What does draining the swamp look like? Some say it is about ridding DC of the "establishment" and lobbyist, but then we see only establishment and lobbyist figures so who knows. Here are my thoughts on what is ahead for homeless people in Cleveland. I am basing these projections on what Donald Trump said when he ran for office and how it will impact homeless people. Some have said that those were just statements for the campaign, but his supporters will expect delivery on these ideas. I have also looked at the Campaign website for some hints and base these projections on previous attempts by Republicans in Congress. Some of these items were stopped because of divided government which is not the case at this time. Voters were angry at the "establishment" for not responding to their concerns, so they are not going to stand for Trump not fulfilling these promises. Here are the four websites that I looked at to formulate these projections:
- International Business Times has a good list of Trump promises
- Mashable has a good concise list of promises here
- Here is the Policy Information from the Trump Campaign Website
- Paul Ryan published a Blueprint called "A Better Way" which gave some details.
The other issue for those of us in Ohio is that Trump has said on the Campaign trail that he is fiercely loyal and feel that those who have slighted him should be punished. He repeatedly talked about the Congressmen who turned their back on him and those who did not live by the pledge they signed to support the Republican nominee for President. The Governor of Ohio as well as the Senator just re-elected both distanced themselves from the President Elect. Governor Kasich never endorsed the candidate and stated that he would not vote for Trump despite the popularity of the Presidential candidate. Portman revoked his endorsement after harassment allegations arose and stated that he was going to waste his Presidential vote with a non-existent write in candidate. There are debates about whether to end the earmarks ban, but Ohio may not benefit since we only have one member in leadership and that retaliation problem by a vindictive administration. In addition, there is a plan for infrastructure improvements, but would Ohio score poorly because of our leadership team not supporting the Republican nominee? If there is a dramatic infrastructure program that could put the skilled laborers sleeping in our shelters in Cleveland to work. Overall, it looks like Ohio is going to be a rough place in the next four years.
A Rise in Hate Crimes Against Homeless People
There is a great deal of fear and anxiety in America and typically people we do not understand become targets. Homeless people, those who stay outside, and panhandlers are certainly misunderstood and often viewed as the enemy. They are the visible expression that America is not a great place for everyone. We fear that there will be a rise in hate crimes against homeless people because of the sharp rise in hate crimes over the last few weeks. The next Justice Department is unlikely to be as sympathetic to protecting people living on the streets as the current Civil Rights Division.
Medicaid Will Likely Contract
There was such hatred for the Affordable Care Act and the cornerstone of so called "Obamacare" was the expansion of Medicaid to those living at 132% of poverty or below. This is unlikely to survive any change in the health care law. Homeless people will have to go back to the emergency room for care. Before Medicaid expansion in Ohio less than 20% of the population had insurance. Today, between 70 and 80% of the population have insurance. This has dramatically improved the health of the population and we were talking about using health care expansion to pay for stable housing because housing is healthcare. This is off the table and will not happen in the current environment. There is talk of moving to a "health savings account" system, but I am pretty sure that the savings accounts of homeless people will be overdrawn. There is also talk of privatizing Medicaid which will be great for the big insurance companies, big pharma, and horrible for low income people who are frequent health care customers.
Dramatic Changes in Housing Programs
There is no real housing lobby in Washington. We have not had a national housing policy since 1972, and no real production of housing for decades. There was no discussion of housing in the Presidential election, and the beneficiaries of housing unfortunately do not vote. People who live in subsidized housing are not protected like seniors who vote in huge numbers and protect Social Security like no other program. I see two options for the next Congress to begin to cut the budgets for housing programs. One is to privatize the market as much as possible, which the new Businessman in Chief would support. The other option is to time limit the housing like welfare reform. They actually could do both to contain costs. Congress could provide a five year lifetime limit on subsidized housing to try to reduce the huge waiting lists (7,000 people on the voucher list in Cleveland and 21,000 on the public housing list in Cleveland). The privatization has already started with housing authorities going to banks for private funding to rebuild their properties. This will only be accelerated in the next few years. Time limits would quickly fill up the shelters with disabled and fragile people who have no ability to pay the market rate for rent in Cleveland or any community.
Sequestration on Steroids
Veterans programs, military, and social security will be protected according to Trump campaign promises. While all other government programs will be subject to an across-the-board budget cut. Trump campaigned on a 1 to 2% cut in government spending to tackle the debt. This would have a huge impact on social services. We already lost shelter beds every year since Sequestration started and this will only accelerate with any cuts. It is hard to cut 1% of the beds locally, so entire programs close. Shelter beds, treatment programs, re-entry programs, food stamp programs, health care for those without money, transportation dollars, and food assistance will be reduced. The unemployment compensation and worker's compensation program has huge debt problems in many parts of the country. Both worker's assistance programs could be further privatized to attempt to eliminate federal bailouts.
