Harder Releases Plan to Tackle Homelessness
Representative Josh Harder (CA-10) released his plan to address the homeless crisis in the Central Valley in advance of this year's Point in Time Count, which assesses the total number of people who are homeless throughout the country. Homelessness is a growing problem in Rep. Harder's district, where the rate of homelessness grew by nearly 16 percent between 2017 and 2019. Homelessness is also a statewide problem in California, which saw a larger increase in the number of homeless people over the last year than all other states combined.
"This is an emergency that requires real action," said Rep. Harder. "The number of homeless people in California is going up, but the federal money to combat it hasn't kept pace. We have to tackle this problem head-on, giving our partners on the ground the funding they need to effectively attack the root causes of this emergency. That's exactly what I'm working on."
Representative Harder's plan is aimed at addressing common root causes of homelessness in addition to fighting the underfunding of homelessness prevention efforts. The plan includes three main provisions:
Improve Mental and Behavioral Health Care Services
Mental health care access is the top priority health care need for all of Stanislaus County, but it's especially necessary for people who are homeless. Approximately one-third of the homeless population in Stanislaus County are dealing with a mental or behavioral health issue, including substance use disorder according to self-reported data from 2019. Rep. Harder has introduced multiple pieces of legislation to tackle the problem and worked to secure federal investments for effective programs.
Representative Harder led a successful bipartisan fight to stop cuts to Medicaid hospitals which often treat homeless individuals who are experiencing mental health or substance abuse problems. Ensuring these folks get care is a prerequisite to helping them get back on their feet.
His Increasing Access to Mental Health Act would modernize existing rules to expand access to mental health facilities in the Valley. Current laws prevent facilities that provide mental health care from offering services to more than 16 people at once which limits access to much-needed care. The bill would also support partnerships between mental health facilities and community resources to help people in recovery, including helping people find stable housing.
Additionally, Rep. Harder's Supporting the Health and Safety of Law Enforcement Act would help law enforcement officers better interact with people with mental health issues. The bill would create a new grant program to support coordination between community mental health centers and law enforcement officers on mental health issues. The bill was introduced after Rep. Harder received input from local sheriffs and police chiefs regarding the most pressing concerns facing law enforcement in the Central Valley.
Representative Harder is also working to ensure local mental health programs receive the federal funding they need to offer treatment for substance use disorder. Last year, he worked to secure a federal investment of $1.2 million to allow Stanislaus County to fight opioid addiction.
Build More Middle Class and Affordable Housing
One of the primary causes of homelessness in California is the lack of affordable housing. Middle-class families are increasingly being priced out of what had previously been middle-income housing, leading to a race for less expensive housing and ultimately leaving more people on the streets. Additionally, the Republican tax bill passed in 2017 killed or delayed the construction of over 15,000 new affordable housing units in California alone according to the California Housing Partnership.
To make housing more affordable, Rep. Harder cosponsored the Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act, which would undo the unintended consequences of the Republican tax bill on affordable housing tax credits. The bill would lead to the construction of about 500,000 new affordable homes over the next decade according to Enterprise Housing Credit Investments.
Representative Harder also supported provisions of House spending bills that provide investment to allow the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to fund programs that build and maintain existing public housing.
Bring More Federal Investments to Effective Organizations in the Central Valley
Although a spending agreement late last year increased funding to address homelessness by six percent, that funding is nearly all directed at conducting overdue maintenance at existing facilities rather than expanding services to address the growing crisis. Additional federal support for effective, proven programs will be necessary to address the problem.
One of Rep. Harder's first acts as a member of Congress was to cosponsor the Fighting Homelessness Through Services and Housing Act, which would direct $750 million in federal investments to support local governments' efforts to address the root causes of homelessness, including mental illness and housing insecurity.
In August, Rep. Harder announced a $2.5 million investment through HUD to expand affordable housing for low- and moderate-income people in Stanislaus County. In December, he announced a $150,000 investment specifically aimed at helping homeless veterans.
Representative Harder is also working to ensure federal funding is available for HUD programs which make a difference in the Central Valley, including Continuum of Care and Community Development Block Grants.