National Coalition for Housing Justice Letter for Attorney General Becerra

The National Coalition for Housing Justice, of which Youth Collaboratory is a part of, sent the following to California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, nominee for Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), expressing our desire for partnership to achieve racial and housing justice and requesting a meeting to align on priorities. 

December 22, 2020

Dear Attorney General Becerra, 

On behalf of the National Coalition for Housing Justice, congratulations on your nomination to be Secretary of Health and Human Services. We request the opportunity to meet with you at your earliest convenience to discuss HHS’ role in ending homelessness.  

By way of introduction, the National Coalition for Housing Justice (NCHJ) is a group of national organizations that have aligned behind seeking housing justice in order to end homelessness. We have come together to coordinate advocacy efforts, develop policy recommendations, and leverage our collective tools to drive change. Housing justice for us means guaranteeing opportunities for everyone in our country to have affordable, safe, accessible, stable housing. We undertake this effort through a racial justice approach, which acknowledges the disproportionality in who experiences homelessness and the structural racism that has created these outcomes. Beyond racial and housing justice, our key priorities include ending youth homelessness, ending veteran homelessness, stopping the criminalization of homelessness, and the production of housing affordable to people of the lowest incomes to address the supply-side causes of homelessness and housing insecurity. 

NCHJ members include (in alphabetical order):

A Way Home America National Coalition for Homeless Veterans
Center on Budget and Policy Priorities National Health Care for the Homeless Council
Community Solutions National Homelessness Law Center
CSH National Innovation Service
Funders Together to End Homelessness National Low Income Housing Coalition
Heartland Alliance True Colors United
National Alliance to End Homelessness Youth Collaboratory

Homelessness is a complex issue that requires a carefully coordinated, interdepartmental response. The Department of Health and Human Services’ cooperation and leadership in addressing homelessness is essential to success. Even before the onset of the coronavirus, the United States was already in grips of a national crisis of people experiencing homelessness. As COVID-19 continues to destabilize our economy, more and more families and individuals are forced into dire situations and placed at risk of homelessness. Further, we know that Black, Latino/a/x, and Native peoples are disproportionately affected by this pandemic, homelessness, and structural racial injustice at all levels of government and society. 

Youth and young adults, particularly LGBTQ youth and youth of color, are especially vulnerable to homelessness.  Prior to the pandemic, approximately 4.2 million young people ages 13-24 experienced unaccompanied homelessness in any given year. The Family and Youth Services Bureau (FYSB) within the Administration for Children and Families (ACF), plays a pivotal role in the federal response to addressing youth and young adult homelessness. However, more work must be done to increase FYSB’s intra- and interdepartmental coordination; implementation of policies and practices that are evidence-based, directly responsive to youths’ needs, and created in partnership with young people most impacted; and inclusive of targeted prevention strategies for youth and young adult homelessness. As society moves to address systemic racism and inequality, FYSB must apply a similar purpose to its ongoing operations. 

Other HHS agencies, including Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Agency (SAMHSA), Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), the Children’s Bureau (CB), the Administration for Children, Youth and Families (ACYF), and the Office of Trafficking in Persons (OTIP) also have critical roles in providing crucial services necessary to ending homelessness. As the lead agency across this portfolio, HHS can ensure that services to people in accessing and maintaining housing are provided consistently across agencies and are designed to partner efficiently with the housing system. For example, the Family Unification Program is an example of how service gaps can lead to voucher underutilization and high turnover, leaving precious housing resources on the table despite an overwhelming need faced by state and local child welfare systems. By leading coordinated service delivery, HHS can ensure the success of the Biden-Harris administration's efforts to make homelessness a brief and rare experience by expanding housing access and reducing costly crisis services for people with varied and oftentimes complex needs.

We look forward to working closely with you and your team in your new role, as we know that together, we can transform our communities and the lives of the millions of Americans experiencing homelessness today. The challenges we face are unprecedented, but together we have an equally great opportunity to make a meaningful difference for the American people. As you prepare to take on these opportunities and challenges in leading one of our nation’s most critical departments, we offer our coalition and ourselves as a resource. 

We welcome an opportunity to brief you in more detail on our team, the issue of homelessness, and what we hope to accomplish in partnership with the Biden-Harris administration. We look forward to your leadership and partnership as we work together to stabilize our country and end homelessness for millions of people. 

Sincerely,

National Coalition for Housing Justice

Contacts: Kristen Truffa (Kristen@YouthCollaboratory.org), Dylan Waguespack (Dylan@truecolorsunited.org), Lauren Bennett (lauren@funderstogether.org)