Congressional efforts to tackle homelessness

This Homelessness Awareness Month, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle say they are continuing to work to lower the number of homeless people.
Published: Nov. 23, 2021 at 3:26 PM EST
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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - An estimated 580,000 people are experiencing homelessness in America, but the most recent count from the U.S Census Bureau does not reflect fallout from the pandemic. This Homelessness Awareness Month, lawmakers say they are working to lower the numbers.

Experts say the growing crisis is compounded by poverty, mental illness, and drug addiction.

Sen. John Boozman (R-Ark.) says many of those factors affect the homeless veteran population, and help isn’t always immediately available.

“One of the issues that we face is most of the veterans that are homeless are outside of the VA system,” said Boozman. “We’re trying to make it such where we partner with local entities that do a good job taking care of the homeless and provide them stipends.”

U.S Department of Veterans Affairs data from 2019 shows nearly 40,000 veterans are “unsheltered” on any given night, but veterans aren’t the only group suffering from homelessness.

“The housing crisis and the lack of affordable housing drive people that go to work every day to still live in their cars,” said Rep. Troy Carter (D-La.)

Rep. Carter said legislation included in the Build Back Better Act, which now sits in the U.S Senate, will help the general homeless population. If passed as currently written, the legislation would allocate $150 billion in affordable housing assistance.

But the issue of homelessness is complex, and, according to Barbara Duffield with SchoolHouse Connection, is not easily solved on paper.

“You break the cycle, and you break the cycle early,” said Duffield.

Duffield is the Executive Director of SchoolHouse Connection. She’s an advocate working to overcome homelessness through education. She said, according to studies, around 20% of the urban homeless population faced homelessness first as a child.

“The more that we can ensure that there are targeted resources for children and youth; housing resources that schools have access to, then we can support, holistically, both on the education side and on the housing side,” said Duffield.

Duffield commends a recent action by the U.S Senate designating November as National Homeless Children and Youth Awareness Month.

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