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16Nov

The Only Federal Agency Dedicated to Homelessness Could Be Shut Down

By: J.B. Wogan, Governing.com

Published: November 14, 2017

Last week, Atlanta ended veteran homelessness, placing nearly 1,900 people into permanent housing. The news would have attracted more media buzz if three states and more than 40 communities hadn’t already claimed the same achievement in the last few years. Nationally, veteran homelessness has declined 47 percent in seven years. Overall homelessness is also down 14 percent.

Now, the federal agency largely credited with making that historic progress is at risk of losing all of its funding.

“When I was working on this stuff,” says Ralph Becker, the former mayor of Salt Lake City, which was one of the first cities to end chronic veteran homelessness, “the federal role never got enough acknowledgment. The fact of the matter is, the federal resources are what made the difference.”

This year, both the White House and the U.S. House Appropriations Committee have called for eliminating the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, an independent federal agency with 20 full-time employees and an annual budget of roughly $3.5 million. The U.S. Senate, though, has a competing proposal to fully fund the agency and remove a sunset provision that Congress has repeatedly extended in the past.

With a federal budget deadline of Dec. 8 looming, it’s not clear whether the council has a future after 2018.

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