Category Archives: Housing

Our Challenging National Reality: Facing Our Failure to House Everybody

Our Challenging National Reality

Facing Our Failure to House Everybody
Simone Campbell, SSS
November 24, 2017

I live in Southwest Washington which 13 years ago when I moved in was an undiscovered portion of the District. Rents were affordable. There are housing projects across the street. It was a great multiracial, economically diverse part of town. Then development started with the Nationals’ baseball park and high rise luxury condominiums. When I moved in I had a clear view of the palisades on the other side of the Anacostia River. Now we are being hemmed in with construction of unaffordable condos. This has me worried. Where are low wage working families going to live?

This is not only a DC phenomenon. All of the cities I have visited have the same story. In Indianapolis at the Immigrant Welcome Center’s GED class, I heard of low wage working families being evicted from houses so the owners can sell them to developers. It was impossible for these families to find housing in their old neighborhood and they had to move out of the city.

In Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine neighborhood, I was shocked when I visited last year for the first time since 2012. The neighborhood is completely changed. New construction and restored historic buildings line the street. When we met with trainees at Venice on Vine restaurant in the old neighborhood, they spoke of how their community had changed. They were no longer able to live in the area. Services for low income families had moved to other areas. It was difficult to commute because public transit is so spotty and set up for the “old city” not the new reality.

In Milwaukee I met Billy and his wife who, after trying to live with their two sons in their car, decided to pool their salaries for rent and use food stamps and the free dining room at St. Benedict the Moor parish to feed their family. In San Jose, CA, the heart of Silicon Valley, I met parishioners who open their church parking lot/school playground every evening so that homeless families can park their car in a safe place for the night. Almost all of these “car families” have working parents.

In short, our neighborhoods are transforming before our eyes, and our housing policy cannot handle the current reality. We at NETWORK realized that if we are going to Mend the Gaps in income and wealth disparity, we must address housing policy. There needs to be a new burst of creativity to impact this twenty-first century reality.

Housing is one of those critical issues that has so many ripple effects. The value of housing stock affects property taxes and the amount of money available for local schools. Housing also affects the need for public transit and the ability to be near work. Urban housing policy affects the amount of “green space” and the sense of safety and serenity in a city. Housing affects the ability of families to live free from the fear of being homeless. In short, housing is at the heart of the health of our nation.

In the United States we pride ourselves on being problem solvers. However we are failing our communities on this housing dilemma. First we must begin to pay attention to what is actually happening in our cities, towns, and neighborhoods. Watch for both creative ideas and continuing problems. Talk to your neighbors and asked your local and federal representatives what they are doing to address our lack of safe, affordable housing.

And hold this issue in your reflective prayer. Let us ask the Spirit the question: “Where are you calling us to act in addressing the housing crisis?” Then share with us what you hear. I believe it will be like Elijah who waited for the word in the loud bluster, thunder and lightning and heard nothing. It wasn’t until the gentle breeze that the word of the Spirit came. Let us as a community be attuned to that “wee small voice” so we might find the way forward for the sake of our struggling family.

Originally published in Connection Magazine. Read the full issue here.

Finding Beauty in Difference

Finding Beauty in Difference

Caitlin Wright
November 3, 2017

Everything is so…white, I couldn’t help but think as I emerged from the 72nd Street Broadway metro station on the Upper West Side. Not only were the people strikingly white, but the buildings, the sidewalks, everything was gleamingly ivory. The streets of Brooklyn that I had grown accustomed to were far away, both in distance and memory, as I converged with the other white women of one of the wealthiest areas of Manhattan. Though I was not sporting Givenchy or Prada, it was odd to think that superficially, I had much more in common with these people than with residents of the other boroughs. Yet I felt the most uncomfortable I had since moving to Bedford-Stuyvescent, a neighborhood of Brooklyn, as a Jesuit Volunteer a month and a half prior. I pounded the pavement — my attempts to look like a native New Yorker typically consist of me walking quickly in a distinct direction — toward the Church of the Blessed Sacrament to see a talk with a Jesuit priest that others and I admire very much: Father James Martin.

In his talk, Father Martin spoke about his most recent publication, Building a Bridge, a monumental piece of literature for the Catholic Church. In Building a Bridge, Father Martin reflects on the essential bond the Church must nurture between members of the Catholic faith and the LGBT community. After the lecture, I could not stop thinking about the discussion surrounding the concept of “the other”. Jesus calls us toward the marginalized, toward the oppressed, and toward those in need. He calls us not toward ignorance, nor denial, nor pity for those who are different, but toward solidarity; toward true empathy that we are unified as children of God. Your neighbor, whoever he/she/they may be, is inextricably bound to you through God’s love. As Father Martin said that night, “There is no ‘other’ for Jesus. There is no ‘us’ and ‘them’. There is only us.”

In no way am I disregarding the essential recognition of those who are different from you or me, but we must see the beauty in these differences rather than allowing them to become divisive. It is far too easy to allow ourselves to see each person superficially, especially in this political climate. Even Jesuit juggernauts like Father Martin are facing massive backlash for efforts toward unification that are manipulated into cruelty and spite. Class consciousness only prevails in the greatest efforts toward understanding, when we ask a question and sincerely listen to the answer without malice. And it is only with this class consciousness that we can achieve a faith that does justice.

I thought about this as I exited the church back into the Upper East Side, questioning the judgements I had held about the diverse neighborhoods of the largest city in the world. On my train back to Brooklyn, I asked myself, had I been too self-righteous in thinking that I already knew it all? Was I inserting myself into a community with preconceived assumptions, allowing existence of the “other” to remain? When I arrived in Bed-Stuy, I promised myself that I would ask more of these questions, and challenge myself to see beyond. I am called to act with justice, not only as a Jesuit Volunteer, but as a child of God, and this call asks me to love and serve by being with others, side by side, in solidarity. Whether I am with my clients, my housemates, my neighbors, the people in my subway car, or even the Upper East Siders, the matter remains: there is no “us” and “them”. There is only us.

Caitlin Wright is a Jesuit Volunteer serving at Catholic Migration Services in Brooklyn. She is originally from Prior Lake, MN and graduated from Creighton University in May of 2017.

Prioritizing Communities Recovering from Disasters

Prioritizing Communities Recovering from Disasters

Kaitlin Brown

October 24, 2017

In the past few months, natural disasters have ripped away the homes of many of our sisters and brothers in Florida, Texas, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, and California. Folks were left with limited time, just minutes in California, to pack up and flee to safety and are now returning to destroyed homes with few options. On conference calls with our housing partners working on the ground, I hear week after week about families in Puerto Rico going without electricity and clean water, and elderly folks in nursing homes in hurricane affected areas going without air conditioning. In Texas, people lined up overnight for D-SNAP (food stamps for those in disaster areas) only to be turned away for lack of identification. In Florida, low-income families and individuals were unable to afford the high cost of resort fees that came in addition to their FEMA hotel vouchers.

While these crises have unfolded, Congress moved quickly to pass the first of two supplemental disaster spending bills, and for this we are grateful. Right after Hurricane Harvey hit Texas in September, Congress passed a $15 billion aid package. This week, the House passed a $36.5 billion bill that is waiting to be voted on in the Senate. While this is a great start, it really is simply putting a Band-Aid on a much bigger problem. Experts expect more money will be needed down the road: Puerto Rico hasn’t been able to have damage assessments done to know how much money is needed, Texas alone has asked for $18 billion for recovery, and with wildfires still raging in California, the extent of the damage is not known.

So with this going on, and millions of people displaced, what has Congress decided to prioritize between now and the end of the year? Cutting taxes for the wealthiest corporations and individuals– a bill that would increase the deficit by $1.5 trillion– while also cutting crucial services for those most vulnerable. The budget plan voted on by Congress would be especially damaging for those affected by recent natural disasters, as it is focused on cutting crucial services for those most vulnerable, including SNAP and housing benefits, such as Section 8 vouchers. The tax bill that will quickly follow the budget, will add to our deficit by cutting taxes for the richest among us and corporations, while failing to supply any additional money to disaster relief and recovery.

