HUD Reinventing the Nation's Approach to Homelessness


Agency: Department of Housing and Urban Development

Title: Reinventing the Nation's Approach to Homelessness

Background Information

HUD is reinventing relationships in the delivery of public and private assistance to the homeless. Its continuum of care approach is aimed at moving from decisions on homeless funding made in Washington to decisions made locally with the participation of the homeless, nonprofit service providers, neighborhood groups, business, foundations and government officials. To implement this goal, the Administration has submitted legislation to combine 6 categorical programs into one consolidated program designed to support continuum of care systems developed locally to reflect local needs.

The Department is playing a leading role in re-thinking and restructuring Federal homeless assistance to ensure appropriate services and housing are developed and delivered to homeless persons through a new continuum of care approach. this approach recognizes that homelessness represents the most extreme breakdown of our housing and social service systems. Many homeless persons face multiple barriers to independent living. In addition to lack of housing they often face mental illness, lack of a job, job training and placement and others. The continuum of care concept brings the homeless into a system, assesses needs and provides those persons with a full range of services, if appropriate, needed to regain independent living and helps ensure transition into permanent housing at whatever point the person is ready. This approach also recognizes that continuum of care systems only can be effectively developed by returning decision-making to communities, where the homeless, and public and private sectors work and can work together to assess needs, determine gaps in the current system and bring resources to bear in a comprehensive way to address the various needs of the homeless.

Secretary Cisneros, as Chairman of the Interagency Council on the Homeless, in conjunction with Co- Chairs Secretary Donna Shalala of HHS and Secretary Jesse Brown of the VA and other federal agencies serving the homeless have begun to move Federal assistance toward the continuum of care approach. Through their leadership a new strategy titled Priority: Home! The Federal Plan to Break the Cycle of Homelessness was developed which lays out a new approach for addressing homelessness. The new system is being developed and implemented through the cooperation of state and local government agencies, nonprofit provider organizations, foundations and private business and homeless persons.

HUD made significant progress in restructuring Federal homeless assistance through its new continuum of care initiative. The concept was advanced through the creation of an innovative homeless demonstration in 1993, the funding of innovative local continuum of care demonstration fund in 1993, the funding of innovative local continuum of care demonstration programs, the development of consolidated planning and the proposed legislation to reorganize McKinney Act programs.

HUD began its continuum of care approach with a pilot initiative with Washington DC in the summer of 1993. In October 1993, HUD secured Congressional approval for an Innovative Homeless Initiatives Demonstration program with $100 million in FY 1994 funds. On February 9, 1994, the Secretary awarded $25 million in the competitive portion of the program to 48 grantees in 26 states. This set of awards was accomplished in record time, with applications being received and reviewed, and awards announced, in less than one month, to assure that help would not be delayed. The grants fund local innovative approaches to filling gaps within the context of developing a comprehensive continuum of care system to address homeless needs. For example, Atlanta received $1 million to fill gaps in its provision of emergency shelter, transitional housing and prevention activities.

The remaining $75 million in discretionary Innovation Demonstration funds was targeted for setting up partnerships with communities to development and implement comprehensive continuum of care strategies. The original pilot community, Washington DC, was awarded $20 million. Subsequent cities to receive awards have been Los Angeles ($20 million), Denver ($5 million) and Miami ($15 million). The Department will announce one more community in the near future.

HUD is including an emphasis on addressing homeless needs through a continuum of care approach in its consolidated planning initiative that will affect states and over 900 metropolitan cities and urban counties.

Congress is now finishing work on the Administration's proposal to reorganize McKinney programs into a new formula allocation program that seeks to ensure a balanced development and utilization of resources for emergency, transitional and permanent housing for homeless persons and families.

The McKinney reorganization proposal is different from a block grant proposal because it will involve more than transferring funds by a formula to communities. States and localities will have to carefully assess the existing relationships between emergency, transitional and permanent housing and the unique needs of the local homeless populations. This comprehensive assessment of resources and needs will involve a community planning board representing the interests of the homeless, service providers and government. HUD field offices will help states and localities in their implementation of "continuum of care" systems.

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