Homeless Assistance Grants, administered by the Department of Housing and Urban Development
(HUD), were first authorized by Congress in 1987 as part of the McKinney-Vento Homeless
Assistance Act (P.L. 100-77). Since their creation, the grants have been
composed of three or four separate programs, though for the majority of
their existence, between 1992 and 2012, the grant programs were unchanged.
During this time period, there were four programs authorized and funded by
Congress: the Emergency Shelter Grants (ESG), the Supportive Housing
Program (SHP), the Shelter Plus Care (S+C) program, and the Section 8 Moderate Rehabilitation
for Single Room Occupancy Dwellings (SRO) program. Funds for the ESG program
were used primarily for the short-term needs of homeless persons, such as
emergency shelter, while the other three programs addressed longer-term
transitional and permanent housing needs.
The composition of the Homeless Assistance Grants changed when Congress enacted
the Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing (HEARTH)
Act as part of the Helping Families Save Their Homes Act in the 111th Congress (P.L. 111-22). The HEARTH Act renamed the ESG
program (it is now called the Emergency Solutions Grants) and expanded
the way in which funds can be used to include homelessness prevention and
rapid rehousing (quickly finding housing for families who find themselves
homeless), and it consolidated SHP, S+C, and SRO into one program called
the Continuum of Care (CoC) program. A third program carved out of the CoC
program to assist rural communities―the Rural Housing Stability Assistance Program―was
also created by P.L. 111-22. In addition, the HEARTH Act broadened HUD’s definition
of homelessness. The changes in P.L. 111-22 have repercussions for the way in
which funds are distributed to grantees, the purposes for which grantees
may use funds, and who may be served.
HUD began to implement the ESG program in FY2011 and the CoC program in FY2012,
and it released proposed regulations for the Rural Housing Stability (RHS)
grants in March 2013 (and has not yet provided RHS grants). Funds for the
ESG program, in addition to being available for homelessness prevention
and rapid rehousing, can be used for emergency shelter and supportive services.
CoC program funds can be used to provide permanent housing, transitional
housing, supportive services, and rapid rehousing. Once the RHS program is
implemented, rural communities will have greater flexibility in who they
are able to serve (those assisted may not necessarily meet HUD’s
definition of “homeless individual”), and may use funds for a variety of housing
and services options.
HUD uses one method to distribute funds for the ESG program and another method
to distribute funds for the CoC program. The ESG program distributes funds
to states, counties, and metropolitan areas using the Community
Development Block Grant (CDBG) program formula, while the CoC grants are
distributed primarily through a competitive process, though the CDBG formula
plays a role in determining community need. Rural communities may opt to
receive competitive funding through the RHS program rather than through
the CoC program.
Funding for the Homeless Assistance Grants has nearly doubled since FY2000,
reaching $1.9 billion in FY2013 (see Table 2). Despite funding
increases, the need to renew existing grants required nearly 90% of the
competitive grant allocation in FY2011, and in FY2012 HUD was initially
uncertain whether CoC program funding would be sufficient to renew existing
Date of Report: August 9, 2013
Number of Pages: 39 Order Number: RL33764 Price: $29.95
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