The fiscal year 2022 Continuum of Care (CoC) Program Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) is out, allowing communities to get their share of the $2.794 billion provided by Congress to fund homelessness systems. As usual, the CoC NOFO application aligns well with what communities need to be doing to markedly reduce homelessness. Doing these things will mean communities receive a better score on this year’s NOFO. It will also mean reductions in homelessness over time, leading to better NOFO scores in years to come.
How the Application Reflects HUD Priorities
The NOFO announcement includes not only the details of how many points communities can receive for implementing different practices, but also summarizes the policies the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) hopes to reward through this point allocation. An initial important task for people running this process at the Continuum of Care level is to design a review and ranking process for local programs that takes these scoring criteria and policy priorities into account.
The Alliance’s experience is that some communities make a mistake of simply using the same review and ranking process and criteria for their NOFO applications year after year. This is not the way to maximize points. The NOFO includes, beginning on page 7 of the announcement, a list of things that are new in this year’s NOFO, and how these changes should be incorporated into the local project rankings. For example, there are more points available than in previous years for addressing barriers to racial equity. To get the best results, a CoC’s rankings of individual programs should include an appropriate focus on this work.
The policy priorities listed by HUD are as follows. Please remember, this list is a summary, provided to give context to the actual selection criteria (beginning on page 62 of the announcement). CoCs should carefully examine the points available (listed in the selection criteria) to understand the relative weight that will be given to these policies, and should design their review and ranking process with these in mind.
Policy priorities, to give context for the Selection Criteria in VII.B:
- Ending homelessness for all persons – including a strategy to address the needs of all different populations, focusing on people for whom homelessness is most common and most likely to last the longest.
- Use a Housing First approach – incorporating an understanding that the way to reduce homelessness the most with a limited amount of dollars is to move people into housing quickly and then help them stabilize.
- Reducing unsheltered homelessness – focusing on moving people directly from the streets into housing.
- Improving system performance – focusing on getting the best possible results, sometimes including changing existing programs that are not getting the best results.
- Partnering with housing, health, and service agencies – incorporating a greater focus this year, leveraging mainstream resources particularly for people with behavioral health care needs.
- Racial equity – as noted above, an increased focus this year, particularly in the correcting any racial disparities that exist in the outcomes of local CoC-funded homelessness programs.
- Improving assistance to LGBTQ+ individuals – increased focus on reducing discrimination for a group with large disparities in homelessness, particularly among youth and young adults.
- Persons with lived experience of homelessness – reflecting the growing understanding that communities and programs will get better results by listening to people who know from personal experience, and designing their systems and programs accordingly.
- Increase affordable housing supply – CoCs need to be advocates locally for increasing housing supply, particularly of homes that can work for people with the lowest incomes, either through rent subsidy programs like Housing Choice Vouchers, or operating subsidies.
The Alliance wishes the best to everyone who will be working hard between now and the September 30 deadline to document the great results of their work and clarify the results they’ll be achieving in the future!