Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, the federal government’s campaign compelling cities across the country to write 10 Year Plans to End Chronic Homelessness looks increasingly like no more than pre-election political campaigning.
Recognizing Democrats were way too timid to seize the debate on the issues of homelessness and poverty, the White House has launched the Interagency Council on Homelessness (ICH) and its executive director Phillip Mangano.
Mangano, an incredibly enthusiastic and effective public orator, is on a nonstop nationwide tour promoting the benefits of creating local 10 Year Plans to End Chronic Homelessness, and rallying support for the Republican administration-supported Samaritan Initiative legislation (cosponsored by 14 Republicans and two Democrats).
The ICH has even recently launched a slick email newsletter highlighting cities as they develop or complete their 10 Year Plans, as well as lobbying support for the Samaritan Initiative legislation. This is augmented by a seemingly never-ending series of local press conferences (featuring Phil Mangano, local mayors, and planning council members), held in over 200 cities, singing the praises of this presidential administration, 10 Year Plans, and the Samaritan Initiative.
Then press events are convened by various local Republican and Democratic mayors and city council members. Featuring activities like shelter visits or street outreach, these media moments and press conferences are always well-attended and favorably covered. No local mayor is going to be stupid enough to piss off the President’s point person on federal homelessness funding to their city.
This is brilliant political campaigning! The best part for these guys is that it probably doesn’t cost Bush’s reelection campaign a dime. Phil keeps coming to visit and puts out this massive media campaign to… help… us.
So far, Phil has helped 125 cities across America to write their 10 Year Plans. So far, Phil has told over 125 cities across America that the only way their plans stand a chance in hell of getting funded is if the Samaritan Initiative Act is passed.
For local communities, the sad reality of federal homelessness funding is this: Meet Phil.
Phil works for the President. Phil wants a 10 Year Plan to End Chronic Homelessness in your community. See Phil’s fancy binder containing presentations on how the Bush Administration wants this plan to be written and publicized?
Phil speaks more like a fiery Boston preacher than a DC bureaucrat as he connects the abolitionist movement to end slavery with the White House’s “plan” to end homelessness. Phil demands local politicians not discuss the fact that President Bush’s new budget will gut $1.6 billion per year from the largest federal program providing affordable housing for poor people, impacting an estimated 250,000 poor families and individuals nationally. Instead, they must sing the praises of a new $70 million per-year, three-agency federal program to develop permanent supportive housing for homeless people.
Never forget Phil is the only chance in hell you have of ever getting funding for your local 10 Year Plan. Phil wants you to support the Samaritan Initiative Act. The Samaritan Initiative Act is how Phil intends to get your funding for your 10 Year Plan. Phil knows a $70 million national initiative (especially administered through three separate federal bureaucracies) with 150 or more cities competing for it ain’t even a drop in the bucket, but Phil says it’s a good start!
According to our math, it would take 22,857 seventy-million-dollar checks for local communities to make up for the $1.6 billion cut from Section 8 housing programs.
But Phil supports these housing cuts. Phil says, “The dire predictions of the sky falling will not come true.” Later, in true oratory excellence, he recasts this dramatic cut as “reform” and states, “That reform will allow the program to serve more people.” (CQ Researcher, June 18th, 2004) (Funny how Republicans always seem to think that cutting funds for social programs benefits poor people, but increased military spending makes us safer.)
San Francisco’s Ten Year Planning Council has truly tried its hardest to develop a 10 Year Plan we can all stand behind, and two weeks have been allocated for public review even after Mayor Newsom presents the plan at a press conference.
Guess who’ll be flying in so he can be front and center at the podium? The president’s spinmeister in the movie Wag the Dog has nothing on Phil.
San Francisco will probably do whatever it needs to do to get as much of whatever money may be available, but the pretense should stop at the public relations door.
Everyone wanting to end homelessness needs to fully understand:
- Throughout America, homelessness is increasing and families are universally seen as the fastest-growing segment of the homeless population;
- Federal cuts to housing expenditures since the early ‘80s exactly mirror the growth of the “problem” of homelessness locally;
- It takes 22,857 $70 million checks to equal ONE $1.6 billion cut;
- Bush’s proposed $1.6 billion cut to HUD Section 8 funding WILL displace, make homeless, thousands of people (especially families);
- Any plan to address homelessness is only as effective as the funding allocated to it;
- The Samaritan Initiative Act is a deceitful Bush Administration ploy designed to create the public perception they may actually give a shit. No Bay Area representative should support it;
- Last but not least, it has been universally proven that housing, not criminalization, is the direction we must turn to if we truly want to eradicate homelessness.