This past weekend, I opened the Saturday edition of the Austin American Statesman and did a double-take at seeing a photograph of Senator John Cornyn (R-Tex) featured over the headline, “Cornyn unveils bill to protect domestic violence housing.” Wow! I couldn’t recall a Republican pushing a “helping” initiative in years. The article is here.
The article depicts Cornyn as a white knight riding to the rescue of the Travis County domestic shelter program. In the past, the SafePlace received about $625,000 per year in HUD homeless grants. However, HUD recently made rule changes that tilts the table in such a way that these “transitional” grant programs will no longer qualify for any homeless grant funds. To remedy the problem, Cornyn is proposing legislation to require HUD to prioritize funding “transitional” housing grants for domestic violence survivors over all other homeless grants.
Sounds good, huh? I have counseled domestic violence victims, including some looking for a bed and protection for that night. They have typically been frightened and panicked. They needed help and compassion. The shelters I am aware of have provided that help admirably.
However, while money is needed for those programs, the story is a bit more complicated than the American Statesman revealed.
Recent budget cuts—brought about in significant part by Republicans like Sen. Cornyn—led to the rule changes.
In past years, “transitional” housing grants, including those for domestic violence shelters, were part of a $2.1 billion pot of money designated for all homeless grants. Along with domestic violence shelters, the money helped people who were chronically homeless, particularly veterans, families and those living in the street. Most of this big pot was designated for these people.
However, after recent budget cuts, HUD looked over what money it had left and decided that it was about half of that needed to fully address the homeless issue in the United States. HUD also concluded that grants for “chronic” homeless provided more bang for the buck than did grants for “transitional homeless”So (i.e., domestic violence shelters).
So, HUD rewrote to get more bang for the buck and by giving priority to grants for the chronically homeless over those for transitional programs. Cornyn’s bill would flip the deck and require HUD to put domestic violence transitional grants at the top of the priority pack and all other homeless programs beneath it.
This may be the right outcome. I tend to favor domestic violence victims because of my experience. However, would this result in, say, a veteran with PTSD being unserved? Or a family who has just lost their apartment and the bread-winner has been laid off? Yes, at least if HUD is correct.
Cornyn hasn’t made the white knight level yet. He would, however, by not only filing this bill but also by going to bat for full funding for the entire homeless program. After all, many families (and parents and children) are chronically homeless and may lose out if no more money is given. This is also true for veterans and those living in the street.