Testimony of Roy A. Bernardi
March 6, 2002
Assistant Secretary for Community Planning and Development
before the U.S. Senate
Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs
Subcommittee on Housing and Transportation
Reed, Ranking Member Allard and Members of the Subcommittee, thank
you for the opportunity to testify before you today. On behalf of
Secretary Martinez I want to extend our commitment to work with
you to improve this nation's response to the problem of homelessness.
has a long history of addressing homelessness. Since the McKinney-Vento
Act's beginning in 1987, HUD has administered an array of Federal
homeless assistance programs. The programs provide emergency, transitional,
and permanent housing for homeless persons. HUD's programs also
provide for, by law, a variety of supportive services, such as job
training and mental health treatment. Many hundreds of thousands
of men, women, and children who have no place to call home have
been assisted by these programs.
Martinez intends to continue and even enhance our efforts related
to homelessness. The Bush Administration has set a goal of ending
chronic-or long-term-homelessness within 10 years. This is a bold
goal. This is a goal that will require many Federal, State and local
partners. But this is a goal that together we can and will achieve.
Federal Interagency Council on the Homeless was recently reactivated
and will be critical in ending chronic homelessness. The member
agencies of the Council elected Secretary Martinez as Chairman and
Secretary Tommy Thompson of the Department of Health and Human Services
(HHS) as Vice Chairman. At the meeting, Philip Mangano was appointed
as Executive Director of the Council. Mr. Mangano is the former
director of the Massachusetts Housing and Shelter Alliance and has
extensive experience in the field of homeless programs and policy.
The Council will be, among other activities, assessing current Federal
homeless efforts, reducing duplication among programs, and identifying
ways to effectively prevent homelessness. HUD looks forward to working
closely with the other member agencies of the Council.
me provide some background on HUD's present homeless assistance
efforts. The Department administers four McKinney-Vento homeless
assistance programs. Three of these are competitive: the Supportive
Housing Program, Shelter Plus Care, and the Section 8 Single Room
Occupancy or SRO Program. The fourth program allocates funds by
formula, the Emergency Shelter Grants Program. Together, they provide
over 70 percent of all Federal McKinney funds administered by six
Federal agencies. In 2002, Congress appropriated and HUD will be
awarding over $1.1 billion in homeless assistance for these four
streamline the administration of these programs, in 1995 HUD implemented
the Continuum of Care approach. Prior to that time, individual projects
were submitted to Washington for review and HUD picked which ones
it thought were most important for each community. The Continuum
calls on communities-not individual projects--to identify their
needs related to homelessness-both housing and services. State and
local government, non-profit agencies including faith groups, as
well as foundations, businesses, and homeless and formerly homeless
persons come together in this effort. The community collectively
identifies the inventory of resources they currently have to address
their various homeless needs. Any unaddressed needs, or gaps, in
the system are what communities can request HUD to fund. Applicants
can request funds for any or all of the three competitive HUD programs.
Communities prioritize the projects they want funded and if eligible,
and funds are available, HUD awards local projects based on the
community's prioritized list. The continuum approach has helped
coordinate housing and services for a population that is very needy
and often difficult to effectively serve.
me briefly summarize the outcomes of this past competition to give
you a sense of the magnitude and impact of these HUD programs. Over
450 continuums applied for funding in 2001. With many individual
continuums representing several cities and in some cases entire
States, a significant portion of America has a continuum. In fact,
a full 90 percent of all Americans now live within existing continuums.
These continuums submitted 3,275 projects for funding of which HUD
was able to fund 78 percent. With the $950 million awarded, HUD
will be supporting the operations of 70,000 beds. When combining
the housing and services the funds support, approximately 229,000
persons will be assisted on any given day.
current approach is helping many people, but given the need on the
streets of cities throughout this nation, we must do much more.
National studies indicate that at any point in time there are over
600,000 persons who have no home. Many are homeless only a short
time and with short term housing and services they can transition
towards self-sufficiency. However, a much smaller number are homeless
for extended periods of time and suffer from disabilities. As Dr.
Dennis Culhane from the University of Pennsylvania has pointed out
in recent research, this relatively small portion of disabled single
homeless persons consumes a large share of public services. To the
extent we can provide permanent housing and support for this population,
the savings in resources can be used to serve many more homeless
persons who only need short-term assistance.
HUD is actively pursuing four major policy initiatives to meet the
goal of ending chronic homelessness established by Secretary Martinez.
The first is a joint task force made up of HUD, HHS, and the Department
of Veterans Affairs. The second initiative is Policy Academies for
States and local leaders. The third initiative is improving the
annual competition to help drive this effort. Fourth, HUD proposes
to consolidate its homeless assistance programs.
Task Force. HUD and HHS have been meeting since February 2001
and VA has recently come on board. The group's purpose is to seek
ways to increase the use of mainstream Federal supportive service
funds so that HUD need not devote a majority of its funds to services.
Instead HUD can once again focus on its core mission-the provision
of housing. The wide range of HHS service programs have been represented
at the Federal task force. Sharing information about each other's
programs has been an important and fruitful first step of the group.
As part of this process, HUD solicited input on how it could improve
its national grants application. Recommendations regarding supportive
services were provided by HHS and incorporated by HUD into this
year's application process.
Academies. Another concrete outcome of our collaboration with
HHS is the planning and implementation of a series of Policy Academies.
