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Prepared Statement of Mark Johnston

Deputy Assistant Secretary for
Special Needs Assistance Programs
before the Subcommittee on Transportation,
HUD, and Related Agencies
Committee on Appropriations
United States House of Representatives

February 28, 2008

Housing Needs of Special Populations

Thank you Chairman Olver and Ranking Member Knollenberg. On behalf of Secretary Jackson, I am pleased to appear before this Committee. My name is Mark Johnston. As the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Special Needs, in the Office of Community Planning and Development, I oversee and manage the Department's efforts to address the housing and service needs of two of our most vulnerable populations: persons who are homeless and low-income persons living with HIV/AIDS.

In 1987, Congress passed the McKinney-Vento Act creating targeted homeless assistance programs at HUD to address the emergency, transitional and permanent housing needs of homeless families and individuals. Since then, HUD has awarded $13.5 billion to communities across the country. In the President's FY 2009 budget, HUD is requesting record funding of over $1.7 billion for its targeted homeless assistance efforts. This level of funding will allow HUD to continue to fund existing projects and also help develop new supportive housing units to address local needs. This funding request will also provide additional vouchers to homeless veterans who will benefit from the services offered by the Department of Veterans Affairs. The 2009 budget request represents a more than 50 percent increase in funding for homeless assistance during this Administration.

HUD administers three competitive homeless assistance grant programs that provide targeted assistance. The Supportive Housing Program develops housing and related supportive services for people transitioning from homelessness to independent living. The Shelter Plus Care Program provides rental assistance through a variety of permanent housing choices, tied to needed supportive services such as drug treatment and mental health treatment. The Single Room Occupancy or SRO Program provides rental assistance for properties that will contain upgraded single occupancy units for homeless individuals. In addition to these competitive programs, HUD also administers the Emergency Shelter Grants Program, which allocates funds by formula. This program provides funds for emergency shelters, transitional housing and homeless prevention. HUD also provides extensive technical assistance to applicants and grant recipients.

In 1994, HUD launched the Continuum of Care concept to help communities across America solve the challenges posed by homelessness with a coordinated, comprehensive and strategic approach. Continuum of Care calls for each community to plan, organize and deliver housing and services that meet the specific needs of homeless individuals and families as they move toward a stable home and self-sufficiency. The Continuum of Care process involves a broad array of stakeholders, including state and local government agencies, public housing agencies, non-profit providers, foundations, schools, businesses, and homeless and formerly homeless persons.

HUD award of all competitive homeless assistance program funding to Continuums of Care is closely tied to their performance. HUD measures to what extent grantees are successful in housing clients in permanent, stable housing and securing client employment. As a result of this emphasis on performance outcomes, over 132,000 persons moved from the streets and shelters into permanent supportive housing in 2006. Last year, over 70,000 persons who exited HUD's homeless programs secured employment.

The success of the Continuum of Care programs demonstrates HUD's dedication to sound management of its homeless programs. HUD's homeless programs were reviewed by OMB using the Program Assessment Rating Tool (PART). These programs received an "Effective" rating, OMB's highest score.

Communities are using Homeless Management Information Systems (HMIS) to document the extent and nature of homelessness. HUD aggregated that data and,
this past year, submitted the first Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR) to Congress. This report used HMIS data from a large sample of communities to estimate the number of homeless persons in the Untied States. The study also used point-in-time counts from each Continuum across the nation. By using two methods of evaluation, the AHAR is the most comprehensive national study on the extent and nature of homelessness.

To better serve homeless persons, this year's HUD's Continuum of Care competitive programs will be accessible through an electronic application. HUD receives each year well over 6,000 grant applications from over 450 Continuums of Care which represent over 3,900 cities and counties. These continuums represent over 90 percent of the U.S. population. Converting to a completely electronic system will significantly reduce the time needed to process the applications at HUD. In addition to this 2008 effort, we are looking to further streamline and expedite the use of HUD's sorely needed homeless funds through legislation. HUD has transmitted to Congress legislation to consolidate the three competitive Continuum of Care programs into a single, competitive program. The legislation will provide a single match requirement and single list of eligible activities, affording much needed simplicity and flexibility. Under the proposal, HUD will award future funds not to the 6,000 individual organizations but to the approximately 450 Continuums. Continuums will then each administer a grant in their community. These features will allow each community to much more effectively and efficiently address their local needs.

The Department will also provide housing assistance to approximately 70,500 households to help persons living with HIV and AIDS under the Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS program (HOPWA). HOPWA provides rental assistance and funding for the operation of community residences and other housing facilities. A significant number of beneficiaries also receive short-term housing support in limited rent or mortgage payments as a temporary intervention that prevents immediate homelessness and creates opportunities to connect to support networks.

In FY2008, 90 percent of HOPWA funds were distributed by formula to 127 jurisdictions, with ten percent to be awarded in renewals and by competition to an estimated 26 projects. For FY2009, the Administration is requesting $300 million in order to allow for continued support for 70,500 households. This amount maintains the highest level of funding in program history. The President's budget also requests an update to the statutory formula. The revised formula will take housing costs and the number of persons living with AIDS within a jurisdiction into account. The new HOPWA formula will distribute resources on a more equitable basis and would better reflect differences in housing costs across the nation. HUD looks forward to strengthening the HOPWA program so that it can continue to provide safe and decent housing to low-income persons living with HIV/AIDS.

I want to reaffirm HUD's commitment to addressing the needs of these vulnerable populations. Thank you for the opportunity to discuss these special needs programs. I welcome your questions may have.


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