Obama’s central planners promise $18 million to TN to end homelessness


By Chris Butler | Tennessee Watchdog

MEMPHIS — The Obama Administration’s central planners have indicated they’re on the verge of ending homelessness throughout not just Tennessee but all of the United States.

And homelessness might have ended by now were it not for Congress and their darned sequestration.

If you don’t believe that then just go by public statements made in recent days by U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Memphis, and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan.

U.S. Rep. Cohen

Donovan announced this month the 50 states will receive $1.6 billion for homeless assistance programs through the agency’s Continuum of Care program.

According to HUD’s website, homeless programs in Tennessee will receive $18.1 million of that money.

Cohen announced in a statement last week that 13 nonprofits in Memphis would get $4.3 million of those funds.

“This significant amount of funding will help our community work to reduce — and hopefully eliminate — homelessness in Memphis,” Cohen said in his statement.

No one in Cohen’s office responded to Tennessee Watchdog’s requests for comment Friday.

If federal spending will potentially eliminate homelessness, why didn’t the central planners think of this idea years ago?

Actually, they did.

Many of the same nonprofits receiving money this year have gotten money in prior years, HUD spokesman Brian Sullivan told Tennessee Watchdog Friday.

“Unfortunately, because of the effects of sequestration, HUD can’t spend as much money as it wants,” Sullivan said.

Donovan said in a press release these programs promote self-sufficiency among individuals and families experiencing homelessness.

So what kinds of results have they gotten?

HOMELESS: Can the federal government really end homelessness as we know it?

Do these programs truly teach people how to lift themselves out of their circumstances and live independently? Or are these just meaningless government handouts?

Tennessee Watchdog contacted representatives from many of the Memphis nonprofits accepting this money.

Only one, Katie Kitchin, executive director of the Community Alliance for the Homeless, responded.

Without providing specifics, Kitchin said in an email that homelessness in the city is down 21 percent in the past two years due to measures that nonprofits have put in place.

According to Donovan’s press release, the Obama Administration has a strategic plan to end homelessness. Obama’s 2015 budget seeks $2.4 billion for homeless assistance grants.

Mark Cunningham, spokesman for the Nashville-based Beacon Center of Tennessee told Tennessee Watchdog that solving homelessness isn’t as simple as the government indicates.

“Good intentions aside, history shows that simply increasing funding to provide for the homeless does not equate to diminishing or eliminating the homeless populations in our nation’s most poverty-ridden communities,” Cunningham said.

Cunningham cited New York City as an example.

“The city is able to provide shelter and sustenance for over 85 percent of the homeless population. Yet these individuals remain sheltered and dependent upon these handouts, which places an unsustainable burden upon the government to continuously increase funding as more citizens seek these services and fewer transition off the federal tab.”

Cunningham suggested private means, such as a charity, as an alternative to reducing homelessness.

Contact Christopher Butler at chris@tennesseewatchdog.org. or follow him and submit story ideas on his official Facebook page.

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