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House Advances Heck Bill to Help Tribes Combat Homelessness

Nov 18, 2019
Press Release
Legislation would make tribes and tribally designated housing entities eligible to access Homeless Assistance Grants.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the House of Representatives passed the bipartisan Tribal Access to Homeless Assistance Act, a bill to allow tribes and tribally designated housing entities to access funding to combat homelessness on tribal lands. The bill, H.R. 4029, advanced out of the House on November 18 unanimously.

“Today’s vote is a small but important step in combatting Indian Country’s housing crisis,” said Congressman Denny Heck. “The data is disturbingly clear: Indian Country is experiencing pervasive homelessness and overcrowding, caused by a shortage of affordable housing. By establishing tribal eligibility for federal assistance, we can improve tribes’ ability to effectively combat homelessness and potentially help tens of thousands of people in Indian Country.”

“We should be doing everything we can to help Tribes fight homelessness in their communities, but right now they aren’t able to access most federal funds to do so,” said Senator Tina Smith, a member of both the Senate Indian Affairs and Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committees. “I’m very glad that this legislative fix is one step closer to becoming law after clearing the House today, and I’ll be pressing to advance our bipartisan proposal through the Senate as soon as possible. It’s the right thing to do.”

“Homelessness is a pervasive issue that affects far too many families in our Native communities,” said Congressman Don Young. “The Tribal Access to Homeless Assistance Act takes important steps to help end this epidemic, and expand tribes’ access to services that help homeless populations. I am proud to have cosponsored this legislation and will continue working to turn the tide in the fight against homelessness.”

“NAIHC is excited by the House passage of the Tribal Access to Homeless Assistance Act. Tribes should always be included in national housing programs, and this bill will ensure tribes are eligible to participate and better coordinate with their regional partners to combat homelessness in tribal communities. NAIHC wants to thank Congressman Heck and other House sponsors, and looks forward to working with the Senate to ensure final passage of the bill,” said Adrian Stevens, Vice-Chairman of the Board of Directors of the National American Indian Housing Council (NAIHC) and Executive Director of the Seneca Nation Housing Authority.

The Department of Housing requires communities to take a strategic and coordinated approach to homeless prevention and housing services for homeless families and individuals. Communities must organize under the umbrella of a local or regional planning system—called a Continuum of Care (CoC) before submitting applications for Homeless Assistance Grants. CoCs, which represent geographic areas, coordinate outreach and intake of the local homeless population, emergency shelter services, transitional housing with supportive services, and permanent supportive housing for individuals and families. Nonprofits, local governments, or other eligible applicants can submit funding requests for specific projects or programs through the CoC planning body.

The Tribal Access to Homeless Assistance Act would make tribes and tribally designated housing entities eligible to submit funding requests through their local CoC. It would also ensure that tribes and tribally designated housing entities are eligible to take on the administration and coordination of homeless assistance grants within their geographic area.