One size does not fit all
The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) recently announced that it would not renew funding for transitional housing providers for 2016-17. The cuts resulted in a significant budget void for five local providers – and a near $300,000 loss for the Toledo community. No funds were provided to alleviate the severity of the reduction and organizations like Aurora Project have been left with less than 60 days to find alternative sources of funding.
For more than 25 years, this funding has been approved and enthusiastically recommended by our local Continuum of Care. However, this year, it was denied. Changes in federal policy regarding the treatment of homelessness have greatly impacted the distribution of funds. We believe this policy needs to change.
One solitary model – rapid re-housing – is being embraced as the preferred method to end homelessness. Also known as “housing first”, families in emergency shelters are given housing subsidies and placed into a permanent residence. The caveat is that this is often without adequate assistance, accountability, and access to services. Those who need intensive support the most – mentally ill, domestic violence survivors, disabled, uneducated, alcohol or drug addicted – are expected to move into a permanent home and succeed without giving them the tools they need to do so. As a result, they simply return to homelessness within a few weeks or months and the cycle starts all over again.
This complete disregard of the important and impactful services provided through transitional housing agencies is unacceptable. The current “one size fits all” approach does not work for all families and often exacerbates the problem. While the loss of funding is a concern for these agencies, the devastating impact of this decision on our community, and the nation, is far greater. By not addressing the root causes of serious issues, our burden as taxpayers steadily increases through the rise of incarceration, foster care, unemployment, health care, etc.
We need the systemic change that comes from transitional housing providers. We need to keep funding programs that offer these intensive supports while empowering families to become stable, self-sufficient, and productive members of our society.
We must do this, because we can’t afford not to.