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Federal Homelessness Assistance Program

Many people experiencing homelessness are housed through rental assistance, vouchers and public housing. Outside of those mainstream programs, there are a number of federal programs that work to house people experiencing homelessness, directly or indirectly. Many of these programs are part of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), while others are run through other agencies either in collaboration with HUD or on their own.

The United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) convenes 19 cabinet secretaries and agency heads to carry out cross-agency solutions to ending homelessness. USICH is an independent federal agency in the executive branch and also leads Opening Doors, the federal plan to prevent and end homelessness.

Department of Housing and Urban Development

Continuum of Care Program (CoC)

The CoC Program provides funding to both nonprofit and state organizations for three central goals: quickly rehousing families, promoting access to programs for people experiencing homelessness and encouraging self-sufficiency for homeless families and individuals. In fiscal year 2015, CoC provided about $1.9 billion to new and continued projects in all 50 states, three territories, and the District of Columbia.

Emergency Solutions Grants Program (ESG)

The ESG Program provides funding for a range of homeless services, from engaging with families and individuals living on the street to preventive services to keep families and individuals housed. For fiscal year 2016, the ESG awarded $270 million to grantees.

Family Unification Program (FUP) vouchers

The Family Unification Program (FUP) is a program under which Housing Choice Vouchers (HCVs) are provided to two different populations. According to HUD, the following populations are eligible for FUP vouchers:

  1. Families for whom the lack of adequate housing is a primary factor in:
    1. The imminent placement of the family’s child or children in out-of-home care,
    2. The delay in the discharge of the child or children to the family from out-of-home care.
  2. For a period not to exceed 36 months, otherwise eligible youths who have attained at least 18 years and not more than 24 years of age and who have left foster care, or will leave foster care within 90 days, in accordance with a transition plan described in section 475(5)(H) of the Social Security Act, and who are homeless or are at risk of becoming homeless at age 16 or older.

The Housing Opportunity Through Modernization Act of 2016 changed the eligibility requirements and length of services for youth aging out of foster care from 21 years old to 24 years old and from 18 months to 36 months, respectively.

Housing Opportunities for Persons With AIDS (HOPWA)

HOPWA provides housing assistance and supportive services to low-income individuals living with HIV/AIDS and experiencing homelessness (or at risk of becoming homeless). The program has been in place since the passage of the AIDS Housing Opportunities Act of 1990. The main goal is to provide persons living with HIV/AIDS stable housing while they seek or undergo medical treatment. According to the National AIDS Housing Coalition, the program has been severely underfunded, with a calculated need in fiscal year 2016 of $1.12 billion compared to the $301 million that was awarded. The Housing Opportunity Through Modernization Act of 2016 included a formula change for the allocation of HOPWA funding to reflect current HIV/AIDS trends. The updated formula will allocate funding based on cases of people “living with HIV” as opposed to the old “cumulative AIDS” cases, which included deceased persons.

Rural Housing Stability Assistance Program (RHSP)

The role of the RHSP is to “re-house or improve the situations of persons who are homeless or in the worst housing situation.” There are 13 approved uses of RHSP funding, ranging from direct rental assistance to administrative costs.

Title V Surplus Property Program

Under the Title V Federal Surplus Property program, HUD creates an inventory of unused, underutilized or otherwise surplus federal property that can be used to assist homeless persons. HUD is responsible for creating the inventory, while parties interested in acquiring those properties apply through the Department of Health and Human Services.

Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program (YHDP)

According to HUD, the purpose of the YHDP is to “learn how communities can successfully approach the goal of preventing and ending youth homelessness.” The YHDP hopes to accomplish this by approaching the issue from a comprehensive perspective. It also instructs grant recipients to engage with the particular struggles of various subgroups of youth, including LGBTQ and young parents.

Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)

HUD Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing Program (HUD-VASH)

The HUD-VASH Program is a collaboration among HUD, the VA and public housing authorities to house veterans experiencing homelessness. Veterans experiencing homelessness and their immediate families can receive Section 8 vouchers from HUD and the public housing authorities, while the VA provides supportive services for issues like mental health and substance abuse.

Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF)

Supportive services grants are awarded to selected private nonprofit organizations and consumer cooperatives that assist very low-income (defined as below 50 percent of area median income) veteran families residing in or transitioning to permanent housing. Grantees provide a range of supportive services to eligible veteran families that are designed to promote housing stability. Services include, but are not limited to, outreach, case management, connection to VA benefits and programs, connection to public benefits and temporary financial assistance.

Homeless Providers Grant and Per Diem programs

Grants and per diem funding is provided to community agencies providing services to veterans experiencing homelessness. Programs must provide supportive housing or service centers that offer services like case management, education, crisis intervention, counseling and services targeted toward specialized populations, including homeless female veterans, to be eligible to apply. According to the VA, the goal of this program is “to promote the development and provision of supportive housing and/or supportive services with the goal of helping homeless veterans achieve residential stability, increase their skill levels and/or income and obtain greater self-determination.” The program has two levels of funding: the grant component and the per diem component.

Grants: May cover 65 percent of the costs of construction, renovation or acquisition of a building for use as service centers or transitional housing for homeless veterans. Recipients must obtain the matching 35 percent share from other sources, and grants do not cover operational costs.

Per diem: Operational costs, including salaries, may be funded by the per diem component. For supportive housing, the maximum amount payable under the per diem is $43.32 per day per veteran housed. For veterans receiving services through the service center and not connected to housing, per diem will cover one-eighth of the daily cost of care. Community agencies receiving funding through the grant component are given preference over non-participating community agencies.

Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)

Runaway and Homeless Youth (RHY) Programs

Through RHY, the Family and Youth Services Bureau of HHS supports street outreach, emergency shelters and longer-term transitional living and maternity group home programs to serve and protect these young people. The Transitional Living Program (TLP) for Older Homeless Youth supports projects that provide long-term residential services to homeless youth. Young people must be between the ages of 16 and 22 to enter the program and may be placed in host-family homes, group homes, maternity group homes or supervised apartments. In addition to housing, the program offers supportive services to ensure that participants can remain stably housed.

Department of Education

McKinney-Vento Act

The Department of Education is responsible for funding provisions within the McKinney-Vento Act (originally passed in 1987 and modified several times since then, most recently in 2016). McKinney-Vento was passed in 1987 to help homeless children continue to attend school despite any interruptions in their housing, with support for identification, enrollment, attendance and academic success. The act provides funding for a broad range of services, from outreach to counseling to transportation.

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