On Feb. 7, 2017, a small group came together at the First Baptist Church in Jamaica Plain to learn about the change in administration at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
Hosted by City Mission, the panel included speakers the Rev. June Cooper, Eric Shupin, Lynda Watson, Michael Kane and Mehreen Butt.
About three years ago, City Mission shifted its focus from social work to homelessness prevention. Its goal is to eradicate homelessness in Boston with education, empowerment and community engagement. Founded in 1816, City Mission was the first non-profit organization in New England and is 201 years old.
“The one thing we have is each other,” said Cooper, executive director at City Mission.
Eric Shupin, the director of public policy at Citizens Housing and Planning Association, discussed the Trump administration and what effect it might have on key programs in Boston. In order to keep crucial resources available, the production and preservation of affordable housing needs to be encouraged.
Dr. Ben Carson, the presumptive HUD Secretary, has no housing background or experience. However, he is not actively working to dismantle HUD. This is a stark contrast to the rest of Trump’s cabinet. Carson is committed to supporting key programs, such as the Housing Choice Voucher (Section 8) Program, Section 8-based Public Housing, Housing for the Elderly (Section 202), Housing for Persons with Disabilities (Section 811), Community Development Block Grants (CDBG), Home Block Grants, Continuum of Care Homeless Assistance Grants and the National Housing Trust Fund.
However, despite Carson’s vocal support for those areas, HUD’s budget still looks vulnerable. “Many of these programs are under direct threat from the Trump administration,” said Shupin, referencing potential budget cuts.
In December, Trump selected Rep. Michael “Mick” Mulvaney as his nominee for the director of the Office of Management and Budget. There’s been discussion of $11.7 trillion potential cuts to Medicare and cutting Social Security below current levels. There’s also the possibility that all of these changes would eliminate funding for an estimated 5 million people in HUD housing.
Mehreen Butt, director of public policy at Rosie’s Place, discussed how household income and likelihood to vote are directly correlated. The less income a household makes, the less likely they will be to vote. Voter restriction laws are also going to be implemented. “We need to make sure we aren’t making it harder for people to vote,” said Butt.
This trend is as relevant to the Commonwealth as anywhere else. The poverty rate in Massachusetts is the highest it’s been since 1966. Income inequality is high and is still on the rise. To keep pace with the demand for affordable housing, the supply must be increased.
Rosie’s Place was founded in 1974 as the first women’s shelter in the United States. The organization has never accepted any government funding. They’ve provided housing, educational and employment opportunities, clothing, wellness care, transportation and other services for 12,000 women every year.
In order to for our efforts to have an influence at the federal level, it’s important to network, make contact and thank people for their efforts. Butt encourages voting and getting involved. She suggests getting to know your local representatives, contacting your elected officials, networking and staying informed via social media. And of course, voting.
“You should know them, they should know you,” said Butt, “We choose to live here [Massachusetts]; it’s a great place!”