Doubling down on failed approach to homelessness
In a largely symbolic resolution sponsored by Rep. Maria Salazar, RFla., in January, a bipartisan majority of the House voted to repudiate “socialism in all its forms.”
The resolution highlights the history of starvation, genocide and devastation caused by socialist leaders and their policies — and the 328 lawmakers who voted in favor of it are now on record opposing the implementation of such policies.
Yet, while Congress may be on record in opposition to redistributionist policies, the “All In” plan from the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, issued in December, indicates the White House may not be.
The council sets lofty goals for reducing homelessness by doubling down on the failed Housing First program — something taxpayers have funded for more than a decade at a price tag exceeding $16 billion, only to see homelessness increase. The Housing Council has acknowledged that though “funding for homelessness assistance has increased every year,” the unsheltered population has grown by a staggering 20.5% nationally.
The All In claim that housing is the solution to homelessness reveals a failure to acknowledge the deeper issues, such as broken families, mental illness and addiction.
Going All In is a risky bet on a bad hand — and made more dangerous by betting with taxpayers’ money.
The president’s proposal attempts to justify the wager by playing on the fears of elderly Americans and their families by claiming that there is “no housing market in the U.S. in which a person living solely on Supplemental Security Income can afford housing without rental assistance.” The truth is, only 1.8% of seniors are living on SSI alone — and for those who are, the average monthly SSI payment for an eligible couple is nearly twice that of the average rent in some of the nation’s most affordable cities.
Further, the president’s proposal supports increases in rental and utility assistance without income or asset verifications. Programs like these trap individuals in welfare at the taxpayers’ expense. Welfare expansion has a long history of compounding our nation’s most pressing public crises, not solving them — and homelessness is no exception.
In my community, the flow of stimulus checks, extended unemployment benefits and housing assistance that resulted from the 2021 American Rescue
Plan Act perversely incentivized welfare over work. We now have a situation where most individuals coming into our homeless mission in Joplin, Mo., tell our staff that they are waiting on a housing voucher and are less interested in offers for employment.
Regarding everything from “supply” to “compensation,” the word “increase” is used 51 times in the Homeless Council report. Increases not mentioned are those related to inflation, taxes and budget deficits that would ultimately come on the heels of expanding taxpayer-funded housing subsidies. Also not noted are the increases in generational poverty for families that will become indefinitely trapped in the welfare system. This, by definition, is socialism. It is horrific — and 328 members of Congress were right to condemn it.
Thankfully, there is a safer bet.
For more than two decades, our privately funded mission, along with a few hundred others like it across the nation, has been helping people escape homelessness and achieve lasting independence through relationship-building and accountability programs. Even better, privately funded missions like these and innovative private models such as tiny home communities are less expensive and do a better job of compassionately helping our homeless neighbors.
This growing movement of private, compassionate, effective charity has the winning hand in addressing homelessness. It’s time for the federal government to fold theirs.