FACES OF AUSTERITY 2.0
How Budget Cuts Continue to Make Us Sicker, Poorer and Less Secure
CUTS HURT THE YOUNG AND HOMELESS
Community-Based Housing Organizations Forced to Turn Away Those in Need
Featuring: Joseph Hill-Coles, Community Navigator for Youth Service Inc., Former Resident at Project HOME, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Photo Featuring Joseph Hill-Coles
ROLE OF GOVERNMENT: Helping the Homeless Find Stability
Funding for Housing Choice Voucher Over Time
(in Billions of 2018 Dollars)
Source: Summary of FY 2008-2018 Appropriations Prepared by the National Low Income Housing Coalition
Project HOME: Giving the Homeless Hope
Joseph Hill-Coles understands the struggles of the homeless youth he helps all too well. Years in the foster system left Joseph with behavioral issues that eventually resulted in him living on the streets of Pittsburgh and Philadelphia for three years, starting when he was just 19. After making his way back to Philadelphia, through a number of utilized resources, Joseph found himself at Project HOME, one of the few housing options for single youth in the city. After that experience, he knew his calling:
“I didn’t know there were programs that did so much good for people in the community. Now that I know, I want to help make the system work even better.”
Philadelphia has one of the highest homeless rates in the nation, with 15,000 Philadelphians accessing shelters each year. At the time Joseph secured housing at Project HOME, it was estimated that if every homeless Philadelphian went to a shelter on a given night, the city would be 500 beds short of demand.4
In light of the need to break the cycle of poverty in the city, Project HOME’s mission is not only to get the city’s young adults into safe housing but to empower them to become self-reliant. Rooted in the community, the organization offers resources including a wellness clinic, a dentist office, assistance applying for food stamps, help enrolling in school, and life skill workshops. In his role at Project HOME, Joseph is responsible for connecting homeless youth with the resources they need to get off the streets, focusing heavily on workforce development and helping individuals retain the jobs they need to support themselves.
Connecting Homeless Youth to Housing Vouchers
Source: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. (http://www.cbpp.org/who-is-helped-by-housing-choice-vouchers-0)
One of the many ways Joseph helps homeless youth in his counsel is to connect them to housing vouchers supported by the federal Housing Choice Voucher Program. These vouchers help extremely low-income families and individuals by covering a portion of their rent. Since their authorization, these vouchers have been proven to reduce homelessness and other hardships and lift more than a million people out of poverty.5 Still, according to experts, 7 in 10 low income households pay too much in rent and do not receive any housing support.6
For Joseph’s clients, housing vouchers provide an opportunity to transition out of emergency housing while working to become self-sufficient:
“Committing to a job or an education is difficult when you aren’t sure if you are going to have a roof over your head at night. Housing vouchers provide previously homeless youth with the basic need for consistent shelter, which allows them to go forward and pursue work and educational opportunities.”
Funding Cuts Slow Progress
In addition to all the good Project HOME and Youth, Inc. do, Joseph recognizes that there are a lot of resources they could provide to better support homeless Philadelphians with additional funding. Recent local and federal funding shortages resulted in the closure of the city’s last drop-in center in August. For Joseph and his clients, this center provided a one-stop-shop for homeless young adults looking for help with job training, nutrition assistance, and educational opportunities to improve their situation.
“One of the biggest challenges for homeless young adults is overcoming the stigma associated with homelessness. These centers provide one place where they can get the help they need to get back on their feet where the Office of Homeless Services can really only help direct them to public housing or private shelters.”
Joseph has been working on a proposal to establish a new drop-in center that would offer information on all of Philadelphia’s available resources, both private and public, offering short-term and long-term solutions. However, without additional funding, his proposal will not be put to work helping the young and homeless in Philadelphia.