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The US to spend $1.4 billion on homeless
but cities will have to conduct headcount

By Josh Fecht

30 January 2005: More than 4,400 local homeless programs across America will receive $1.4 billion in grants City Mayors was told by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the largest single commitment of federal funds, designed to provide shelter and care for those without a home of their own. HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson said the funding represents the largest level of support for an unprecedented number of local projects on the front lines of caring for people who might otherwise be living on the streets.

This is the fourth consecutive year HUD is providing record funding for homeless assistance and is part of a larger federal strategy being embraced by a growing number of state and local communities to end long-term or chronic homelessness.

The US Department of Housing and Urban Development has asked cities and counties that receive federal aid for the homeless to provide statistically valid counts when they apply for grants. And with $1.4 billion in federal aid at stake, up to 500 US communities are expected to participate.

The HUD is asking the affected cities and counties to do a street count every other year. Most will do them during the last week of January, when it is believed that most homeless people will have sought refuge from the cold in shelters and will be easier to find.

New York City will count its homeless people for the first time. At the end on 2004, 299 men and women were living on the streets of Boston last month, up from 230 last year, while more than 5,800 people were found to be living in shelters. Metro Los Angeles is thought to be the homeless capital of the US. But the estimate of some 84,000 people on its streets is ten years old. Officials said they believed that number was likely to change. Counts also will be conducted in San Francisco, San Diego, and other California cities and counties. The effort will be matched elsewhere in the country. Metro Atlanta will record numbers in a central database.

HUD's funding is provided in two ways:
• Continuum of Care grants provide permanent and transitional housing to homeless persons. In addition, Continuum grants fund important services including job training, health care, mental health counselling, substance abuse treatment and child care.

• Emergency Shelter Grants convert buildings into homeless shelters, assist in the operation of local shelters and fund related social service and homeless prevention programs.

Combined, HUD's Continuum of Care and Emergency Shelter Grant programs will provide critically needed funding to more than 4,400 local programs in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the US Virgin Islands. As a result, more than a quarter-million persons will receive the housing and services they need to become self-sufficient.

More than $1.2 billion in Continuum of Care grants are awarded competitively to local programs to meet the needs of their homeless clients. Continuum grants fund a wide variety of programs-from street outreach and assessment programs to transitional and permanent housing for homeless persons and families.

Emergency Shelter Grants are allocated based on a formula to state and local governments to create, improve and operate emergency shelters for homeless persons. These funds may also support essential services including job training, health care, drug/alcohol treatment, childcare and homelessness prevention activities. By helping to support emergency shelter, transitional housing and needed support services, Emergency Shelter Grants are designed to move homeless persons away from a life on the street toward permanent housing.

Approximately $322 million of the Continuum grants awarded today will fund new and existing programs through HUD's Shelter Plus Care program that helps to pay rent and provide permanent housing for disabled homeless individuals and their families. The Shelter Plus Care program requires that HUD-funded projects help their clients live independently and provide needed supportive services from funding sources other than HUD.

For nearly four years, HUD has increasingly emphasized its goal of ending chronic homelessness in its assistance programs. Research indicates that approximately 10 per cent of all homeless persons (some 150,000 people) experience long-term or chronic homelessness. These studies also find that this hardest-to-serve population utilizes over half of all emergency shelter resources designed to assist homeless individuals and families. By shifting the federal emphasis toward meeting the needs of the most vulnerable homeless persons, more resources become available for those who experience homelessness as a temporary condition.

HUD is America's housing agency committed to increasing homeownership, particularly among minorities; creating affordable housing opportunities for low-income Americans; and supporting the homeless, elderly, people with disabilities and people living with AIDS. The Department also promotes economic and community development as well as enforces the nation's fair housing laws.

Highlights Of HUD's Homeless Assistance
• Largest total award of Federal funds for homeless assistance in history - more than $1.4 billion is being awarded to an unprecedented number of projects nationally, more than 4,400. This is also the fourth consecutive year funding for homeless assistance has increased to record levels.

• 1,089 of the project awards being announced target individuals experiencing chronic homelessness. Total funding to these projects will exceed $370 million, a commitment that directly supports the national goal of ending chronic homelessness by 2012.

• Approximately half of all funding announced , totaling $628 million, is being awarded to more than 1,100 projects that provide permanent housing solutions for homeless persons.

• More than 900 local projects that primarily serve mothers and their children will receive $220 million.

• Approximately 400 shelters that primarily serve victims of domestic violence will receive $92.6 million.

Nearly $33.8 million is being awarded to 133 projects that primarily target homeless veterans among those they serve.

• Nearly 1,200 of the projects funded are dedicated to providing housing and support services to severely mentally ill clients. These persons are at high risk of experiencing long-term or chronic homelessness.

• Nearly $372 million will support 1,193 local programs that primarily help homeless individuals with substance abuse problems.

• More than $9 million to provide job training and other employment services for homeless individuals.

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