Advocate says tackling homelessness can 'definitely' be bipartisan issue for new Congress

Advocate Steve Berg says addressing homelessness could “definitely” gain bipartisan support in the new Congress.

“Over the years, working on homelessness, it’s been one of those things where Republicans and Democrats have felt this is something we can do in our local communities,” Berg, who is vice president for programs and policy at the National Alliance to End Homelessness, told Hill.TV’s Krystal Ball and Buck Sexton on Wednesday.

“So we’re hoping that people come to Washington — whether it’s working in Congress or working in the administration — they want to get things done, they need to look at things that will get bipartisan support and I think working on homelessness is definitely one of them,” he continued.

Berg emphasized that finding solutions for reducing homelessness couldn’t come at a more crucial time, especially going into a newly divided Congress.

“What we try to do is hold elected officials accountable for getting good results…nobody should be living outside, we know what to do, if programs are funded at the right level, we can make progress,” he said.

Berg joined “Rising” to discuss a spike in homelessness for the second year in a row.

On a single night an estimated 553,000 people experienced homelessness, according to an annual report by the Department of House and Urban Development (HUD). This marks a 0.3 percent increase from 2017, with the uptick following nearly a decade of decline.

For a vast majority of those experiencing homelessness, Berg said it’s a short-term situation.

“Most people who become homeless, it’s a short-term emergency — they lost their job, their family can’t help them for one reason or another,” he told Hill.TV.

Berg noted that, despite the stereotype, those suffering from drug addiction and mental illness have not made up the majority of the homeless population in recent years.

He said that they do, however, require a great deal of additional support, arguing federal funding for the opioid crisis is often not enough.

“Congress has put a lot of new money out for treating opioid addiction, which is good but if they don’t have resources to deal with the housing problems, people are not going to be an addiction when they’re living on the street,” he said Wednesday.

After passing Congress with overwhelming bipartisan support, President TrumpDonald TrumpOmar, Muslim Democrats decry Islamophobia amid death threats On The Money — Powell pivots as inflation rises Trump cheers CNN's Cuomo suspension MORE signed a sweeping bill in October aimed at curbing the growing opioid epidemic across the country. 

The legislation, which is known as the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act, directs funding for federal agencies and states to help increase access to addiction treatment and interventions to help mitigate the crisis. 

—Tess Bonn