Key Players Gather to Discuss Role of PHAs in Ending Homelessness

CSH was thrilled to play a key role in a convening led by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) to establish ways that Public Housing Authorities (PHAs) can partner with Continuums of Care (CoCs) and other stakeholders in the community to end homelessness.

50 PHAs and many of their corresponding CoCs participated in Thursday’s event, which was designed to 1) create an understanding of successful strategies and effective practices for addressing homelessness, 2) foster new relationships with colleagues and peers working on these issues, and 3) help PHAs and CoCs understand and support one another to achieve mutual goals and measurable impacts within their community. A key goal was to inspire commitment among participants to better serve individuals and families experiencing homelessness.

High-level officials from HUD, including Assistant Secretary Sandra Henriquez and Senior Advisor Estelle Richman, as well as the Executive Director of USICH Barbara Poppe, gave opening remarks to participants who were gathered in space generously provided by the Partnership for Public Service.

CSH followed by presenting several specific steps PHAs can take to reduce homelessness, including: establishing waitlist preferences for homeless people, modifying admissions criteria to “screen in” more homeless people, project-basing Section 8 vouchers to establish a supportive housing pipeline, and establishing or improving eviction prevention programs. CSH is currently drafting a Toolkit for PHAs that will include these options and much more information on PHAs and community partners can work together to end homelessness. See our Toolkit Preview.

After presentations on using project-based Section 8 vouchers to end homelessness, a town-hall style Q&A session with  HUD and USICH representatives, and topic-specific breakout sessions, the day concluded with an inspirational address by HUD’s Acting Assistant Secretary Mark Johnston.

Participants were asked to commit to a range of local action steps to follow the event--from something as simple as getting to know the key players in their community's homeless services to establishing homeless preferences or set-aside vouchers to end homelessness.

Key observations and innovative practices from the event:

  • Many PHAs are doing excellent work and have used innovative ideas to address homelessness; it is important to increase awareness of these program designs so that more PHAs can replicate and expand on them.
  • Like many agencies, PHAs face increasing need and additional strain on their resources, so identifying funding partnerships is more important than ever.
  • In Chicago, they're working to restructure their CoC so the governing body is different from the lead agency, so it can make better decisions for the community.  Chicago also has a coordinated referral system for all HUD-funded supportive housing projects.
  • Asheville, NC, described how the PHA established a preference for chronically homeless people who have a guarantee of 1 year of supportive services from a provider in the community. So far, 180 chronically homeless individuals have been housed in Asheville’s public housing through this program and they currently have a 90% success rate.
  • Rhode Island described how the state realigned its local plan to end homelessness with the federal strategic plan Opening Doors and established better leadership to ensure accountability at meeting the plan’s goals. Pawtucket’s Housing Authority described a pilot at their relatively small PHA in which they established a separate waiting list to house up to 10 chronic homeless people that has been a very rewarding program for all involved.
  • UNITY of New Orleans described their partnership with the Housing Authority that has resulted in a reduction of 48% of their chronic homeless population.  The partnership included combining voucher commitments from the Housing Authority with a case management and services commitment from the community thanks to a three year grant from SAMHSA. New Orleans used a vulnerability index to identify homeless people at risk of dying on the street and has also partnered with legal services to help eligible individuals access Social Security Insurance (SSI/SSDI).

Learn more about CSH's work with PHAs and keep an eye on our website for the PHA Toolkit in coming months.

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