The HEARTH Act – which stands for the Homelessness Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing Act – was enacted May 20, 2009. It’s the first significant reauthorization of HUD’s homelessness assistance programs since 1992, nearly 2 decades. The bill makes many changes, streamlining and updating programs, but it’s real value is far more profound.
One of the challenges we face as we try to end homelessness is that we aspire to something great—to prevent and end homelessness. But we have a set of incentives and requirements that don’t always help us move toward that goal, in fact they often move us in the other direction. For example, some funding sources pay for shelter programs based on occupancy. That creates an incentive to have more people in shelter. Another example: It’s easy to raise money for facilities, shelters, clinics etc. But it’s really hard to raise money for rent subsidies. To some degree, HUD’s McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance programs have contributed to this problem. It’s much easier to continue funding the same programs, even when they don’t have good outcomes, than it is to change. And you can fund the costs of administering a project, but not to administer the system to make sure all of the programs are working together well. What does the HEARTH Act do to change that?
In many ways, small and large, the HEARTH Act shifts the incentives and funding to align them much more with our goal of preventing and ending homelessness. What the program will fund and encourage us to do is much closer to our ideal than before.
The HEARTH Act makes it an explicit federal goal that people who become homeless quickly move back into permanent housing.
The changes made by the HEARTH Act can be summarized as a number of shifts in what is funded and encouraged. Instead of just funding and evaluating a collection of programs in a community, there is much more focus on the system. This is evident in the way administrative costs are funded, in the match requirements, and especially in the way homeless assistance is evaluated. The HEARTH Act streamlines funding, eliminates several requirements, and shifts the emphasis from activities and compliance to achieving outcomes. The HEARTH Act includes much more funding for prevention activities and shifts the emphasis of shelter funding from just providing shelter to preventing homelessness when possible. Instead of helping people slowly transition out of homelessness, the HEARTH Act also places much more emphasis on rapid re-housing When and how does the HEARTH Act make these shifts.
The changes made by the HEARTH Act will begin to take effect with the programs that are funded by the FY 2011 round of Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG) (formerly the Emergency Shelter Grants), and the FY 2011 NOFA, which will probably be released sometime in fall-2011. Some of the changes will be implemented over several years, while others will be implemented at once. HUD is still developing many of the regulations. Those will be revealed in the coming weeks or months, and until they are released, many of the details of how the HEARTH Act will be implemented are unknown. When the draft regulations are released, there will be an opportunity for public comment. Providers, local and state officials, advocates, and other stakeholders should plan to comment on those regulations. Broadly, the HUD McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance programs consist of two types of funding – a formula program (ESG) and a competitive program (CoC). What are the changes to the ESG program?
The first change to the ESG program is symbolic of the general shift of emphasis in the program. The name is changed from the Emergency Shelter Grant to the Emergency Solutions Grant, signifying the shift from just providing shelter to trying to resolve people’s housing crises. There is more funding for administrative expenses, 7.5 percent instead of the previous 5 percent. The formula that distributes the funding will remain the same, and the recipients will be similar (some smaller entitlement jurisdictions that did not receive ESG previously, but did receive HPRP may receive ESG in the future). However, there will be more funding in the future. How much more will depend on how much funding Congress provides for McKinney-Vento programs.
The eligible activities change significantly. Everything that was previously eligible will continue to be eligible. But ESG will now fund homelessness prevention and rapid re-housing similar to the HPRP program. The major difference between HPRP funded prevention and ESG funded prevention is that ESG prevention can only serve people below 30 percent of area median income (AMI). Several of the caps that existed in the ESG program are eliminated, including the 10 percent cap on staffing in emergency shelter, the 30 percent cap on services, and the 30 percent cap on prevention. There is a new cap on how much can be spent on traditional shelter activities (renovation/rehab/conversion, operating shelter, and shelter services/outreach) of 60 percent of the jurisdictions ESG award. In other words, at least 40 percent must be spent on prevention and re-housing. There is however a “hold-harmless” provision that allows a jurisdiction to spend as much on traditional shelter activities as they did in FY 2010, even if that is more than 60 percent of their award.
