Report finds that while RUSH offers vital support to disaster-impacted communities, improvements should be made before future implementation
Washington, D.C. – The National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) and the National Housing Law Project (NHLP) released today a report exploring the initial implementation of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Rapid Unsheltered Survivor Housing (RUSH) program, a new initiative designed to fill gaps in federal assistance by addressing homelessness in communities impacted by disasters. The report, Plugging the Gaps: Recommendations for HUD’s RUSH Program, finds that while RUSH offers vital support to disaster-impacted communities, initial implementation of the program in Florida was hampered by challenges that must be remedied before future deployment.
“RUSH represents a sea-change in how HUD views its role in responding to disasters, which disproportionately impact low-income renters and those experiencing homelessness,” said NLIHC President and CEO Diane Yentel. “Yet while RUSH has significant potential for providing fast, low-barrier access to housing in the wake of disasters, the program must be improved before this potential is realized. The new report gives detailed recommendations about how HUD can improve RUSH to ensure that all impacted survivors – including those experiencing homelessness – are housed as quickly as possible after disasters.”
Established in 2022, RUSH provides funds to help communities offer outreach, emergency shelter, rapid re-housing, and other assistance to people experiencing or at risk of homelessness who are in a disaster-affected area but who cannot access all services provided by FEMA programs. The program was created following years of advocacy by NLIHC’s Disaster Housing Recovery Coalition (DHRC), which includes the National Housing Law Project and over 900 other local, state, and national advocacy organizations.
RUSH was first deployed in the fall of 2022 to support the response to Hurricane Ian, which decimated the southwest coast of Florida. However, over one year later, funding has only just begun to reach impacted communities, and many of those individuals with the fewest resources who were most impacted by the hurricane continue to experience severe housing instability and homelessness.
RUSH implementation in Florida has been hindered by numerous hurdles, according to the report. These hurdles include a lack of guidance regarding spending deadlines, lack of transparency and information sharing, confusion about RUSH’s relationship to existing assistance programs, and a reimbursement model that does not adequately incentivize grantees to spend RUSH funds in a timely manner.
The report recommends that HUD address these challenges in several ways. For example, HUD should ensure that decisions to allocate disaster assistance do not reinforce pre-existing racial disparities, and the agency should explore alternative ways to ensure equity when deploying RUSH funds. Likewise, the report suggests that HUD provide RUSH funds up front instead of via a reimbursement model to allow for quick implementation of activities, and that the agency impose timing requirements that complement FEMA programs. HUD should also clarify the benefits of synchronizing RUSH and related homeless service activities, ensure that regulatory waivers provided to RUSH recipients are sufficient, and prioritize the creation of detailed guidance on how to access RUSH funds.
“By adopting these recommended changes, HUD will be able to more quickly provide assistance to individuals impacted by disasters who currently fall through the gaps of the existing federal emergency response system,” said National Housing Law Project Managing Attorney Natalie Maxwell.
With disasters increasing in frequency and intensity, more individuals experiencing homelessness are certain to be impacted, and more households will face disaster-induced homelessness. By implementing the recommendations offered by the new report, HUD can better ensure that the lowest-income renters and people experiencing homelessness have the support they need when the next disaster strikes.
Read the report at: https://bit.ly/4791RbX
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