AUSTIN (Nexstar) - Texans experiencing homelessness will receive millions of dollars in grant money from the Trump administration, the Department of Housing and Urban Development announced Thursday.
HUD Secretary Ben Carson made the announcement in a conference call with reporters, in which the department said it would commit a record $2 billion to help "tens of thousands of our most vulnerable neighbors" in the United States.
The recipients are thousands of homeless assistance programs across the nation, Carson said, as he challenged state and local partners to "support their highest-performing local programs."
Texas groups will receive $88,239,025, distributed to 205 organizations. That is up $2 million from 2017, and 10 fewer organizations.
Texas Homeless Network president and CEO, Eric Samuels, said Texas "can really do a lot to move the dial nationally" through local and regional programs.
Darryl Brandenberg lived on the streets for more than five years. In October, with help from a program designed to assist people experiencing homelessness, he moved into a trailer in a community village in Central Texas.
He said he's grateful to be in the position he is in, with an income, and a roof over his head, but not all who live the lifestyle he knows so well are able to get into the same position.
“Some people have been homeless for such a long time that’s all they know, they may need some sort of counseling or money management or learn how to take care of themselves every day," Brandenberg stated.
Even though Brandenberg has found a home, advocates expect to see a higher homeless population in the state when an annual count is conducted at the end of January.
At the time of the last count, the agency counted 23,695 people experiencing homelessness. That is a slight uptick from the year before, when the homeless population in Texas was at its lowest point since 2012.
"This year when we conduct the point in time census we realize it will be much different from years past because of the number of evacuees from Harvey," Samuels added. "We still have 10,000 people that we know of that are in hotels across the state, that still don't have stable housing to go back to."
The grant money comes in addition to $5.2 billion appropriated from the federal government for disaster funding after Harvey, according to Neal Rackleff, Assistant Secretary for Community Planning and Development in HUD. Rackleff said there are "more resources in Texas than they have ever had before," explaining that the government is "working closely with Texas officials" to alleviate effects from Harvey.
One expert said the money provided through HUD's Continuum of Care program which is the source of the grant funding, is "essential to ending homelessness" in Texas and the nation.
"Supportive housing reduces expensive hospitalization and jail time, which saves taxpayers money," said Ann Howard, executive director of Ending Community Homelessness Coalition, Inc (ECHO), based in Austin. "So, these grants are a double win!"
Howard was in charge of coordinating the application process for the Central Texas region.
"I'm breathing a sigh of relief that ECHO's leadership paid off as evident in Washington renewing 100 percent of grants to Austin non-profits," Howard said, mentioning that local supportive housing programs have a 93 percent success rate at helping people secure and maintain housing.
In his announcement, Carson, a doctor, emphasized the health aspect of curbing homelessness.
"Stable housing is critically important to health," he explained, saying that step one is getting people off the street before focusing on longer-term problems. He said housing a person experiencing homelessness is "cheaper than not housing them."
"We must learn to be pragmatic and compassionate at the same time," Carson explained.
Brandenberg said people have to mentally buy-in.
“You have to want to get out of your situation, you’ve got to follow through, and that’s the biggest problem—following through,” he said.
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