The March 2005 Edition of Street Spirit

A publication of the American Friends Service Committee


National AFSC AFSC Economic Justice BOSS Website



In this issue:

Truth About Care Not Cash

Resistance to Brown's Curfew

No Millionaire Left Behind

Bush Policies Punish the Poor

Bush Rigs U.S. Society for Rich

SOS! Save Our Services

Faith Reflection on Bush Budget

Plan to End Homelessness in Ten Years

Counted Out in San Francisco

Artist Portrays Act of Giving

Berkeley Protest Demands Shelter from the Storm

Transformation of Dignity Village

George Wynn's Homeless Fiction

Poor Leonard's Almanack

Poetry of the Streets


May 2005

February 2005






Street Spirit is published by American Friends Service Committee.

All works are copyrighted by the authors.

The views expressed in Street Spirit are those of the individual authors alone, and not necessarily that of the American Friends Service Committee.


Bush Policies Shortchange the Poor

Low-income tenants across the nation are alarmed at Bush's proposed cutbacks that would place tens of thousands more at risk of homelessness by 2010

by Lynda Carson

A homeless man huddles under a blanket on a bench in downtown Berkeley. Due to Bush's cuts of federal housing programs, a bench and shopping cart may be the only housing alternatives left for millions of U.S. citizens. Lydia Gans photo.

If the homelessness situation in California and the nation seems very bleak at present, a look towards the future shows that the housing crisis for low-income Americans is going to worsen due to the Bush administration's attack on public housing and the Section 8 program. Even larger numbers of homeless people will find themselves unable to afford housing unless the nation's housing policies drastically change course.

Since 2001, about 123,000 units of low-income public housing have been demolished across the nation, and another 45,000 units or more are expected to be demolished under current policies of the Bush administration.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has been authorized funding to build only about 40,000 units to replace those demolished since 2001.

As a result of the Bush administration's policies, an additional 50,000 families will need Section 8 housing vouchers this year, according to HUD officials. Most of these families are currently residing in public housing units that are scheduled for major rehabilitation, demolition or conversion to market-rate housing that will charge more than low-income families can afford to pay.

It all adds up to an extremely flawed housing policy. As the Bush administration razes public housing units across the nation, it then proposes to cut funding for the very same vouchers being promised to those being displaced from public housing. Many affected tenants charge that they have been double-crossed by Bush's policies.

California stands to lose $665,454,248 in low-income housing dollars from HUD by 2010 under Bush's proposed cuts, according to a report released on February 18, 2005, by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP).

Based on actual funding levels for 2005, California has been authorized 300,836 Housing Choice vouchers (Section 8 vouchers). An estimate based on limited information provided by the Bush administration reveals that if the proposed ongoing cuts to HUD actually occur, California faces a projected loss of 52,925 low-income housing vouchers by 2010.

Funding shortfalls during 2005 in the Housing Choice voucher program (Section 8) already have been a disaster for cities and counties in California. San Francisco has been authorized 7,379 housing vouchers for 2005, but a shortfall of $4,953,656 may result in a loss of 300 vouchers. By 2010, the expected cuts of $30,024,417 may equal a loss of 1,293 vouchers below the 2005 level.

Oakland has been authorized 10,871 vouchers for 2005, but a shortfall of $5,330,472 may result in a loss of 414 vouchers; by 2010, the ongoing cuts may result in a loss of 1,933 vouchers below the 2005 level. By 2010, Berkeley may face an extra loss of 324 vouchers below the 2005 level, a damaging reduction.

In Alameda County, 5,456 vouchers have been authorized; but the county may face a shortfall of $2,927,319 in 2005, resulting in a loss of 222 vouchers. By 2010, Alameda County may face a shortfall of $17,706,487, which may result in a loss of 956 vouchers below the 2005 level.

In addition, the Bush administration proposes a five-year spending cap that would freeze all funding for low-income programs at the already low proposed levels for fiscal year 2006.

Alarm at drastic reductions

Bush's proposed cutbacks have outraged the poor, as housing activists up and down the state and across the nation are alarmed at the drastic reductions that would place tens of thousands more at risk of homelessness by 2010.

On February 7, the Bush administration released its budget proposal to Congress for fiscal year 2006, and education and housing programs were targeted for the most severe cuts.

Bush is proposing a massive $3.7 billion cut to HUD, amounting to nearly a 12 percent cut in the nation's housing assistance programs. HUD's current 2005 budget is about $32.4 billion, and the Bush administration proposes to cut that down to $28.5 billion for fiscal year 2006.

The amputation of CDBG

The nation's mayors have expressed alarm and outrage that the Bush administration proposes to zero out funding for the Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) in HUD, and consolidate the CDBG programs into the Labor and Commerce Department, a mostly pro-business department that has virtually no background in funding or supporting programs for very poor people.

The U.S. Conference of Mayors, the National League of Cities and the National Association of Counties have denounced the elimination of the CDBG program.

Housing activists are horrified that Bush proposes to end the federal rule that requires 75 percent of the nation's Housing Choice vouchers (Section 8) to serve the poorest of the poor. HUD and the Bush administration want to shift the housing vouchers from the poorest renters to wealthier tenants that may not need assistance to avoid homelessness.

The Bush administration's proposal to end the 75 percent rule places the nearly 2 million low-income families in the Section 8 program at risk of homelessness, and would be a disaster for cities across the nation that lack the needed funding to provide shelters for the millions that are already homeless as a result of the nation's housing policies.

Bush proposes to cut or eliminate hundreds of domestic programs. He proposes to slash the disabled housing budget in half by cutting $118 million from housing for persons with disabilities. He plans to cut $226 million from project-based Section 8 housing, making it more difficult for nonprofits to build affordable housing.

Also on the chopping block are many key housing programs, including project-based rental assistance programs, Public Housing Capital Funds, Resident Opportunity and Self Sufficiency funding, Native American Housing Block Grants, Youth Build funds, Housing for AIDS patients, Rural Housing Programs, Fair Housing Assistance Programs, Lead Paint Hazard Reduction Programs and a whole host of other programs meant to enhance the quality of our lives and the nation's housing stock as a whole.

In what could be called a deal with the devil, the Bush administration plans to convert plowshares into swords and housing into nuclear weapons. Bush proposes to cut $3.7 billion from the nation's housing assistance programs in HUD, while it proposes an extra $6.63 billion in funding to promote research on new nuclear weapons. Vitally needed bread-and-butter programs would be converted into weapons of mass destruction.

The proposed budget cuts are on a fast track, and Congress will attempt to begin work on these cuts in early March. The Bush administration's proposed budget includes language to extend the multitrillion-dollar tax cuts to the rich and to protect them from Congressional budget enforcement rules. This would help to ensure the destruction of the nation's domestic programs, as the tax cuts to the rich extend into perpetuity unless they are opposed by the American public.

Activists urge the public to reach their Congressional representatives at the Congressional Switchboard by calling 1/888/818-6641, and to tell their representatives that the proposed budget cuts must not take place and that the Bush tax cuts must be rolled back.

Contact Lynda Carson at (510) 763-1085.

1515 Webster St,#303
Oakland, CA 94612Phone: (510) 238-8080, ext. 303

E-mail: Spirit

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