SNAPS In Focus: Prioritizing Persons with the Highest Level of Need in Permanent Supportive Housing

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SNAPS In Focus: Prioritizing Persons with the Highest Level of Need in Permanent Supportive Housing

In a perfect world, there would be enough affordable housing and supportive services to ensure that no one has to experience homelessness. But what do you do when there are not enough resources to achieve that vision? At the local level, this is all too familiar. Every day you are having to make decisions about who to serve when there simply are not enough beds and resources to serve everyone. This is also a dilemma that HUD and its Federal partners have been grappling with in recent years, particularly as appropriated funds become more and more limited. Here at HUD we are working hard to secure additional resources, as reflected in the President’s FY 2016 Budget request, to make sure that communities have the necessary resources to end homelessness locally.
Although the Opening Doors goal of ending chronic homelessness has been pushed back to 2017 we cannot afford to wait for those resources. The most important thing that communities can do to maximize resources is to ensure that all homelessness assistance is prioritized for homeless households with the highest needs. HUD recently published a policy brief on coordinated entry that talked about this more broadly. Today, however, I want to focus on prioritization in permanent supportive housing. 
We know that permanent supportive housing is the most intensive solution that HUD has to combat homelessness. Research has consistently found that permanent supportive housing is the most effective solution for people experiencing chronic homelessness. It is not a one-size-fits-all approach and should only be offered to those households that truly need that level of support. Most people experiencing homelessness may need some level of assistance but do not likely need permanent supportive housing. Yet, unless there is a systematic way to prioritize households with the highest needs, this is often not who receives this type of assistance.
For this reason, HUD published the Notice CPD-14-012: Prioritizing Persons Experiencing Chronic Homelessness in Permanent Supportive Housing and Recordkeeping Requirements for Documenting Chronic Homeless Status (Prioritization Notice) in July 2014. The Prioritization Notice established an order of priority for households served in permanent supportive housing and provided uniform recordkeeping requirements for all recipients of CoC Program-funded permanent supportive housing to document the chronically homeless status of program participants. HUD has received significant feedback since publishing the Prioritization Notice and has recently posted Frequently Asked Questions to address the most common questions and concerns.
As you know, the original goal of Opening Doors was to end chronic homelessness by 2015. Progress towards this goal has been slower than we hoped, due in large part to budgetary constraints which have made it necessary to push the goal back two years. While insufficient resources has been a significant challenge, we can also look at our existing stock of permanent supportive housing as reported on the 2014 Housing Inventory Count and see that despite making significant gains on the number of permanent supportive housing available, the overall percentage of those permanent supportive housing beds funded under the CoC Program that are dedicated to serving persons experiencing chronic homelessness is only 30 percent. Far too many CoCs and recipients continue to place people in permanent supportive housing on a first-come-first serve basis, rather than prioritizing those who have the most significant needs. Additionally, where CoCs and providers continue to not fully implement a Housing First approach, unnecessary barriers that screen out those households who need the assistance the most continue to persist. 
The overarching intent of the Prioritization Notice is to move CoCs and recipients of CoC Program funding for permanent supportive housing in a direction where chronically homeless persons and other high need households are prioritized for assistance above other eligible households. I also want to be clear—we are not saying prioritize chronically homeless individuals over all other household types. To the extent that a recipient of CoC Program-funded permanent supportive housing is targeting unaccompanied youth, for example, HUD would only expect for the recipient to first serve any unaccompanied youth that met the definition of chronically homeless and if there are not any youth within the CoC that meet that criteria, to then prioritize those unaccompanied youth with the highest needs in accordance with the Prioritization Notice. HUD strongly encourages CoCs to incorporate the process described in the Prioritization Notice into their written standards, making it a requirement of all recipients of all CoC Program-funded permanent supportive housing to use this priority order to fill vacancies.
We will not end chronic homelessness as a nation unless we systematically prioritize persons experiencing chronic homelessness and do so in a manner that ensures persons with the longest histories of homelessness and most severe services needs get housing first. Therefore, the Prioritization Notice establishes two orders of priority—one for beds that are either dedicated or prioritized for persons experiencing chronic homelessness and another for those that are not—both of which aim to prioritize persons with the longest lengths of time homeless and the most severe service needs. Recipients should examine their program design to ensure that it adheres to Housing First principles and that barriers to program entry have been removed to the greatest extent possible.
We recognize that serving people experiencing chronic homelessness and other highly vulnerable populations may require enhanced services that will increase costs, staff training and support needs, and present other challenges for providers. Recipients are encouraged to explore partnering with community resources to meet the needs of their new tenants. New or expanded partnerships with agencies with the expertise and resources to serve this population and a shared goal of stabilizing housing may be essential to ending chronic homelessness in your community.
Recently the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) published two new documents that provide guidance on how services that are provided in permanent supportive housing can be covered and financed through Medicaid. These documents include Primer on Using Medicaid for People Experiencing Chronic Homelessness and Tenants of Permanent Supportive Housing and Medicaid and Permanent Supportive Housing for Chronically Homeless Individuals: Emerging Practices from the Field. Shortly after the documents were released, the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness posted a blog by Richard Cho: Medicaid Can Pay for Services for People in Permanent Supportive Housing. The blog helps to summarize what you can find in these HHS resources and how Medicaid can be used to finance permanent supportive housing for the chronically homeless. I would encourage you to read his message along with the HHS documents because, as Richard states, “We need more Continuums of Care and homeless services providers to learn to speak the language of Medicaid.” HUD expects CoC-Program funded recipients and CoCs to closely examine opportunities to help clients access Medicaid and other mainstream supportive services as quickly as possible. CoC-Program funding should not be used to pay for Medicaid-eligible services for Medicaid-eligible clients.
We believe that ending chronic homelessness is possible but it cannot be done without you. Thank you for all that you do in your community’s efforts to end homelessness. 
As always, thank you for your commitment and hard work.
Ann Marie Oliva
Deputy Assistant Secretary for Special Needs
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2014 HMIS Data Standards – Federal Partner Program HMIS Manuals Published

