White House Unveils $5 Billion in Grants to Target Homelessness

The funding announced Thursday could take as many as 130,000 people experiencing homelessness off the streets.

Hundreds of people occupied a Los Angeles intersection on Thursday, March 25, to protest authorities’ plan to clear a homeless camp from Echo Park Lake. (Courthouse News photo/Martin Macias Jr.)

WASHINGTON (CN) — Housing Secretary Marcia Fudge announced Thursday the federal government’s plans to arm state and local governments with roughly $5 billion to combat the national surge in homelessness.

Taking up funds from the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan signed by President Joe Biden in March, the government has identified 651 grantees through a federal program called Home Investment Partnerships.

“With this strong funding, communities across the country will have the resources needed to give homes to the people who have had to endure the Covid-19 pandemic without one,” Fudge, a former Ohio congresswoman, said Thursday.

At a briefing last month, the secretary estimated this money could get as many as 130,000 homeless people off the streets within the next year to year-and-a-half.

Fudge acknowledged Thursday that homelessness had been on the rise even before the Covid-10 pandemic. At the start of 2020, the population was estimated to include more than half a million people, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, up 2% compared to 2019 numbers. 

Some of the biggest grant allocations from the program include New York City at $270 million; Los Angeles at $99 million; Chicago at $71 million; and Houston at $37 million.

Philadelphia, which is set to receive around $42 million, just touted Tuesday that it “has the lowest number of street homeless per capita of any of the largest cities in the U.S.”

An annual report from Philadelphia’s Office of Homeless Services says the city actually saw the number of homeless residents decrease by 12% between 2019 and 2020. Around 5,700 people are estimated to be homeless in the city.

City officials did not immediately return requests for comment on how the new $42 million in funding will affect Philadelphia’s efforts to combat homelessness and housing insecurity.

All grants allotted through the new federal program must be spent by 2030. Hotel and motel rooms for those who are homeless are an eligible expense.

“[The] funding gives states the flexibility to best meet the needs of people experiencing or at risk of experiencing homelessness, including through development of affordable housing, tenant-based rental assistance, supportive services, and acquisition and development of non-congregate shelter units,” Housing and Urban Development said of the money in a press release Thursday.

More than half of America’s homeless live in four states — California, New York, Florida and Texas — according to estimates taken over the course of a night in January 2020. Communities in these areas are expected to see large disbursements of the stimulus money earmarked to fight homelessness. The government says it is the first of its two funding opportunities under the American Rescue Plan related to homelessness. 

“In the coming weeks, HUD will announce the allocation of funding for emergency vouchers for people experiencing and at-risk of homelessness,” the release states. Biden’s forthcoming jobs and infrastructure plan, announced last week, is also expected to provide more than $200 billion for housing programs, $40 billion of which will be set aside to improve public housing.

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