Harder Introduces Homelessness Emergency Declaration Act

January 14, 2020
Press Release
Bill Would Bridge Gap Between Washington and Sacramento; Allow Governors to Request Emergency Aid for Homelessness Similar to Natural Disaster Emergency Declarations

WASHINGTON – A day after rolling out his plan to combat homelessness, Representative Josh Harder (CA-10) introduced the Homelessness Emergency Declaration Act, which would allow governors to request a federal emergency declaration to obtain federal support. The emergency declaration process included in the bill is modeled after the existing process for requesting emergency aid after a natural disaster. It would allow states which have seen increases in homelessness to request federal support for local and state initiatives aimed at combating the problem, including shelter, transportation, food assistance, healthcare, and job training.

“Homelessness is an emergency. Let’s call it what it is. Washington and Sacramento need to stop their twitter feuds and start working together to fix this problem – which everyone knows is only getting worse,” said Rep. Harder. “My bill will bridge the gap between the President and the Governor and allow us to get the federal support we need to get people off the streets. If we can declare an emergency after a natural disaster that leaves people without homes, we should be able to do the same thing for an economic disaster.” 

The Homelessness Emergency Declaration Act would simply allow the President to declare a homelessness emergency after receiving a request from a Governor of an affected state. The declaration would allow the President, through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and other appropriate agencies, to provide emergency assistance to states. The declaration would allow the federal agencies involved to provide resources and support to state and local organizations that provide housing, emergency food assistance, transportation, mental health care, and job training programs.

“Homelessness has reached an emergency status in many communities,” said Barbara DiPietro, Senior Director of Policy, National Health Care for the Homeless Council. “This bill would provide greatly needed resources directly to states so they can address the critical short-term needs of very vulnerable people living on the street.”

“Stanislaus Regional Housing Authority represents eight counties and over 21,000 square miles in the state of California. This represents urban, rural, and suburban areas in the state who were all overwhelmed with the problem of homelessness. Stanislaus Regional Housing Authority has not had a full waiting list opening since 2010 and has over 15,000 households still on its Section 8 waiting list,” said Barbara Kauss, CEO/Executive Director, Stanislaus Regional Housing Authority. “The housing shortage is real and immediate. Federal support and resources are essential to equip boots on the ground agencies who are ‘relentless housers’ and fight this battle daily. The Housing Authority applauds Congressman Harder's ongoing efforts to provide tools locally, regionally, statewide and federally in the war on homelessness.”

“The issue of homelessness, unfortunately, has continued to grow at epidemic proportions throughout the Central Valley, impacting families and individuals of all ages,” said Leslie Abasta-Cummings, CEO, Livingston Community Health & Executive Board Member, Central California Partnership for Health.  Now more than ever, it is imperative that we put the structure and support in place to address homelessness with the same sense of urgency that we deal with other emergencies that leave a devasting and long-lasting impact on so many lives and communities throughout the United States.  As community health centers continue work with our regional partners to address social determinants of health, we are seeing increasing trends in our veterans and peoples with disabilities struggling with issues of homelessness at an alarming rate. It is legislation such as this put forth by Representative Harder, that will serve as a meaningful step towards combating homelessness in our nation.”                                                                                                                               

“The Sacramento Regional Coalition to End Homelessness strongly supports Congressperson Harder's "Homelessness Emergency Declaration Act."  In virtually all the west coast cities, the high cost of housing has driven a sharp spike in homelessness in the last several years,” said Bob Erlenbusch, Executive Director, SRCEH. “Homelessness in Sacramento has increased over 50% in the last two years with now over 10,000 people experiencing homelessness on an annual basis, 70% of whom are outside due to lack of shelter and housing. Rep. Harder's legislation creates a federal and state response to an economic disaster which we have had for natural disasters. This bill will provide important federal resources to supplement local and state responses to this crisis of epidemic proportions."