BEYOND THE NUMBERS
Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson promised that no one would “get thrown out on the street” under the President’s 2018 budget, but that’s exactly what would happen. Cuts to vital programs like Housing Choice Vouchers and homeless assistance grants would leave more vulnerable people without a safe place to live, including children, seniors, veterans, and people with disabilities. The cuts — both in HUD and in other federal agencies — would hit programs that address homelessness and relieve some of the most severe hardships faced by people experiencing and at risk of homelessness, such as hunger and preventable illness.
The President’s budget would:
- Cut homeless assistance grants — the most direct federal response to homelessness — by $133 million (5.6 percent). Communities rely on these grants to implement effective strategies to help people quickly exit homelessness into stable housing, such as supportive housing. A $133 million cut could mean the difference between life on the street and a place to live for more than 25,000 people, the National Alliance to End Homelessness estimates.
- Eliminate over 250,000 Housing Choice Vouchers and make vouchers harder to use for the most vulnerable. Vouchers are the single most powerful tool for ending homelessness because they cover the gap between rent and what families can afford to pay, usually 30 percent of income. The President’s budget not only wouldn’t fund any new vouchers to help people move out of shelters or off the streets; it would eliminate more than 250,000 vouchers next year. This steep cut would force some state and local housing agencies to take vouchers away from people now using them, putting seniors, people with disabilities, and working families at risk of homelessness. Current underfunding of the voucher program is already leading some housing agencies, like in Houston, to revoke vouchers from people who had all but signed a lease.
In addition, the President’s budget would eliminate payments that help voucher recipients afford electricity, heat, and other utilities. Even for families with vouchers, an inability to pay for utilities can lead to evictions and homelessness. Nearly all families who stand to lose utility support have incomes below half of the poverty line, including over 800,000 children.
- Slash other programs that help people experiencing or at risk of homelessness eat, get health care, and afford housing. On top of cuts to vital housing programs, the President’s budget includes draconian cuts to programs like Medicaid, SNAP (food stamps), and several other programs run by HUD, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Department of Veterans Affairs. These safety net programs help people address basic needs such as food and health care; they also indirectly help people afford their rent by offsetting the cost of these necessities. For instance, a recent study found that having affordable, quality health coverage helps people with low or moderate incomes afford housing.
- Eliminate funding for the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH). USICH helps coordinate the many efforts across the federal government to end homelessness.
Despite the President’s assertion that he intends to “serve the forgotten men and women of our country,” his budget would make life for those experiencing homelessness even harsher, reduce their chances of moving into housing, and increase the risk that other families will lose their housing and fall into homelessness.