Application for Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program now open

There was a lot of excitement earlier this year about the extra money included in the FY 2016 HUD appropriation “to demonstrate how a comprehensive approach to serving homeless youth… can dramatically reduce youth homelessness.” We’ve all been eagerly waiting to find out just what that $33 million (plus $5 million for technical assistance) was going to look like, and now we know! HUD released the Notice of Funding Announcement (NOFA) for the Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program (YHDP) yesterday.

The purpose of YHDP is to promote “comprehensive systems of care” to address youth homelessness rather than relying on “individual or unconnected projects.” This means moving from an “isolated impact” to a “collective impact,” which is how so many states and localities have made so much progress on veteran homelessness.

Up to 10 communities, including at least four rural communities, will be supported by YHDP to develop and implement a coordinated community plan to prevent and end youth homelessness. The work these communities do will be evaluated and the lessons they learn will be shared with other communities to improve homeless youth policy and practice.

How can YOUR community become a YHDP site?

1. Who can apply?

First, your CoC’s Collaborative Applicant must apply; however, the “community” applying can be a smaller geographic area within the CoC. For example, in a big Balance of State CoC, the community applying could be just one town, a few towns, or a region within the Balance of State. Collaborative Applicants can apply for more than one community within their geographical area, but HUD will only select one community per CoC.

2. What are the application and community plan requirements?

To be eligible for selection, CoCs must either have or create a Youth Advisory Board (YAB) that is actively involved in the creation and implementation of the community’s coordinated plan to prevent and end youth homelessness.
Additionally, the CoC must demonstrate that the local or state child welfare will be a committed partner in the YHDP.
After being selected as a YHDP site, other items that a community’s coordinated plan needs to be approved include a:

  • Statement of need about homeless and at-risk youth in the community
  • List of community partners and how they will be involved in the YHDP
  • Shared vision and list of goals and action steps and which of the partners are responsible for each
  • List of the new projects (funded by HUD and other sources) for implementing the plan
  • Governance structure
  • Plan for continuous quality improvement (CQI)
  • Signature page documenting official representation from at least these YHDP partners:
    • CoC
    • Child welfare
    • Local government agency
    • Youth advisory board

3. What HUD principles are mandatory?

Community plans must also incorporate the following HUD principles:

  • Commitment to the USICH Youth Framework and its Four Core Outcomes
  • Commitment to identifying and addressing the needs of special subpopulations of homeless youth, including LGBTQ youth, unaccompanied homeless minors, system-involved youth (child welfare and juvenile justice), trafficked or exploited youth, and pregnant and parenting youth
  • Adherence to Positive Youth Development (PYD) and Trauma-Informed Care (TIC)
  • Inclusion of family engagement services and strategies
  • Immediate access to housing with no preconditions (I.e., “housing first”). For purposes of this NOFA, transitional housing can be considered “housing first” if it is low-barrier, has no preconditions for entry, has voluntary services, and works to quickly move clients into permanent housing.
  • Youth choice and self-determination
  • Individualized, client-driven supports
  • Social and community integration
  • Youth appropriate coordinated entry

4. How will applicants be evaluated?

HUD will evaluate communities applying for YHDP on several factors, with a total of 100 points available. Those factors include:

  • Leadership capacity (20 points)
  • Current resource capacity (5 points)
  • Community need (10 points)
  • Capacity for innovation (15 points)
  • Collaboration (20 points)
  • Financial resources (10 points)
  • Data and evaluation capacity (20 points)

So a community is selected as a YHDP site, what happens next?

Selected communities will have up to six months to develop their coordinated community plans (with lots of HUD technical assistance). They will then have up to an additional six months to receive feedback from HUD and edit their plans accordingly.

This coordinated community plan is the foundation for how individual projects funded through the YHDP will be implemented,. Until the plan has been approved by HUD, only 30% of the total project funding may be applied for and used. (After approval, the other 70% of a community’s project funding can be applied for and used.) Each of the selected communities will be eligible to apply for a minimum award of $1 million, with no limit on the number of projects funded by that award. Projects funded through the YHDP will be awarded two year grants, except for planning grants, which are only for one year.

All projects funded under the YHDP must participate in Homeless Management and Information System (HMIS), with the usual exceptions for victim service providers, and are subject to certain project quality thresholds themselves. They must also participate in the evaluation of the YHDP. To best understand how their project fits into both the YHDP and their CoC, all project applicants should also familiarize themselves with the entire YHDP NOFA, the CoC Interim Rule, and the most recent CoC NOFA General Section.

What projects can my community develop with YHDP?

Because the YHDP is a demonstration from which we can learn lessons about the most effective ways to prevent and end youth homelessness, there will be a lot of flexibility in allowed projects. All projects that are permitted for CoCs will be allowed as new projects for the YHDP. This includes: rapid re-housing, permanent supportive housing, transitional housing (TH) – including crisis residential TH, HMIS, and Supportive Services Only.

And for added flexibility, communities may request waivers of CoC regulations (but not of statutory requirements of the McKinney-Vento Act and not waivers of any fair housing or civil rights requirements) and even propose projects that are not renewable for CoC funding or are even not CoC-eligible.

Projects that do not require waivers and are CoC-renewable include:

  • Host homes and kinship care, where the increased costs to the host family are CoC eligible program costs
  • Shared housing

Some projects that are CoC-renewable but require waivers include:

  • Enhanced rapid re-housing ( e.g., letting youth sublease from the program or combining rental assistance and leasing costs or operating costs as long as the funds are not used for the same client in the same unit)
  • Transition aged youth rental assistance, providing assistance longer than currently allowed for rapid re-housing (2 years)
  • Increased security deposits
  • Security deposits and first and last month’s rent for clients moving out of TH (with evidence why TH occupancy charges cannot be used and evidence that the client savings from a TH stay are insufficient to cover the costs)

Some projects that could be funded under the YHDP but are not renewable under the CoC include:

  • CoC-ineligible costs for host homes or kinship care like increased utility bills for the host family

Why is the YHDP important?

With its focus on community coordination, youth-empowerment, lowering barriers, and the involvement of mainstream systems, particularly the child welfare system, the YHDP represents a huge step forward on youth homelessness in this country. The increased capacity, the innovations developed, and the lessons learned will have our country well on the way to effectively ending youth homelessness by the Opening Doors goal of 2020.

YHDP applications must be submitted by November 30, 2016. Selected communities will be announced in January 2017, and project funding requests can begin in the spring! To learn more about the YHDP, attend the USICH webinar on September 15th. We will also be discussing the YHDP and how to develop a systemic response to youth homelessness in next month’s meeting of the Youth Rapid Re-Housing Learning Community, so if you are a part of that community, be sure to sign up!