Ideologies surrounding the HEARTH Act
Homelessness in America is a very complex socioeconomic problem that more than often takes various forms. This varies from your average American sleeping either on bench or in parks to that middle class family who sleep in their car. The most interesting aspect however about homelessness is the fact that Americans who are predisposed to the condition are never taken into consideration by either policy makers or the society at large and therefore are commonly referred to as the “invincible homeless.” This implies that the main objective in dealing with homelessness in America should be preventing more Americans from being homeless rather than trying to manage the impacts of homelessness on the society. However, it must be mentioned that the scope of this paper shall be limited to the Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing, or HEARTH Act. Specifically, this paper shall discuss some of the ideologies surrounding the enactment and consequent implementation f the HEARTH Act and whether these ideologies have had a significant bearing on homelessness in the country.
Overview of the HEARTH Act
The HEARTH Act was enacted by President Obama on the 20th of May the year 2009. Basically, this piece of legislation was not only meant to reauthorize the 1987 McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act but also amend it thereby introducing several key changes in homelessness legislative framework. Some of the key changes introduced by the HEARTH Act in the legislative frame work include the following: “the consolidation of HUD's competitive grant programs; the creation of a Rural Housing Stability Assistance Program; the change in HUD's definition of homelessness and chronic homelessness; a simplified match requirement; an increase in prevention resources; and an increase in emphasis on performance”. Basically, the whole idea behind the HEARTH act was tackle the homelessness pandemic in the country from all quarters starting with rooting it out unlike in the past whereby the legislative framework only served to manage the problem rather solve it.
Ideologies Surrounding the HEARTH Act
As earlier mentioned, the overall mandate of the HEARTH Act is to prevent homelessness in America and generally reduce the duration of time individuals spend being homeless. This in fact represents the most comprehensive reauthorization of the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act that can only be likened to the one conducted in 1992. From the enactment of the HEARTH Act, several fundamental are clear about the commitment of the Obama administration to rooting out the homelessness menace out of the American society. Some of these fundamental ideologies include the following among others not listed in the paper.
Increased Leadership, Collaboration and Civic Engagement
The fundamental principle behind this ideology is that homelessness affects everyone in the society one way or another like any other social challenge and therefore for its consequent solution must be a collaborative effort. Clearly, this ideology basically implies that dealing with homelessness in the US is a multipronged affair that involves all stakeholders ranging from the federal government to the ordinary American citizen. The whole essence of having strong leadership is because for the war against homelessness to be won within the stipulated duration of time as stipulated by the HEARTH Act, there must commitment from the government not in terms of formulating strategic plans but also implementing them.
In addition to this, the collaboration aspect that is repeated over and over in the piece of legislation serves to standardize the fight against homelessness across all states in the country. However, it is significant that this standardization of the fight against homelessness must be sensitive of local conditions. Basically, the idea is to have all states in the country to combat homelessness as prescribed in the HEARTH Act but of course within the confines of local conditions and circumstances. Finally, the fight against homelessness in America has in the past been retarded by the stigma from the American public and therefore the reluctance to participate in mitigation measures. This therefore calls for the education of all stakeholders especially on the causes and consequences of homelessness and what roles every group can play as prescribed in the legislative framework.
Institutional Capacity Building
This ideology serves to complement the first one in the sense that it puts in place the foundation needed for successful interventions to eradicate homelessness in the country. Coordination between public and private institutional organization is of the essence if the fight against homelessness as prescribed in the HEARTH Act is to be won. For this to be possible, relevant institutions must have the capacity to handle the mandate bestowed upon them as far as homelessness is concerned. This should be the case especially given that homelessness is an issue that spans across several disciplines and spheres of life some of which include healthcare, education, food security, housing, and human services to mention but a few.
The direct consequent of lack of coordination between relevant agencies is that the target groupings of people are not aware of the initiatives in place to combat the homelessness menace and therefore not only can they enjoin such causes but also these programs are subsequently rendered inaccessible. Generally, the fundamental principle behind institutional capacity building is to encourage interagency coordination through making information on the fight against homelessness readily available to all stakeholders so that every strategy applied is evidence-based rather than theoretical in nature.
Increased Access to Stable and Affordable Housing
This ideology is based on the fact that homelessness is triggered by the diminished access to stable and affordable shelter among other causes. In fact homelessness is largely triggered by the glaring disparities between incomes commanded and the prices in the housing industry. This range from the cost of mortgages to that of leasing or renting houses in various jurisdictions across the country. This implies that most homeless people are economically deprived and hence the reason why they are homeless in the first place.
Therefore, the HEARTH Act stipulates that there should more affordable houses especially for the low income American families who are highly at risk of becoming homeless. However, it must be mentioned that the access to these houses must be based on the local condition; specifically the number of homeless people within a specific geographical location. In addition to this, mechanisms need to be put in place to ascertain the level of support and incentives needed by the homeless to increase access to stable and affordable housing. This is based on the fact that different categories of homeless people need different types of help which can either be on a short or long term basis depending on the degree of their social deprivation.
Homelessness is a socioeconomic challenge and as indicated previously it is caused by social deprivation among many other factors. This therefore implies that for the fight against homelessness to be successful, socioeconomic indicators such as employment related factors must be taken into consideration. This is the case unemployment, under-employment or even low wage employment predisposes Americans to homeless. This is the case because the aforementioned scenarios normally result progressively reducing monthly incomes which consequently adversely affect an individual’s ability to meet their financial obligation as far as the housing sector is concerned. The ultimate result of such case is that the mortgage provider shall foreclose on the property or better still the landlord shall evict the tenant. Either way, the occupant of the house shall end up on the streets. This implies that for the fight against homelessness to be won, the American economy must be vibrant so that not only is the unemployment rate in the country reduced but also the risk of Americans being homeless shall significantly reduce.
Congress. (2009). The HEARTH Act. Washington, DC: United States Government Printing Office.
Gillette, J. (2012, July 30). Strengthening Tribal Communities Through the HEARTH Act. Retrieved November 4, 2012, from The White House Blog: http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2012/07/30/strengthening-tribal-communities-through-hearth-act
Parker, A. N. (2011). Continuity and Change in American Housing and Homeless Policy: An Expanded Theoretical Framework. Eugene, OR: Oregon State University Press.
United States Interagency Council on Homelessness. (2010). Opening Doors: Federal strategic plan to prevent and end homelessness. Washington, DC: United States Interagency Council on Homelessness.