FY 1999 Annual Performance Plan

Strategic Objective 2

Help Communities and States Establish a Full Continuum of Housing and Services Designed to Assist Homeless Individuals and Families


The best approach to alleviating homelessness is a community-based process that responds comprehensively to the varying needs of homeless individuals and families. A comprehensive and coordinated housing and service delivery approach helps communities plan for and executes that balanced response. Utilizing this approach, the community can design a strategy that works best locally to assist homeless persons and families achieve permanent housing and self-sufficiency. The continuum of care model is based on the understanding that homelessness is not caused merely by a lack of shelter, but involves a variety of unmet needs -- physical, economic, and social. HUD helps communities develop a holistic system through a community-based process that provides a comprehensive response to the differing needs of homeless individuals and families.

The best estimate of the extent of homelessness in America is 600,000 persons at a point in time. This figure is based on a landmark 1988 study conducted by Martha Burt of the Urban Institute (the estimate is contained in a "Projections of Our Estimate of Service-using Homeless People in U.S. Cities of 100,000 or More to All Homeless People in the United States"). Given the age and very approximate nature of that estimate, the figure cannot be used as an absolute base from which to measure reductions in homelessness. However, this national figure does serve as a useful benchmark of the approximate level of homelessness. The best available measures of reduction are two existing homeless performance measures: percent of persons moving to permanent housing and the number of persons moving from transitional to some form of permanent housing, which to some extent overlap each other.

The Department is further committed to ensuring that the non-discriminatory provisions of the Fair Housing Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 are fully complied with in programs and activities receiving Federal financial assistance. HUD will ensure that homeless programs and facilities are accessible to persons with disabilities and address their disability related needs. The Department must also ensure that the rights of persons with disabilities are protected in this program. We do so by conducting monitoring reviews and investigating discrimination complaints filed against recipients of Federal financial assistance.


The primary strategy of HUD since 1993 has been to foster a Continuum of Care strategy in communities with significant homeless populations throughout the United States. This has been accomplished by including such a strategy within the framework of the Consolidated Plan undertaken by every entitlement community and State. It has also been carried out by encouraging joint coordinated submissions for homeless assistance under the competitive programs.

Among the components of a fully operational Continuum of Care System are: outreach and assessment to identify an individual's or family's needs and connect them to facilities and services; immediate shelter as a safe, decent alternative to the streets; transitional housing with appropriate supportive services, such as job training, job placement, child care, substance abuse treatment, mental health services and instruction in independent living skills; and permanent housing or permanent supportive housing arrangements.

HUD works with communities to establish cost-effective "continuum of care" systems in which gaps in the housing and services needed to move homeless families and individuals into permanent housing are identified and filled. The continuum of care system serves the specific needs of all homeless sub-populations within a particular community. It is an inclusive process that coordinates the energy and experience of non-profit organizations, State and local governmental agencies, housing developers and service providers, private foundations, local businesses and the banking community, neighborhood groups, and homeless or formerly homeless persons.

The Continuum of Care is both a process and a result. The Continuum of Care process is an approach to local decision making that stresses bringing all the relevant groups in a community together to identify gaps in the community's response to homelessness and to set priorities to meet those gaps. It also refers to the anticipated and evolving results of such a consultative process, that is, a system in which an individual or family, once they have been identified as homeless, are likely to receive the housing and services they need, from outreach, intake and assessment through emergency and transitional housing to independent permanent housing or permanent supportive housing.

To foster a true continuum of options for the homeless, the Department makes public and assisted housing resources available to families with extremely low incomes. HUD's legislative proposals would eliminate Federal admissions preferences for public and assisted housing, enabling local Housing Authorities to establish admissions preferences according to community needs. Preferences may be established for families that are homeless or threatened with homelessness if determined necessary by Housing Authorities. Homeless or at-risk families will remain eligible for housing assistance even in those Housing Authorities not establishing preferences for the homeless, however. This is because the Department has proposed to require that Housing Authorities reserve significant portions of their admissions each year for families with extremely low incomes. Many families making the transition from homelessness would fall into this income category.