A concise way of describing the changes to ESG is that the New ESG is the Old ESG plus HPRP. There will not be nearly the same amount of funding for prevention and rapid re-housing as was provided by HPRP, but there will be a substantial amount. One of the implications of this change is that some HPRP programs can continue to receive funding after HPRP ends. Communities should consider how they will make decisions about which programs are best reducing homelessness and should continue with ESG funding. What about changes to the CoC program?
There are several changes to the CoC programs. First, the three separate programs – Supportive Housing Program (SHP), Shelter Plus Care (SPC) and the seldom used Moderate Rehabilitation/Single Room Occupancy (SRO) are combined into a single program that will be called the Continuum of Care program. All of the activities that were previously eligible will continue to be eligible under the new program. There will be some more flexibility to mix and match services. Up to 10 percent of the grant can be used for administrative expenses. This is a change that will likely be phased in over time. HUD will likely allow up to 8 percent to be used for administrative expenses in the first year of HEARTH implementation. Funds can be used for staff training.
For the most part, the process for applying for funds will be similar to the current process with a couple of significant changes. First of all, the entity that applies for funding will be known as the Collaborative Applicant. The Collaborative Applicant will be eligible for up to 3 percent of the CoC’s award for administrative costs. And very importantly, there will be more emphasis on performance.
Reducing the extent to which people who exit homelessness become homeless again in the future Reducing the number of people who become homeless Reducing the number of people who are homeless overall These measures require that a collaborative applicant is able to measure performance across programs and even among homeless assistance programs that are not funded through the CoC process.
Several changes required by the HEARTH Act will help improve coordination with mainstream programs and Ten Year Planning processes. Currently, as part of the CoC application, an applicant is required to obtain certification of consistency with the jurisdiction’s Consolidated Plan. The Consolidated Plan is the plan that is submitted to HUD describing how a community will spend funding from several HUD programs, including CDBG, HOME, HOPWA and ESG. The HEARTH Act also requires that the Consolidated Plan is consistent with the applicable CoC plans. The HEARTH Act also requires that a CoC application include the CoC’s plans for reducing homelessness, including how they will reduce the number of people who become homeless and the length of time people are homeless. It also requires a description of performance targets, timelines, funding sources, and entities responsible for implementing elements of the CoC’s plan. All of these are important parts of Ten Year Plan. Because the HEARTH Act will require more coordination between these planning efforts. CoCs should begin thinking about how to integrate their Ten Year Plan with their CoC process if they haven’t done so already. They should also think strategically about how the resources provided by CDBG, HOME, and HOPWA can be used to help prevent and end homelessness.
The changes to the match requirement are another illustration of the shift from programs to systems. The HEARTH Act dramatically simplifies the match requirements to a simple 25 percent match requirement for all activities (with one minor exception). The match is for the entire CoC, not project specific. In other words, a CoC could provide a larger match for some projects to offset smaller matches for others. In addition, the match can be cash or in-kind when documented by a Memorandum of Understanding. This change could help CoCs better connect mainstream funded services with homeless assistance efforts.
Through the Samaritan and permanent housing bonuses, HUD has been encouraging the development of permanent supportive housing. A similar incentive structure will continue, but it will be available for two proven strategies: Permanent supportive housing for people experiencing chronic homelessness, which would include families with children. (A chronically homeless family is one in which an adult member meets the existing definition of chronic homelessness but is also accompanied by children.) Rapid re-housing for families with children In addition to these activities, HUD could develop new bonus eligible activities if research demonstrates that they are effective at reducing homelessness. The HEARTH Act includes an interesting incentive. If a CoC fully implements a proven strategy, for example, if every family with children was provided rapid re-housing, then the CoC could still apply for a bonus and that bonus could be applied to any eligible CoC program activity or for the prevention or rapid re-housing that is eligible under the Emergency Solutions Grant.
