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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

"The Fed's Homelessness" from TIME

After her husband left her, Jennifer Santana lost her job. When she was evicted from her apartment, Santana, 37, held her family together by living with a friend and then in her van. But as the nights grew cold in early December, she stood huddled with her three children in front of the Orange County cold-weather shelter in Santa Ana, Calif. "There were long lines of men and women, and the people were laying out mats on the floor. It was scary. I could not believe I was standing there with my kids."

In America's communities, the local homeless shelter is just one step away from life on the street. Fortunately for Santana's and other families, county and United Way funds pay for adults with children 18 and younger to be immediately housed in motels. Six weeks after moving into a motel, a small, unheralded federal program — the Homeless Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program (HPRP) — began helping Santana move into an apartment. "I am so excited. Things are going to be normal again," says Santana, a short-haired blond who has found work as a licensed vocational nurse.

(See pictures of Americans in their homes.)

Equipped with $1.5 billion of the nearly $800 billion stimulus package, the HPRP started giving out funds in October that some experts believe have helped an estimated 600,000 Americans avoid homelessness. The program helps people pay security deposits, utility bills, moving bills and rent checks to either avoid eviction or move from transitional housing into their own apartments. The assistance lasts from three to 18 months. People on the verge of homelessness did not qualify for federal assistance previously, says Housing and Urban Development spokesman Brian Sullivan. "Now we are in the prevention game in a way we have never been before." Says Nan Roman, executive director of the National Alliance to End Homelessness: "The focus is on people who can get right back in the workforce."

Soup kitchens and shelters are the traditional ways society has looked after the homeless. But homeless advocates argue that making sure people can continue to afford housing is the central issue. "Services not connected to housing do little good," says Larry Haynes, executive director of Mercy House, the homeless organization that runs the Santa Ana shelter and an array of other programs in Orange County. "Pancake breakfasts provided by the middle and upper class make people feel better, but where are the pancakes the next day?" he adds. "Haiti is a sad reminder that having a place to live is the base for everything else — for employment, for keeping kids in school, for your health and for your well-being," says Roman. "In the past, our homeless system did not do much about housing except offer temporary shelter."

(See high-end homes that won't sell.)

An estimated 672,000 people are homeless on any given night, and over the course of a year, between 2 million and 3 million people experience homelessness for a few weeks or a few months. The chronic homeless, many of whom have psychological or substance-abuse problems, comprise only 20% of the homeless population. Meanwhile, unemployment and foreclosure have sent tens of thousands of families into financial free fall. At the beginning of 2009, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities projected that the severe recession and the growth of long-term unemployment would push an additional 1.5 million people into the streets. Asks Roman: "Why should we think that people can get their lives together, get a job, keep their kids in school, when they live in a van or a shelter? It is not reasonable. People need the stability of a home. You need housing to be employed. It's the platform for everything else." With long-term unemployment at record highs, Congress is considering providing an additional $1 billion in funding for HPRP as part of a forthcoming jobs bill.

The U.S. Conference of Mayors' Hunger and Homelessness Survey, released in December, shows that family homelessness increased in three-quarters of the 27 major cities surveyed during 2009. Big cities have the largest numbers of homeless. According to the alliance, at the end of 2009, Los Angeles topped the nation with 68,608 homeless; New York City had 50,372; Detroit had 18,062; Las Vegas and Clark County, Nevada, had 11,417; Houston had 10,363; and the Denver and Phoenix metropolitan areas approximately 8,500 each. The concentration of the homeless per 10,000 in population is a different story. With the near collapse of the auto industry in 2009, Detroit led the nation, with 216 homeless per 10,000 people. Next in the rankings: Mendocino County, California (161.3), Monroe County, Florida (146.9), and Portland, Maine (116).

(See the top 10 news stories of 2009.)

The deep recession has caused an uptick in homelessness in rural communities as well. Tent communities began to spring up among the lovely farms and rolling hills of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, last fall, says Community Homeless Advisor Kay Mosher McDivitt. In December, McDivitt told congressional staff on the Housing committees that Lancaster County has focused on rapid rehousing for several years, with good results. "With the shift in focus," says McDivitt, "we were able to move families out of shelter and back into permanent housing more quickly, often within three months or less, and 80% of these families are able to maintain that housing." Before the shift, fewer than 40% of shelter families moved into permanent housing, and some became part of the chronic homeless.

As one example, McDivitt spoke about Mary, a mother with two small sons who had lost her job and was four months behind on rent. With the help of HPRP and intervention by a case manager, the landlord forgave three months' rent. With only one month in arrears and one month of future rent, Mary was able to find a full-time job and arrange for day care, and by the second month, she was again able to pay her rent.

Read more:,8599,1956213,00.html#ixzz0dqGbjM2x

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Q&A: At what point is it appropriate to "exit" a client household from HMIS - upon the provision of final assistance or at a later date? Does HUD require the grantee to track the housing stability of households following the receipt of HPRP assistance?

