To address these concerns, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) recently released $486 million to address rural and unsheltered homelessness. Most funding ($420 million) was allocated towards unsheltered homelessness. These new grants represent a historic investment with a specific aim: to help communities marshal their resources in a coordinated response to unsheltered homelessness, bolstering their systems from initial to permanent housing placement.
Who Received Funding?
Thirty-two communities within 22 states received these awards to address unsheltered homelessness. Most awardees are in Western and Southern states but cover the whole country from Massachusetts to Hawaii. Major urban hubs like Los Angeles and New York City received funding, as did smaller cities and rural areas in states like Washington and Kentucky. Awards ranged in size from $386,000 to $60 million. The funding competition required communities develop a comprehensive plan for addressing unsheltered homelessness and demonstrate established partnerships with mainstream healthcare and housing providers. Funding can be used to support a variety of services and housing programs, depending on the specific needs of the community. The allowable expenses generally align with the programs HUD typically funds through the annual Continuum of Care program, with some additional flexibilities. Grants are funded for three years with the possibility of renewal.
What Are Communities Doing with the Funding?
Some examples of these expanded services include:
- An organization in Oakland will provide trauma-informed advocacy and legal supports for older adults experiencing unsheltered homelessness to facilitate transitions to housing.
- Communities from New Orleans, LA, to Madison, WI will ramp up housing navigation capacity to work with people who are unsheltered, including through street outreach and in sanctioned campgrounds
- Los Angeles will fund location-based coordinated entry staff to assist with strategic encampment response.
Across the community plans to address unsheltered homelessness, common themes arose.
- Communities are seeking to fill gaps in their homelessness services system: gaps that result from funding models that have been historically focused on individual programs, rather than bolstering a cohesive response.
- The additional flexibilities in this funding opportunity create opportunities for systems to meet people where they are: outside of business hours, at new physical drop-in centers, and through transportation and other supports.
- Communities can now add capacity to services that are often under-resourced and under-staffed but crucial to finding permanent housing, such as assistance securing documentation and accessing benefits.
- The potential of new funding incentivized other stakeholders, including healthcare and housing providers, to come to the table and commit resources to the cause of ending homelessness – recognizing that we can’t solve systemic problems in siloes.
What Can We Learn From These Communities?
These grants open exciting possibilities for these communities to engage in new strategies and scale up proven housing solutions.
The Alliance is looking to partner with awarded communities to learn more about what they’re doing and how they’re doing it so that others can learn from the experience, too. The Alliance’s research team is interested in understanding the barriers and facilitators to implementing their new projects, and how they plan to measure their effectiveness. As communities use their new programs and funding to address encampments and rapidly house people directly from unsheltered homelessness, the Alliance is planning to document and disseminate best practices.
The crisis of unsheltered homelessness can seem intractable — gaining increasing news attention and public debates over solutions. Homeless service providers across the country are working tirelessly to serve people who are enduring unsheltered homelessness. This funding is an opportunity for communities to assist people who may have suffered a long time without any intervention available. The Alliance looks forward to learning from this cohort of communities as they undertake new strategies to address unsheltered homelessness.