Dire effects of sequestration on affordable housing for the poor

4 Apr

When I came back from a meeting of the Pasadena Housing Department this morning and told my husband how sequestration would affect low-income folk, he became so concerned he wrote this article which we are sending to the local newspapers and which he had posted on his blog (laquaker.blogspot.com).  I hope this article will inspire you and others to take some action.

Sequestration–the budget slashing measure that took place because Congress  was unwilling to deal intelligently with our fiscal crisis–is having a huge  impact on homelessness here in Pasadena and throughout the USA.

 Myrtle Dunson, Housing Manager for the city of Pasadena, reported that  sequestration  requires that the number of Section 8 housing vouchers in  the city be cut from 1,406 to around 50-75 as of April 1. Yes, that’s a cut of over 95%!!
These  vouchers are what enable low-income people to afford housing. Many of those  receiving Section 8 assistance could end up homeless.
Nan Roman, President of the National Alliance to End Homelessness,  puts Pasadena’s housing crisis into a national perspective:

“It is estimated that over 125,000 families and individuals – more than  half of whom are elderly and disabled – may lose their housing through the cuts  to the housing assistance programs. Some 100,000 people will be affected by the  cuts to homeless assistance. While some programs that aid poor people are exempt  from sequestration, these efforts to meet the basic needs of the poorest people  are not.”

Housing is a basic human need. Depriving low-income folks of housing  will have dire consequences.

According to the most recent homeless count, Pasadena has 772  homeless persons, a 15% decrease thanks in part to Housing Works, an  organization that houses the chronically and at-risk homeless, thereby saving  the city money (since this population tends to need services such as  hospitalization, etc.). This highly successful program will  suffer cuts up to 5.9% due to sequestration. (See http://www.housingworks.org/advocate/detail/a-scary-bedtime-story-the-sequestration-explained/0

According to the most recent homeless count, 560 Pasadenans are  homeless and unsheltered, including 39 homeless veterans and 33 families with a  total of 59 children.

Non-profits and churches are working tirelessly to address this crisis. Friends  Indeed (formerly known as ECPAC), Union Station, and other groups work together  to provide services for Pasadena’s homeless population. Family Promise, a  national organization with a new branch focusing on the San Gabriel Valley,  involves congregations in providing services that help homeless families find  jobs and housing. Three Pasadena churches–Friendship Baptist, Hollinston  Community Church, and Onevoice Free Methodist Church–are part of this  highly effective program.

More than just emergency services are needed, however, especially as our  homeless population grows older (see “Aging  into homelessness: Experts say more seniors will be on the streets if more  isn’t done to increase housing opportunities” by Rebecca Zukins 4/4/13). http://www.pasadenaweekly.com/cms/story/detail/aging_into_homelessness/12018/

According to the US Council of Mayors, “lack of affordable housing” is one  of the primary causes of homelessness. That’s why we need to make a  serious commitment to create more affordable housing by supporting the  California Homes and Jobs Act of 2013 (SB 391). This act will:

  • Create 29,000 jobs annually, primarily in the beleaguered construction  sector.
  • Help businesses attract and retain the talent that fuels California’s  economy.
  • Generate an estimated $500 million in state investment and leverage an  additional $2.78 billion in federal, local, and private investment.
  • Deploy these dollars throughout California using a successful private/public  partnership model, creating jobs and generating revenue for local governments.
  • Build safe and affordable apartments and single-family homes for  Californians in need, including families, seniors, veterans, people with  disabilities, and people experiencing homelessness.

As people of faith, we have a special responsibility to make sure that our neighbors don’t end up living on the street, even if it means making sacrifices,  such as somewhat higher taxes.

According to the Book of Acts, Christians cared more about the  poor than about home ownership:

“There were no needy  persons among [early Christians]. For from time to time those who owned land or  houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and distributed it among the  needy.” (Act 4:34).

If the wealthy and privileged of America paid their fair  share of taxes (at least as much as middle class people do), and if the middle  class chipped in, we could end homelessness in America. Si, se  puede!

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