Wednesday, September 23, 2015

HUD Funding Criteria Signal Increasing Federal Rejection of Laws that Punish Homeless People

For the first time, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is asking public and private agencies that receive federal homelessness grants to describe how their efforts help combat the criminalization of homelessness.

The program allots $1.9 billion in grants for fiscal year 2015.

According to the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty, this new question on the grant application is worth two points, and could make the difference between receiving and not receiving a grant, since the process is highly competitive.

HUD's efforts to eliminate laws that unfairly target people who experience homelessness is a positive move in light of an increasing number and severity of laws that essentially punish visibly poor people for existing in public, even when they have no reasonable alternative but to do so. HUD's stance supports the rejection of the criminalization of homelessness by using evidence of anti-criminalization efforts as one of the criteria HUD will use to determine funding it allocates to cities' continuums of care programs.

In light of HUD's position and a recent DOJ Statement of Interest filed in a federal district court case, cities should take note that anti-homeless laws faced increasing federal scrutiny.

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