This post is the second 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.
Like many of our colleagues around the country, folks at the Alliance are now carefully examining the Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFA) that the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) issued earlier this month for Continuum-of-Care (CoC) programs.
The CoC grant application process is always a competitive one, but the competition will be more, well, competitive, this year than in prior years. So, what’s at stake? We are told that there is significant risk that some communities will gain new funding at the expense of other communities who will lose it.
HUD will use responses to the NOFA to determine how $1.89 billion in federal funding to assist homeless individuals, families, and youth will be distributed among CoCs in the upcoming year.
In many ways, the NOFA is one of the clearest public policy documents that HUD releases. The NOFA delineates federal priorities and goals about how HUD wants local communities to use federal funding and the outcomes they expect to see from those investments.
So, what is this public policy tool telling us about how HUD wants to see federal funds used to assist families? It is telling CoC applicants to:
- Prioritize the most vulnerable families. The NOFA awards points for communities that reserve permanent supportive housing resources – the most intensive CoC-funded housing and service intervention – for families who experience chronic homelessness. It also incentivizes CoCs to steer other program interventions like rapid re-housing and transitional housing to high-need families, such as unsheltered families, families at risk of victimization, or families who have experienced previous episodes of homelessness.
- Reduce barriers to program use. The NOFA awards points to CoCs that eradicate barriers to homeless service programs like programs that provide transitional housing or rapid re-housing. Such barriers include sobriety or income requirements or program policies that mandate compliance with services in order to participate in programs.
- Keep families together. HUD CoC-funded programs are already required to shelter and house families together (e.g. allowing adolescent boys to remain with their mothers in transitional housing programs). The NOFA simply provides an incentive for local community programs to do what they are already required to do.
- Implement effective to-scale rapid re-housing programs that house families rapidly. The NOFA includes points for communities that have a rapid re-housing plan that will reduce the overall number of families experiencing homelessness as well as communities that have a plan to re-house families within 30 days of becoming homeless.
- Make the most effective use of resources to end family homelessness. The NOFA strongly encourages communities to make the most effective use of the resources they have available to help people experiencing homelessness. There are strong incentives in the NOFA for communities to reallocate funding from longer term interventions like transitional housing to more short-term and cost-effective interventions like rapid re-housing. This allows communities to serve more households with the same amount of funding while also decreasing the length of time families are homeless.
The NOFA also rewards communities that have already made progress toward ending family homelessness and can demonstrate outcomes. Communities receive points toward their overall NOFA application score when they can demonstrate:
- Family homelessness has declined in 2015 since the last point-in-time count of homeless households;
- Increased capacity to provide rapid re-housing to families in 2015 compared to 2014.
The NOFA provides clear directions to CoC applicants about what they should do with HUD resources to address family homelessness. For some communities, responding to these incentives will require them to dramatically change course and shift from programs that have historically relied on CoC-funding to new initiatives.
This will be very challenging for community leaders, homeless service programs, and frontline providers. But it is one strong step forward to facilitating a true end to homelessness among families by orienting more resources towards helping families regain housing as quickly as possible.