The State of the Union on homelessness — proven solutions can't withstand budget cuts
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Last month, we traveled from Philadelphia to Washington to attend President Trump’s State of the Union address. We came on a mission — to underscore the state of the union on homelessness and poverty.

We came to meet with lawmakers and changemakers who believe in the dignity of all people and to discuss the ways public policies and public-private partnerships must align to end homelessness and poverty. We came to elevate solutions to this crisis. And we came to hear whether the president would acknowledge that half a million people in the United States don’t have a place to call home on any given night.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden team wants to understand Trump effort to 'hollow out government agencies' Trump's remaking of the judicial system Overnight Defense: Trump transgender ban 'inflicts concrete harms,' study says | China objects to US admiral's Taiwan visit MORE did touch on a few issues closely connected to the root causes of homelessness, even sharing the transformational story of Tony Rankins, who struggled with addiction, homelessness and poverty.


Unfortunately, days later, Trump’s budget proposal included significant cuts to the very safety net programs designed to support people like Tony — cuts to programs like Medicaid and SNAP benefits.

We’ve made great strides in our fight against homelessness. Continued progress is critical. We must come together to ensure these budget cuts don’t pass and undermine these significant historical gains — or worse, exacerbate this devastating reality for more Americans.

We have seen firsthand the deep, systemic connections between issues including poverty, racism, mental health, addiction and affordable housing and a person’s ability to find and keep a permanent, stable residence. We cannot end our nation’s homelessness epidemic without addressing these issues. In our decades of work, we have learned two powerful lessons. First, there is hope — and tremendous opportunity — to build on what has worked to curb the homelessness crisis. Second, and just as importantly, funding cuts at any level will make the homelessness crisis grow.

At least 568,000 people experience homelessness in America on any given night. While cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles struggle with surging populations of people suffering from homelessness, in Philadelphia we’ve made progress in addressing chronic street homelessness. Despite one of the highest poverty rates in the nation, our city has the lowest number of people sleeping on our streets in any of the nation’s 10 largest cities. This has happened because of coordinated outreach, housing-first, supportive housing and strong collaboration with the public and private sectors.

In partnership with city, state and the federal government, along with unparalleled leadership from the private sector, Project HOME has empowered people experiencing homelessness for more than three decades. We have a proven approach to solving homelessness by offering affordable housing, opportunity for employment, medical care and education to address the underlying causes of poverty.


We’ve seen the positive impact these programs have had not only on the people but also on Philadelphia neighborhoods. When a Project HOME residence is built, property values rise in the surrounding area. We’re building a stronger Philadelphia block by block, and our efforts to help those most in need improves the quality of life for our entire city.

These accomplishments are realized through a meaningful network of partners, from outreach workers to policymakers to philanthropic leaders and most importantly, the people battling homelessness. Yet none of those partnerships would be possible without a strong public sector commitment. Safe, quality, affordable housing is the single most important thing to end and prevent street homelessness along with access to health care and a quality education for every single child.

The Trump administration has proposed billions of dollars in cuts to HUD and safety-net programs — and outright elimination of other initiatives that help people break the cycle of poverty. Each of these programs is another critical component to empower people and revitalize struggling communities.

This is not the first time President Trump has proposed drastic cuts to fundamental safety-net resources. We are prepared to once again join with others across our nation to advocate full congressional power to spare programs like the HOME Investment Partnership Program, the Public Housing Capital Fund and other needed initiatives from President Trump’s chopping block.

In Philadelphia and across our country, there are models that work. We need a national commitment to invest in affordable housing as rental costs soar. Homelessness and poverty should not be partisan issues. They are human issues. We must all speak out against a budget that would devastate the lives of our most vulnerable citizens.

For we believe in Philly and across our nation: None of us are home until all of us are home.

Sister Mary Scullion is co-founder and executive director of Project HOME, a Philadelphia nonprofit organization empowering individuals to break the cycle of poverty and homelessness through affordable housing, employment, health care and education. Rep. Dwight EvansDwight (Dewey) EvansHouse Democrats introduce bill to invest 0 billion in STEM research and education Will the next coronavirus relief package leave essential workers behind? Bipartisan GROCER Act would give tax break to frontline workers MORE represents Pennsylvania's 3rd District, which includes most of downtown and western Philadelphia. He serves on the House Ways and Means Committee and as vice chair of the Small Business Committee.