|National Alliance on Mental Illness
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Chronic homelessness remains an enormous challenge for communities across the nation. Numerous studies have demonstrated that individuals with severe mental illnesses, co-occurring substance abuse disorders and other chronic health problems are much more likely to become and homeless, and more importantly, stay homeless for longer periods of time. In addition, chronic homelessness places enormous financial and human burdens on systems such as hospital emergency rooms, shelters, criminal justice and corrections. We know that supportive housing (permanent housing combined with services) is effective in breaking this costly cycle and actually saving money over the long run.
NAMI is pleased that President Bush has decided to target ending chronic homelessness over the next decade through his "Samaritan Initiative." This effort is centered on redirecting resources at HUD toward further development of permanent supportive housing through the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act. NAMI also supports the Bush Administration’s effort to ensure that there is adequate funding for the mental health, substance abuse and other services that will be needed to help people transitioning from chronic homelessness retain their housing and move toward more stable lives.
Funding for HUD Programs in FY 2004 – the First Key Step
For homeless programs, the President's budget is proposing $1.526 billion for FY 2004 for programs under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Program.
- "Samaritan Initiative - For FY 2004, the President is also proposing $50 million in new HUD funding for the "Samaritan Initiative" and $10 each for HHS and the VA. NAMI strongly supports the Samaritan Initiative and the Administration’s continued support for shifting the emphasis of federal homeless policy toward addressing the needs of individuals disabilities and chronic health needs that stay homeless for years at a time.
- White House Interagency Council on the Homeless - NAMI would also like to recognize the efforts of the White House Interagency Council on the Homeless in bringing forward a new plan to make agencies such as HHS, Labor and VA more accountable in providing services to individuals experiencing chronic homelessness in order to free up limited HUD funds for permanent supportive housing. Surveys indicate that as many as 200,000 persons experience chronic (as opposed to short-term or episodic) homelessness. Numerous studies have made clear that individuals with severe mental illness and co-occurring substance abuse disorders are disproportionately represented among this chronic homeless population.
- Permanent Housing Programs - For the past fours years, NAMI has been an enthusiastic supporter of efforts in this Subcommittee to ensure that HUD directs at least 30% of McKinney-Vento Act funds for permanent housing and that communities come up with a 25% match for services. This permanent housing set aside, and the local services match, have been important factors in persuading states and localities to invest their federal homeless funds in permanent supportive housing through programs such as Shelter Plus Care.
- Shelter Plus Care Renewals - It is expected that as much as $194 million will be needed in FY 2004 to renew all expiring rent subsidies under the Shelter Plus Care program. NAMI commends President Bush for supporting in his budget continuing a separate allocation of additional funds to cover the cost of renewing all expiring Shelter Plus Care rent subsidies in FY 2004. Without these funds, many communities will not be able to keep their Shelter Plus Care housing operating, or will not be able to fund new permanent supportive housing, thereby preventing further progress in ending chronic homelessness. NAMI therefore strongly urges the Subcommittee to ensure that there are sufficient funds to renew all expiring Shelter Plus Care and SHP permanent housing renewals for the FY 2004 competition for the McKinney-Vento program.
Funding for Services in Permanent Supportive Housing Needed
For the FY 2004 federal budget, NAMI urges members of Congress to support for FY 2004 for programs in the HHS budget targeted to chronic homelessness:
- NAMI supports the President Bush’s $50 million request for FY 2004 for the PATH program at the Substance Abuse and Mental health Services Administration (SAMHSA) – a $6.5 million increase above the FY 2003 level. PATH is a formula grant program to the states to support local programs serving homeless persons with severe mental illness. This increase in PATH will help states improve access to treatment and supports for the growing number of homeless with severe mental illnesses. This proposed increase for PATH is also tied to the Bush Administration’s "Samaritan Initiative" to end chronic homelessness over the next decade.
- To make adequate progress toward meeting President Bush’s goal of ending chronic homelessness over the next decade, NAMI supports a new $30 million allocation in FY 2004 within SAMHSA’s PRNS programs for services for people who are chronically homeless. Building on the President’s Samaritan Initiative, these additional funds would be an important down payment toward producing and sustaining 150,000 units of permanent supportive housing. This amount would help at least 6,000 people move off the streets and into permanent supportive housing by funding a portion of the services in supportive housing that would in turn be used to leverage matching commitments from states, local government, faith-based and community-based organizations, and the private sector. Chronically homeless people with severe mental illnesses and co-occurring substance abuse disorders have needs that cross the boundaries of fragmented, categorical service systems. They rarely access the comprehensive supports they need to get and keep housing. Supportive housing provides accessible, coordinated, and flexible services that lead to recovery and reintegration into community life.
NAMI advocates are urged to contact their members of Congress in support of efforts to move toward a national goal of ending chronic homelessness over the next decade. Encourage them to support:
- President Bush’s "Samaritan Initiative" to refocus federal homeless policy on ending chronic homelessness,
- Full funding for the President’s request for the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act and continuation of the 30% permanent housing set aside,
- $194 million for renewal of all expiring Shelter Plus Care rent subsidies in FY 2004,
- $50 million in funding for the PATH program at SAMHSA, and
- $30 million for a new initiative at SAMHSA to fund services in permanent supportive housing.
April 18, 2003