How Budget Cuts Continue to Make Us Sicker, Poorer and Less Secure


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

On any given night in 2016, more than half a million Americans were homeless homelessness, with 20 percent experiencing chronic homelessness. Only 68 percent of these individuals were able to find refuge in emergency shelters, transitional housing programs or safe havens, leaving 32 percent–more than over 175,000 individuals—unsheltered.1 The federal government, through the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), offers assistance to those facing homelessness through a variety of programs designed to offer both short and long-term solutions.
Emergency Solutions Grant Programs: These grants are designed to help fund programs such as street outreach, emergency shelters and their corresponding services, homelessness prevention efforts, rapid re-housing, and homeless management information systems.2
Housing Choice Vouchers: The housing choice voucher program is the federal government’s major program for assisting very low-income families, the elderly, and people with disabilities find safe housing in the private market. Housing choice vouchers are administered locally by public housing agencies.3

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.


    1. https://www.hudexchange.info/resources/documents/2016-AHAR-Part-1.pdf
    2. https://www.hudexchange.info/resources/documents/EmergencySolutionsGrantsProgramFactSheet.pdf
    3. https://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src=/program_offices/public_indian_housing/programs/hcv/about/fact_sheet
    4. http://generocity.org/philly/2016/05/24/homelessness-facts-poverty-youth-government/
    5. https://www.cbpp.org/research/housing/policy-basics-the-housing-choice-voucher-program
    6. https://www.cbpp.org/housing-choice-voucher-fact-sheets