(FinalCall.com) – LOS ANGELES – The government’s proposed five-year 40 percent cut to federal housing has propelled single mothers, low-income families and homeless activists into a campaign to save Section 8, a rental assistance housing program, which, if dismantled, they say, could launch families nationwide into homelessness–35,000 of them next year in this city alone.
“It’s just going to make things far more complicated … if you can’t take care of people on Section 8, how are you going to get these people off the streets,” stated veteran homeless activist Ted Hayes, founder of the Dome Village, which is a former encampment site which uses dome-shaped lodgings as non-threatening affordable transitional housing to the chronicly homeless person and the community.
In its 2005 budget report, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) introduced the Flexible Voucher Program (FVP) reforms to help low-income families become self-sufficient.
Currently, there are no incentives toward independence from Section 8 for the 1.9 million families it currently serves, according to HUD. However, the Los Angeles Coalition to End Hunger and Homelessness (LACEHH) reports that the minimum wages earned by many holding Section 8 vouchers, or on the waiting list for them, are too low to secure rental rates in L.A. County without assistance.
Under Section 8, implemented in L.A. in 1975, tenants pay about 30 percent of their income for rent, while the rest of it is paid with federal money.
The FVP program would still provide direct funding from HUD based on dollars, not on the number of units a community receives, however.
“Today, families must wait years to receive a voucher,” said HUD Assistant Secretary Michael Liu in a statement released by HUD. “Our reforms are intended to create innovative solutions for those Americans in need of housing assistance.”
But many believe that the reforms are achieving just the opposite.
Recently, the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles (HACLA) notified 1,500 families, many of them homeless and in shelters, that their subsidy vouchers would not be honored. According to LACEHH, 3,600 additional families may have their housing contracts terminated.
While housing cuts pose the loss of permanent shelter to many, Housing and Urban Development Acting Secretary Alphonso Jackson announced earlier this month a $6.5 million award to help house people with long-term or chronic homelessness within 13 communities nationwide.
Funding housing on one end, and cutting it on another is indicative of HUD’s wanting it both ways, LACEHH stated.
For Mr. Hayes, the housing and homeless problem is not one of money alone, and even if there was money to build houses, he stated, there is just not enough land to accommodate the multitudes. In addition, he added, people who are not ready for routine housing would destroy property without a proper transitioning process.
“We need people on the ground with folks on a daily specific basis until these poor people learn to live responsibly in a routine fashion. When you keep throwing money out there with no responsibility, that money is wasted,” Mr. Hayes continued.
Blacks are disproportionately represented among the homeless population in L.A. with estimates ranging from 17-50 percent compared to 10 percent with the total population, according to a March 2004 study by the Institute for the Study of Homelessness and Poverty.
Now, with Section 8 cutbacks, activists believe the figures will worsen.
“Many of these folks will be dead or in prison, and it’s because of the direction of the economy. We’ ºre in very serious trouble, and if we allow this to continue, it is going to get all of us,” stated Mr. Hayes on the future of housing and homelessness.