A New Kind of Homeless Policy

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Homeless policy usually focuses on those who are already homeless, getting them off the streets or out of shelters into transitional or permanent housing, and providing mental health or substance abuse treatment to the chronically homeless. And that’s what much of the $1.6 billion in grants that HUD announced yesterday for programs that help the homeless will focus on. 

But in the current economic and housing crisis, preventing homelessness has become an issue of equal concern. So the administration is devoting almost as many funds–$1.5 billion–to helping individuals and families on the brink to avoid homelessness. If the housing plan announced on Wednesday was targeted to homeowners struggling to pay mortgages and forestall foreclosure, these funds are intended to help renters, a population HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan described in a press call yesterday as traditionally more vulnerable than homeowners.

The $1.5 billion was included in the economic stimulus package, and will fund programs that help people pay security deposits, utility bills, and rent. An inability to cover these kinds of housing expenses can get a family kicked out of an apartment or force them to stay with relatives instead of moving into their own place.