Linkage to HUD 2020: Management Reform Plan

Problems encountered by CPD in the past have included limited staff for on-site monitoring, fragmented approaches to solving community problems; and an inability to completely track and respond to market trends. CPD has addressed these issues through outsourcing discrete functions, using advanced mapping software to aid community planning (Community 2020), aligning resources within a new Economic Development and Empowerment Services (see also Objective #1), and implementing the Continuum of Care approach to addressing homelessness.

The Continuum of Care approach, which is a important element of the HUD 2020 Management Reform Plan, has evolved since it was first introduced, in 1994, in a manner which has significantly impacted the way HUD and local communities partner to address homelessness. Applications for HUD's homelessness assistance funding have been consolidated and streamlined, making them significantly more user friendly, the competitive process rewards comprehensive local planning , and Federal top-down mandates have been replaced by funding decisions which are driven by local decision-making and priority setting and linked to the communities overall Consolidated Planning process. While the Continuum of Care approach has received significant praise from communities for the way it has transformed how homelessness is addressed at the local level, HUD continues to consider ways of refining the competitive process to ensure the most effective and efficient system possible.

External Factors

Macro-economic factors can dwarf the Department's efforts to affect homelessness. Increases in unemployment, the failure to provide employment for people leaving the welfare rolls, and increases in the cost of housing all can lead to increases in homelessness. Factors such as the rates of domestic violence, substance abuse, and the incidence of disabilities, which are associated with homelessness, also are beyond the Department's control. Moreover, HUD's ability to transition people into permanent housing is constrained by local housing markets, by the ability to place people into employment, and by the availability of financial support for these individuals.

The Department's performance measures include goals for the number of homeless persons that will be served by HUD transitional housing and HUD permanent housing. Achievement of these goals will be within legislative confines as Continuum of Care allows communities to choose the types of assistance they seek. Supportive services provide the most people (e.g., case management, day care, job training, mental health counseling, drug treatment). Given the flexibility in the array of services from which applicants can choose, HUD is not able to predict with precision the number of persons that might be served by all HUD homeless programs in any given year.

During the course of consultations, there was discussion of establishing a goal by sub-populations as to the number served. HUD gives communities significant discretion as to which populations they target requested resources. HUD cannot predict which populations will be targeted by any given community to be served in a given year. An appreciable portion of HUD's homeless funding goes to shorter-term programs (e.g., Emergency Shelter Grants) or activities (e.g., Supportive Services Only projects like service centers) for which there is currently only negligible beneficiary information. Also, many homeless persons have more than one population characteristic (e.g., a single male veteran who is mentally ill and has AIDS). Given the overlap of sub-populations, any count by sub-population would have little meaning.

Annual Performance Goals

Adopting a comprehensive approach to the prevention of homelessness is an integral part of the HUD's focus. Simply partnering with communities will not solve the problem. For those who already face the plight of homelessness, we must first increase annually the number of transitional beds linked to supportive services, and, more importantly, the number of homeless persons moved from HUD transitional housing to permanent housing.
FY 96
FY 97
FY 98
FY 99

P & F
GOAL: Increase the percentage of the U.S. population represented by communities which have developed continuum of care systems.

Comment: HUD is considering whether it is appropriate to add a goal on encouraging communities to have systems for tracking the homeless through the continuum of care.

Indicator: Percent of population
Homeless Assistance Grants
GOAL: Increase the amount of assistance and supportive services to homeless persons and families to enable them to achieve permanent housing and self-sufficiency.
Indicator: Number of transitional housing beds that are linked to supportive services.
109,000 to
115,000 to 125,000
125,000 to 140,000
Homeless Assistance Grants
Indicator: Number of permanent beds that are linked to supportive services.
55,000 to 56,500
56,500 to 59,000
59,000 to 62,500
Homeless Assistance Grants
Indicator: Percentage of participants leaving HUD transitional housing who move to permanent housing.

Comment: HUD is examining the feasibility of additional goals for movement to permanent housing.

Homeless Assistance Grants
Indicator: Leverage at least $1 for every $1 of HUD McKinney Act Homeless funds awarded.
Homeless Assistance Grants


Content Archived: November 29, 2011