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U.S. Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Alex Padilla and U.S. Rep. Ted Lieu (all D-Calif.) on July 15 introduced the Fighting Homelessness Through Services and Housing Act, a bill to increase federal resources to battle homelessness. The bill authorizes $1 billion in grants annually for the next five years for local governments to combat homelessness.
As a way to address the root causes of homelessness, the legislation would condition federal funds on a grant recipient’s ability to provide not only housing but also comprehensive supportive services like mental health care, substance abuse treatment and job training. Grant recipients would be required to provide 25 percent of project funds and report on measures of success, including whether individuals remain housed.
“Homelessness and a lack of affordable housing were problems in California and across the country long before the pandemic, but COVID-19 has shown us just how vulnerable these people are,” Feinstein said. “Poverty, mental illness, drug addiction and a lack of affordable housing are some of the root causes behind homelessness. That’s why any solution to this crisis must include comprehensive supportive services.”
Specifically, the bill authorizes $1 billion annually for five years to fund supportive housing models that provide comprehensive services and intensive case management; requires a 25% match for services and housing from non-federal funds; allows grants to be used for any combination of operations and capital building costs as long as housing and services requirements are fulfilled; and requires grantees to track outcomes and report on housing stability and improvements in health and wellbeing, including the education of children.
Grants may go to local governmental entities consisting of cities, counties, regional collaboratives and tribal governments. Services must address issues such as mental health; substance use disorders; disabling or other chronic health conditions; educational and job training/employment outcomes; and life skills classes.
Intensive case management must be provided with a ratio of no greater than 1 case manager to every 20 people served. When serving families with children, services must also include children’s behavioral and mental health services, early childhood education, regular and age-appropriate children’s programming and activities, child health and nutrition screening, and education and parenting classes and support programs.
Services must also have in place protocol for staff training and best practices to identify and prevent child trafficking, abuse and neglect.
“Homelessness has been a major challenge for our communities for decades and the global pandemic and resulting damage to our economy only made things worse,” Lieu said. “Our bill will help break the cycle of homelessness that impacts so many people in Los Angeles and elsewhere by offering a comprehensive response through housing combined with social services and programs.”
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