Trump Administration Unveils National Homelessness Strategy Addressing Racial Disparities, Mental Health 

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 10: A homeless person eats on a side walk near Time Square on December 10, 2019 in New York City. The controversial program, Special One-Time Assistance, or SOTA, sends homeless families to lower cost communities across the nation. (Photo by Jeenah Moon/Getty Images)
Jeenah Moon/Getty Images

The Donald J. Trump administration unveiled on Monday a national strategy to address rampant homelessness in cities across America, including shifting from the Obama-era failed policy of “housing first as a one-size-fits-all approach” to an emphasis on self-reliance and addressing racial disparities and mental health.

The plan, titled “Expanding the Toolbox: The Whole-of-Government Response to Homelessness,” was produced by the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness.

“Policies that do not address the real root causes of homelessness combined with high housing costs in over-regulated markets have exacerbated the homelessness condition in America,” the executive summary of the report stated.

“As many community leaders are coming to realize, the status quo is simply not working,” the executive summary stated. “Reforms and changes are needed to reverse the growing homelessness crisis in America.”

“Our aspirational goals should move beyond primarily providing subsidized housing assistance,” the executive summary stated. “As Congress has suggested, we must optimize self-sufficiency in federal homeless assistance programs and reduce reliance on public assistance.”

The plan “envisions an approach that dramatically reduces homelessness by engaging and assessing families and individuals with a trauma-informed approach to care that addresses the real root causes of homelessness.”

Highlights of the national strategy include:

• The importance and power of the dignity of work

• Mental health and trauma Informed care are critical

• Affordable construction leads to affordable housing

• Prevention will save money while reducing trauma 

• The need for population specific programming

• Renewed focus on racial disparities

• Promotion of alternatives to criminalizing people experiencing homelessness

• Importance of National Emergency Readiness

The San Francisco Chronicle reported on the plan:

The report points out that unsheltered homelessness in the United States grew 20.5 percent between 2014 and 2019 to 211,293 persons, while supportive housing and emergency “rapid rehousing” with permanently subsidized beds rose 42.7 percent. This result, the report contends, demands a different approach because it seems creating so much housing should have reduced homelessness, not seen it actually grow.

Though the council is only an advisory body and the plan lays out no funding proposals, its plans weigh heavily in influencing funding decisions at federal agencies. The council’s executive director is Robert Marbut, and “Expanding the Toolbox” is his first major imprint on national homeless policy since he was appointed in December by President Trump.

Though Marbut guided its creation, the new plan was compiled with input from dozens of organizations — from the 19 federal agencies that constitute the council, including the Department of Housing and Urban Development — to nonprofits including the National Head Start Association.

The Chronicle reported ahead of the report’s release that Marbut said he could not comment on it until it was made public.

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