President Reagan believed that “the homeless are on the streets by choice and prefer this to the available shelters…and that the jobless are simply not motivated.” (Ronald W, 1) In our great nation of awesome power and abundant resources the number of homeless population is increasing every year.
Our government is not doing all that it can to put in effect the necessary tools to combat or more importantly to prevent our nation’s homelessness. Instead our government is focusing on individual necessities of those who become homeless, and continuously provides them with material and monetary assistance. It is this belief that has helped to increase the homelessness of our nation, and it is this belief that will continue to do so if our government does not take a closer and more realistic look at the grounds behind homeless population in our country.
During the Reagan Administration, homelessness was viewed as a problem that did not require federal intervention. In 1983, the first federal task force on homelessness was created to provide information to local communities on how to obtain surplus federal property. However, the task force did not address homelessness through policy actions.
(Blau, 109-132) In the following years, advocates around the nation demanded that the federal government acknowledge homelessness as a national problem requiring a national response. As a result, in 1986, the Homeless Persons’ Survival Act was introduced in both houses. The act contained emergency relief measures, preventive measures, and long-term solutions to homelessness. However, only small pieces of this proposal were enacted into law. The first, the Homeless Eligibility Clarification Act of 1986, (Hombs, 67) removed permanent address requirements and other barriers to existing programs such as Supplemental Security Income, Aid to Families with Dependent Children, Veterans Benefits, Food Stamps, and Medicaid. Also in 1986, the Homeless Housing Act was adopted.
(Hombs, 67) This legislation created the Emergency Shelter Grant program and a transitional housing program, which were administered by the Department of Housing and Urban Development or HUD. (Blau, 16)
In late 1986, legislation containing Title I of the Homeless Persons’ Survival Act, emergency relief provisions for food, shelter, mobilized health care, and transitional housing, was introduced as the Urgent Relief for the Homeless Act. (Hombs, 70-89) After an intensive campaign, large bipartisan majorities in both houses of Congress passed the legislation in 1987. After the death of its sponsor, Stewart B.McKinney, the act was re-named the 1987 Stewart B. McKinney Homeless Assistance Act.
The reluctant President Ronald Reagan signed it into law, on July 22, 1987. The 1987 Stewart B. McKinney Homeless Assistance Act was the first, and only, major federal legislative response to homelessness. (Blau, 112-114)
The McKinney Act originally consisted of fifteen programs that provided a range of services to the homeless. The services included job training, education, emergency shelter, transitional housing, primary health care, and a limited amount of permanent housing. The McKinney Act has been amended numerous times, with the 1990 amendments including the Shelter Plus Care program, which provided housing assistance to the homeless with disabilities, mental illness, AIDS, and drug/alcohol addictions, and a program within the Health Care for the Homeless to provide primary health care and outreach to at-risk homeless children.
(Levy, 360-368) Also in 1990, the Community Mental Health Services program was amended and re-named as: the Projects for Assistance in Transition from Homelessness (PATH) program. The 1990 amendments more clearly outlined the obligations of states and local educational agencies in assuring public education of homeless children and youth. (Kryder-Coe, 81-85)
Unfortunately, even with the passage of the McKinney Act, and the amendments to it, the causes of homelessness have not been adequately addressed. The 1994 goal of the Interagency Council on the Homeless was ;to achieve the goal of a decent home and a suitable living environment’ for every American.” ( Hombs, 131-132) The President called for increasing housing subsidies and repairing the “damage caused by the misguided and harmful housing budget cuts of the 1980s.” (Hombs, 132) However, the President’s fiscal year 96, 97, and 98 budgets maintained the cuts to housing programs made by Congress.
Thus, Congress left in place a number of measures which reduced the unfortunate access to housing, such as tightened eligibility standards for public .