The exploding cost of living and stagnated wages have made the homelessness crisis in America a significant problem, particularly in major cities. Cities like San Francisco, Chicago, and New York have all seen their populations of unhoused people explode in recent years, and while it is a multifaceted issue, it appears that the Biden administration has a plan to try and help.

A Comprehensive Legislative Plan

The Biden administration has announced a comprehensive plan to address the surge in homelessness across the United States. Homelessness reached a record high in the country during 2023, affecting more than half a million individuals over the course of the year.

Source: Wikimedia/David Lienemann

State governments have been doing what they can to address the issue, with some initiatives being more successful than others. Still, the federal government has an obligation to their citizens to do more to provide a stable living, and the administration is seeking to take decisive action regarding homelessness.

Expansion of Medicaid Coverage

One of the key components of the Biden plan is an expansion of Medicaid coverage in select states. Many people know Medicaid as the government health plan for low-income individuals, but what most do not realize is that Medicaid and similar programs can provide assistance for things like housing costs as well.

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The biden plan seeks to expand this comprehensive coverage in select states, allowing for greater flexibility in using government funds to assist low-income individuals with housing expenses.

Eight States and D.C. To Receive Funds

Eight states are set to receive funds under this new model, as well as the District of Columbia, which has also seen an unprecedented rise in homelessness. The new funds will bolster existing efforts that these states are already taking to address the homelessness crisis.

Source: Wikimedia/Michael Stokes

This particular facet of the program has support beyond the White House. Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Xavier Becerra, emphasized the importance of using federal healthcare dollars to address housing insecurity proactively, in a statement released by his office.

Addressing Root Causes

The initiative seeks to address the root causes of homelessness by improving individual’s health outcomes. One of the many predictors of housing instability is lack of healthcare and poor health, and this expansion of the Medicaid program hopes to address that.

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This is a more comprehensive approach towards the homelessness crisis than has been taken in the past. Many politicians have attempted to tackle homelessness by implementing measures that essentially criminalize homelessness without addressing the root cause of it, but Biden seems to be trying something different.

Housing Costs are a Problem As Well

The situation has only become more urgent recently, with a staggering 12% increase in homelessness between 2022 and 2023. This surge has been fueled by various factors, including rising rents and housing costs.

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Stagnated wages are a big problem as well. The federal minimum wage is still $7.25, where it has stayed since 2008. There is no state in the country where an individual can work a full-time minimum wage job and afford to pay their rent, making homelessness a constant existential threat for many people.

Becerra Releasing a Statement

Some states such as California and Arizona have already taken proactive steps to allocate Medicaid funds towards housing support for the homeless. Some of these measures include assistance with rent payments and security deposits, which can be a significant hurdle to overcome for homeless individuals seeking to become housed again.

Source: Wikimedia/The White House

Secretary Becerra praised these efforts. In a statement, he stated, “Nobody in America should experience homelessness.” It’s a common belief that many share, that in one of the wealthiest countries in the world, it doesn’t make sense that so many people suffer from such housing instability.

Other Initiatives in the Works

There are other initiatives and legislative steps in the works that would address the homelessness crisis from different angles. The push to raise the minimum wage would be a significant step towards addressing financial insecurity that can lead to homelessness.

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Some other ideas that have been floated to address the housing affordability crisis include rent ceilings. A significant number of Americans are spending a large chunk of their income just on housing costs, more than 50% for some individuals. Such high costs of living are a significant predictor of potential homelessness, and integrating rent ceilings into housing policy would be a good step towards addressing this.

A Good First Step

The new initiative by the Biden administration represents the first significant step towards providing relief towards individuals and families who are facing housing instability. In an election year, this signals a commitment to issues that are important to many liberals who will be voting at the ballot box this November.

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The move has already been met by positive reactions from various individuals on social media. The general consensus is that it’s an admirable effort towards addressing a significant, existential crisis that is plaguing the country, though it’s only the beginning of what needs to be done in order to truly tackle homelessness in America.

Further Steps Incoming?

Further steps will, of course, require bipartisan effort in a deeply divided Congress. Measures like national rent ceilings and raising the federal minimum wage will require both effort and will from members on both sides of the aisle, and it doesn’t appear that either the will or desire to put in the effort is currently there.

Source: Wikimedia/The White House

Still, Biden appears to making strides towards addressing issues that are significant to his constituents, and that is something to be celebrated. If even one city experiences a drop in homelessness levels due to Biden’s new initiative, it will be effort well spent on the part of the federal government.