Washington, D.C. - National organizations from the housing, disability rights, faith-based, and other sectors oppose the “Housing Promotes Livelihood and Ultimate Success (PLUS) Act,” reintroduced yesterday by Representative Andy Barr (R-KY).
The Housing PLUS Act would harm federal, state, and local efforts to end homelessness by undermining the ability to prioritize evidence-based solutions and diverting scarce resources to outdated, ineffective, and costly strategies.
Under current law, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is required to use the best available evidence to prioritize proven solutions to address homelessness, allowing HUD to adjust its policy in response to new research findings. Since 2013, HUD has prioritized the Housing First approach, which focuses on assisting unhoused individuals and families obtain housing so that services can be provided more effectively and in a manner that meets the client where they are. When adequately and appropriately funded, staffed, and implemented, Housing First has been proven time and again to be the most effective approach to ending homelessness. As the Bipartisan Policy Center notes, Housing First “participants tended to exit homelessness faster and were more likely to remain housed than those who participated in other kinds of programs.” The HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (VASH) program, which uses Housing First, has reduced veterans homelessness by more than 55 percent since 2010.
The Housing PLUS Act undermines HUD’s ability to focus on this proven solution by creating a rigid, arbitrary requirement to set aside 30% of federal homeless assistance funds for programs that evidence has shown are far less effective and more costly than the Housing First approach. In doing so, the bill could force local governments, though their Continuums of Care (CoCs), to defund existing programs who utilize a Housing First approach despite having demonstrated successful outcomes.
The Housing PLUS Act embraces a failed, one-size-fits-all, and costly approach, known as the “stairstep” or “linear” model, that was used by the federal government in the 1980s and 1990s until federal policymakers demanded greater results and accountability. The Housing First model was developed in the early 1990s on a bipartisan basis as a direct response to the failures of the stairstep model that Rep. Barr embraces in his legislation. Decades of learning, research, and bipartisan agreement consistently demonstrate that the most effective way to address homelessness and help individuals live stably in the community is to prioritize immediate access to permanent, affordable housing linked with voluntary supportive services such as substance use and mental health counseling. Research shows that once an individual is stably housed, they are much better able to voluntarily engage with services that help support housing stability, employment, and overall health.
Housing First has a long history of bipartisan support because it is the most effective approach to ending homelessness, including for people experiencing chronic homelessness; older adults; people with disabilities, including people with mental health conditions; and people with substance use disorders. An independent panel of public health and prevention experts appointed by the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends Housing First programs based on evidence from a systematic review of 26 studies, which found that Housing First programs decrease homelessness, increase housing stability, and improve quality of life for people experiencing homelessness. The expert panel also found that the economic benefits exceed the intervention cost for Housing First programs; in fact, every $1.00 invested in Housing First programs results in $1.44 in cost savings.
While Continuums of Care are successfully housing more and more households each year utilizing Housing First, homelessness is increasing in many places due to the lack of affordable housing, lack of accessible mental health and substance use treatment, and low wages that do not keep up with the cost of rent.
Our organizations oppose efforts to divert federal resources to outdated, ineffective, and costly strategies, and instead call on Congress to expand investments in what works. To end homelessness once and for all, Congress should focus on long-term solutions to our nation’s affordable rental housing crisis, such as expanding rental assistance so that it is universally available to all eligible households, increasing investments to build and preserve homes affordable and accessible for people with the lowest incomes, creating new tools to prevent homelessness and eviction, and strengthening renter protections.
To help unhoused people live independently in their communities, Congress must increase funding for voluntary home- and community-based supportive services with proven effectiveness, such as supported housing, supported employment, Assertive Community Treatment, case management, and peer support services.
Addressing and ending homelessness is an imperative for the United States. Thank you for your leadership.
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Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law
Church World Service
Corporation for Supportive Housing
Funders Together to End Homelessness
Justice in Aging
National Alliance to End Homelessness
National Coalition for Homeless Veterans
National Coalition for the Homeless
National Health Care for the Homeless Council
National Homelessness Law Center
National Low Income Housing Coalition
For questions, please contact National Low Income Housing Coalition Vice President of Media Relations and Communications Jen Butler at [email protected] or (202) 662-1530 x239, or National Alliance to End Homelessness Senior Director of Communications Tom Murphy at [email protected] or 202-638-1526.