The Congress has tried this in the past but not very successfully. Food stamps is the last of the entitlements that is not time limited. While most homeless people do not collect food stamps, this is the program most likely to face a time limit and a block granting to the states to administer. Funding for the shelters could also be block granted to the states. Again, this might not be so bad for some states, but in Ohio rural communities always seem to get a disproportionate amount of federal and state dollars. The rural legislators are far more powerful than the urban legislators and demand a larger piece of the pie. The example is the Ohio Housing Trust Fund which is slanted toward suburban and rural communities and those who live in urban communities suffer.
Priorities for Other Government functions
We know that immigration, building a wall, deporting millions, an infrastructure program, legal and judicial resources to defend these positions, renegotiating trade deals, and improving care to Veterans will be the priority for the administration. Trump has also promised a big tax cut for corporation and the middle class. All of these will leave little room in a balanced federal budget to also fund shelters, housing, welfare, Medicaid, and food assistance. Again, because these programs do not have a powerful lobby they will not fair well in a Trump administration. There was a promise to end all government funding for "sanctuary cities" that construct a wall between local law enforcement and federal immigration officers. This type of precedent could impact many of the largest cities in America and their homeless services funding. If the feds withhold money from Seattle, Los Angeles, Chicago and San Francisco for being "sanctuary cities" can those housing dollars go to Columbus and Youngstown? It also could be a dangerous precedent used by the federal funds to withhold dollars from local communities that do things that the President does not like.
Immigration debates could also seep into funding for the shelters in another way. The shelters have always had a strict privacy protection so that even families have a hard time getting information on their loved ones. Will the federal government demand the publicly funded shelters turn over their rosters to screen them against the list of 2 to 3 million people that the Trump administration is looking to deport? The President may demand that they open their HMIS data to federal ICE officers for inspection. The shelters may be swept into this national debate for offering a safe place to anyone who shows up at the door vs. receiving federal dollars to keep out foreign nationals.
Most of the Plans Require a Growing Economy
The Paul Ryan "A Better Way" Plan repeatedly outlines the need for a healthy growing economy in order to facilitate projections for growth in charitable giving and a recovery of the housing market. Under President Obama, the economy has grown steadily for seven years. It cannot go on with growth forever. There will always be downturns, and we do not have the safety net services that we had in the past. We will not have the tax base to absorb the number of people who need help. We do not have the shelters, the affordable housing, the job training programs that we had in the past. We are ready with food, but every other safety net has huge holes. It will be tough for everyone.
Veterans Homelessness Will Most Likely End
There are a few good things that are most likely coming in the next few years. With the public pronouncements of improving the Department of Veteran's Affairs. The Obama administration made a good headstart on ending veteran's homelessness. With a renewed focus on improving the entire VA network in the new administration, it is a good bet that veteran's homelessness will end over the next few years.
Treatment Could Actually Expand
The one area of positive reform of the social safety net might be the rate of incarceration and then the diversion into treatment programs. There has been bi-partisan plan to reform the criminal justice system to reduce some of the costs. This could translate into more resources into treatment to keep people out of jail. This could benefit Northeast Ohio which is buckling under the opioid epidemic. This may be a scratch in the end if hundreds of thousands lose health insurance locally. We could overwhelm the few additional treatment and detox beds with those without health insurance.
- Fewer affordable housing options because of time limits or privatization and a continued decline in the number of shelter beds.
- More homeless families with health issues or an inability to find a job.
- More single homeless people with fewer places to go.
- Cleveland has guaranteed access to a shelter bed. This is unlikely to survive with the expected federal funding cuts.
- Fewer homeless veterans and more treatment beds in the community.
- The local community will be expected to pick up the slack for a withdraw of funds from the Federal government.
- Trump has pledged 25 million jobs and that will benefit homeless people.
There are many in the social justice community who are worried about individual liberty, privacy and hate crimes. There are those in the social service community worried about federal block granting and huge cuts in healthcare, housing and job programs. These two worlds rarely co-exist, but may be forced into a shot gun wedding. There are a lot of unknowns, but if the Trump Administration fulfills half of the promises he campaigned on, homeless people are going to be in big trouble. By Thanksgiving 2017, the face of poverty will be much different compared to 2016.
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