.S. Senators Jack Reed (D-RI) and Susan Collins (R-ME) today introduced bipartisan legislation to strengthen the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (the Council). The Council is an independent agency that coordinates federal efforts to efficiently and effectively combat homelessness, working across 19 federal agencies and departments and with partners in both the public and private sector to find ways to streamline and improve service delivery to people experiencing homelessness.

The Trump Administration’s budget blueprint calls for the elimination of the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness. The Reed-Collins bill would eliminate the sunset date for the Council so the agency can build upon its success in helping to prevent and end homelessness nationally. Without the Reed-Collins bill, the Council would have to close its doors on October 1, 2017.

“Homelessness is a complex problem that requires a collaborative, comprehensive approach. Thanks in large part to the leadership, guidance, and best practices of the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness, we have made real progress in ending and preventing homelessness. The Council works with government, public housing agencies, homeless service providers, and local partners to better align their resources, efforts, goals, and measures of success. The progress we are making is encouraging, but it is not irreversible and now is not the time to end this effective, evidenced-based program that has helped leverage federal investments and measurably reduced homelessness in America,” said Senator Reed. “In our current budgetary environment we need a wise and creative arm to help our communities identify and maximize resources and opportunities where possible, to ensure we are actually addressing homelessness, and not contributing to it. The Council is proof that the government can work and save money in the process, and our bipartisan legislation ensures that the Council’s doors remain open until there truly is an end to homelessness nationwide.”

“Delivering effective services where they are needed requires a comprehensive and coordinated strategy as well as accurate information, which the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness currently provides,” said Senator Collins. “As the Chairman of the THUD Appropriations Subcommittee, I will continue working to ensure that homeless programs have the data and the resources to reduce and prevent homelessness.”

The Council was established under the Reagan Administration as part of the landmark McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act of 1987. In 2009, the Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing (HEARTH) Act, which Senators Reed and Collins wrote and successfully passed, expanded the Council’s role to work with public, non-profit, and private stakeholders to develop a national strategic plan to end homelessness. In 2010, the Council unveiled a plan, called Opening Doors, which has guided its work to develop and expand on effective strategies across the country to prevent and end homelessness.

Since Opening Doors was unveiled, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) reports that overall homelessness has decreased by 14 percent, chronic homelessness by 27 percent, and family homelessness by 23 percent. In addition, veterans’ homelessness has declined by 47 percent.

The Council is the only agency at the federal level charged specifically with addressing homelessness. It has helped communities not only reduce homelessness, but it has also helped to save money. According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, “based on 22 different studies from across the country, providing permanent supportive housing to chronically homeless people creates net savings of $4,800 per person per year, through reduced spending on jails, hospitals, shelters, and other emergency services.”

The Council has helped to build upon these estimated savings by identifying and tailoring cost-effective solutions that reduce the level of health care services, as well as recidivism, for individuals experiencing chronic homelessness. In fiscal year 2016 alone, the Council operated on a modest $3.5 million budget and helped serve as a catalyst for more than $5 billion in combined federal resources that aim to address homelessness. It develops national strategies that inform the work and improve the cost-effectiveness of programs administered by 19 federal agencies, and as a result, communities and states are able to leverage housing, health, education, and labor funding more strategically and effectively.

The Reed-Collins bill is backed by a strong and diverse coalition of non-profit and housing organizations, including: the National Alliance to End Homelessness; the Rhode Island Coalition for the Homeless; HousingWorksRI; the Council of Large Public Housing Authorities; A Way Home America; Community Solutions; the National Low Income Housing Coalition; the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans; the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty; Funders Together to End Homelessness; the True Colors Fund; the Children’s Defense Fund; the National Housing Trust; the National Health Care for the Homeless Council; LISC; the National Alliance on Mental Illness; National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials; the Public Housing Authorities Directors Association; National Network for Youth; LeadingAge; Heartland Alliance; National Housing Conference; the National AIDS Housing Coalition; Covenant House International; the Coalition for Juvenile Justice; the Forum for Youth Investment; the Housing Assistance Council; Volunteers of America; the Coalition on Human Needs; the Corporation for Supportive Housing; the Technical Assistance Collaborative; and the National Coalition for the Homeless.

