Grant Recipients, CoC Leaders and Stakeholders –

Now that we have announced the awards for FY 2013, I wanted to provide an update on key initiatives and issues that impact the Office of Special Needs Assistance Programs (SNAPS), Continuum of Care (CoC) Program and Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG) recipients, and the people whom we all serve.

First, I want to take a moment to acknowledge all of your hard work, commitment, and dedication to ending homelessness – and to personally say thank you for all that you do. I know from personal experience how hard it is to have funding reduced and to make really tough choices at the local level. I also know that many of you are struggling to continue to do what we do best – serve people experiencing homelessness – in the face of some significant resource challenges.

FY 2013 – FY 2014 CoC Program Competition Update

On June 19th we announced $141 million in funding for the remaining eligible projects in Tier 1 and Tier 2. The lower funding level caused by inadequate base funding and sequestration in FY 2013 allowed us to only fund eligible permanent and transitional housing projects in Tier 2. Other component types—representing over 300 projects—were not funded in Tier 2. CoCs may request technical assistance by making a request on the Technical Assistance page on the OneCPD Resource Exchange. In the next few weeks, HUD will do a debriefing broadcast and will send out debriefing summaries to all CoCs to highlight what we saw during the review of the CoC Applications and the Project Applications.

HUD plans to open the CoC Registration for the FY 2014 portion of the FY 2013 – FY 2014 CoC Program Competition shortly. This process is critical to determine each CoC’s Annual Renewal Demand amount. As always, the renewal awards from the prior year will automatically be included on the Grant Inventory Worksheet sent out by SNAPS, but it is imperative that CoCs begin working with field offices as soon as possible to identify other projects that will expire in calendar year 2015 and thus be eligible for renewal in FY 2014.

Our goal is to announce all FY 2014 projects as early as possible within the calendar year

Progress towards Opening Doors

We are now in the fifth year of implementing Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness (FSP), which established a plan for ending veterans and chronic homelessness by 2015 and family/youth homelessness by 2020. While we are focused on the 2015 goals to end veterans and chronic homelessness, I assure you that we are also working hard to lay the groundwork on ending family and youth homelessness by 2020. As we get closer to the end years for accomplishing the first two goals of Opening Doors, you will see our policy priorities continue to pivot towards the 2020 goals of ending family and youth homelessness that once seemed so far away. The lessons that we learn now in ending veteran and chronic homelessness will help us. Following is a brief update on where we stand on these national goals.

  • Between 2010 and 2013, chronic homelessness among individuals has declined by 16 percent to 92,593 people in the 2013 point-in-time count. The US Interagency Council on Homelessness believes the goal of ending chronic homelessness could still be achieved in 2016. To meet that goal, the President’s FY 2015 budget request includes funding to create 37,000 new permanent supportive housing beds for people experiencing chronic homelessness. In addition to securing those new resources in the budget process, communities across the country will also have to continue to prioritize existing permanent supportive housing units for chronic homelessness and reallocate resources to create new permanent supportive housing units where those resources are needed.
  • Between 2010 and 2013, homelessness among veterans has decreased by 24 percent to 57,849 homeless veterans in the 2013 point-in-time count. On June 4th, First Lady Michelle Obama joined Secretary Donovan and Acting Secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA) Gibson to announce the Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness, a call to mayors around the country to commit to end veteran homelessness by the end of 2015 in their cities. More than 115 Mayors, 5 governors, and 4 county officials have signed up and this number continues to increase every week. CoC-funded projects that serve homeless veterans should continue to coordinate with the local VA so that CoC Program funds are used to the maximum extent feasible to serve veterans who are not eligible for VA housing and health services.
  • Since 2010, family homelessness has declined gradually, with the number of persons in families decreasing from 241,951 to 222,197 on a single night in 2013. Many CoCs chose to reallocate funds in FY 2013 to create rapid re-housing for homeless households with children coming from the streets or emergency shelter. CoCs will have this option in FY 2014 as well and we strongly encourage them to do so.
  • There were 46,924 unaccompanied homeless children and youth up through the age of 24 counted in the United States on a single night in January 2013, representing roughly 8 percent of the total homeless population.

HUD is updating guidance for the 2015 point-in-time count to include more specific guidance for counting homeless youth, which we expect to publish later this summer. HUD is also working with federal partners—Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Education, Department of Justice, and United States Interagency Council on Homelessness—to implement a two-city pilot to help two communities develop and implement a comprehensive community-wide plan to prevent homelessness among LGBT youth. We are working closely with HHS on the integration of RHYMIS and HMIS so that communities have a more comprehensive picture of youth accessing homeless assistance.

