LETTERS TO THE EDITOR - Federal cuts could increase local homelessness

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Recent cuts to the HUD program TBRA (Tenant Based Rental Assistance) will have an impact on homelessness in Walla Walla County. Previously funded at $250,000 per year, TBRA will be reduced to $145,000 per year for our community.

According to the Walla Walla Housing Authority, this means only five TBRA housing choice vouchers for homeless families and individuals will be issued for the coming fiscal year beginning July 1. This is in comparison to the normal 20-25 vouchers issued in previous years.

The impact will be two-fold. Budget reduction will mean more folks will end up in homelessness and those already homeless will have a more difficult time moving into permanent housing.

Additionally, TBRA has been an important component to helping our homeless women at the STEP Women's Shelter move into their own home. With TBRA funding reductions, our shelter will most likely fill to capacity and be forced to push the 90-day limits of emergency shelter.

Therefore, there is no question that homelessness will increase in our community. In Walla Walla County, the average monthly rent for a two-bedroom is $713, meaning a family must have a household income of $28,520 per year to avoid spending over 30 percent of its income on rent. According to Walla Walla County Health Department, 18 percent of our residents are in poverty, which, for a family of four is income at or below $23,050 per year.

Please advocate with Sen. Patty Murray, who sits on the Senate Appropriations HUD subcommittee, to restore funding to at least FY 2012 levels. You can call her regional office in Spokane or email from her website at www.murray.senate.gov.

Finally, Helpline is studying low cost, self-sustaining alternatives to this housing crisis among the very poor in our county. Please contact me at dan@helplineww.org for more information on how to get involved.

Daniel Willms

executive director

Helpline

Walla Walla

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