He lived on the streets for almost five years, and made dozens upon dozens of visits to the hospital because of a chronic disease and a lack of health insurance. The nursing staff knew him by name, often giving him food and a few bucks to survive.
That urban health center was the closest thing he had to a home, until the agency I run was able to land him a rare Section 8 housing voucher that subsidized his rent for a new apartment. Jason was finally off the streets and in his own home, supported by a case worker and cocooned in a safe and healthy environment so he could manage his illness.
Who would have thought a bunch of polarized, powerful political leaders from both sides of the political aisle in Washington, D.C. could threaten Jason’s new home?
For many people like Jason, just the pronunciation of the word “sequestration,” let alone the definition, was difficult. But for die-hard political activists, sequestration meant longer wait times at the airport, reduced military spending, and cuts in healthcare.
The sequestration saber-rattling on the other side of the country pronounced the end of White House tours and the annual Easter egg hunt, cuts that would “never” affect Jason or the thousands of other Americans living in subsidized housing.
But when the federal government seized part of the funding for numerous important public programs, subsidized housing was one of them.
Nearly 140,000 impoverished families and individuals would be affected.
In San Francisco, $21 million of funding for housing was cut. They responded by no longer issuing new housing vouchers.
In Los Angeles, the funding reduction not only meant cutting housing vouchers, but also increasing rent for current voucher holders, like Jason, by $100 to $200 per month.
For the “working poor”—people who work low-paying jobs and need help to pay rent—a couple hundred dollars more per month hurts, but it may not force them onto the streets.
But for Jason, and others who struggle with chronic health issues, disabilities, or the lingering effects of being homeless for years, the rent increase is disastrous.
If sequestration becomes a permanent solution to balancing the federal budget, people like Jason will be forced back onto the streets. Cutting funding for subsidized housing has become a Hurricane Katrina-like disaster for people clinging to the government for housing assistance.
But in this case, the hurricane was caused by Uncle Sam, not Mother Nature.
Photo by Images_of_Money.