The White House’s Proposed Policies Would Harm, Not Help, People Experiencing Homelessness

Sep 2019

The White House

True Colors United’s Statement on the White House report, “The State of Homelessness in America.”

On Monday, the White House Council of Economic Advisers released a report titled “The State of Homelessness in America.” The report argues for major policy shifts in the federal approach to ending homelessness, most of which would fail to achieve their supposed aim of ensuring that more individuals and families have access to housing.

“The policies recommended in the White House Council of Economic Advisers’s report, ‘The State of Homelessness in America,’ would exacerbate homelessness while cruelly subjecting over 500,000 Americans to policies which reject their dignity and basic human needs,” said Gregory Lewis, Executive Director & CEO of Cyndi Lauper’s True Colors United. “People experiencing homelessness, especially youth and young adults, need access right now to housing, health care, employment, and opportunities to thrive, not housing regulation rollbacks that could take decades to make any kind of impact on homelessness, and certainly not increased policing.” 

What does the White House report say about homelessness?

This report outlines a series of policy recommendations focused on broadly deregulating the housing market, increasing policing of unsheltered people experiencing homelessness, and pivoting from Housing First models of addressing homelessness back to program models which impose restrictive participation requirements.

Among the many concerning positions included in the report was the suggestion that increased policing of unsheltered people would reduce homelessness by making conditions less tolerable. In recent decades, it has become clear that the criminalization of homelessness creates cruel and near-immovable barriers to opportunity for people experiencing homelessness. Arrest records, fines, and fees make housing and employment significantly more difficult to attain and disrupt access to food and health care. 

While it’s encouraging to see the White House expressing interest in ending the crisis of homelessness, the proposed solutions outlined in this week’s report by the Council of Economic Advisers could have disastrous consequences in communities across the United States. Were the policy recommendations in this report adopted alongside current efforts to remove critical nondiscrimination protections in HUD-funded programs through revisions to HUD’s Equal Access Rule, we could expect to see a significant increase in poor outcomes among people who are among the most vulnerable to homelessness, including LGBTQ people and people of color.   

So, what’s the answer?

If the Administration truly wants to effectively address and ultimately end youth homelessness, they can do so by ensuring that vital funding is available to provide housing and resources to help people experiencing homelessness build a stable foundation that leads to independence and self-sufficiency. They should also maintain and strengthen critical Equal Access protections for those most likely to be impacted by homelessness and work to end the ongoing, pervasive institutional racism, heterosexism, and cisgenderism which results in significantly higher rates of homelessness among LGBTQ people and people of color.

There’s a lot to be done on the state level, too. Our State Index on Youth Homelessness provides a snapshot of some of the complex challenges youth experiencing homelessness face – and gives recommendations for how each state can end youth homelessness. See how your state scored.