It feels like we’re all bracing for a siege. By we all, I mean mostly us city dwellers.
A lot of the things that President-elect Donald Trump and the people he is nominating for his cabinet have said they want to do, if done all at once, would turn United States cities upside-down and inside-out.
Some changes that have been talked about include getting rid of the Affordable Care Act with or without replacing it right away, threatening to privatize Social Security, privatizing Medicare, doing away with Medicare and replacing it with a voucher system, replacing the public school system with a voucher system, and I don’t know what else. I’ve lost track of it all.
What about housing? I haven’t heard much said about it, but what is the likelihood that a real-estate mogul for president is going to feel any motivation to keep funding up for subsidized housing? How would that play to his base? I’m expecting anywhere from deep slashes in federal funding to complete elimination.
If you think homelessness is bad now, strap in.
Almost all organized efforts to end homelessness in this area have been based on the premise that federal funding would supplement state funds to create and maintain housing. To that end, a lot of work has gone into satisfying various federal conditions for such funding.
For example, it has never been good enough to take a bunch of pictures of people sleeping in doorways, alleys and tents, make an album and send it off to D.C. with a letter saying, “See what we got here? Please send money.” Instead, the federal government has wanted a count of homeless people in our region.
The count should be as complete as possible. If the homeless people are also using services that need to be funded, such as shelters and food programs, the feds have wanted even more information: names, genders, birthdates, marital statuses, favorite colors, dietary needs/preferences, classic, rock, country or other fill-in-the-blanks.
OK, it’s not that bad. However, next January, on the 27th, we will have the annual Point in Time count here in King County, and it is shaping up to be a big deal.
It has been called The One Night Count for more than 30 years and done by the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness (SKCCH). This year there’s been some major changes. skcch is participating as consultants. The counting will be done by a California organization called Applied Survey Research. The name has been changed to Count Us In.
The biggest change: They are threatening to count everywhere.
The count will move from a “known area” found to a complete canvass of every census track in King County, according to an announcement from All Home.
One way they expect to pull this off is to pay actual homeless and formerly homeless people who have lived in those tracts $15 per hour to serve as guides for the counters. Have you ever camped in a greenbelt? You could rake the money in the night of Jan. 27. Enough to rent a motel room in Kirkland for the next day, supposing you already had a $20.
But I digress. The point is we are talking about a major expansion of the count to all areas to satisfy the federal push to get as complete a picture of homelessness in our country as possible.
In return for what?
We’ve been told for years, document the need and demonstrate ability to use what funds we receive to get people off the street. Document the need, document the outcomes. If it works and it’s needed, the federal government will pay for it, and we believed that. That’s why we had a Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness, to build the systems that would let us document need and outcomes.
But what if the new administration just uses funding that would have been budgeted for housing and uses it to cut taxes on the rich?
It could be that next month for the first time in almost 40 years an annual count of the homeless in King County counts every single area and attempts to count all the homeless people and not just some of them.
And it could be that within months after that the whole reason for counting them all may be junked.