As a person of faith, I think this is wrong. The need to care for the most vulnerable among us must take priority, and especially should not be neglected at the expense of tax cuts for the wealthiest. And while Congress has been bickering over the tax “reform” plan, many people in Puerto Rico are still without power and clean water, people in Texas and Florida are without stable, long-term shelter, and people in California are without entire cities. Our elected officials must do better to truly care for the most vulnerable among us.

Broadening Horizons: A Deeper Understanding of Poverty

Broadening Horizons: A Deeper Understanding of Poverty

Mary Cunningham
October 10, 2017

“You’re going to Burkesville, Kentucky!” the headline of my email read. As a senior, I had decided to lead a spring break immersion trip to Appalachia, where I would accompany 12 participants from my college to engage in a week of service, immersion and solidarity with the community in Burkesville, Kentucky. I thought I had a pretty good idea of what to expect, but as usual, I was surprised.

Leading up the trip I did not understand what rural poverty looked like. I grew up in northern Massachusetts in a small, upper middle class town. I spent one summer during college interning at a church in downtown Boston, an area known for its large population of homeless individuals and high-concentration of drugs. Having been surrounded by this on a daily basis, I thought I had a pretty good understanding of what poverty looked like. My trip to Kentucky changed that.

Burkesville, a small, remote town in southern Kentucky has a vibrant spirit and a strong sense of community. And yet, as my week there unfolded, I noticed signs of poverty. We worked at the Burkesville elementary school where many of the kids were on a nutrition assistance program. Although the school provided some snacks, they were often unhealthy options. Talking with school administrators, we also learned that there were not a lot of viable job opportunities in the area. There was a large population of children and retired people, but there seemed to be a lack of middle-aged people contributing to the economic growth of the town. Seeing a community struggling with these issues was something I had heard about, but never encountered.

As an associate at NETWORK, I recently learned about the rural poverty I saw in Burkesville from a policy perspective. On September 28, I attended a briefing titled, “Urban and Rural Poverty in America” in the Rayburn House Office Building. One of the things that stood out to me was how a city’s remoteness and population size are connected to poverty rates. Research collected by the Salvation Army shows that states that are more remote and that have both high and low population concentrations tend to have higher levels of need than states that are less remote. Rural towns located far from large cities tend to have a harder time accessing government services and their residents are often underemployed. It was clear from the panel that these unique challenges facing rural communities make grappling with poverty across our country difficult.

Another interesting comment came from one of the panelists, John Letteiri, who works for the Economic Innovation Group. Mr. Letteiri noted that the decline of migration is one of the major causes of exacerbated rural poverty. He cited an interesting statistic: since the 1990s migration from rural to urban areas has fallen about 50 percent. Without mobility, residents of these rural towns are attached to the economic reality of their area. As I left the panel, I was left with a sharp reminder of my experience in Burkesville, Kentucky.

The way in which we understand poverty needs to constantly be reframed. We largely define poverty based on our own cultural perceptions, not the reality of the situation. As a society, we must take into account those who are forced into poverty due to social, economic, and political factors beyond their control and prioritize policies that support them. As poverty changes, so must our definition of it.

Housing Women with Mercy and Justice

Housing Women with Mercy and Justice

Abby Herb and Jennifer Tibbetts
July 27, 2017

Mercy. It’s a core value of the Catherine McAuley Center (CMC) inherited from our foundresses, the Sisters of Mercy. Their compassionate service and belief in the dignity of every person is at the heart of our educational and supportive services for immigrants, refugees, and women. It is also a reason why the Catherine McAuley Center adds our voices to the call for housing policy that mends the gap for women experiencing homelessness.

Serving women has always been central to the Catherine McAuley Center mission. Today, CMC’s Transitional Housing Program provides shelter, food, and hygiene necessities so that women experiencing homelessness have a stable environment while they also receive individualized case management and group learning opportunities to help them overcome the barriers that led to their homelessness in the first place. These barriers to stability—mental illness, substance abuse, lack of access to healthcare, or other past trauma—differ from those experienced by homeless men and therefore require a different solution, an idea not accounted for by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s definition of homelessness.

