American communities unveil plans to fight homelessness crisis Voice of America
WASHINGTON – Michael Doss cleans around his tent, the place he calls home in Washington, DC He’s not alone; dozens of people live outside in makeshift shelters within plain sight of monuments and federal government buildings.
The nation’s capital, like many American communities, is struggling to cope with a growing homelessness crisis made worse by the historic economic downturn and the coronavirus pandemic.
“I was forced to live on the streets,” Doss told VOA. He is one of more than 600,000 Americans living without adequate shelter. “I lost my job as a bartender, then my apartment, and things kind of took a turn for the worse from there,” said the 33-year-old African-American native. Doss points to a part of the park where he has seen this tent camp expand in recent months. “We have a lot of veterans, immigrants and minorities living here. I have been here for over a year, ”he said.
Almost 10 in 1,000 DC residents are homeless, twice the national average. Minorities are particularly affected, with blacks, Native Americans and Hispanics being much more likely to be homeless than white Americans.
“There are huge racial disparities in homelessness and the result of systemic racism in housing and other sectors,” said Sarah Saadian, vice president of public policy at the National Low Income Housing Coalition. “African Americans make up 13% of the American population, but make up about 40% of homeless people and make up more than half of all homeless families.”
Army veteran Edward McCoy has been homeless since 2018. “I want to move into a stable and safe place,” he told VOA. “I’ve been robbed 10 times in this DC park and need help getting out of here.”
Significant government funding, low-rental housing
President Joe Biden’s bailout law, passed by Congress and enacted in March, calls for spending billions of dollars to help the displaced and those at risk of homelessness. Cities and states can use this money to help house people safely during and after the pandemic. The bailout also provides more than $ 46 billion in emergency rental assistance. Non-governmental organizations estimate that between 30 and 40 million people were at risk of losing their homes during the pandemic.
The federal government’s assistance program contains $ 5 billion in emergency housing vouchers for those at risk or experiencing homelessness. “We estimate that these funds could allow us to house at least 150,000 people and create up to 30,000 affordable housing units,” said Nan Roman, president of the National Alliance to End Homelessness. “We will work with the communities to ensure that resources are well targeted and used quickly to get people to find housing.”
Washington city officials are hopeful that people living in homeless settlements will be relocated soon after the old hotel and motel rooms are converted into permanent affordable housing.
“The city will receive $ 19 million in funds from the American Rescue Plan, ‘which is four times what we normally get,” said Washington, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser. “Here in Washington, we’ve been very committed to making homelessness rare, brief and non-recurring.”
In Los Angeles, a federal judge is calling for urgent action to find shelter for tens of thousands of homeless people by November. Judge David Carter criticized local authorities for failing to curb the growth of homelessness. “All the rhetoric, promises, plans and budgeting cannot obscure the shameful reality of this crisis,” Carter said in his order. As of January, it was estimated that more than 66,000 people were homeless in Los Angeles County.
Meanwhile, local officials around San Francisco unveiled a plan to reduce homelessness by 75% over the next three years with the construction of more social housing. Experts believe that the lack of social housing is currently one of the main causes of homelessness, a point Saadien insists.
“The private sector cannot build all the necessary housing for homeless people,” she said. “There must be federal grants.