Grantees and subgrantees should exit a program participant and record a Program Exit Date that coincides with the date the participant is no longer considered a program participant. The exit date may represent the last day a service was provided or the last date of a period of ongoing assistance. Programs should have a clear and consistent procedure for determining when a client who is receiving supportive services is no longer considered a program participant. For example, if a person has been receiving weekly case management as part of a rapid re-housing program and either formally terminates his or her involvement or fails to keep appointments such that the program no longer considers the individual to be a program participant, then the last date of service and exit date may be the date of the last case management session.
For HPRP programs, the Program Exit Date may be the same as the Program Entry Date if participation begins and ends on the same day (e.g., in the case of a one-time payment for arrears, a security deposit, or one month of rental assistance). For a program participant receiving ongoing assistance for two or more consecutive months, the Program Exit Date should be equivalent to the last day of the last month for which the rental assistance payment applies.
HUD does not require follow-up reporting on housing stability. The housing status identified at program exit should be the agency’s best assessment of the household’s near-term stability as of the time of exit.

Please note that the CT HPRP administered through DSS is tracking housing stability.

Q&A: If an applicant is assessed for program eligibility, and the applicant ultimately does not meet program requirements, should the client be entered into HMIS?

Although the time spent assessing all households is an eligible expense, only HPRP program participants that actually receive financial assistance and/or housing relocation and stabilization services need to be entered into HMIS. Only those program participants who receive HPRP assistance, as recorded in HMIS or a comparable data system, are reported in the QPR and APR.

*Question and answer from

Q&A: Can we serve criminal offenders or ex-offenders?

See question and answer below from HUD regarding serving ex-offenders:

If otherwise eligible for HPRP assistance, can ex-offenders or offenders who are scheduled for release but have no suitable housing options be assisted with HPRP?

HPRP regulations do not require grantees to disqualify individuals or families based on criminal history. HUD requires only that all program participants meet the minimum eligibility criteria and that grantees comply with all local and Federal requirements.
Grantees are allowed flexibility in designing their programs, which means they have the discretion to establish their own policies regarding ex-offenders. If grantees choose to serve ex-offenders with HPRP funds, it is the role of grantees and subgrantees to work with landlords in developing strategies to reduce barriers to housing for ex-offenders.

Per the definitions in HPRP Notice, persons who have been incarcerated for less than 180 days and were homeless prior to entering the institution would be assisted under the rapid re-housing category. Persons that have been in the institution for longer than 180 days would be assisted under the prevention category.

Q&A: Are halfway houses considered transitional housing? Can we help people living in halfway houses?

Halfway houses that are contracted through the CT Department of Corrections are not considered transitional housing.  Sober living facilities (also called halfway houses), licensed as rooming/boarding or leased as apartments are also not transitional housing. 

Halfway houses are a level 1 correctional facility so residents are under DOC supervision and therefore still considered an institution. If they have been at the halfway house or incarcerated for 180 days or more, they can be served through prevention, more specifically prevention with relocation.

Q&A: As far as you know, are we allowed to pay for a lease for a space for a mobile home? We have a case where a lady owns a mobile home/trailor, but does not have the money currently so rent a space to put it on so it can be hooked up.

Based on the HUD answer below, it appears that it is acceptable.

From HUDhre: Is payment of rented trailer pads/lots on which a mobile home residence rests an eligible expense under HPRP?

Rental assistance or arrears to pay for a lot on which a trailer is located can be eligible under financial assistance, although it is up to the grantee to determine whether to use HPRP funds for financial assistance costs associated with manufactured homes/trailer pads. HUD does not prohibit it

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Q&A: Can HPRP funds be used to assist illegal immigrants? If so, what type of identification documentation is acceptable?

In accordance with Title IV of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, an alien (a person who is not a U.S. citizen or national) may be eligible for assistance under HPRP only if he or she is a “qualified alien” (defined in 8 U.S.C. 1641). This means that no entity that receives funds under HPRP may knowingly provide HPRP assistance to an alien who is not a qualified alien.
The law requires all state and local governments that directly administer HPRP assistance to first verify that an alien is a qualified alien before using HPRP funds to assist him or her. Nonprofit organizations that administer HPRP assistance are not required, but may, verify that an alien is a qualified alien in order to provide him or her with HPRP assistance. However, if a nonprofit organization pursues verification, it must follow the requirements set forth in the interim guidance published by the Department of Justice.
For more information on these requirements (including documentation), see the “Interim Guidance on Verification of Citizenship, Qualified Alien Status, and Eligibility under Title IV of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996,” 63 Federal Register 61344 (Nov. 17, 1997), available at (Select 1997 Federal Register and search for page 61344. Scroll down through the list provided to find “Interim Guidance of Verification of Citizenship, Qualified Alien.”)
Grantees/subgrantees with additional questions are encouraged to contact their local US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) office. An office locator is available at