Currently, HUD defines homelessness as “a person sleeping in an emergency shelter or place not meant for human habitation,” as opposed to the broader “near-homeless” status which includes people “who reported currently living in their own place or someone else’s place,” (Continuum of Care Planning and Policy Council, pg. 2) but are in danger of losing their current shelter at any time. Women disproportionately fall into the “near homeless” group, choosing to stay indoors with whichever friend or family member has space available, even when it means experiencing emotional, physical, or sexual abuse, a circumstance that is still less frightening than the risk of experiencing assault or trafficking while living on the streets. Disturbingly, only those who are classified as literally homeless are eligible to receive homeless services under current HUD policy. The many unseen near-homeless women are turned away from desperately needed community homeless programs.

In recent months, a CMC resident named Amy* experienced this hardship firsthand. Wanting to escape the unsafe homes of acquaintances where she had been staying, and lacking resources to manage her diabetes, Amy sought support from the centralized intake center for homeless services but was turned away because of her “near-homeless” classification. One disheartening option would have been to first move to the streets in the middle of a cold Iowa winter, but with her diabetes already taking a toll on her eyesight and mobility, she likely would not have survived a short period of time.

Fortunately, the Catherine McAuley Center provides mission-driven services with the support of private funding, and Amy was not only able to get connected with resources to help her manage her health, but also build healthy relationships with other women in the program, learn new skills, and was encouraged by a local employer to apply for a job after a mock-interview session provided by the Transitional Housing Program.

We can improve housing policy so that more near-homeless women receive the resources they need immediately. Advocate for the funding of programs like the Community Development Block Grant (which supports CMC housing facilities) and the Low Income Household Energy Assistance Program, but just as importantly, keep talking. Amy’s story has a positive outcome because she was seen, but many more women in similar circumstances are never noticed. Ask your legislators– national and local– to view every piece of housing policy through a gender lens and make sure women don’t fall through the cracks. Keep talking about women in homelessness, even when it appears that most people living on street corners are men. Keep talking, and help mend the gap for women experiencing homelessness.

 Linn County Continuum of Care Planning and Policy Council, “Breaking the cycle of homelessness in Linn County”. Individual and Family Needs Survey Results. July 27, 2016.

The Catherine McAuley Center is located in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Learn more here: https://cmc-cr.org/

It Takes a Village to Shelter Families

It takes a Village to Shelter Families

Denise Andorfer
July 19, 2017

As we await decisions on federal funding for the Continuum of Care program from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, we urge Dr. Ben Carson to take a look at programs around the country that are working to end family homelessness. We have learned from the past that vouchers only create a temporary band-aid for most where homelessness is a symptom of other issues. What we have found over the last four years in this grassroots initiative is that most families are hard working and just need a livable wage and assistance with two key elements that spiral families into unemployment. Those two key elements are a lack of transportation and affordable childcare.

In 2006, the theory was a shelter stay costs $47,000 annually to keep a family housed, which in comparison to paying their rent seems like the perfect solution.  We housed 55 families in Vincent House in a 12 month period for $10,000 per year.  This included housing plus intensive supportive services including case management and daily classes in the areas of financial literacy, employment readiness, wellness and general life skills. We also attend to our resident’s mental health needs by providing on-site counseling.  We provide and/or partner with other agencies to tackle obstacles in the areas of physical limitations, childcare, and transportation needs.

One problem for sheltering families in the past was that many programs around the country were not set up to offer on-site solutions to address many common barriers such as employment, financial literacy, mental health, lack of childcare and transportation. They were costly and allowed families to stay for up to two years while families stayed stagnant in their plight. Most did not engage key community partners such as hospitals, mental health agencies, and corporations to provide in-kind services. Most importantly they did not create relationships, which is what ultimately will help the families we serve.

Relationship-based care often provides an avenue to a spiritual awakening that one is competent, encouraged and most of all loved. An investment from the community into a family helps them succeed. Most of our parents have been victims of childhood trauma. They are resourceful and hardworking, but the system is stacked against them – ‘Work harder and lose your government benefits and be worse off than when you didn’t work or worked part time.’

