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House Passes Bill to Reauthorize Homeless Programs

On October 2, the House approved, 335-61, the Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing Act (H.R. 7221). The Senate approved a similar bill, the Community Partnership to End Homelessness Act (S. 1518), in November 2007.  

Sponsored by Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI), the bill would consolidate several programs under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act (P.L. 100-77) into the Homeless Assistance Program and expand the definition of homeless individuals and families to include those affected by domestic violence. Specifically, the bill would include in the definition of homeless “any individual or family who is fleeing, or is attempting to flee, domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, stalking, or other dangerous or life-threatening conditions in the individual’s or family’s current housing situation, including where the health and safety of children are jeopardized, and who have no other residence and lack the resources or support networks to obtain other permanent housing.”  

The measure would authorize $2.2 billion in FY2009 and “such sums as necessary” for FY2010 for emergency housing assistance programs. The bill also seeks to prevent involuntary family separations by preventing project sponsors from denying emergency shelter, transitional housing, or permanent housing to families with children under age 18. In addition, H.R. 7221 would prohibit victim service providers (defined in the bill as “private nonprofit organizations whose primary mission is to provide services to victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking,” such as rape crisis centers, battered women shelters, and domestic violence transitional housing programs), from disclosing “personally identifying information” about any client. This provision would not supersede federal, state, or local laws that provide greater protection for such victims of violence. 

The legislation would authorize $3 million for FY2009 and “such sums as necessary” for FY2010 for the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness. The council would be responsible for coordinating a federal response to homelessness and creating a “partnership at every level of government” with private sector organizations to reduce homelessness. 

The bill would authorize $8 million annually for FY2009 and FY2010 for research into the efficacy of interventions for homeless families and would require the Government Accountability Office to study homelessness and homeless assistance for families and individuals living in rural communities.

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