In addition to changes that help prevent or end homelessness, the HEARTH Act makes several improvements to services for people while they are homeless. Among these are that a McKinney-Vento funded project that serves families with children, including one that is funded by ESG, must serve families regardless of the age of their children. In other words, McKinney funded programs cannot discriminate against older children. Also, a project that serves families with children must identify a staff member who will coordinate the children’s education activities.
Another element of the HEARTH Act intended to help transform McKinney-Vento assistance from a project-based funding source to one focused on systems is the Unified Funding Agency (UFA). Under certain circumstances, a Collaborative Applicant would be allowed to apply to HUD to become a UFA, which would allow them to receive the entire CoC award from HUD and then subgrant to project sponsors. Under this arrangement, a CoC would have more flexibility to do contract amendments and it is possible that the payment process would be quicker and simpler. In addition to these benefits, under a UFA scenario, a CoC could begin to more closely align various different funding streams. For example, if a community receives funding from HUD, private donors, and a city agency, they could route all of the funding through a UFA and streamline application and reporting requirements.
There are two ways a Collaborative Applicant could become a UFA. One is that they could apply to HUD for that designation. The other is that HUD could designate them as a UFA if HUD can demonstrate that the Collaborative Applicant has the capacity, that it would benefit the community and that HUD can provide sufficient technical assistance. In exchange for becoming a UFA, a collaborative applicant would be eligible to receive an additional 3 percent of the CoC award for performing UFA duties.
The HEARTH Act made many changes to eligibility for assistance. One change that received a great deal of attention is the change in the definition of homelessness to include people who are losing their housing in 14 days (and have no other resources or support networks to obtain housing) and youth and families who have precarious housing situations. The changes are described in a draft regulation that HUD issued in May and are summarized here: http://www.endhomelessness.org/content/article/detail/3006. By expanding the prevention component of ESG, the HEARTH Act provides more resources for households who have unstable housing situations like living doubled up, overcrowded, or in motels. The HEARTH Act also allows CoCs to apply to HUD to use funding from the CoC program to serve unaccompanied youth and families with children who live doubled up or in motels.
The HEARTH Act makes several changes to support the development and ongoing funding of permanent supportive housing. In recent years, the CoC NOFA has utilized a different process for funding Shelter Plus Care renewals compared to SHP permanent housing renewals. The HEARTH Act makes renewal of all permanent housing activities, including operating costs, leasing, and rental assistance, similar to the process for renewing Shelter Plus Care. In addition, an project sponsor could apply for a project-based permanent housing grant (rental assistance or operating costs) with a 15-yeare contract subject to annual appropriations. This change should make it much easier to use McKinney-Vento funding with the Low Income Housing Tax Credit. Permanent housing grants will be adjusted for inflation at renewal.
More information about the HEARTH Academy can be found at http://www.endhomelessness.org/content/article/detail/3335
“ to establish a Federal goal of ensuring that individuals and families who become homeless return to permanent housing within 30 days” HEARTH Act Purposes – Sec. 1002(b)
Programs Systems Activities Outcomes Shelter Prevention Transitioning Rapidly Re-Housing
<ul><li>Most changes take effect in the NOFA released in Fall 2011 </li></ul><ul><li>Some changes implemented over several years </li></ul><ul><li>Regulations in May 2010 … Summer … Fall … Soon </li></ul><ul><li>Public comment period! Plan to Comment! </li></ul>Timeline
Changes to the ESG (Formula) Program Old Emergency Shelter Grants Up to 5% for administrative expenses Formula to cities, counties, and states New Emergency Solutions Grants Up to 7.5% for administrative expenses Same formula, maybe more funding
Changes to the ESG Program Old Eligible Activities Shelter renovating, rehab, conversion Operating Emergency Shelter (max. 10% for staffing) Services in Shelter or outreach (max. 30%) Prevention (sudden loss of income, max. 30%) New Eligible Activities Same as now plus HPRP activities (except prevention targets below 30% of AMI) No cap on prevention, services, or staffing Minimum of 40% must be for prevention and rapid re-housing (with a hold-harmless provision)
