October 24, 2019

Cortez Masto Cosponsors Legislation to Reduce Homelessness on Tribal Lands

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) cosponsored a bipartisan bill, led by Senators Tina Smith (D-Minn.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), to make it easier for tribes and tribally-designated housing entities to access funding to combat homelessness on tribal lands.

“Homelessness is a significant challenge on tribal lands in Nevada and across the country, with families often moving in with friends, relatives or neighbors to get by. I’m proud to cosponsor this legislation to help tribes provide solutions to homelessness, so Nevadans in our Native communities can thrive in safe, affordable and quality housing.”

In addition to Senators Cortez Masto, Smith and Murkowski, the Senate bill is also cosponsored by Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.). U.S. Representatives Denny Heck (D-Wash.-10) and Sean Duffy (R-Wis.-7) introduced a companion bill in the House.

BACKGROUND:

The Tribal Access to Homeless Assistance Act would:

  • Make tribes and tribally-designated housing entities eligible to submit funding requests through their local Continuum of Care, and;
  • Ensure tribes and tribally-designated housing entities are eligible to take on the administration and coordination of homeless assistance grants within their geographic area.

According to a study commissioned by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), there are between 42,000 and 85,000 homeless Native Americans living on tribal lands. Homelessness on tribal lands often leads to families moving in with neighbors—sixteen percent of American Indian and Alaska Native households experience overcrowding, compared to only two percent of all households in the United States. Despite the prevalence of homelessness in Indian Country, tribes and tribally designated housing entities are unable to access the Homeless Assistance Grants offered by the Department of Housing.

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 playing 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.

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