An unidentified man, left, watches Allen Duncan, homeless and unemployed, sleep on a sidewalk, Aug. 8, 2011 in New York. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
“They tweet and they titter. They chat and they chitter. But the bear snores on.”
—from Bear Snores On
Inside the Beltway, the weather has turned cold, trees are mostly bare, and sounds and voices outside are distinct as more and more people remain indoors.
On Capitol Hill, conversations are focused on billions and trillions, cliffs and sequestrations, and theories and suppositions about ongoing negotiations. A thankful media cheers on, discovering a new horserace to replace the one just ended.
But for too many people—most of whom receive little or no attention in this town—there is nothing vague, abstract, or racy about these budget decisions.
Amy Clark is the communications director for the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC), a nonprofit organization working to ensure that low-income people have decent, affordable homes. She says that NLIHC staff members now regularly receive anxious e-mails from people living in public housing, or who have vouchers they use for rental assistance and whose homes are on the line.
“They are trying to figure out what Congress is doing, and what sequestration is about,” Clark tells me.
A woman with cancer living in New York City—where her voucher is already at risk due to cuts—wrote, “It seems that no one in NYC knows what is going on with the Section 8 voucher program—not even Section 8, Mayor Bloomberg’s office, State Offices, HUD—all these offices I called and no one who answers the phone knows what is going on.”
“Are those of us who have Section 8 in danger of losing our apartments?” asked another person.
“These are individuals who have no other means of living affordably,” says Clark. “If you lose your voucher, and then end up paying half or three-quarters of your income for housing, what do you have left for medical expenses, or for anything for that matter? Sequestration is a really serious personal issue for a lot of people.”
Indeed, the Campaign for Housing and Community Development Funding (CHCDF)—a group of seventy-four national organizations across the country—estimates that the 8.4 percent cut to housing and community development programs that would occur in January under sequestration would result in: a $1.6 billion cut in tenant-based rental assistance, with 185,000 households losing assistance; an $830 million cut in project-based rental assistance, with more than 92,000 households losing their housing if the cuts aren’t restored; a $180 million cut to homeless assistance grants—nearly 146,000 people would be homeless instead of housed; a $32 million cut to housing for the elderly, with 114,000 households receiving reduced unit maintenance and supportive services; a $28 million cut to housing opportunities for persons with AIDS, resulting in more than 4,700 households losing their housing; and a $13 million cut in housing for persons with disabilities, leading to more than 24,500 households receiving reduced unit maintenance and supportive services.