Opportunities and Challenges in Addressing Homelessness
Testimony of Alliance CEO, Ann Oliva, to the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs at the “Opportunities and Challenges in Addressing Homelessness” hearing on July 19, 2022. Chairwoman Smith, Ranking Member Rounds, and members of the Subcommittee, my name is Ann Oliva and I am the CEO of the National Alliance to End Homelessness and a board member of True Colors United. Thank you for inviting me to testify. I want to commend this Subcommittee for the housing-related relief measures enacted during the pandemic. I will talk about the positive results of those investments momentarily.
The NeedBut first I will start with the data. All the reliable evidence tells us that the situation for people experiencing homelessness is incredibly urgent, and that the homelessness crisis – which predates the pandemic – will persist without serious intervention. In 2020, HUD reported two unfortunate firsts. We saw an increase in the number of people in families with children living unsheltered, and we saw the number of individuals living on the streets exceed the number of individuals living in shelters for the first time. More than 580,000 people experienced homelessness on a single night in January 2020 and one and a half million people experienced sheltered homelessness at some time in 2018.
- People of color and historically marginalized people are disproportionally impacted by homelessness.
- Families experiencing homelessness are typically headed by women, many are headed by young parents and they include a high percentage of young children.
- Youth, veterans and adults experiencing chronic homelessness are suffering on our streets and in shelters every day.
- And data shows that more than half of sheltered people and 40% of unsheltered people work but still cannot afford housing.
Pandemic InvestmentsThe housing investments made as part of the nation’s pandemic response helped people across the country keep or get into housing. For example:
- More than 3.8 million households have received Emergency Rental Assistance so they can stay in their homes.
- Nearly 90% of the 70,000 emergency housing vouchers for households experiencing or at-risk of homelessness have been issued or leased.
Challenges and Affordable HousingBecause we are facing daunting challenges.
- Rising rents and low availability make finding and keeping permanent housing more difficult for homeless and at-risk people.
- Homeless systems consistently report significant staffing challenges like staff shortages, high turnover and burnout.
- Linking mainstream health and behavioral health services with housing can be a challenge.
- And criminalization of people experiencing homelessness is rising.