We are urging housing and homeless response assistance and services funded by the American Rescue Plan Act (ARP) to be accessible and implemented equitably for our nation’s most vulnerable children, youth, and families.

On March 30, in collaboration with our partners First Focus on Children, SchoolHouse Connection, and Family Promise, we sent a letter to the newly appointed secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Marcia Fudge. In this letter, we provide recommendations on the guidance and requirements that HUD will make regarding the allocation and uses of funds in the American Rescue Plan for homelessness assistance, supportive services, and emergency rental vouchers. We are calling on Secretary Fudge to address barriers that have prevented youth and families from receiving life-saving aid and putting them at even greater risk of COVID-19, as well as prolonged experiences of homelessness. 

Below we highlight some of our recommendations. 

We are asking HUD to refrain from imposing prioritization based on their definition of homelessness. This definition excludes many families and youth who are just as vulnerable as those meeting HUD’s definition and disproportionately families and youth of color. For example, youth and families staying with other people due to housing loss and those paying for nights in cramped and dangerous motels are considered homeless by public schools and early childhood programs. However, they do not qualify as homeless under HUD’s definition. Prioritization of these funds should not be based on the nature of a sleeping arrangement. Local providers who see the entirety of each family or youth’s circumstances are best able to make decisions about relative vulnerability.

We urge HUD to encourage public housing authorities to partner with school district homeless programs to ensure access to ARP’s emergency housing vouchers. Schools are uniquely able to identify families and youth experiencing homelessness, and for many unaccompanied minors, school is their only safe place. However, schools struggle to assist youth in staying in school without housing options, which in turn places them at greater risk for violence, trafficking, and homelessness as adults. Of particular importance is that HUD ensures that these vouchers are portable and last as long as permissible. This is particularly important for unaccompanied youth experiencing homelessness under 18, who cannot sign a lease, and housing options in most communities are extremely limited or non-existent.

Congress did not set any limit on the amount of funds dedicated to supportive services. Providing rental assistance or affordable housing without supportive services often can lead to cycles of homelessness and repeated trauma for children, youth, and families. HUD grantees may lack service delivery experience specifically for children, youth, and families. They should be encouraged to partner with child and youth-serving agencies to meet their specific service needs.

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AUTHOR

Carrie Kovalick

DATE

April 1, 2021

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