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NLIHC President and CEO Diane Yentel Statement on Senate Hearing on Homelessness

Washington, D.C. – Homelessness is one of our country’s most urgent, tragic, and solvable crises, but for too long Congress has failed to act. NLIHC appreciates Chairmans Brown and Smith’s leadership in shining a spotlight on the challenges and needs through today’s hearing, and in championing and advancing solutions.

The primary reason people become homeless is because they lack access to a decent, accessible and affordable home. There are fewer than four affordable and available homes for every 10 of the lowest-income people in America. Without affordable options, the vast majority of the lowest-income families pay at least half of their limited income on rent, forcing them to make impossible trade-offs between buying healthy food or needed medication and keeping a roof over their head. Just one unexpected financial shock can result in eviction and, in worst cases, homelessness, with all its associated individual, familial and societal costs.

Homelessness does the greatest harm to people of color. While Black households make up 13% of the overall population, they account for an astounding 40% of people experiencing homelessness, a result of structural racism, discrimination in housing and lower wages among Black households. Indigenous and Latino people also disproportionately experience homelessness and housing insecurity.

Decades of chronic underfunding for housing assistance leave us with a housing-lottery system, where only 25 percent of eligible households receives the housing assistance they need. With rents rising rapidly, homelessness worsening, and millions of families struggling to stay housed, federal investments in expanding proven solutions – like Housing Choice Vouchers, the national Housing Trust Fund, and public housing - are badly needed and long overdue. Instead, many policymakers allow, through their inaction, homelessness and housing poverty to persist. As a country, we have the data, partnerships, expertise, proven solutions, and means to end homelessness – we lack only the political will to fund solutions at the scale necessary.

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