A fact check on HUD’s “News Release” Wednesday 11/7/07
Today Alfonso Jackson, Secretary of HUD, borrowed a few pages from Interagency Council on Homelessness Executive Director Phil Mangano as he released a HUD report claiming an 11.5% decrease in the numbers of chronically homeless people from 175,914 in 2005 to 155,623 in 2006. He claimed 20,000 people moved into transitional and permanent housing between 2005 and 2006. This is directly attributed to HUD and local continuums of care creating more supportive housing units and, “breaking the vicious cycle of homelessness for those who have lived on the streets as a way of life,” as well as better data collection. He further claims HUD awarded “$286 million to 1,100 programs that house and serve individuals experiencing chronic homelessness… creating 4,000 new units of permanent supportive housing.” (You might be tempted to ask how 20,000 people fit into 4,000 units but wait we’ll get to that.) He also claimed that since 2001 the Bushies, “have awarded $9 billion to support thousands of local housing and service programs throughout the nation and is seeking a record $1.6 billion… for FY 2008.” He says this is a 41% increase compared to 2001. He then refers to the, “comprehensive shelter and street point in time snapshots,” as a, “powerful tool to gauge the progress in meeting the homeless challenge and creating innovative housing solutions in response.” He then repeated the mantra of, “754,000 persons homeless on any given night.” Note that the last two sentences are the only ones that say “homeless” with the chronic label in front of it.
So, now a little fact checking:
HUD’s mission statement says they are, “the nation’s housing agency”..”… creating affordable housing opportunities for low-income Americans.” So let’s start there.
We’ll use the 2001 timeline that is referenced in the press release since that is when Bush took office:
- Since 2001 HUD has spent $0 dollars on the development of new public housing units while 100,000 units of public housing were lost to demolition, sale or other removal between 1996 and 2006.
- While many readers will think that this report means that homelessness has decreased by 12%, in reality HUD is only talking about people considered “chronically” homeless—a subpopulation the Department estimates to comprise 10% of the entire homeless population—meaning that we’re really talking about a 1.2-2.7% change.
- While HUD maintains that 754,000 people total are homeless on any given day the Department of Education documents that 904,000 children alone attend public school everyday that do not have housing. While HUD’s number is based on a point-in-time count, wherein volunteers scramble to count all the people they see and think might be homeless, the DOE’s number comes from actual documentation of names and Social Security numbers. When HUD’s numbers are so far off, an apparent decrease of 1-3% means more or less jack.
- 22 of the continua of care that applied for funding from HUD this year got no assistance whatsoever, meaning that all new chronic homelessness programs came at the expense of these communities.
- No amount of data shuffling and reprioritizing of the homeless populations will ever change the fact that we need to restore the $52 billion a year we were spending on affordable housing before HUD become so damn proud of how great it was doing in ending chronic homelessness. We didn’t have any such thing as chronic homelessness…we had housing.