STATEMENTS OF SUPPORT

“The investment of a few million dollars to coordinate $5 billion in targeted spending and billions more from mainstream programs across 19 federal agencies has worked. Despite strong headwinds in the form of increasing rents and stagnant incomes for poor people, homelessness has gone down. The Alliance strongly supports the continuation of USICH until the problem of homelessness in our nation is solved.” –Nan Roman, President and CEO, the National Alliance to End Homelessness

“The coordination established at the federal level by the USICH has been crucial in creating policy and program efficiency amongst our federal partners that are allowing front line service providers in Rhode Island to carry out their work more effectively.” - Darryl Kosciak, Executive Director, Rhode Island Coalition for the Homeless

“The Council of Large Public Housing Authorities is pleased to join with others in support of the legislation offered by Senators Reed and Collins to eliminate the sunset of the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH). USICH has been instrumental in leading the federal government’s strategic plan to prevent and end homelessness. USICH has been an excellent partner to CLPHA and our member housing authorities working to end homelessness in communities across the country. Homelessness is a deep and complex challenge that requires the kind of interagency collaboration and cross-sector partnerships that USICH has fostered. This legislation will ensure that the important work of USICH will continue to meet the challenges of ending homelessness.” - The Council of Large Public Housing Authorities

“Thanks to the coordination of the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness in partnership with local leadership, strategic and deep leverage of the federal dollar by local and philanthropic funding, and smart increased investments - we have reduced veteran homelessness in this country by nearly 40 percent over the past 5 years. We are poised to finish the job on veteran homelessness during the Trump Administration as well as take these lessons learned and apply them to the issue of youth homelessness. The USICH has been critical to our success - smart and lean government in action - and is critical to continue our progress.” - Megan Gibbard, Director, A Way Home America

“Currently, half of all Rhode Island renter households and a third of homeowner households are cost burdened, spending more than thirty percent of their annual income on housing costs. This puts them at a greater risk for housing instability and homelessness. We applaud our Senator Reed and his colleague, Senator Collins for introducing legislation to eliminate the sunset provision for the Council. At a time of budget uncertainty and potential cuts, the need to coordinate and utilize resources as effectively as possible is critical. The Council has played that role and will be needed even more in the upcoming years.” - Brenda Clement, Director, HousingWorks RI

“Any complex project requires good project management, and that is exactly what the U.S. Interagency Council has brought to the nearly 20 federal agencies working to end homelessness across the country. By improving coordination across the government, the Council has reduced unnecessary taxpayer spending while helping communities reduce homelessness dramatically. The results of the Council's work are measurable: veteran homelessness is down by nearly half and chronic homelessness has dropped more than 25 percent since 2009.” -Jake Maguire, Director of Communications, Community Solutions

“The USICH breaks down silos to harness and focus resources from across the federal government on one of the country's most solvable problems: homelessness. With focused attention and increased resources USICH significantly reduced chronic and veterans homelessness. But its work isn't complete. USICH is now working towards reducing homelessness among families with children, and we must ensure that they have the resources to do so effectively. We should sunset the USICH when we have solved homelessness in this country, and not a moment sooner.” - Diane Yentel, President & CEO, National Low Income Housing Coalition

“NCHV supports the Reed-Collins bill because the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness has been instrumental in the 47 percent decrease in homeless veterans since 2010. This decrease would have been near impossible to achieve without the leadership of USICH in its charge to work across departments to eliminate siloes, foster effective interagency collaboration, identify and disseminate innovative best practices, and champion the issue of a perpetual end to homelessness in America.” - Kathryn Monet, Chief Executive Officer, National Coalition for Homeless Veterans

“The U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness plays a key leadership role, bringing together many different federal agencies to effectively and efficiently coordinate their work to end and prevent homelessness, while also helping local communities put in place proven, results-driven approaches towards this goal. USICH’s leadership and results on veterans’ homelessness shows how homelessness can be ended through smart, data-driven policies supported by adequate resources.” - Maria Foscarinis, Founder & Executive Director, National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty

“Funders Together to End Homelessness core value since its formation seven years ago has been promoting the importance of public-private partnership. Our over 200 members representing foundations, United Ways, and individual philanthropy from across the United States work to expand philanthropy’s impact and influence to advance the movement to prevent and end homelessness. As one of our board members said to me “The United States Interagency Council is critical to the work of philanthropy and funders whose goal is to move beyond charity. Our partnership with USICH allows philanthropy to invest in innovation and leverage resources to effect lasting change” - Amanda Misiko Andere, Chief Executive Officer, Funders Together to End Homelessness

“The U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness is a crucial and essential leader in the effort to end youth homelessness in America. We commend Senators Reed and Collins for their unwavering leadership on the issue of homelessness and for introducing this vital piece of legislation. We must ensure that USICH continues to coordinate the varied and essential efforts across federal agencies to ensure that we have the solutions in place to prevent and end youth homelessness, especially for the populations of youth who are disproportionately impacted like LGBTQ youth and youth of color.” - Cyndi Lauper, Co-Founder & Board Member, and Gregory Lewis, Executive Director & CEO, True Colors Fund

“The U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness is an effective forum that brings program focus and policy coordination to numerous agencies around the common goal to prevent and end homelessness. For us, their work on health and housing has been an efficient way to align activities between the Administration and community partners.” - Barbara DiPietro, Senior Director of Policy, National Health Care for the Homeless Council

“Single adults living with serious mental illness are disproportionately represented in the chronic homeless population. Over the past decade we as a nation have made enormous progress in ending chronic homelessness. The work of USICH in coordinating policy across multiple federal agencies has been important to that progress. The national strategy contained in the “Opening Doors” effort has put us within reach of ending chronic homelessness. The National Alliance on Mental Illness supports this bipartisan effort to extend authority for the USICH continue the effort to end chronic homelessness.” - Andrew Sperling, Director of Federal Legislative Advocacy, National Alliance on Mental Illness

“NAHRO believes that HUD-VASH has been a very effective programmatic tool to combat homelessness among our nation’s veterans. Public Housing Authorities using VASH in concert with their work with local VA offices have played an important part in helping to reduce the number of veterans in need of decent, safe and affordable housing. With this in mind, NAHRO is very concerned that the recent Budget Blueprint issued by the Administration would eliminate the USICH, which we believe has played a very positive role in the reduction of veterans’ homelessness.” – National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials

“The Public Housing Authorities Directors Association strongly supports extending the work of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness. Its federal coordinating role provides support to local communities as they try to solve the ongoing crisis of homelessness. Specifically, the Council’s interagency coordination has been essential for improving access to special-purpose housing vouchers like those for veterans (VASH) and for families and youth (FUP).” - The Public Housing Authorities Directors Association

“LeadingAge’s support for this important bill stems from the alarming number of older adults experiencing homelessness today, many for the first time in their lives. The U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness is uniquely positioned to coordinate across silos to stop the predicted doubling of homelessness among seniors by 2050.” - Katie Smith Sloan, president and CEO, LeadingAge.

“We believe that everyone deserves a safe, stable place to call home. Federal leadership has a critical role to play in efforts to prevent and end homelessness—yet no one federal agency has the resources, capacity, and expertise to end homelessness on its own, and we know that public systems are better at solving big problems when they work together. The U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness is integral to fostering collaboration and innovation across federal agencies in order to develop effective strategies for preventing and ending homelessness.” – Melissa Young, Director, Heartland Alliance’s National Initiatives on Poverty & Economic Opportunity

“Rural homelessness manifests itself differently than in urban areas, but the problem is no less pressing. And a lack of resources in rural areas makes coordinated delivery of homelessness solutions ever more important. The USICH is necessary, and it promotes efficiency. The Housing Assistance Council applauds Senators Reed and Collins for their efforts to eliminate the USICH sunset clause.” - Moises Loza, Executive Director of the Housing Assistance Council

“The federal government needs to be a partner with state and local jurisdictions in the battle to end homelessness in our country. Congress should eliminate the sunset provision on the USICH so it can continue its crucial role of coordinating the federal government’s efforts and resources.” – Deb DeSantis, President/CEO, Corporation for Supportive Housing