We have a five year, post-shelter program that enables families to live in one of our 35 rental homes as they continue to work to pay off debt, improve their employment situation, and improve their credit scores. Vincent Village brokers $95,000 in private rental subsides for families who are doing what they need to be doing – working to become more self-sufficient. Utilities are kept affordable because we can utilize HOME Funds. During this transition, families have a team of people working on their behalf.

We have transformed a neighborhood, but yes, it does take a Village – private funders, businesses, volunteers and churches. In our time, we have never seen a family be able to afford market rent after a rapid rehousing voucher. It’s time to take a look at the best transitional programs in the country that offer new and innovative strategies, and invest in lasting impact on future generations not temporary, quick fixes.

2 Vincent Village - DeniseAndorfer

Denise Andorfer is the Executive Director of Vincent Village, Inc. in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Love Heals, and Homes Help

Love Heals, and Homes Help

Jennifer Clinger
June 29, 2017

There is a special place in Nashville called Thistle Farms. At Thistle Farms, we daily proclaim the truth that love heals. As a woman healing from childhood sexual assault, human trafficking, drug addiction and prostitution, I walked through the doors of Thistle Farms believing that if I could stop using drugs then all of my problems would be solved. I had no idea how deep rooted my trauma was. Recovery from addiction was only the first step. Housing paired with trauma informed care were instrumental to my healing. At a standard rehab facility, housing is short-term and costly. Becca Stevens, Thistle Farms’ founder, recognized that so much more was needed for women survivors to find independence. I could hardly believe it when I came to Thistle Farms and was told I could live rent-free in a beautiful home with other survivors and focus on my recovery for two full years. I was also able to work at Thistle Farms’ social enterprise, where I continue to be employed today, in order to save money for my future. The security of knowing everything would be paid for during the whole two years allowed me some breathing space to heal. I didn’t have to worry about eviction, the electricity being cut off, where I would wash my clothes or take a shower. I knew that I had a comfortable bed to lie in, and this allowed me to focus on becoming the woman I am today.

Even with this solid foundation, finding affordable housing in Nashville, one of the U.S.’s “it cities,” continues to be a huge challenge for women who graduate from Thistle Farms’ program. I was fortunate enough to have an opportunity to house sit for a friend for two more years after graduation. So, I had an additional two years to really get things together. When it was time for me to get an apartment I had four years under my belt and I also was in a position at work that paid enough to have some options. My sisters at Thistle Farms, though, very rarely have the luxury of additional time and often have extreme difficulties in finding housing. Even with a full two-year recovery program, steady paychecks, and the opportunity to save, there simply is not enough safe, affordable housing that is conducive to a recovery lifestyle. Nashville’s rental vacancy rate decreased from 11.1% in 2006 to 3.7% in 2014 and rental prices have risen nearly 9% in the past year. Though we as survivors do recover and are gaining our independence, a lack of available, affordable housing can force us to live in situations that do not support the life-long healing and recovery process. I am so grateful for Thistle Farms and excited to see the 50+ organizations across the country that are implementing its housing-first recovery model. However, these organizations cannot do it alone. They need the partnership of their communities to ensure that people who had once fallen through society’s cracks and have now begun found their way to independence are not subject to more roadblocks. It is because of this community that I can honestly say that for the first time in very long time I feel innocent. To allow myself to give and receive love is so restorative and feels like redemption. I am a living witness to the truth that love is the most powerful force in the world!

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Jennifer Clinger is a Graduate of Thistle Farms, and is a Hospitality & Storefront Coordinator at Thistle Farms.

Affordable Housing is Needed for Neighbors to Help Neighbors

Affordable Housing is Needed for Neighbors to Help Neighbors

Steven M. Ziegler
June 15, 2017

With a degree from Chestnut Hill College in reach and a job in a research facility at the University of Pennsylvania, Kiara Wilson could not have a pictured herself living in a shelter nearly two years ago.

