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Press Releases

23 Members of Congress Urge Secretary Carson to Change Federal Policy Straining Local Homelessness Programs

Press Release
Jun 19, 2017

Congressman Darrell Issa (R-Vista) led a group of lawmakers in a letter to Secretary Ben Carson, expressing concern over the agency's housing policies that are putting a tough strain on homeless shelters here in California and across the nation.

In the letter, Congressman Issa is joined by fellow California Congressman Doug LaMalfa (R-CA), Chairman of the Republican Study Committee Mark Walker (R-NC), Chairman of the House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-NC), and 20 other members from across the nation.

Under the Obama-era policy known as "Housing First," some of the nation's most successful programs for alleviating homelessness are being forced to choose between walking away from as much as $95,000 in federal funding or abandoning the models they've developed -- and had real success using -- to help get homeless Americans back on their feet.

"This is one of the worst examples of Washington's we-know-better-than-you mentality and is just the kind of top-down mandates we need to be rid of," said Congressman Darrell Issa. "The Housing First approach may work for some, but it isn't - and can't be - the answer for all. This misguided policy has caused some of the most effective homeless assistance programs in our district to walk away from the funding they need to help families get back on their feet. At a time when homelessness in San Diego is among the highest in the nation and homeless rates here are still increasing, we should be doing all we can to empower more facilities, not less, to come together on this critical issue."

“I’ve seen, firsthand, successful shelters in my district lose funding as a result of the Housing First approach, severely hindering their ability to house hard-working families who truly want to escape the cycle of homelessness," said Congressman Doug LaMalfa. "This model hurts independent housing programs who operate on a basis of sobriety, work, and education – which should be common sense. I hope Secretary Carson will review these flawed procedures and help promote programs that will encourage accountability and long-term benefits for families in need.” 

Text of the letter is included below. A signed copy is available here.
 
June 13, 2017
 
The Honorable Ben Carson
Secretary
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
451 7th Street S.W.
Washington, DC 20410
 
Dear Secretary Carson:
 
We are writing to you to express our concerns about current U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) policies and priorities regarding homelessness assistance.  It has come to our attention that HUD’s current procedures in administering such assistance have put homeless families, youth, and children at risk, in addition to jeopardizing holistic-based programs that work to alleviate the effects of poverty by supporting sobriety, work, and accountability.
 
As you know, in recent competitions for the Continuum of Care program, one of the program priorities articulated by HUD has been the “Housing First” approach, which focuses on providing immediate access to housing, prioritizing providers that offer services to clients on a voluntary basis, rather than those programs that require sobriety or participation in education, work, training, or service programs.  Under this policy, HUD now gives considerable preference based on a program’s commitment to using the Housing First model, placing programs that do not use that model at a severe disadvantage in receiving financial assistance. 
 
By implementing its preference for the Housing First model, HUD has removed any incentive for independent housing programs to operate under a model that includes mandatory services, accountability, or sobriety.  In doing this, the Department has effectively used its administrative and regulatory power to impose national priorities on communities, forcing communities and providers to maximize services for certain populations – chronically homeless adults – at the expense of other equally worthy populations – families, youth, and children – and particular program models, regardless of local circumstances, needs, or a program’s effectiveness to lift participants out of poverty. Communities as a whole, which benefit from having these programs, are now unfortunately and unfairly penalized by the elimination or decline of such programs.
 
We strongly urge you to thoroughly review the Department’s procedures with respect to providing assistance to programs combatting homelessness and to appropriately exercise your authority in providing support for these types of programs that include families, youth, and children and the community-based program models that serve them well by enabling them to increase their incomes and educational attainment, maintain sobriety, and acquire permanent life skills that will help prevent them from returning to a life of homelessness. 
 
In order to support these families and their children, we also urge you to end the recommended scoring guidelines that currently punish programs that prioritize work, education, and sobriety.   We believe that families have the best opportunity to escape dependence on public assistance when they are supported in their recovery and given education, training and work opportunities. 
 
We look forward to working with you to break the intergenerational cycle of family homelessness by promoting programs that serve families and provide safe and drug free housing.  Should you have any questions, please feel free to contact Robert Rische in Congressman Issa’s office at (202) 225-3906 or robert.rische@mail.house.gov.
 
Sincerely,


Darrell Issa (CA-49)
Don Bacon (NE-02)
Andy Barr (KY-06)     
Mike Conaway (TX-11)
Scott DesJarlais (TN-04)    
Trent Franks (AZ-08)
Glenn Grothman (WI-06) 
Randy Hultgren (IL-14)
Mike Johnson (LA-04)
Doug LaMalfa (CA-01)
Roger Marshall (KS-01)
Mark Meadows (NC-11)
Luke Messer (IN-06)
Alex Mooney (WV-02)
Gary Palmer (AL-06)
Steve Pearce (NM-02)
Robert Pittenger (NC-09)
David Rouzer (NC-07)
Steve Stivers (OH-15)
Mark Walker (NC-06)
Joe Wilson (SC-02)
Ted Yoho (FL-03)       
Ted Budd (NC-13)

 

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