Policy Developments Impacting Our Movement

If you have been following the news about homelessness coming from DC in recent weeks, you may have heard about some of the various concerning policy developments impacting our movement. We know these developments can often be complex, difficult to piece together, and move quickly. 

We wanted to take a moment to provide you the context of what is happening in youth homelessness policy, what it means for our movement, and what A Way Home America is doing about it.

Let’s break it down:

  • Earlier this year, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) released the 2019 NOFA for the Continuum of Care (CoC) program. The 2019 NOFA was revised by HUD and the Administration in two ways we believe are harmful:
    • Removed points that providers could previously earn in 2018 NOFA by completing training on serving LGBTQ people, demonstrating how they would enforce nondiscrimination protections, and doing targeted outreach to LGBTQ people experiencing homelessness.
    • Allowed providers to earn points for Housing First strategies, even if they imposed service participation requirements on their clients–a move which is not in line with the core intention of a Housing First approach. 
  • In response, the bipartisan group of Congressional appropriators in both the House and the Senate wrote language into the funding bills for HUD which mandated that HUD use the 2018 NOFA next year to protect the program from further manipulation by HUD political appointees. 
  • This fall, President Trump mentioned his intention to “do something” in reference to the homelessness crisis on the West Coast during an interview with Fox News. The interview came after weeks of stories on Fox News about homelessness, and the network has since featured stories about what they claim are liberal cities and politicians’ “failures” to properly address homelessness.
  • Shortly after that interview, the White House Council of Economic Advisors released a report on homelessness that explicitly argued in favor of criminalization and other punitive policy measures as a response to homelessness. The President and the Administration also continued to signal their intention to address the issue, which was widely reported to come as an Executive Order.
  • Earlier this month, the Administration fired the sitting Executive Director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH), Matthew Doherty, who had played an essential role in developing and implementing a federal strategic plan to end homelessness that centered a Housing First approach and racial and LGBTQ equity in our solutions.
  • Meanwhile, both Secretary Carson and the White House are actively lobbying Congressional Republicans to remove the language from HUD’s funding bill which protected Housing First and LGBTQ non-discrimination policies in the CoC NOFA. We expect this to be an effort to re-open HUD’s flexibility to alter the CoC NOFA in order to implement the Executive Order they are preparing.
  • Finally, the Trump Administration last week announced the appointment of Robert Marbut as the incoming USICH Executive Director, who was then confirmed earlier this week. Robert Marbut has long supported programs and models that criminalize homelessness and institute inhumane, dangerous, and ineffective policies on people experiencing homelessness.

So, what does this all mean?

There are still a lot of unknowns. We don’t know for sure when an Executive Order on homelessness could come from the Trump Administration, or what precisely the Executive Order will include. 

But we do know:

  • The Trump Administration is working on an Executive Order that is expected to include widespread criminalization policies. 
  • The Trump Administration has hand-picked Robert Marbut to lead whatever effort they undertake.
  • Marbut has spent his career in homelessness pushing for criminalization policies and other inhumane “housing ready” approaches that run contrary to bipartisan consensus in Congress. 

A Way Home America’s Response

A Way Home America is acting with a broad and united group of national housing and homelessness advocates, including True Colors United, Youth Collaboratory, Funders Together to End Homelessness, the National Alliance to End Homelessness, National Low Income Housing Coalition, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, and the Center for American Progress. 

Together, we are coordinating our strategy and response to any policy that harms people experiencing homelessness broadly, and young people specifically.

We were on Capitol Hill last week with our Founding 8 Leadership Board Members, talking to Congress about our values, our concerns, and how we can be supportive of the Members who are helping us push back against the efforts of the Administration. 

A Way Home America’s Founding 8 Leadership Body pictured here with Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), after a roundtable with the Congresswoman and her staff.

We were in the room last week for Robert Marbut’s first meeting with national advocates and stakeholders, to make our case for what works and what we need to end youth homelessness. The meeting involved leaders from across the housing and homelessness field, where we presented a united front and advocated for continued investment in evidence-based, systemic, and Housing First approaches to ending homelessness.

A Way Home America will continue showing up, speaking out, and working with our partners to make our values known. We know it is possible to end youth homelessness, and we know what it takes to do it. We know progress only happens when we respect the basic dignity of all people, when we design our public systems in partnership with those most impacted, and when we apply an equity lens on all that we do. No matter what this Administration ultimately decides, we will take every step necessary to defend the approaches we know work, to protect the progress communities are making every day, and to keep our field engaged and educated on they can help. This is our commitment to you, as partners in this movement, and our promise to those who this movement represents.