“Shelter life is something a child should never experience,” she says. Her children are always her priority and despite their circumstances, she is working to build a better life for them. Much of Kiara’s talk about the shelter focuses on the impact the situation is having on her son and daughter.  Just last month, a man was shot in the street outside the shelter and the shooter attempted to force his way inside. Scheduled meal times create an erratic schedule for her young children.  The attitudes of other parents and children do not mesh well with the way she has raised her own.

Kiara’s journey to success was offset by a combination of domestic abuse, a job layoff, and the attempted suicide of her children’s father. Now, she, her son, 5, and daughter, 4, are navigating the United States’ affordable housing system in order to get back on track.

That system faces serious cuts under the Trump budget.  The proposed $6 billion dollars in cuts to the department of Housing and Urban Development will intensify difficulties for those who already live in public housing, let alone someone like Kiara who is fighting to find a place of her own.

The conditions of the North Philly shelter where she is staying are disheartening at best. Kiara speaks of the lack of empathy displayed by those working in the system and the general sense of desperation among the shelter’s inhabitants.

“This feels like an eternity,” Kiara says of the life she has been living since December, 2015. “Domestic abuse is not taken seriously because, it is not seen as something as serious as mental illness or drug addiction.”

Through conversations, phone calls, and skips through the chain of command, Kiara is inching closer and closer to her goal of permanent housing with her children.

“Once I have my job, it’ll be much easier, but I keep hearing that it’s not too far off. And I’m thankful for everything Mercy has done to get me ready for the next stage.”

I met Kiara about eight months ago when she enrolled her children at Mercy Neighborhood Ministries of Philadelphia, Inc. Our curriculum gave her peace of mind about her children’s early education experience as her children are able to benefit from high quality Head Start and Pre-K Counts programming. The collaborative spirit of Mercy has assisted Kiara in preparing for her next steps in life.

“To get something you never had, you have to do something you’ve never done,” she says. “A short-term sacrifice leads to long-term comfort, and I’m going to be very comfortable when this is over.”

In Philadelphia today, 186,000 citizens, nearly 12% of the population, live in deep-poverty. Many of them are in situations like Kiara’s. Yet, these aren’t the stories you’ll hear from proponents of cutting public funding for “services” that should be considered human rights. Rather, you’ll hear about abuse of the system and a culture of dependence. Our motto at Mercy is “Neighbor helping neighbor, transforming lives, one person at a time.” We cannot build a community by cutting off resources from its members. Over the next four years, it is my sincere hope that the voices in power can quiet themselves long enough to hear stories like Kiara’s and not simply view them as numbers on a spreadsheet.

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Steven Ziegler is the Director of Philanthropy for Mercy Neighborhood Ministries of Philadelphia, Inc. He is a Philadelphia native and has nearly a decade of experience as a nonprofit professional.

Time for Moral Leadership on Housing

NETWORK Lobby Housing Budget Priorities

Download as a print-friendly PDF to share with your friends, or elected officials!

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NETWORK believes that housing is a basic human right, and a foundation for a person’s ability to meet their own needs. Right now, there is not adequate affordable housing for people with low-incomes, and there is a dire shortage for households at the extremely low- income level, at or below 30% of the area median income. Further, people often spend too high a percentage of their income on securing housing, to the detriment of other critical expenses like nutrition, healthcare, childcare, and more.

Since the 1980s, funding to ensure that all human beings have housing has been steadily decimated. The result is increased homelessness and housing insecurity. We must invest in We the People by funding affordable housing, programs to end homelessness, and infrastructure. Only then can we truly consider ourselves a civilized and successful society.

NETWORK opposes any cuts to housing funding and the voucher program. Having a place to live is critical to human life and dignity.

What Congress Can Do

Increase funding for housing programs in FY2018:  

  • Increase the number of housing vouchers to return funding for the Housing Choice Voucher Program to pre-sequestration levels, and increase it to account for inflation.
  • Fully fund the national Housing Trust Fund (HTF), rental assistance programs and the Community Development Block Grant.
  • Increase funds for the McKinney-Vento program for the homeless and the Rapid Re-Housing program which is demonstrating success in moving homeless people into affordable units.
  • Fully fund programs for construct of new and maintain existing affordable housing units.
    Increase funding for repair and upkeep of public housing units.

