The House Financial Services Subcommittee on Housing and Insurance held a hearing on “An Overview of Homelessness in America” on May 17. Witnesses from national and local organizations discussed the state of homelessness across the country and advocated for additional federal funding. Several witnesses also warned against implementing work requirements included in Representative Michael Turner’s (R-OH) “Fostering Stable Housing Opportunities Act” (H.R. 2069) and the Trump Administration’s proposed “Making Affordable Housing Work Act.”
Ann Bischoff, executive director of Star House in Ohio, expressed concerns about imposing work requirements on youth aging out of foster care as proposed in Mr. Turner’s bill. Her organization works with homeless youth, and she stated that work requirements would only make housing stability more difficult for the population, suggesting trauma-informed workforce development as an alternative. Peter Lynn, executive director of the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, also warned against work requirements and the rent increases included in the administration’s proposals. From his experience working with the lowest income families, he said, what may appear to be a small rent increase can be devastating for a household with extremely limited income.
Members of the subcommittee expressed an eagerness to address the issue of homelessness in both urban and rural areas. Several witnesses and members of the subcommittee discussed the connection between the lack of affordable housing and homelessness. Representative Ruben Kihuen (D-NV) cited NLIHC’s report The Gap: A Shortage of Affordable Homes when discussing the lack of affordable housing in his district and the increasing rates of homelessness. Nan Roman, president of the National Alliance to End Homelessness and NLIHC board member, asserted that homelessness cannot end without addressing the affordable housing crisis in America. She also advocated for an innovation fund that would allow local communities to experiment with different affordable housing solutions. All witnesses stressed the importance of robust federal funding for programs to address homelessness and to increase the supply of affordable homes.
Witnesses also discussed the impacts of criminal records for individuals seeking housing assistance. Mr. Lynch said that inequitable criminal justice enforcement in black communities is one of the reasons African Americans are disproportionately represented among the homeless population. Ms. Bischoff added that many homeless youth are forced to engage in survival crimes, making it more difficult for them to secure housing. Duana Bremer, social service director of the Salvation Army in Wisconsin, noted that criminal records are especially problematic in rural areas. She also stressed that lack of transportation prevents many rural households from obtaining the help they need and achieving self-sufficiency.
Learn more about the hearing at: https://bit.ly/2rD3Rqw