Warren, Neguse, Pressley and Tlaib Call on Congressional Leadership to Include Robust Funding to Aid the Homeless in Next COVID-19 Relief Package

May 8, 2020
Press Release
Warren, Colleagues Also Introduce Bill to Provide $11.5 Billion for States and Localities Responding to the Needs of Those Experiencing Homelessness

Letter (PDF) | Bill Text (PDF)

Washington D.C.- Today, United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) joined Representatives Joe Neguse (D-Colo.), Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) in sending a letter urging House and Senate leadership to include $11.5 billion in funding for Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG) in the next relief package to aid the nation's homeless population who are experiencing heightened vulnerability during the COVID-19 pandemic. The letter was signed by 73 Members of Congress.

Senator Warren also announced that Senators Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Benjamin Cardin (D-Md.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), and Tina Smith (D-Minn.) signed on as original co-sponsors of her legislation, the Public Health Emergency Shelter Act, which would provide the $11.5 billion in critical funding to states and local governments responding to the needs of families and individuals experiencing homelessness during the COVID-19 crisis. The bill has been endorsed by the National Low Income Housing Coalition, National Housing Law Project, and National Alliance to End Homelessness.

On any given night, half a million people in the United States will face homelessness. This includes more than 50,000 families with children, who often turn to emergency shelters for housing. A new report estimates individuals experiencing homelessness who contract coronavirus will be twice as likely to be hospitalized, up to four times as likely to need critical care, and two to three times as likely to die as the general population.. These vulnerabilities put both those experiencing homelessness and our frontline healthcare and human services workers at higher risk.

"We must do everything we can to meet the safety and emergency housing needs of Americans without stable housing during this public health emergency," said Senator Warren. "Investing in the ESG program will help us protect families and individuals experiencing homelessness-who are at increased risk of contracting COVID-19-and the frontline workers providing those critical services."

"The COVID-19 pandemic has left the nation facing unprecedented public health and economic crises that have exacerbated underlying inequities and devastated those already living on the margins," said Congressman Neguse. "Those experiencing homelessness are more likely to be hospitalized or need critical care if they contract COVID-19, and lack of sanitation and shelter make them all the more vulnerable to being infected. We must not let this vulnerable population remain in the shadows of society, and we must provide adequate resources to keep our homeless population and the brave workers who assist them keep safe during this health crisis."

"Housing is a critical determinant of public health, and that has never been more true than during the COVID-19 pandemic," said Congresswoman Pressley. "We have a moral obligation to protect the health and safety of all people, particularly our most vulnerable, and that includes ensuring our neighbors facing homelessness and the workers who support them have the resources they need to remain safe and healthy amid this crisis. These Emergency Solutions Grants give local providers the flexibility to be responsive to the needs of their communities by providing funding for training, protective equipment, rapid rehousing efforts, and more."

"Any further relief packages that don't address the dire vulnerability of the hundreds of thousands of people experiencing homelessness in our country is a failure of our moral duty as Congressmembers to be a voice for the least fortunate among us,"  Congresswoman Tlaib said. "Those without roofs over their heads, the ability to regularly wash their hands, or even seek medical care should they contract this life-threatening virus need our support more than ever. Our congressional leaders must insist that we prioritize the most basic human needs that our neighbors deserve to have met, especially during this crisis."

The flexibility of ESG funding allows states, localities, and nonprofits to react quickly to the needs of these vulnerable communities, including through rapid rehousing and expedited long-term rehousing, and helping to lessen the density of, and reliance on, temporary shelters. These funds may also be used for sanitation efforts such as portable hand-washing stations and the purchase of hand sanitizer and personal protective equipment, so individuals can follow the health practices recommended by public health experts to halt the spread of coronavirus. 

"The pandemic has shown more starkly the health implications of homelessness and unstable housing. Funding safe housing and street care is morally just, cost effective and in the interest of public health. The National Housing Law Project supports Senator Warren and Representative Pressley's Public Health Emergency Shelter Act to prevent high rates of infection and death through stable housing solutions." -- Shamus Roller, Executive Director of the National Housing Law Project

"The National Alliance to End Homelessness strongly supports the Public Health Emergency Shelter Act of 2020, which would increase funding for Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG) by $11.5 billion to ensure that Americans experiencing homelessness can be kept safe and the incidence of homelessness reduced during this pandemic.  The ESG funding will improve shelters, rapidly re-house a significant fraction of the homeless population, and find safer alternatives to shelters. The Alliance thanks Senator Warren, Representative Pressley, Representative Neguse, and House Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Waters for their exemplary leadership on behalf of our homeless neighbors." -- The National Alliance to End Homelessness

"It has never been more clear that housing is health care. People experiencing homelessness are at high risk of both severe illnesses from coronavirus and of potentially spreading it to others given their inability to isolate or self-quarantine after being exposed to the illness. The recent coronavirus package included $4 billion in critically needed resources for people experiencing homelessness, but far more is needed. NLIHC will work with Senator Warren to ensure that Congress includes her bill in the next spending package to fully provide the resources needed to protect against or contain an outbreak of coronavirus among people who are homeless. This is not only a moral imperative; it's an urgent public health necessity. Our collective health depends on every one of us being safely and affordably housed." -- Diane Yentel, president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition