The Department of Housing and Urban Development has opened millions of dollars to fund groups that serve non-dwelling people in rural areas — an unprecedented move by the agency, housing advocates say.
A department spokesperson said people living in cars, parks and on the streets at night, which the agency classifies as homeless, have increased across the country, particularly in urban areas on the West Coast, but rural areas across the country are also affected. .
Continuing Care, the planning bodies that deal with homelessness in certain areas, has until October 20 to apply for a portion of the $54.5 million targeting rural homelessness. HUD was unable to provide an estimate of how many organizations would benefit from this funding but said 127 of them are eligible to apply.
according to The department’s January 2021 report to Congress, 2020 was the first year since I began collecting this data in 2005 that there are more homeless people out there than people living in shelters. The report also noted that “largely rural areas [Continuums of Care] It has the highest proportion of people experiencing homelessness in non-sheltered locations” at 44%, compared to 39% in continuity of care that includes major cities. From 2019 to 2020, there was an 8.3% increase in homelessness in continuity of care largely rural care.
Steve Berg, vice president for programs and policy at the National Alliance to End Homelessness, said housing challenges are different in rural areas. Berg said the problem in rural areas is not always a lack of housing, as in urban areas, but a lack of safe housing.
“In rural areas, there are housing and a lot of it is vacant or dilapidated. It is not well maintained, so it is substandard housing. If this goes on for too long, people will not be able to live there safely.”
Berg added that the systems in place to address homelessness in rural areas also work differently from those in urban areas.
There are no programs for the homeless in many rural areas. A mostly rural county might get a little bit of the federal money for homelessness, but that’s not enough to administer a program or people’s payroll,” he said. A central agency makes decisions about how to distribute the funding and who’s going to get to work. There’s actually none of that in a lot of rural areas.”
Understanding the number of homeless people in rural areas is a challenge because of “service deserts” where there are no shelters or housing programs available to count the number of homeless people, said Adrian Bush, executive director of the Kentucky Homeless and Housing Coalition.
More resources are needed for communication, too, Bush said, which looks different in rural areas. For example, it may require going to a public park and walking up and down a stream instead of going to camp under an overpass.
In 2020, the states with the highest percentages of homeless homeless people overall were Nevada, Oregon, California, Hawaii, and Arkansas. Maine, New York, Nebraska, Massachusetts, and North Dakota had the lowest rates, to me HUD Report 2021. HUD also has $267.5 million in funds available to address homeless, homeless populations in non-rural areas. The report also found that the largely rural continuity of care with the highest percentages of homeless, unhosted people was in western Tennessee, including the city of Jackson. Lake County, California; and seven counties in Florida: Hamilton, Columbia, Swanee, Lafayette, Hardy, Highlands and Hendry.
HUD funding will begin to address the challenges advocates describe.
Some of the challenges with preventing homelessness in the area include a lack of affordable housing, said Brenda Gray, executive director of the Heartland Coalition for the Homeless in Florida, whose coverage area includes Hendry, Hardy and Highlands counties.
Gray said she hopes that at least a few of the six counties served by the Heartland Venture Alliance will be selected. One of the potential projects I looked at would be a pilot project in Hendry County for 12 or 13 years small houses On a third of an acre of land.
“We are a small group of care services and what we really need is a housing specialist. My clients that we serve now – we try to help them as much as we can find housing,” Gray said. We can do. So what we are asking them to do is to find accommodation and then we will help you get there financially, provided you are eligible. So the housing and outreach specialists are the most important in my view. Because we have a case manager trying to do everything.”
Housing policy first
Bush said she sees HUD funding as an opportunity for areas that can’t supplement federal dollars with money from the local general fund and tax base such as Louisville and Lexington.
“Some of these small communities, says Hopkinsville, Kentucky, don’t have that luxury, so whatever money is for homeless services for them, it’s going to come from the federal government and it depends on whether there’s a local organization that has the ability to apply for and provide quality services with funding. federated.” “The state does not supplement anything from its general fund to help the homeless and that is unfortunately true for many southern states.”
She added that one of the things she likes about the funding opportunity is that it stimulates projects that have partnerships with housing providers.
“The idea here is to increase [housing] Stocking and simplifying the process of people experiencing homelessness to actually access housing.”
HUD says one of its funding policy priorities is a “housing first” approach. The department says Continuing Care should “engage landlords and landlords to determine the inventory of housing available for rapid rehousing and to participate in permanent supportive housing, remove barriers to entry, and adopt methods of service delivery that respond to the preferences and needs of the individual or the family’s offering for assistance.” It also requires that Continuums of Care describe its current landlord recruitment strategy and how they will use the data to change their hiring strategy.
Lynn Sasino, executive director of the Florida Coalition to End Homelessness, said in an email that many rural communities are struggling to provide services due to employment problems caused by low wages. Sasino added that many rural communities in the state do not even have shelters.
She said HUD funding provides services such as emergency short-term hotel stays, emergency food and clothing, homelessness prevention for those who are late in paying rent, and things that will help build the capacity of agencies and organizations, such as employee education, which is not normally available to Continuums of Care .
While HUD funding is a step toward tackling rural homelessness in the United States, Berg said the department needs a lot of funding from Congress to tackle homelessness across the country: “They have programs that are well designed to get good results, but they’re not funded as much as possible.” Enough to really achieve that range.”
For upcoming federal credits, the National Alliance to End Homelessness is call for $3.6 billion to fund HUD grants to assist the homeless and $32.1 billion to account for tenant-based rental assistance.
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