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Read about the HEARTH Act, just Enacted by Congress   :)

NPACH Statement on Enactment of the HEARTH Act   :)


Yesterday, Congress passed the Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing (HEARTH) Act, re-writing the portion of the McKinney-Vento Act that governs HUD's homeless assistance programs. President Obama will sign the bill into law today.


Over the course of NPACH's existence, we have raised a range of concerns about federal policy on homelessness. We have been concerned about the focus on long-term single adult homelessness, without a corresponding focus on children, youth, and families. We have been troubled by top-down policy created in Washington, with little understanding of local needs. As we have so often said, homelessness in New York City does not look like homelessness in rural America. And we have objected to the unwillingness of policymakers to recognize that the motel and dangerously doubled up living situations that so many homeless children, youth, and families face are every bit as damaging to families and destabilizing for children as living in a shelter.


The new legislation takes steps to address many of these concerns. It adds new provisions that would help ensure that communities facing a crisis in family homelessness could begin to address that need. It requires HUD to write implementing regulations that will allow for public comment and discussion, instead of imposing new policies by agency fiat through the annual grant application (NOFA) process. And it does broaden HUD's definition of homelessness, though the language is both overly narrow in scope and likely to prove exceedingly difficult to implement. On this issue, we share the frustration and anger of our colleagues and allies in the education and children's advocacy communities, whose years of experience in serving homeless children, youth, and families were all too often discounted on Capitol Hill.


Many of these provisions would not have been part of the final bill without our collective advocacy. Almost exactly two years ago, a Congressional staffer summoned NPACH staff to Capitol Hill, to deliver the message that we could lobby as long as we wanted, but Congress would never expand the HUD definition of homelessness. While the final definition language is not all that we wanted, that staffer was wrong.


Yet we cannot help but think that Congress missed a significant opportunity. Many of you will remember that the original HEARTH Act of 2007 was legislation that we strongly supported, because it addressed all of our concerns. But Congress chose to fully re-write that bill, leaving little more than the title in place. Had policymakers chosen to preserve more of the original legislation, a better final product might have resulted.


How will the new legislation impact communities across the country? The answer to this question remains to be seen. Our advocacy efforts will now turn to the Obama Administration. As HUD, the White House, and the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness work to implement the new law, there will be significant opportunities for public engagement. We will keep you informed as this process unfolds - we hope that you will join us and make your voices heard. The Administration cannot re-write the law passed by Congress, but they can write regulations that take significant steps towards resolving our concerns. Based on initial conversations, we are hopeful that this will occur. But it will take a lot of hard work on our part to ensure success.


In the coming days and weeks, we will circulate a detailed summary of the HEARTH Act, along with preliminary information on our next advocacy steps. We thank all of our supporters, in Congress and across the country, for all the work done to improve the legislation - and we look forward to our ongoing efforts.


Should you have questions about the legislation, please contact Jeremy Rosen at NPACH, at (202) 714-5378 or jrosen@npach.org.

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