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Helping Congress Understand the Realities of Homelessness

September 14 was Capitol Hill Day, the Alliance’s virtual event with Senators, Representatives, and their legislative staff via Zoom.
It was a big day! Thanks to more than 1,200 advocates from across the country, the Alliance organized 245 legislative meetings which ranged from 20-30 minutes to more than an hour. While Capitol Hill Day has traditionally been part of the Alliance’s annual conferences in Washington, D.C., the U.S. Capitol building and legislative office buildings remain closed to the general public. Virtual meetings with lawmakers have become the new normal. The remote aspect of these discussions aren’t ideal, but the format also expands access to many people who wouldn’t be able to travel to the nation’s capital in person. The Alliance is grateful for all the providers, people with lived experience, state and local coalitions, Continuum of Care (CoC) system leaders, local officials, and other advocates who were able to join. During these meetings, advocates asked Members of Congress and their staff for critical funding to help prevent and end homelessness.

Key Talking Points with Legislators

The Alliance’s policy goals during these meetings focused on two priorities:
$3.6 billion in overall funding for HUD’s Homeless Assistance Grants. This program creates a strong foundation for locally managed homeless systems across the country to house the most vulnerable in their communities and provide support services people need to stay housed.
$32.1 billion for the Tenant Based Rental Assistance account to boost the federal government’s commitment to reducing homelessness, helping people with low incomes afford a place to live and moving more families out of poverty.
Advocates also asked for support of important policies like protection against source of income discrimination, safe parking programs, landlord incentives and flexible funding, and flexible documentation requirements. But perhaps the most impactful component is when these asks came from people who have connections to these issues themselves.

Making It Personal

People with lived experience of homelessness helped ground these discussions with personal stories and powerful observations. One advocate from Rhode Island told her Senator, “We need you to stand up when people call us a waste. We are not a waste. We are people and we are worthy.” Another advocate from Washington state described the trauma of experiencing homelessness twice during a four-year period as a single mother – she was able to find shelter with her son when he was 14 years old, but she and her son were separated by shelters during a second homeless episode because he was 18 years old. These firsthand accounts helped lawmakers understand the realities of homelessness, and emphasized the urgency of Congressional action. To prepare for Capitol Hill Day, the Alliance brought more than 80 advocates with lived experience to Washington, D.C. during the Alliance’s annual conference in July for a strategy session with state coordinators. This group recruited other lived experience advocates and continued to prepare for Capitol Hill Day in online sessions leading up to September 14.

What Congress Needs to Do

Federal action is essential to ending homelessness. Without greater investment of resources from Congress, homelessness in America will worsen and more lives will be lost. The Alliance is grateful for the organizations and individuals who made Capitol Hill Day such a big event this year. There is more advocacy to do in the coming months as legislators finalize the budget requests that were made in these meetings, so stay tuned for more opportunities to speak up! The post Helping Congress Understand the Realities of Homelessness appeared first on National Alliance to End Homelessness.