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AMIDST COVID-19 PANDEMIC, JAYAPAL & MENG LEAD PROGRESSIVE COALITION TO INTRODUCE THE HOUSING IS A HUMAN RIGHT ACT

The legislation would authorize more than $300 billion over the next decade for crucial housing infrastructure

The legislation would provide immediate relief to state & community organizations working to provide emergency shelter & other supportive services during COVID -19 outbreak

[WASHINGTON, DC] — U.S. Representatives Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), Co-Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC), and Grace Meng (D-NY) today led a coalition of progressive lawmakers and organizations to introduce the Housing is a Human Right Act. The legislation would authorize more than $300 billion in federal spending over 10 years for crucial housing infrastructure and reduce homelessness.

The Housing is a Human Right Act would provide immediate relief to state and community grantees who are struggling to provide emergency shelter, respite shelter for people who are sick or have been discharged from the hospital, and “shelter in place” supplies for people living outside who need food and resources to help them self-isolate due to COVID-19. It would also support additional staffing to increase outreach and support services, and personal protective equipment (PPE) for service providers who may face increased risks of COVID-19 exposure.

The Housing is a Human Right Act would help states and community organizations address homelessness by authorizing more than $200 billion over 10 years for federal grant programs, including the FEMA Emergency Food and Shelter Grant Program and some of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s largest grant programs. It also establishes the “Community Development Block Grants Plus” grant program to provide municipalities support in developing infrastructure responsive to the needs of persons experiencing homelessness, housing instability, or housing-related cost-burdens. In addition to funding emergency shelter to house people in crisis, these federal investments will fund transitional housing, short- and medium-term rent subsidies, permanent housing and supportive services for people experiencing homelessness.

“The homelessness crisis in America predates the COVID-19 pandemic, but the consequences of federal disinvestment in critical housing infrastructure and supportive services have never been clearer. The experience of homelessness is not a moral failure of individuals, but a structural failing on the part of a society that has refused to prioritize the needs of the most vulnerable, including safe and affordable housing,” said Jayapal. “This bill recognizes a fundamental truth: Housing is a human right. By investing massive amounts of federal dollars to help states and local organizations on the frontlines, we can provide housing and supportive services for vulnerable communities and ensure everyone in America has a bed to sleep in and a roof over their head. With COVID-19 spreading throughout our communities, it has never been more important to address this issue immediately.”

“It is shamefully long overdue that our nation gives the humane attention and necessary investments to address the issue of homelessness once and for all. We can no longer remain status quo. The current public health crisis of COVID-19 is revealing in real time the significant insufficiencies and inefficiencies in our housing infrastructure and critical supportive services,” said Meng. “In New York, more than 90,000 New Yorkers are without a home. That cannot continue; I will not let that continue. That is why I am proud to introduce alongside Congresswoman Jayapal – the Housing is a Human Right Act – legislation that would take monumental steps and investments to address this critical issue. I commend those who are on the frontlines of addressing the issues of homelessness and housing instability. I thank all the advocates to have supported our legislation, and I urge our congressional colleagues to support this bill. Because Housing is, indeed, a Human Right.” 

Jayapal and Meng were joined by U.S. Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Jesus “Chuy” Garcia (D-IL), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI).

“Now, more than ever, the federal government must recognize that housing is a human right and provide the resources necessary to reflect that fact,” said Blumenauer. “I’m proud to join with Congresswomen Jayapal and Meng in introducing a bold proposal to reduce the number of people experiencing homelessness across America.”

“People in the richest country in the world shouldn’t have to worry about whether they’ll have a roof over their head but that is the reality for thousands of Americans including many in Chicago. I’m proud to co-sponsor this legislation to fund emergency housing support, homeless assistance and infrastructure development and residents who need it most,” said García. “This bill would help slow the gentrification, displacement, and growing homelessness so rampant on the northwest and southwest sides of Chicago to ensure housing affordability for all.”

“In the midst of the coronavirus crisis, we must be doing everything in our power to address homelessness and housing insecurity. People experiencing homelessness are extremely vulnerable to contract and spread the virus, and more likely to have underlying health conditions that would put their lives at risk. As more Americans are impacted by the economic downturn, we need ensure that every American has their human right to safe and affordable housing guaranteed,” said Omar.

“Access to safe and affordable housing is an issue of public health, an issue of economic equality, and an issue of racial justice,” said Pressley. “What this moment requires is a bold, ambitious proposal that matches the scale of this unfolding crisis. I’m proud to co-sponsor the Housing is a Human Right Act, which dedicates necessary government funds to protecting and caring for our most vulnerable— affirming that poverty is not a character flaw, and nobody deserves less because they can’t afford more.”