Changes to the CoC Program <ul><li>Old </li></ul><ul><li>3 programs </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Supportive Housing Program (SHP) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Shelter Plus Care (SPC) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Mod. Rehab./SRO </li></ul></ul><ul><li>New </li></ul><ul><li>One Continuum of Care program </li></ul><ul><ul><li>All eligible activities of the 3 former programs </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>More flexibility for mixing and matching eligible activities </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Up to 10 percent for administrative costs </li></ul></ul>
Changes to the CoC Program <ul><li>Old </li></ul><ul><li>Providers in community jointly apply for funding </li></ul><ul><li>Stakeholders review and rank applications </li></ul><ul><li>Application has two parts </li></ul><ul><ul><li>-Exhibit 1 – community wide </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>-Exhibit 2 – individual project applications </li></ul></ul><ul><li>New </li></ul><ul><li>Similar to existing process </li></ul><ul><li>Collaborative Applicant, eligible for 3% for admin. </li></ul><ul><li>Focused on performance: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>-Lengths of homeless episodes </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>-Returns to homelessness </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>-New Homelessness </li></ul></ul>
<ul><li>New Measures </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Duration of homelessness episodes </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Returns to homelessness </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Number of people who become homeless </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Measures require evaluating performance in the entire CoC region </li></ul>Performance
<ul><li>CoC application must be approved by Consolidated Planning body </li></ul><ul><li>Consolidated Plan requires coordination with CoC </li></ul><ul><li>Many elements of Ten Year Plan in CoC application </li></ul>CoC/CP/TYP Coordination
Match <ul><li>Old </li></ul><ul><li>Match requirement varies depending on activity </li></ul><ul><ul><li>25% for services, must be cash </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>100% for rental assistance, must be in-kind services </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>100% for construction/rehab </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>33% for operating expenses </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>No match for leasing </li></ul></ul><ul><li>New </li></ul><ul><li>Uniform 25% match except for leasing projects </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Match covers entire CoC </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Match can be cash or in-kind when documented by Memorandum of Understanding </li></ul></ul>
Incentives Old Bonus for permanent supportive housing project Sometimes for Chronic Homelessness <ul><li>New </li></ul><ul><li>Bonus for proven strategies , including— </li></ul><ul><ul><li>- Permanent supportive housing for chronic homelessness </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>-Rapid Re-Housing for families </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>-Other activities that HUD determines are effective </li></ul></ul>
<ul><li>Projects that serve families cannot refuse to serve families because of the age of the children (i.e. must serve families with adolescent children) </li></ul><ul><li>Projects must identify person who will be responsible for coordinating child’s education </li></ul>Additional Requirements
<ul><li>Collaborative Applicant could apply to become a UFA or HUD could designate Collaborative Applicant as a UFA </li></ul><ul><li>UFA responsible for audits and fiscal controls </li></ul><ul><li>UFA could get up to 3% of a communities award for administrative expenses (on top of the 3% that for being collaborative applicant) </li></ul>Unified Funding
<ul><li>ESG serves people at risk </li></ul><ul><li>All programs serve homeless people, including </li></ul><ul><ul><li>People who are losing their housing in 14 days and lack resources/supports </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>People who have moved from place to place and are likely to continue to do so because of disability/barriers </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Up to 10% (more in some cases) of CoC funds can serve doubled up/motels </li></ul>Definition of Homelessness
<ul><li>Non-competitive renewals for PSH </li></ul><ul><li>Project-based PSH can obtain 15-year contracts subject to annual funding </li></ul><ul><li>Permanent housing activities are adjusted for inflation at renewal </li></ul>Even More Changes
Figure out how to measure and reward performance.
Analyze your system to make sure you have the right programs.
Create process for continuing HPRP-funded programs.
Integrate CoC, Ten Year Plan, and Consolidated Planning
HEARTH Academy Communities So Far: Whatcom County, WA | Washington, DC | State of Washington | State of Iowa | State of Mississippi State of Missouri | State of Connecticut | State of North Carolina HEARTH Academy QUANTITATIVE ANALYSIS + SYSTEM DESIGN SUPPORT
Norm Suchar National Alliance to End Homelessness www.endhomelessness.org [email_address]