McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants are well known to most people who are involved in community efforts to end homelessness. This HUD program is the federal government’s targeted primary program to prevent and end homelessness and has been a crucial and flexible funding source to grow and maintain supportive housing units across the country. What makes McKinney-Vento grants particularly valuable for supportive housing is that they can fund either the capital, operating or supportive services cost in supportive housing developments. No other federal resource can be applied as flexibly.
Fortunately the program is well-regarded by policymakers in Washington who recognize it as well-managed, accountable, rooted in local decision-making, and generally effective at preventing and ending homelessness. In addition, as the HEARTH Act is implemented, it is expected that increased emphasis on performance and outcomes will further improve the program.
Despite the good work being done with McKinney resources, homelessness in the United States remains unacceptably high and the economic downturn has placed tremendous pressure on the communities’ homeless response systems. Continued strong federal investment in the McKinney-Vento program is needed in order for real progress in ending homelessness to occur.
Pending funding proposal endangers renewals
The McKinney-Vento program received strong support in the President’s budget - a request of $2.231 billion - and in the Senate Appropriations Committee, which recommended $2.146 billion for the program. The House of Representatives, however, passed a funding bill that would provide $2.005 billion for the program. Although the House figure is a $104 million increase over last year’s funding level, CSH agrees with the National Alliance to End Homelessness’ estimate that this is insufficient to renew all existing Continuum of Care grants.
Should the House bill become law not only will the annual process of awarding new projects be eliminated, but it is likely HUD will be forced to make across-the-board reductions to communities’ future allocations. The Alliance estimates 25,000 could lose out on obtaining assistance should the House bill become law.
Congress is in recess until September, at which point they are expected to pass a bill to put off final funding decisions until March. Between now and then it is crucial that advocates keep up a steady drumbeat letting Congressional candidates and elected officials know that when final numbers are determined that McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance grants should be funded at the President’s request of $2.231 billion, and at no less than the Senate’s recommendation of $2.146 billion. This funding level would cover the cost of renewing and expanding grants for permanent supportive housing and other proven interventions. We can not turn our back on progress made in ending homelessness and should continue using these funds to invest in proven solutions to homelessness like supportive housing.