Chronic Homelessness in the FY 2015 CoC NOFA: What’s Different?

This post is the third in a series examining the Department of Housing and Urban Development's recently released Notice of Funding Availability for the Fiscal Year 2015 Continuum of Care Competition. You can find the full series here: FY 2015 CoC NOFA.

Last month, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) released a Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) for the Fiscal Year 2015 Continuum of Care (CoC) Program competition. The competition will determine funding for homeless programs around the country.

Over the last 10 years, HUD has invested heavily in programs that provide permanent supportive housing (PSH) for chronically homeless persons. The scaling up of PSH has resulted in a dramatic reduction in chronic homelessness in the U.S.

HUD uses a competitive application process to determine funding for programs, which has driven the country closer to the goal of ending chronic homelessness. For CoC applicants this boils down to points. HUD has for many past NOFAs given more points, or a competitive edge, to CoCs who propose to fund more PSH for chronically homeless persons.

So what’s different this year?

  • Chronic homelessness isn’t the only game in town. While the federal government originally targeted chronic homelessness first, it has in recent years identified other subpopulations (families, veterans, and youth). This year, HUD is giving all these populations equal weight, i.e. equal points in the competition. The trick here is to balance your efforts across populations according to the need in your community while also leveraging other housing resources
  • Your PSH programs must be high-performing. In the past, CoCs that prioritized PSH gained a competitive edge. That’s no longer good enough this year. CoCs must prioritize PSH programs that are effective at keeping people housed, connecting people with mainstream benefits and supports, improving incomes when possible, and contributing to the overall CoC goals. This year’s NOFA is much more competitive because of this kind of emphasis on performance.
  • PSH programs need to be targeting chronically homeless persons. Programs that provide PSH beds for chronically homeless persons should have procedures in place that ensure they are indeed placing the most vulnerable and chronically homeless persons in those beds. To make sure this happens, CoCs may need to pool additional funds to incentivize landlords to take in chronically homeless clients who may be harder to house. In this competition, HUD will be looking for changes in designated or prioritized beds for chronically homeless persons.
  • There are new opportunities to leverage service dollars. CoC programs have an opportunity to use Medicaid to fund supportive services in PSH, particularly in states that have expanded Medicaid to all low-income persons. It will be important in your application to demonstrate that you are taking steps to align Medicaid or other health funding to pay for these services. When Medicaid pays for these services it frees up more HUD money to pay for much needed housing for PSH.
  • Reallocation is your best bet to increase PSH. The NOFA is stressing reallocation this year. While high performing CoCs may be able to increase their funding, the most reliable way for CoCs to increase their PSH capacity will be to reallocate funds from existing programs into PSH. In addition, reallocation to PSH, even if it’s from poor performing PSH to high performing PSH will get you more points, making your CoC application more competitive as a whole.
  • Use the Housing First approach. This is hardly new, but it’s always worth repeating. CoC programs need to enroll people into housing programs without pre-requisites. Once a person is housed then providers can offer services and support. This approach works. If your CoC has PSH providers that still aren’t on board or who have a different understanding of Housing First, it’s time to consider reallocating funds to providers who will use a Housing First Approach. HUD is promoting Housing First in the NOFA with additional points.

Developing an application for HUD funding is an opportunity for CoCs to reflect on their progress towards ending chronic homelessness. It's also an opportunity for your CoC to take concrete steps to ensure further progress. The goal of ending chronic homelessness is getting closer every day.

The good news is we know what works, PSH. Filing a competitive CoC application can help you secure more funding for PSH and get you on your way. Best of luck completing your applications this year and in your efforts to end chronic homelessness!