HEARTH Regulations and Implementation

The ESG and CoC Program interim rules are currently in effect and will govern our programs until final regulations are issued. We know, based on comments and feedback already received, that there are some key adjustments that we need to make.

To better reflect recipients’ experience, the Department intends to re-open the public comment period for the ESG program interim rule this fall and for the CoC Program interim rule this coming winter so that recipients, CoCs, and other stakeholders can provide additional comments after having the opportunity to administer grants under the interim rules. Once final, these rules will likely be in place for years. It is important to me and the SNAPS team that they be as clear and well-crafted as possible. We are also working on finalizing regulations for HMIS and the definition of chronic homelessness, which we hope to publish by the end of the year. We are also working on the final rule for the Rural Housing Stability Assistance Program (RHSP), which may be funded by Congress in 2015.

Technical Assistance, Training, and Communications

Technical assistance resources are key to the implementation of the McKinney-Vento Act programs and HUD’s policy priorities. HUD’s top priorities for 2014 in terms of guidance and technical assistance are:

  • Continuing to roll out technical assistance products with Phase II of our TA effort to help communities link resources available through the Affordable Care Act with programs that serve people experiencing homelessness;
  • Issuing guidance on how recipients of CoC and ESG Program funding can be in compliance with the Equal Access to Housing in HUD Programs Regardless of Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity (Equal Access Rule); and
  • Issuing comprehensive guidance and training for CoCs related to developing and implementing a coordinated assessment system. HUD is working closely with the VA on its 25 Cities initiative to help inform this work.

You should also become familiar with the CoC Program Page on the OneCPD Resource Exchange as this is home to user guides, tools, online trainings, and other resources to assist CoCs, recipients, subrecipients, and CoC stakeholders in designing and implementing their programs. The Continuum of Care 2.0 training curriculum is the newest addition to HUD’s technical assistance products. These self-paced materials include an engaging roadmap to the CoC Program interim rule; a set of short YouTube videos, each presenting snapshots of information on specific topics in the CoC Program interim rule; a series of broadcasts that provide more detail on regulation topics; an online module that covers eligible program components and costs; several podcasts on specific sections of the regulation; and a presentation on coordinated assessment. HUD is aiming to provide greater availability of training materials to a wider audience. Combined, these tools ensure that all CoCs, recipients and subrecipients have access to the same basic knowledge to build a common understanding of the CoC Program interim rule across the nation. We received overwhelming support for the Weekly Focus series of messages that were issued in 2013 leading up to the issuance of the FY 2013 – FY 2014 CoC Program Competition NOFA. Later this month, we will continue those messages, although they will focus on more than just the competition. Some topics that we plan to cover in the next few months include:

  • Housing First and Rapid Re-Housing
  • Prioritizing people experiencing chronic homelessness and those most in need in permanent supportive housing
  • Coordinated assessment
  • Reallocation
  • Youth homelessness
  • Equal Access Rule
  • Performance Measurements
  • Decriminalization of homelessness

What Can CoCs and Recipients do to Maintain and Increase Progress on Ending Homelessness?

Ending homelessness is not just an aggressive goal but something that we think is achievable. We have seen tremendous progress in communities that have been strategic and that have focused resources on the most effective practices and interventions. We know that more progress is achievable. It will not happen, however, unless CoCs and recipients are proactive and willing to make thoughtful, but tough, decisions to invest homeless assistance funding more effectively. Here are some of the key strategies that you’ve heard me talk about over the last year:

Analyze your portfolio of grants to determine if you have the right mix of housing and services and whether funding for some projects, in whole or in part, should be reallocated in 2014 to make resources available for new efforts.

Implement coordinated assessment to connect individuals and families with the right level of housing and services to meet their needs. A first-come, first-served approach to serving people should be replaced with a strategy that covers the CoCs entire geographic area where projects use a standardized assessment to prioritize people for assistance, with the goal of helping people, especially those with the greatest needs, move into housing as quickly as possible.

Focus relentlessly on results – and on collecting and using quality data. Assess your data tools, counting methodologies, and HMIS and determine if changes and/or improvements need to be made.

I hope this information and discussion of strategic priorities has been helpful and has provided some guidance on how to proceed, even in the face of budget shortfalls. We will continue to do our best to keep you updated on progress related to HEARTH implementation as well as the other items discussed above. As always, thank you for your service to people who are homeless and at-risk of homelessness.

Ann Marie Oliva Director, Office of Special Needs Assistance Programs


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