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The Stewart B Mckinney Homeless Assistance Act: A Policy Analysis

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Running head: MCKINNEY ACT

The Stewart McKinney Homeless Assistance Act: A Policy Analysis

Janelle Horton & Amy Lakin

Cornerstone University


Homelessness has always been a problem for the United States. Since its birth as a nation, there have consistently been individuals who find themselves without a place to live, looking for shelter with family, friends, or simply anywhere they can find it. These individuals have been targeted as candidates for social aid, but this was primarily provided by churches and other care organizations. However, in the past thirty years the homeless population has increased almost exponentially in numbers. While the cause of this is undetermined, it is quite certain that while the homeless did present a social problem previously, there is no doubt that homelessness had reached a point that something had to be done about it on a national level. To begin to alleviate this problem, the Stewart B. McKinney Homeless Assistance Act was put into effect by the federal government. Many different economy issues were considered in the development of this bill, along with the conflict of politics and ideology. The history of homelessness also had to be considered before a bill could be implemented that would effectively stop the increase of homelessness by instating preventative forces and alleviating the situation as it remained. All these came together and resulted in what is known as the Stewart B. McKinney Homeless Assistance Act of 1987.

Paragraph about homelessness, particularly in grand rapids

Summary of the McKinney Act

The Stewart B. McKinney Homeless Assistance Act was the first major action taken by the US Federal Government to combat the social problem of homelessness (Baumohl, 1996). Their major act included measures recognizing the many long and short term needs of the homeless, including the authorization of $1 billion, and, following the death of its primary sponsor, Stewart B. McKinney, it was renamed the Stewart B. McKinney Homeless Assistance Act. President Ronald Reagan signed the bill into law on July 22, 1987.

The Stewart B. McKinney Homeless Assistance Act contains nine titles covering different aspects of the homeless issue and intervention. Title I is a collection of six findings of Congress. These cover topics such as the homeless crisis now being faced, the worsening effect of homelessness on the lives of those it impacts, the indefinable causative factors, the difficulty of finding one or few specific solutions, the need for federal intervention in the matter, and government's responsibility in the issue. Title I also states the purpose of the act as being to establish a council regarding the homeless, called the Interagency Council on the Homeless, to coordinate the uses of public resources and programs, and to provide funds for the assistance of the homeless, with specific emphasis on target populations (Baumohl, 1996).

Title II provides the specifications of the Interagency Council on the Homeless. The Council is made up of the heads of fifteen federal agencies, and works to review the aid to the homeless, evaluate and suggest improvements to homeless programs, and prepare reports for the president. In addition, the measure eliminated the Federal Interagency Task Force on Food and Shelter for the Homeless and set up the new Council as its successor.

Title III specifies the terms for the Emergency Food and Shelter Grants Program within the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). It gives the definitions for the establishment of a dispensary board within FEMA and directed the use of funds distributed by Congress.

Title IV's focus was emergency and transitional housing, giving the specifications of the funds distributed through HUD. Subtitle A required the development of a plan for addressing homelessness by large cities and counties in order to receive funding. Subtitle B is the Emergency Shelter Grants Program (ESG), providing funds to cities and other major areas, per their application by a formula, for the renovation of buildings for help to the homeless. Subtitle C set up the Supportive Housing Demonstration Program, providing funds to housing that is established to address a specific special need. Supplemental Assistance for Facilities to Assist the Homeless, Subtitle D, appropriates funds to meet needs not met under ESG or the Supportive Housing Demonstration Program, while Subtitle E was labeled as Miscellaneous Provisions, giving assistance to the renovation of single-room-occupancy housing for the homeless.

Title V stated that federal agencies were required to provide unused federally owned buildings for states and cities to use for the assistance of the homeless. Title VI established a program to provide health programs for the homeless, with funds distributed by the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS). Subtitle B, titled Community Mental Health Services, created a block grant program through HHS and funds for mental health services for the chronically mentally ill homeless, drug and alcohol abusers.

Title VII created programs for job training, community services and education of both children and adults. Subtitle B is considered one of the most important parts of this act, stating that all states must provide homeless children with free public education. Title VIII provided for the food assistance of the homeless. It amended the Food Stamp Program, making eligibility easier for the homeless. Title VIII also distributes additional surplus food to the states. Title IX, the final title of the act expanded the Veteran's Job Training Act to particularly include the homeless veterans.


Different ideologies came into conflict in the making of this bill. The conservative view of homelessness is that people should require less government aid. Due to this, funding for welfare spending was cut in the early 80s, partially contributing to the increase in the number of homeless, in addition to increasing the number of those not receiving medical aid, putting them at risk for homelessness (Keisler, 1991). However, this same ideology seeks to help those who are homeless to enable them and get them back into society (Jencks, 1994).

The liberal view of homelessness is that it is primarily an economic and societal issue (Kondratas, 1991). The deinstitutionalization of the late 70s and early



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