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60 Minutes Exposes Growing Homelessness Among Children

CBS' "60 Minutes" last night aired a disturbing segment about the growing number of children who face homelessness due to the lingering effects of the recession -- an issue I touched on in a post last September.  Unfortunately, Congress appears unlikely to respond adequately to the rising need for help.

Federal programs such as the Housing Choice Voucher program, which helps low-income families rent housing in the private market, play a critical role in preventing and ending homelessness among families with children.  Nevertheless, as I explain in a new report, the House-passed budget for the rest of this fiscal year would slash administrative funding for local housing agencies operating voucher programs.  The House budget also would give agencies that run public housing developments less money to make needed repairs, such as fixing leaky roofs and replacing broken heating systems.  Both cuts would likely force agencies to help fewer low-income families with kids to find housing.

The House plan would also cut programs that help low-income veterans, people with disabilities, and senior citizens find affordable housing.  For example, it would eliminate funding to provide new housing vouchers to 10,000 homeless veterans.

Senate Democrats have offered an alternative that would retain the few positive features of the House plan, such as providing enough renewal funding (as opposed to administrative funding) for the housing voucher program.  The Senate plan also would avoid the worst cuts in the House plan, like new vouchers for homeless veterans.  And it would increase homeless assistance by $190 million, providing modest additional resources to help families avoid homelessness or obtain housing if they become homeless.

Studies have shown that homelessness has long-term adverse consequences for children’s health and success in school — and a failure to address rising homelessness among kids is therefore shortsighted.

Even the funding in the Senate plan isn’t significant enough to make a real dent in the number of homeless families with children.   But at least the Senate proposal recognizes that continuing to combat some of the most severe hardships brought on by the recession, and taking some small steps to address the growing shortage of affordable housing for low-income families, should remain priorities.