Homelessness Awareness Day a Success!
March 3, 2017
Post by Jennifer Paulsen, Director of Development & Communications
On Tuesday, February 28, Texas Homeless Network hosted Homelessness Awareness Day (HAD). Forty-four homeless service providers visited 50 offices representing Austin, San Antonio, Houston, Fort Worth, and communities outside of the metro areas. It was encouraging to see so many people show up excited to educate their legislators on homelessness.
This is only part of the group – the rest were getting information for visits and missed the photo!
The goal of the visits was to educate legislators, especially those sitting on key committees, on homelessness in Texas and discuss funding in jeopardy of reduction or elimination in General Appropriation Bills HB 1 and SB 1. The funds in question are the Homeless Housing Services Program (HHSP) that serves major metro areas, and the Balance of State Continuum of Care (BoS CoC) Technical Assistance program that serves non-metro areas.
Since 2012, homelessness has decreased by 32% and we expect the 2017 numbers will also show a decrease. However, this success is mostly due to important funding sources such as the Homeless Housing Services Program (HHSP) and the Balance of State Technical Assistance program grants. It’s vitally important that we keep the funding we have for programs ending homelessness so we can keep this momentum going.
THN President & CEO, Eric Samuels, with Shannon Barnes, Nicole Lilly, and Trudy Hernandez from Fort Worth.
During the last project year, the HHSP funding assisted over 6,000 people. It’s an important source of funding for Texas’ metropolitan areas as they work to prevent and end homelessness. Many of these cities such as Austin, Houston, and San Antonio have shown significant progress over the last few years.
The Texas Balance of state TA grant, which provides much needed technical assistance to communities outside the metro areas, is vital to the continued success of ending homelessness in these communities where homelessness has decreased by 45% since 2012. A particular point that legislators like to hear is the state gets a great return on investment for these funds. For example, last year this $50,000 grant helped secure 6.9 million in funding from HUD to move people out of homelessness in rural Texas. It is also is used to leverage $200,000 in additional TA funding, also from HUD, that otherwise would not be available.
Meg Pohodich and Preston Witt with Harmony House in Houston
Two other key points made were in regards to the Healthy Community Collaborative (HCC), and the Housing Trust Fund (HTF). The goal of the HCC program is to decrease chronic homelessness among individuals with a mental illness and substance use disorder. The requirement to expend the HCC funds is to match each dollar with private funding. This presents a challenge since that is a narrow category of funding thus preventing grantees from accessing additional funding. Our request was to allow grantees to leverage funding from public sources as well so they can use the funding that is already available to expand access to needed supports.
The Housing Trust Fund provides loans and grants to finance, acquire, rehabilitate, and develop decent and safe affordable housing. We asked legislators to oppose funding cuts to this program and to secure a dedicated source of revenue funding that is adequate to Texas’ affordable housing needs.
All advocacy materials are on our website including a call script. If you were unable to make Homelessness Awareness Day, we encourage you to contact your legislators and advocate on behalf of the thousands of Texans experiencing homelessness. We also have materials to leave at offices if you are making a visit to the Capitol. It is much easier to keep funding than to secure new funding for the vital programs that are ending homelessness.
Thank you for your support!