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Thursday, November 10, 2011
NYT editorial: Ever More Homeless Families
Published: October 30, 2011
An increase in poverty and rising rents produced a spike in homelessness among families in recent years. With the economy still weak and 14 million people out of work, the situation is bound to get worse.
Without an intensive federal effort to finance housing programs, the burden will fall on states and cities that are already unable to handle growing social needs.
The typical victim of chronic homelessness is a single man who suffers from a disabling condition like mental illness. Thanks to a sustained investment in specialized housing by the federal and state governments, this population has actually declined over the last four years. But the startling report to Congress issued by the Department of Housing and Urban Development last June found that the number of homeless families that have turned to shelters jumped by 20 percent, to 567,334 in 2010 from 473,541 in 2007.
Things would no doubt be considerably worse without the $1.5 billion homelessness prevention program that Congress passed as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. With that money, HUD helped to prevent more than a million people from becoming homeless. It provided them with short- and medium-term rental assistance, moving expenses and other services. It quickly re-housed those who landed in shelters. With most of that recovery money gone, it is important that Congress provide the $2.4 billion in homeless assistance funding that the administration has requested.
Census data showing a big increase in the number of families living doubled up with friends and relatives suggests that another wave of homelessness may be in the offing. With these clear needs, Congress must preserve and strengthen the programs that are aimed at helping the vulnerable. It should also direct more money into a program that builds and renovates affordable housing, which is in increasingly short supply.