More government support needed to combat homelessness

By Minju Park, Columnist

On any given day, Americans walk past individuals on the sidewalk holding cardboard signs written in black marker. They crouch with tin cans or cupped hands, waiting for passersby to drop their spare change left over from buying a macchiato at the Starbucks down the street.

Americans are exposed to homelessness on a daily basis, and are aware of the lack of government efforts to aid the homeless back into a stable situation.

According to a Gallup poll in 2007, about 58 percent of the public believed that the U.S. is doing a “poor job” addressing homelessness. According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, on a single night in January 2016, there were 549,928 homeless individuals in the U.S. In Illinois, there were 11,590, and 188 in Champaign County alone.

These numbers clearly indicate the severity and ongoing prominence of homelessness in our community, yet little is being done by the federal government to combat it. This lack of federal support is not only indicated by public opinion polls, but in the records of federal funding to departments that oversee shelters and other federal government-run programs.

The Trump administration proposed a 2018 budget plan to implement a 14 percent cut to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which would be about a $6 billion reduction. These cuts in funding are speculated to be shifted to the Department of Defense’s increased spending.

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    The funding for the Department of Housing and Urban Development provides grants that are used to support shelters and create affordable housing. Not only will this suffer, but the funding cuts will also eliminate support for federal homelessness programs such as the Community Development Block Grant program, HOME Investment Partnerships program, Choice Neighborhoods and Self-help Homeownership Opportunity program, among others.

    It isn’t difficult to see why the public opinion on federal government initiatives to curb homelessness has been so unfavorable. For this reason, many Americans have been looking to private organizations to combat the homelessness issue in our nation.

    According to a report by the Pew Research Center in 2009, about 52 percent of its respondents said religious groups do the best job at feeding the homeless, compared to government organizations.

    The successful results of private program efforts to combat homelessness in the Champaign community are clearly seen through organizations such as Restoration Urban Ministries.

    Restoration, a temporary housing unit, also provides classes on a wide scope of topics including parenting, job hunting and budgeting. Restoration is funded mostly by private donors and also collects a small fee from working residents to live at the unit. Restoration boasts a surprising 65 to 75 percent success rate, having residents move out after their program and be able to find jobs and housing.

    These private organizations are able to find this success in combating homelessness as compared to the efforts of the federal government, since many of the organizations are nonprofit. This means they are entirely committed to serving the homeless individuals, and are less prone to succumbing to the influences of lobbying that may change how much funding is dedicated to a project.

    Many of these private organizations combating homelessness are religious, which may also contribute to their high success rates. For some, finding faith may bring them a sense of focus and direction in their lives, allowing them to more effectively create an organized plan and end goal.

    Because of this, private organizations are clearly more effective in taking on the issue of homelessness in our country, but more support from the federal government is needed in order to continue to get Americans off the streets and into safe homes.

    Minju is a sophomore in Media.

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