HUD released the interim rule for the Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG) Program, the final rule on the definition of the term “homeless,” and the second allocation for FY11 ESG funds on November 15. Both of the rules reflect changes included in the Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing (HEARTH) Act of 2009. Other Continuum of Care program and Rural Housing Stability program regulations related to the HEARTH Act will be released at a later date.
NLIHC submitted comments about the proposed homeless definition rule on June 21, 2010. HUD, in the proposed rule, defined “persistent instability” as having moved three or more times over a 90 day period. NLIHC recommended that HUD instead use the standard of two moves over a one year time period. The final rule defines persistent instability as two or more moves over a 60 day period. HUD has also clarified that it would consider “the move out of the initial permanent housing placement as the first move.”
NLIHC, in its comments on the proposed rule, recommended that an oral statement alone be considered acceptable evidence of homeless status. In the final rule HUD says that third-party documentation is the preferred method of confirmation of homeless status: “HUD revised paragraph (b) of the recordkeeping requirements for ‘homeless status’ to clarify that the order of priority among documentation is third-party documentation first, intake worker observation second, and certification by the individual or head of household seeking assistance third.”
With respect to the documentation of an individual’s stay in an institution, HUD says that the final rule “expands what is an acceptable evidence of an individual’s stay in an institution to include an oral statement.”
The HEARTH Act replaced the Emergency Shelter Grant program with the Emergency Solutions Grant program. The new ESG program includes an emphasis on homelessness prevention and rapid re-housing and the rule incorporates many provisions from the temporary Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-housing program (HPRP). Under the prevention and rapid re-housing provisions of the regulations, HUD clarifies that ESG funds may be used for many expenses related to housing stabilization including security deposits, last month’s rent, moving costs, housing search and placement, and housing stability case management. The interim ESG regulation includes corresponding amendments to HUD’s consolidated planning requirements.
HUD summarizes the major changes in the ESG program as “the addition of an annual funding cap on street outreach and emergency shelter activities; clarification of the eligible costs for street outreach and emergency shelter activities; the expansion of the homelessness prevention component of the program and the addition of a new rapid re-housing component, which both include rental assistance and housing relocation and stabilization services; expansion of the range of eligible administrative costs; and the addition of a new category of eligible activities for Homeless Management Information Systems (HMIS).”
The interim rule also includes a new requirement for ESG fund recipients to consult and coordinate with their local Continua of Care (CoC) in the allocation of funds, the creation of performance standards, and the evaluation of ESG project outcomes.
HUD notes in the introduction to the interim rule that the forthcoming proposed CoC rule will include requirements for a centralized and coordinated assessment system to evaluate initial eligibility for individuals and families who seek homeless services or homeless prevention services.
The interim rule also revises portions of Consolidated Plan (ConPlan) regulations to reflect the HEARTH Act by standardizing the homelessness elements affecting all jurisdictions required to submit a ConPlan and those applying for ESG. The changes are intended to foster closer coordination between not only ESG and CoC programs, but other mainstream housing and service programs as well.
When preparing the ConPlan five-year Strategic Plan and each subsequent Annual Action Plan allocating ESG funds, jurisdictions are now required to consult with:
- Continua of Care in the jurisdiction’s geographic area.
- Public and private agencies that address homeless veterans and youth.
- Publicly funded institutions of care that may discharge people into homelessness.
The Citizen Participation segment of the ConPlan rule now requires jurisdictions to encourage participation by Continua of Care in the process of developing and implementing the ConPlan.
The ConPlan rule broadens attention beyond chronically homeless people to include families with children, veterans and their families, and unaccompanied youth.
The “Housing Needs Assessment” component of the ConPlan adds a new category of person whose housing assistance needs must be assessed by jurisdictions: formerly homeless families and individuals who are receiving rapid re-housing assistance that will soon end.
The “Housing Market Assessment” must include an inventory of mainstream services, not just homeless services, to stress the importance of using and collaborating with mainstream assistance providers to prevent and end homelessness.
The Strategic Plan and Annual Action Plan portions of the ConPlan now requires a jurisdiction to describe its strategies for reducing and ending homelessness by helping homeless people transition to permanent housing by shortening the period of time people are homeless, helping them gain access to affordable housing, and preventing people who were recently homeless from becoming homeless again. Jurisdictions must also describe strategies for helping people avoid homelessness, especially those likely to become homeless after being discharged from publicly funded institutions and systems of care.
The interim ESG rule is available at http://www.hudhre.info/index.cfm?do=viewResource&ResourceId=4517
The final homeless definition rule is available at http://www.hudhre.info/index.cfm?do=viewResource&ResourceID=4519
The ESG fund allocation information is available at http://www.hudhre.info/index.cfm?do=viewResource&ResourceId=4518
NLIHC’s comments on the proposed homeless definition rule are available at http://www.nlihc.org/doc/NLIHC-Comments-HEARTH-Home-Def.pdf