In the past few years, the need for emergency shelter space has grown significantly. Many of those seeking help are struggling with untreated mental illness or substance abuse, and as many as a third are veterans. But a growing number are families with children and victims of domestic violence. I believe all Americans deserve a safe and stable place to live, and I have worked throughout my career to raise awareness about homelessness and to promote policies and programs that create real solutions. I am committed to partnering directly with local communities to help them address these issues, and I will continue to advocate for innovative and proven ways to combat homelessness.
Homeless Assistance Grants
Homeless assistance grants are a critical source of funding that communities throughout the country rely on to provide housing services for homeless individuals and families. As Chair of the Transportation and Housing Appropriations Subcommittee, I have worked to increase funding for these grants so that communities can meet the growing need. I have focused on helping homeless veterans and youth and on helping to prevent chronic homelessness. For example, because we know that quickly helping families to find stable housing can help them avoid falling into homelessness again, I helped establish a demonstration program in 2008 to fund “rapid re-housing” programs in several communities across the country. I am hopeful that we can expand this program in the future.
Ending Homelessness Among Children
Children are now the fastest-growing homeless population in America, according to several studies. In Washington state alone, as many as 14,000 homeless children are enrolled in our schools. These children are more likely to move often, and they frequently don’t get the same access to early education opportunities as their peers. We need to help ensure these children don’t fall through the cracks. That’s why I was a strong supporter of the Head Start for School Readiness Act, which reauthorizes key pre-Kindergarten programs for low-income children. I included provisions in the legislation that place greater priority on enrolling homeless children and make Head Start more available to homeless children. I also have worked to ensure the government is accurately gathering data on the number of homeless families. For example, I authored legislation to amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to ensure homeless children and youth were included in certain definitions used for need-analysis purposes.