Five years ago, I wrote a blog piece wondering how our country would respond to homelessness if Donald Trump was elected President. That was in 2011 when almost everyone thought a Trump Presidency was simply all talk.
However, in just a few weeks, President Trump becomes a reality – and not a reality TV show, but true reality.
Everyone is scrambling to figure out how this presidency will affect their organization’s work, trying to ensure they remain sustainable in the coming years. From environmentalists to union leaders. From immigrant rights advocates to CEOs of multi-national corporations. Everyone is planning for uncertainty.
As we enter 2017, those of us in affordable housing and homeless services are also grappling over what it means to operate under a Trump Presidency.
Take the federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program (created under President Reagan) that offers tax credits to developers of affordable housing units. Developers in turn sell these credits to corporations, and use the proceeds to building affordable housing.
With a potential lowering of corporate tax under a Trump administration, the demand for these tax credits is reduced, resulting in a lower value for these credits, and ultimately fewer affordable housing units.
The political attacks on the nation’s Affordable Care Act – a federal program that provides healthcare coverage for tens of millions of Americans – also threaten our nation’s impoverished population, including those who are homeless or at risk of being homeless.
When most experts and leaders acknowledge that homelessness is a healthcare issue, the very idea of threatening a program that provides affordable healthcare could become an even greater crisis for people living on our streets.
Finally, the selection for Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development – an agency that has a $47 billion annual budget and supports 5 million low income and homeless families – is worrisome for many advocates.
Most local communities depend on federal assistance in their battle to end homelessness and provide housing for their poorest citizens. Many advocates believe that appointing a HUD leader who has publicly stated that the government is incapable of helping America’s most vulnerable people, threatens these communities’ safety net.
So, for those who advocate for more housing and services for people living on our streets, do we resort to hopelessness?
With people suffering on our streets today simply waiting until the next election, in hopes public policy will change, is not a responsible alternative. Instead, advocates for affordable housing and homeless services need to change how we present our message to a new President and a new Congress.
For the next four years, the popular themes will be pro-jobs and pro-business.
Investing in housing and homeless services is a pro-employment and pro-business approach to social services. Businesses and tourism desperately need solutions to resolve homelessness, or else their profits will go down.
If the humanitarian approach does not get the attention of our newly elected and appointed leaders, hopefully basic business sense will. Studies show that the cost of housing a person who is homeless is far less expensive for tax payers than allowing our homeless neighbors to flounder on the streets.
Addressing homelessness as a compassionate response may have been popular in the past, but in the new America, ending homelessness is now a prudent business choice for our nation. Especially as we move into an unpredictable 2017.