Each Governor was invited to submit an application for consideration
to send a team of their top mainstream health and human service
officials with policy and budgetary authority to a Policy Academy
conference. The top 16 states were selected to attend either of
two scheduled Academies. There are plans for additional sessions.
The sessions give the State Teams the opportunity to meet and plan
statewide strategies on improving coordination and communication
between the various agencies within the state. The goal is to assist
State and local policymakers in developing an Action Plan intended
to improve access to mainstream health and human services that are
coordinated with housing for homeless persons.
to the Continuum Application. We have carefully considered the
comments of States, cities and non-profit providers as well as our
Federal partners in preparing this year's application. The application
will focus less on process and more on outcomes, clearly highlighting
the importance of housing and mainstream services. As the Notice
of Funding Availability for these funds has not yet been issued,
I am prevented from providing details on the various improvements
we have made at this time.
addition to targeting homeless assistance to those most in need,
we concurrently want to prevent homelessness. Homeless prevention
is sensible and cost-effective. By lowering the rate of entry of
people into the homeless population, service providers can more
effectively aid those who are currently homeless. In addition to
saving the cost of shelter and related social services, prevention
efforts can also reduce the human and social costs of homelessness.
Homeless prevention programs also help people to maintain steady
employment and self-sufficiency, thereby generating real benefits
in our communities, schools, and places of work.
linchpin of HUD's McKinney-Vento homeless prevention effort is the
Emergency Shelter Grants (ESG) Program. Up to 30 percent of an ESG
grantee's funds can be used for homeless prevention. Other HUD programs
can and do provide community development and housing assistance
to state and local governments to assist low-income and other persons
in avoiding homelessness. These include the Community Development
Block Grant (CDBG) and Home Investment Partnership (HOME) Programs,
Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA) Program, Section
8 Housing Choice Vouchers, and the Supportive Housing for Persons
with Disabilities (Sec. 811).
are many successful examples of prevention efforts. Let me share
one involving HUD's Emergency Shelter Grant, which can be used to
prevent homelessness. The Community Sharing Fund (CSF) of the St.
Paul Foundation in Minnesota is considered a "last resort" emergency
fund. Working through a network of 70 social service agencies in
a three-county area, this recipient of ESG homeless prevention monies
serves clients who are in danger of being evicted from their homes
and are not eligible for help elsewhere. A thorough screening process
and documentation of the eviction proceedings help staff to assess
the potential for solving the housing problem through short-term
cash assistance. In some cases, clients are required to attend financial
management classes prior to receiving monetary assistance. Where
a "reasonable" chance of success in solving the problem exists,
financial awards (averaging $400) are made to the referring agency,
which in turn provides a check to the landlord for payment of the
rent, thus preventing a family from becoming homeless.
Let me briefly mention our efforts related to homeless management
information systems (HMIS). The Department has adopted a comprehensive
approach to addressing Congressional direction to collecting homeless
information in all jurisdictions and nationally. To facilitate that
effort, Congress developed, with input from HUD staff, a new eligible
activity in HUD's Supportive Housing Program. This initiative is
resulting in many homeless projects receiving grant assistance to
implement and operate HMIS systems. To further support this effort,
in September 2001, we initiated a $4.1 million two-year technical
assistance contract to assist Continuum of Care communities nationwide
in HMIS planning and implementation activities. We are currently
in the process of reviewing proposals for setting standards for
local and national homeless data collection and implementing an
annual homeless assessment report to Congress. It is through this
HMIS effort that we will be able to better measure the performance
of our progress in ending chronic homelessness and effectively assist
homeless persons generally in moving towards self-sufficiency.
Department will be submitting a proposal to consolidate its three
competitive homeless programs. Communities, not Federal mandates,
can end homelessness. Using the groundwork laid through the continuum
process, we want to empower States and cities to more effectively
solve this problem within their jurisdictions. We have been and
will be meeting with public interest groups about our proposal.
We are soliciting their feedback and recommendations as we develop
Department wants to take the best elements of the current competitive
system and improve upon them. We recognize that the community-wide
planning aspect of the Continuum process is a very positive feature.
The coordination that is going on in communities between city agencies,
non-profit organizations and other groups such as foundations and
businesses is something we want to retain in our proposed program.
We recognize the vital role that non-profit organizations provide
in communities. They actively participate in assessing needs and
prioritizing which projects should be funded. They also are usually
the front-line providers of assistance to homeless persons. We will
be examining how non-profits can continue to play this important
are features of the current process that need to be changed. For
instance, the current three programs that constitute the Continuum
of Care each have different eligible applicants, different eligible
activities, different match requirements, and different grant terms.
It is often difficult for local organizations to negotiate through
the complexity of the current array of programs. We need to provide
flexibility so communities can succeed.
addition to providing more flexibility to communities, a streamlined
approach to awarding funds will significantly reduce the amount
of time it takes to assist homeless persons. Through a national
competition system where up to 4,000 projects must be rated and
reviewed before awards are made, HUD requires nearly 18 months from
the time funds are appropriated to when a homeless person is actually
assisted. Under a more streamlined approach, the typical community,
which has fewer than 15 projects, might review and award its projects
in a matter of weeks, not months. This approach might use a formula
for award that combines measures of need, strong performance standards,
and incentives so as not to be confused with an entitlement. Performance
standards such as those related to accessing mainstream resources
for clients and placing long-term homeless persons in permanent
supportive house are being considered.
closing, HUD is committed to making a difference in the lives of
those who are unfortunate enough not to have a home. We look forward
to working with you to make that a reality. I am available for any
questions you may have.
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