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“If you believe in great things, you may be able to make other people believe in them, too.” Oliver Wendell Holmes

Homelessness in Texas

On any given day, there are more than 23,000 people experiencing homelessness in Texas. Over 2,200 are families with 4,400 children under the age of 18 and an average age of seven. Nearly 200 children under the age of 18 are unaccompanied (not in the physical custody of a parent or guardian). There are 1,700 Veterans, many with families.

Homelessness Awareness Day

We will be presenting this information to our legislators next week during Homelessness Awareness Day at the Texas State Capitol. Since the Texas Legislature only meets every two years, we have to maximize this opportunity to get our message across about homelessness in Texas. The most effective way to do this is by visiting their offices and providing information on the state of homelessness.

Texas Homeless Network and its partners have a standing policy priority to support the expansion of affordable housing, increase opportunity for the most vulnerable to access health care services, and eliminate barriers to housing. However, the State must balance its budget, which means money has to come from somewhere, usually cuts to existing programs.

 

Proposed Cuts

Proposed cuts include programs funded under the TDHCA General Revenue. At risk of funding reduction and outright elimination are the Homeless Housing and Services Program (HHSP), the Balance of State Continuum of Care (BoS CoC) Technical Assistance program, and the Housing Trust Fund.

In a nutshell, HHSP provides funding for 8 large cities in Texas to provide vital support services in addition to funding construction, the purchase or rehabilitation of housing for persons experiencing homelessness and their families. The funding is not as restrictive as HUD Continuum of Care (CoC) funding. The BoS CoC Technical Assistance program provides assistance to most areas outside of the major metropolitan areas. These areas have fewer resources and rely on this assistance to sustain and develop programs designed to end homelessness in their community. The Housing Trust Fund “is a dedicated fund intended to provide revenue to build, preserve, and rehabilitate housing for people with the lowest incomes.” All three of these programs provide vital services to Texans experiencing homelessness. We will be asking our Senators and Representatives to oppose these cuts.

Public Charities and Advocacy

But wait, 501(c)3 public charities can’t advocate or lobby, can they? There is often confusion about whether non-profit organizations can advocate. In Nonprofits and Lobbying, Yes, They Can! By Nayantara Mehta, Ms. Mehta outlines how 501(c)3 public charities may get involved in the legal process and have a say in policy discussions. She argues that not only is it appropriate, but it is vital that we speak on behalf of the people we serve. We are their voice and it is our job.

But how do we know if the person we meet with doesn’t just recycle our leave-behinds and go about their day? How do we know if our visits have any effect? Emily Ellsworth worked as a staffer for two different members of Congress for 6 years and wrote a series of tweets about what she learned about how they listen to constituents. She says the most effective thing is to visit their state district office or call them – a pile of emails are easy to ignore but they have to answer the phone. She also suggests inviting staffers on “field trips” to show them the work you are doing. Getting to know staffers can benefit your cause down the road. They are the ones that have the ear of our senators and representatives.

Homelessness Awareness Day

Okay, so you’re on board with advocacy and want to sign up for Homelessness Awareness Day. Now what? THN is setting up appointments with committee members that make decisions on financing. We are also putting together leave-behind materials. All we need are passionate stakeholders (that’s you) to visit with their members of the legislature and talk to them about how homelessness is affecting their community.

Homelessness Awareness Day

Texas State Capitol

Tuesday, February 28th

10:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

 

Join us for #TXHAD2017 and sign up now!