A new report from HUD’s Office of Policy Development and Research, entitled Study of PHAs’ Efforts to Serve People Experiencing Homelessness, finds that a quarter of all Public Housing Authorities (PHAs) have prioritized serving homeless households. The authors collected data from 4,000 PHAs using a web-based survey, and conducted phone interviews with staff at 120 PHAs. PHAs prioritized homeless households by placing them higher on waiting lists (10%), setting aside units for homeless households (9%), or modifying eligibility requirements for homeless households (11%).
While only 24% of PHAs prioritize homeless tenants, these PHAs account for more than half of all public housing units and Housing Choice Vouchers (53%) across the country. Overall, larger PHAs are more likely to set aside units for homeless households. While 43% of PHAs with at least 5,000 units set aside units or vouchers for homeless households, only 4% of PHAs with fewer than 500 units reported doing so. However, PHAs reported prioritizing homeless households by placing them higher on waiting lists at approximately the same rate, regardless of size.
The survey respondents also identified specific barriers often faced by homeless households when accessing housing assistance programs. Most frequently, homeless applicants for housing have no fixed address, and eventually are removed from waiting lists (46%). In addition, homeless households often do not have the documentation necessary to verify eligibility for programs (28%). In total, 11% of PHAs reported modifying eligibility requirements or screening procedures to address these barriers.
The authors of the report identify several strategies to encourage PHAs to serve homeless households. A number of PHAs suggested increasing the number of vouchers available overall, or creating special vouchers specific to homeless households. The authors also encourage HUD to facilitate partnerships between local providers of homeless services and PHAs.
The report can be found on HUD’s webpage at: http://www.huduser.org/portal/publications/pdf/pha_homelessness.pdf