As the Bay Area struggles with the ever-worsening crisis of people sleeping in tents and vehicles, the Biden administration has set an ambitious new goal to reduce homelessness by 25% in the next two years.
The plan, called “All In,” intends to build off the efforts that ramped up during the COVID-19 pandemic to increase housing and shelter capacity and get people off the streets. It lays out priorities including adding housing, moving people out of encampments and preventing more people from falling into homelessness, while also addressing the fact that people of color are disproportionately likely to be homeless.
There are an estimated 582,462 unhoused people in the United States, according to new data released Monday. That’s up 0.3% from 2020.
But details as to how the administration will slash that number by a quarter, and how the plan will impact the Bay Area, are sparse so far.
Officials with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Interagency Council on Homelessness didn’t provide many specifics Friday during a background-only briefing about the new plan. For example, the administration plans to launch a program early next year working with select cities to help them address homeless encampments — but officials declined to say which cities will participate.
Ray Bramson, chief operating officer of Santa Clara County-based Destination: Home, will be most interested to see if this plan leads to significant new federal funding. So far, the plan doesn’t lay out any new dollars — instead, it focuses on how existing resources can be best spent.
“The federal government is a very important player in terms of our ability to address homelessness, and we need them to come to the table in a much more substantial way,” Bramson said. “And if this announcement is the beginning of a significant investment that is going to be commensurate with the scale of the crisis, that’s fantastic news.”
For 2023, Biden proposed a $5.8 trillion budget that includes $8.7 billion for homeless housing and services.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the CARES Act and American Rescue Plan provided billions in rental assistance, housing vouchers and other grants — funds that the administration estimates could be used to provide homes for up to 211,000 households.
Earlier this year, HUD also set aside $322 million for rental assistance and other efforts to get people off the street, as well as 4,000 new subsidized housing vouchers for people who are homeless or fleeing domestic violence, and veterans.
But much more is needed, as 4,000 vouchers divided among the entire country won’t make much of a dent, Bramson said. Vouchers, which help pay someone’s rent for a set period of time — sometimes several years — work wonders to pull people out of homelessness, he said. There just aren’t nearly enough of them.
And Santa Clara County hasn’t seen a significant increase in federal funding for its housing authority in decades, Bramson said.
Late last year, the Biden administration announced a push to house 100,000 Americans by the end of 2022, while also creating at least 20,000 new affordable homes. Federal officials have not yet released the results of that effort, dubbed “House America,” but said more information would be available in January.
On Monday, federal officials also released the national results of the point-in-time count, which tallied every unhoused person observed in a shelter or on the street during one night at the beginning of the year.
Though the number of people in shelters decreased by 1.6% from 2020, the number of people on the street increased by 3.4%. Overall homelessness increased by less than 1%, though increases in most of the core Bay Area counties — with the exception of San Francisco, which saw a slight decrease — were higher.
“HUD and everyone in the Biden-Harris Administration is committed to ensuring everyone has a safe, stable place to call home,” U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia Fudge said in a news release. “Data shows that homelessness remains a national crisis, but it also shows that the historic investments this Administration has made to address this issue, can work.”
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