It's hats-off time at HEAR US.
Today's mark-up session in Congress is the first major step in the grueling legislative process. Through the "magic" of technology you can watch/listen to the hearing (it won't be available till tomorrow but I don't want to forget to post it).
The champions, a partial roster, are those on the side of we who believe that families and teens should be considered when HUD funding is given out to local Continuum of Care groups. Among my champions:
Congresswoman Judy Biggert (R-IL) led the charge. She listens to experts who actually talk to homeless families and teens--and to families and teens themselves. She gets it that people's lives are not in the neat boxes of "homeless" or "not homeless," and that sometimes their realities don't fit ridiculously pristine definitions thought up by Congressional staffers and their advisers.
Kathy Lydon, Judy Biggert's chief of staff, has put a lot of energy, brainpower and passion into this and other homeless children's issues. Big thanks!!
Nicole Austin, JB's legislative staff, has been astoundingly insightful on the need for changes in the current policy and law. She's been ardently on top of this from the beginning and she will not quit!
They've all been fortunate to work with my friend and colleague, the most honorable...
Barbara Duffield, policy director at the National Education for Homeless Children and Youth, who has wrangled and negotiated, twisted, turned and hung on in the insane process of hammering out a negotiation. She's amazing.
I'll share her email of today's proceedings. That will be enough fuel to stoke our fires of advocacy needed to move this issue forward apace.
From Barbara Duffield:
Legislative Update: HEARTH Passes Committee; Definition Debate Continues
BACKGROUND: Today, the House Financial Services Committee approved H.R. 840, the Homelessness Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing Act (HEARTH), after first adopting a substitute amendment.
Congresswoman Judy Biggert (R-IL) and Congressman Geoff Davis (R-KY) offered an amendment to include children, youth, and families who are verified as homeless by federal program personnel (including school district liaisons, Head Start programs, Runaway and Homeless Youth Act programs) in the HUD definition of homelessness. After an intense and emotional debate, the amendment was withdrawn in an exchange for a commitment from Full Committee Chairman Frank and Housing Subcommittee Chairwoman Waters to continue working to improve the HUD definition of homelessness before the bill moves to the floor in September. The Committee leadership of both parties also agreed to send a letter to the Government Accountability Office, next week, requesting a study on expanding the HUD definition of homelessness.
NEXT STEPS: Today’s markup was an important step forward in an ongoing effort to ensure that the HUD definition of homelessness is expanded to accurately reflect the full range of people experiencing homelessness in this country. Almost the entire debate was focused on the issue of the HUD definition and the needs of children, youth, and families. While the Biggert-Davis amendment was not approved, we believe that its introduction and today’s spirited debate will result in meaningful improvements to HR 840 before it is considered on the House floor. And we are deeply grateful to Mrs. Biggert and Mr. Davis for their leadership and commitment to children, youth, and families. Thanks to everyone for the calls, faxes, and letter, and ongoing advocacy.
A more detailed summary of the legislation will be forthcoming next week, including additional provisions related to children and youth (including provisions related to education).
Today’s markup can be viewed on the web site of the Financial Services Committee at:
If you read this far and wonder why the above people are the champions, I'll tell you.
Issues of injustice--no shortage of big and lesser ones--if they are going to be righted, require steadfast effort when the odds are so against you that even your own mother would bet against you.
The small band of integrity-filled advocates and their legislative crusaders are working to right the terrible wrongs that occur to countless children, teens and adults who find themselves without a home, no matter what their temporary accommodations.
This fight is against those whose organizations and agencies might give the impression they are on the side of homeless families, children and teens, but whose actions speak frighteningly contrary. Their argument that the "flood" of homeless families would overwhelm the available resources falls flat.
Seems to me that we might want to issue name tags--"For Homeless Families and Teens" or "Against Homeless Families or Teens." It would be interesting to see who would be on what side.