Does Anyone Need 18,000 Vouchers to Help End Homelessness?

The answer is yes! And we’re in luck. Right now there is an open funding opportunity that will provide up to $150 million – enough for about 18,000 vouchers – through HUD’s Section 811 Mainstream Housing Choice Voucher Program

With this funding, public housing agencies (PHAs), in collaboration with partners, assist people with disabilities who are at least 18 years old and not yet 62, with preference points for targeting housing vouchers to one or more of specific household types. These categories include people who are: 

  • experiencing homelessness; 
  • at risk of homelessness;  
  • previously homeless and in a rapid re-housing or permanent supportive housing program; 
  • transitioning out of institutional or other segregated settings; or 
  • at risk of institutionalization. 

The FY19 Mainstream NOFA is somewhat different from the FY17 NOFA, which funded about 12,000 vouchers in communities served by 285 housing agencies. In the current NOFA, we see more language and expanded flexibility to address homelessness. Below are a few ways this plays out in the NOFA. 

  • Preferences include not only households experiencing or at risk of homelessness, but also those who are moving on from rapid re-housing or permanent supportive housing. This expansion could be a game changer in some communities.  
  • The NOFA states that the program is intended to support the implementation of Home, Together. 
  • There are several references to Continuums of Care (CoCs) and coordinated entry systems that encourage partnerships between PHAs and CoCs and specifically ask whether the PHA works with the coordinated entry system for referrals and tracking.  

If you are not already partnering with PHAs ttarget these new vouchers to households experiencing homelessness or moving on from rapid re-housing or permanent supportive housing, the time is now! The FY19 Mainstream NOFA applications are due September 5, 2019, and your leadership and collaboration will improve the strength of your PHA’s application and/or incentivize your PHA to apply. 

Below we offer some strategies you can use to “sell the collaboration as a win-win. 

  • You have the data the PHA needsTo apply for the funding, the PHA must submit a Statement of Need with data to demonstrate that the level need supports the application. You can provide that needed data – you have it at your fingertips 
  • You have partnerships with the service providers the PHA needs. The PHA must provide documentation that voluntary services will be available to people using the vouchers. You have those connections.  
  • You can help house people quickly. The PHA must achieve an 80% utilization rate within one year, and that’s a heavy lift for many PHAs. You can help by having a ready list of eligible householdslocating those households, providing housing search assistance, and coordinating initial move-in help, among many other services.  
  • You can help craft the PHA “preference language to facilitate the process of entry by eligible households experiencing homelessness and/or moving on from rapid re-housing or permanent supportive housing. PHAs are required to pull from their waiting lists to identify eligible households, and many PHAs have closed waiting lists. By adopting a well-crafted preference, with your help, PHAs can ensure that once they’ve contacted potentially eligible households on their waiting list, they can add new additional eligible households for the category of people covered by the preference – including those the CoC refers 
  • You can help ensure that the PHA’s application scores well. To maximize the score on the application for funding, the PHA really needs your help in building out the substance of the scored sections. For example, there are points for using a centralized tracking system used by the PHA and partner agencies; this can be satisfied by using your HMIS. In addition, half the scoring points are for specific activities categorized as “Program Resources” – all of which the CoC can support and help coordinate.  

Yes, this sounds like some work – but it’s 18,000 vouchers!  

To support you in this work, we provide some links below that will empower you in these conversations. 

And if you don’t make headway this time, don’t despair. We expect another similar NOFA in 2020. Laying the groundwork now will ensure that you and your PHAs can submit strong applications for funding for new vouchers going forward. 

At USICH, we know that these mainstream vouchers can help advance Home, Together: The Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness, which calls for expanded access to and prioritization of people experiencing homelessness for affordable housing resources. Now is the time to strengthen collaborations and use the opportunity these vouchers provide to prevent and end homelessness.