Trump’s nominee for HUD secretary, Ben Carson whose single mother relied on public assistance for a time has openly expressed disdain for those who need government support. He thinks it becomes a crutch for generations to depend on assistance. He has suggested that hard work is the only solution for people in need. While he may have a part of a point, and his solution certainly is a part of the equation, it by no means is the only answer.
Unfortunately, working hard is not enough to prevent or escape poverty and homelessness. In the Bay Area alone, many workers work several jobs not to get ahead but just to get by. There are people around the country not just in California or the Bay Area that remain a paycheck away from homelessness. As the new president and his HUD pick are well aware, wage stagnation, lack of affordable housing, domestic violence, and illness and more can all play a role. The federal government has an incredible power to impact homeless policy. Under the Obama administration, it did so to a great effect: Since 2010, the total national number of homeless people declined by 14%.
In the last two months alone, HUD has awarded $33 million to help end youth homelessness and almost $2 billion for local homeless programs. HUD also announced agreements resolving discriminatory zoning allegations and housing complaints, and charged landlords with bias against residents with disabilities and banks with unfair lending practices. These initiatives are making a real difference in urban communities, and they create important momentum hopefully for the trump administration efforts.
But the federal government including HUD and the departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education must continue to work together with states and cities to combat homelessness by recognizing that it is the acute manifestation of the struggle of working people. It requires that the trump administration works to not only encourage manufacturers to keep jobs in America, but to embrace the immediate needs of families who are already homeless, including:
Income-building programs, which offer tools and support to adults in family shelters.
Direct educational supports are also needed to ensure that students in shelter make academic progress. Expanded educational services at homeless shelters, such as tutoring, credit recovery, and college preparation can mitigate the risk homelessness poses for children’s educational attainment.
Supportive housing provides a path out of a shelter and is a proven solution to chronic homelessness. It has changed the lives of thousands of families and is needed by thousands more. Cities and states should collaborate with HUD to develop a fair market rate payment formula that responds to the reality of the rental housing market.
(All three programs Project WeHOPE has in place.)
So far President Trump has threatened to cut federal funding in many bay area cities because of their Sanctuary status on illegal immigrants. In response to Trump’s threatened cuts, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf issued a statement along with San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, and Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin.
“The Bay Area stands united against this White House’s morally bankrupt policies that would divide families, turn our nation’s back on refugees in need, and potentially thwart the efforts of nearly one million productive young people who are on a legal path to citizenship,” said Schaaf. “Oaklanders rely on $130 million in federal funding for everything from early education programs like Head Start to getting officers out of their cars and onto our streets at a time when community policing is so desperately needed. We will not allow this president to play politics with our safety and security.”