The Housing is a Human Right Act

  • Authorizes up to $100 billion over 10 years for McKinney-Vento Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG);
  • Authorizes up to $100 billion over 10 years for Continuum of Care (COC) grants;
  • Creates a new grant program to invest in humane infrastructure, providing municipalities with $6 billion a year through a flexible program that will allow municipalities to address their most urgent infrastructure needs related to addressing homelessness and housing.  
  • Authorizes $10 billion over 10 years for FEMA emergency food and shelter grants and improves grants to better reflect high rates of homelessness and income inequality;
  • Authorizes $100 million over 10 years in grants to public libraries to provide assistance and tailored supports to persons experiencing homelessness;
  • Incentivizes local investments in humane, evidence-based models to support people experiencing homelessness, including alternatives to criminalization;
  • Prioritizes the right of people experiencing homelessness to access and replace key personal documents, to protect their right to vote; and,
  • Invests resources in flexible funds that assist municipalities to engage in evidence-based, non-criminalizing approaches to people experiencing homelessness.

The bill is supported by more than 37 progressive and housing advocates, including the National Low Income Housing Coalition, the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, the National Health Care for the Homeless Council, and the Washington State Low Income Housing Alliance.

“The Coronavirus pandemic makes it clear: housing is healthcare. We must invest the resources needed to safely shelter and house hundreds of thousands of people experiencing homelessness who are at the greatest risk of serious illness and death during this outbreak,” said Diane Yentel, President and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition. “Congress should quickly provide emergency shelter and housing funds in its response to Coronavirus to address the immediate needs and should enact Representatives Jayapal and Meng’s bill to provide needed resources to help end homelessness altogether so that we never again have people so vulnerable to a public health emergency.”

“Our nation was founded on the principle that everyone is entitled to the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and with the emerging threat of coronavirus, it has never been more clear that those rights must include the basic human right to housing,” said Eric Tars, Legal Director at the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty. “The Housing is a Human Right Act will help communities address homelessness with housing, not handcuffs; with services, not sweeps. To help our fellow Americans living on the streets in the coming months and beyond, we must understand that housing is health care, and both are human rights.”

“The National Health Care for the Homeless Council is proud to support Congresswomen Jayapal and Meng’s Housing is a Human Right bill. Homelessness has reached an emergency status in many communities and the funding in this bill would allow critical resources to go to states so they can directly address the dire needs of people living on the streets and the providers caring for them. We are particularly heartened to see medical respite care listed as an allowable service for use of emergency funds. Medical respite care programs provide health care and support services for persons experiencing homelessness who are too ill or frail to recover from a physical illness or injury on the streets but are not ill enough to be in a hospital. This is a critically needed and under-resourced service, especially during this infectious disease epidemic. We are in full support of this bill which would increase the capacity of shelters and other homeless service providers to meet the health care needs of the most vulnerable people living on the streets,” said Barbara DiPietro, PhD, Senior Director of Policy at the National Health Care for the Homeless Council.

“Sky-high rents have driven housing out of reach for low-income people in Seattle and all across the state and the country and increased homelessness for people with the lowest incomes, and particularly people of color and people with disabilities. Our communities desperately needed resources to address homelessness before the coronavirus outbreak, and that need is even more urgent now. It is clearer than ever that we are all better off when we are all healthy – especially the most vulnerable among us. Our communities need robust and flexible federal funds immediately to respond to this crisis. This bill is a bright spot in a scary time and Congress should prioritize its passage,” said Rachael Myers, Executive Director of the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance.

The legislation is also endorsed by: Center for Popular Democracy; Coalition for Juvenile Justice; Fund for Empowerment; Funders Together to End Homelessness; International Center for Advocates Against Discrimination (ICAAD); Justice in Aging; Justice Revival; Minority Veterans of America; National Coalition for the Homeless; National Health Care for the Homeless Council; National Innovation Service; National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty; National Lawyers Guild International Committee; National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund; National Low-Income Housing Coalition; People’s Action; PolicyLink; StandUp for Kids; True Colors United; the American Civil Liberties Union of West Virginia; BASTA, Inc.; Building Changes; California Homeless Youth Project; Denver Homeless Out Loud; East Bay Community Law Center; Health Justice Innovations, LLC; Homeless Rights Advocacy Project; H.O.M.E.S. Campaign; International Human Rights Clinic of the George Washington University Law School; La Fondita de Jesus; Law Foundation of Silicon Valley; Santa Clara University – International Human Rights Clinic; Sisters of the Road Café; Stern Community Lawyering Clinic; Washington Low Income Housing Alliance; and Western Regional Advocacy Project. 

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