Philadelphia Inquirer: Charitable organizations can’t be the only ones working to solve hunger and housing crises

Each of us has been affected by the COVID pandemic. Among the hardest hit are the economically vulnerable, including those who are homeless or near-homeless, and those struggling with food insecurity.

Even in ordinary times (if such times exist), Philadelphians are working hard and struggling every day to fill their refrigerators or to put roofs over their heads. During the pandemic, these struggles have been hard to ignore: longer food lines and homeless encampments are among the obvious manifestations. Meanwhile, high rates of unemployment and small business closings have been adding to the already high numbers of hungry and homeless Philadelphians — and throughout the country.

We are all yearning for the pandemic to ease and the economy to bounce back. But we must seize the moment and work to create a stronger economy that ensures all people have real opportunities to thrive. Nonprofits have been working on the ground in Philadelphia and around the nation toward this goal — but that success depends on the full engagement of government at every level.

Nutritious food and affordable housing cannot be left to charitable organizations alone. It is essential that the federal government play a leading role in ending and preventing hunger and homelessness. Federal investment can transform the lives of individuals, families, and communities.

Our legislators in Washington, D.C. must act with urgency. Short- and long-term relief bills, passed by the House of Representatives, sit stuck in the Senate. One is the HEROES Act, which provides critically needed rental assistance and important increases in nutrition programs like SNAP. Another is HR 2, a massive infrastructure bill designed to ensure that people have the jobs and income that can provide food and shelter. Rep. Dwight Evans has recently introduced the Making Housing Matter Plan, and we’re hopeful that will assist vulnerable homeowners and renters. It’s all about the basics: People cannot survive without food on their table and a roof over their heads.

Just as nonprofits and communities must work together to address increased need during this pandemic, we need our federal government to do the same. People everywhere are struggling. We need policies, programs, and resources that will prevent families from falling into homelessness and poverty during this pandemic, and help them thrive when it is over.