GAO Reports on Lack of Assistance and Federal Coordination for People Experiencing Homelessness during Disasters

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report on May 16 about disaster assistance for individuals who experience homelessness during a disaster. GAO recommended better coordination between HUD and FEMA to provide assistance to this marginalized population. The report found what advocates and individuals experiencing homelessness have seen in the aftermath of disasters – no federal programs are specifically designed to address their housing needs during a disaster. However, the report correctly points out that both FEMA and HUD have programs that can be used to assist people experiencing homelessness during a disaster: FEMA’s Public Assistance Program, which provides reimbursement to state and local governments and eligible nonprofits for emergency measures taken during disasters; and HUD’s Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery Program (CDBG-DR). The report also highlights HUD’s Continuum of Care (CoC) and Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG) programs, which can provide housing assistance during a disaster but generally do not receive supplemental disaster funding.

The report issued three recommendations to HUD and FEMA: HUD should develop timeframes for issuing CoC and ESG funding waivers to allow those programs to quickly assist individuals experiencing homelessness during a disaster; FEMA and HUD should coordinate to address the sheltering and housing needs of people experiencing homelessness; and FEMA and HUD’s Office of Community Planning and Development should work to better align CDBG-DR funds and available FEMA programs.

Read the GAO report at:

More information about disaster housing programs is on page 6-52 of NLIHC’s 2023 Advocates’ Guide.