Join us in writing to your State Representatives and Senators objecting to House Bill 713 – The Reducing Street Homelessness Act of 2021. In short, HB 713 is aimed at removing homeless persons and homeless encampments from the street and into sanctioned, mostly outdoor locations. (Printable/Downloadable version here.)
H.B. 713: REDUCING STREET HOMELESSNESS ACT OF 2021 FACT SHEET
Homeless camps divert funds from efforts with known impact to end homelessness:
- HB 713, while seeking to add an option for GA communities, makes mandatory broad stroke changes that may detract from homelessness services, supportive housing providers, and those housed in supportive housing. It diverts vital funds from multiple state funding sources, and will potentially reduce federal matching funds. These funds are used to pay for shelter, outreach, and rapid rehousing across the state and without these critical funds, current efforts will be reduced or ended.
- HB 713 would create state sanctioned homeless camps that are expensive, difficult to maintain, and difficult to close once they are opened.
HB 713 poses great financial harm to vulnerable Georgians and the resources necessary to serve homeless people:
- HB 713 may risk the loss of over $20 million annually from HUD in Continuum of Care awards, the loss of $5 million in Emergency Solutions Grant annual awards, and the loss of HOPWA funds for persons with HIV or AIDS.
- HB 713 does not provide new funds for expenses such as electrical installation or electrical bills, water installation or water bills, provision of showers and toilets, policing, lighting, management, leadership, organizational structure, social services, trash services, food services, land acquisition, camping and cooking equipment, toiletry necessities, social services, case management, etc.
- HB 713 does not bring new or innovative concepts to the table. People staying within camps are still homeless and subject to the elements. Homeless camps are notable breeding grounds for infectious disease spread as well.
- HB 713 creates arbitrary caps on spending for creation and maintenance of short-term housing, without analyzing the need for development across GA, conducting a cost analysis of needed expenditures, or evaluating differences in cost dependent on community.
- HB 713 requires municipalities to pull funds from criminal justice grants to fund the enforcement of laws that criminalize homelessness and create and fund homeless outreach teams that mirror existing teams (Projects for Assistance in Transition and Assertive Community Treatment).
- HB 713 conditions the receipt of funds on the enforcement of laws banning street camping or sleeping in public that are constitutionally suspect. The courts have held that criminally punishing people experiencing homeless for sleeping on public property is unconstitutional if there are no other available alternatives. E.g, Martin v. Boise 920 F.3d 584 (9th Cir. 2019).
Evidenced based solutions are proven remedies that are more likely to be successful:
- HB 713 diverts funds away from efforts that we believe have a greater impact on ending homelessness. Non-congregate shelter in hotels has enabled the closure of 8 encampments in Atlanta since November 2020, sheltering 256 individuals. Partners for HOME has permanently created 450 homes in the last three months.
- HB 713 fails to recognize and acknowledge existing shelter and transitional housing, which is underutilized with vacancies nightly across the metro Atlanta area due to high barriers. Targeted and focused attention on lowering those barriers is a new priority for the City of Atlanta and can potentially achieve the results intended by HB 713 without expending new state or local resources or losing federal funds.
- HB 713 will not improve the homeless problem in GA for the many individuals sleeping outside who resist traditional shelter due to high barriers, rules, and restrictions. The proposed homeless camps are highly restricted and will be avoided by many individuals HB 713 seeks to intern.
In conclusion, creating homeless camps may make it look and feel like the community is taking action to end homelessness on the surface. But, by themselves, they have little impact on reducing homelessness.