Promote tax policies that support housing:  Reform the Mortgage Interest Deduction, which costs the federal government $70 billion a year and largely benefits the highest-income families, and reinvest the savings in a housing program like the national Housing Trust Fund or rental assistance programs which serve families with greater needs. Create a new renter tax credit to help the lowest-income renters afford decent, stable housing. Families living in renters’ credit units would pay no more than 30% of their income for rent and utilities, and the rental unit owner would receive a federal credit in return for rent reduction.

Blog: Concluding the 114th Congress, Moving Right Along to the 115th

Concluding the 114th Congress, Moving Right Along to the 115th

Sister Marge Clark
December 20, 2016

The 114th Congress ground to a halt about 1:00 a.m. on Saturday, December 10 after just barely managing to not shut down the government.  A vote passed extending 2016 funding levels into the seventh month of fiscal year 2017. We strongly believe, however, that one temporary Continuing Resolution (CR) after another is no way to responsibly fund our government.

As we prepare to enter 2017, NETWORK continues work to support all at the margins of society due to unemployment or under-employment, immigration status, health issues, and many other concerns. Our 2020 Policy Vision guides our lobbying, outreach, and education to mend the access and wealth and income gaps that are rampant in our nation.  With this Continuing Resolution in place, the only means of increasing funding where absolutely necessary is through an anomaly.

NETWORK’s 2020 Vision did not fare well in the Continuing Resolution.  We focused our efforts on three items desperately needing increased funding and  advocated forincreased funding in each of the three following areas:

1. Census 2020

This is one area that did receive an increase from 2016 funding in the CR. The Census Bureau will be allowed to spend money earlier in the cycle, in an attempt to meet urgent planning needs.  This does not give the Census Bureau additional money, as had been requested. Instead, it leaves them with the same uncertainty about long-term funding for comprehensive planning in many areas, including: the census communications campaign, development of in-language materials, updating address lists, and adequate enumerator training, not to mention making progress on updating all census IT systems and cyber-security protocols. Using this money will also reduce the funds available to conduct the annual American Community Survey which provides important data on economic and healthcare status used by many departments.

2. Refugee Resettlement

Meeting this grave responsibility requires sufficient funding for the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) to welcome and support refugees as they strive to adapt and to thrive in the United States. In FY 2016, $1.67 billion in funding was calculated to serve 75,000 (and in the end assisted 85,000). The United States announced that, due to the global refugee crisis, we would accept 110,000. However, increased funding (a minimum of $2.18 million required to support the additional refugees, unaccompanied children and trafficking survivors) was not provided.

One allowance was made, if needed, for the housing and care of unaccompanied children, with the recognition that, due to the variability in the increased number of children coming into the country, it is possible that additional funds may be needed for this population.

3. Housing

Housing in the United States continues to be in short, and expensive, supply for households with low- or no-income. Federal rental assistance is critical for there to be available, affordable housing units. Thousands of public housing units are lost each year, from deterioration and lack of repair. At the same time, hundreds of thousands of families and individuals are homeless, living with others, in shelters, and even living on the streets. For many, they are unable to get rental assistance vouchers to help pay rent. NETWORK advocated for funding to at least be able to support the number of vouchers already in use, as well as funding to repair public housing. These requests, however, were not honored in the CR. The existing number of vouchers supported by the 2016 funds cannot be supported at 2017 costs. Additionally, owners’ costs will increase and those costs will be passed on to renters who are unable to cover that increase. This leaves federal housing assistance to cover the gap. Ultimately, with this CR, more households face homelessness.  A small increase was given for rural housing, in the Agriculture appropriation.

Our elected officials have left Washington for their winter break – to be with family, celebrate the holidays, and perhaps vacation. The same enjoyment is not available for members of our communities who rely on some government assistance to live a life with dignity. This may be a person sleeping on the street, a refugee stuck in a camp somewhere in the world, or those who will not be counted in the 2020 census, leading to inadequate funding for future years of “promoting the general welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity…”  We hope all legislators take a moment during their time away from Washington to reflect on the needs of the common good.