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U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development HUD Exchange Mailing List

2014 HMIS Data Standards – Federal Partner Program HMIS Manuals Published

HUD and its federal partners have published new resources on the HMIS Guides and Tools page of the HUD Exchange:

Federal Partner Program HMIS Manuals

Six new manuals have been prepared, in partnership with other federal agencies requiring Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) participation, to assist HMIS Lead Agencies and Continuums of Care (CoCs) to correctly set up projects in HMIS. Guides for the following programs have been posted:

Upcoming trainings: HMIS Project Set Up

HUD National HMIS TA providers will be conducting four training sessions to review the project set up guidance included in the newly released manuals. These trainings are open to all, but are intended to provide HMIS Lead agencies and HMIS System Administrators the technical guidance they need to set projects up correctly in their systems. Registration links for these webinars are listed below:
Monday, March 30, 2015 at 1 PM EDT: HMIS System Administration Training: HUD Programs Set-up

Tuesday, March 31, 2015 at at 1 PM EDT: HMIS System Administration Training: RHY Program Set-up

Wednesday, April 1, 2015 at 1 PM EDT:HMIS System Administration Training: PATH Program Set-up

Thursday, April 2, 2015 at 1 pm PM EDT: HMIS System Administration Training: VA Programs Set-up

After you complete the registration process, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about accessing the webinar(s).
HUD will record these trainings and post them at
In addition to these technical trainings, HUD and its Federal partners will release a prerecorded webcast that provides a high-level overview of the program-specific HMIS manuals for general audiences. This will be available in the Webcast Archives page on HUD’s website. HUD will send a listserv message as soon as this broadcast is available online.

Additional HMIS Resources

CoC Program HMIS Data Collection Templates – The existing CoC Program HMIS data collection templates were revised and updated in December 2014. In addition to corrections and clarifications throughout, several supplemental forms have been added for specific project types. The forms are also now available in MS Word to allow for local modification.

Questions about the Data Standards?

If you have questions about the data standards, please submit them through the HUD Exchange Ask a Question (AAQ) portal. On Step 2 of the question submission process, select “HMIS” in the “My question is related to” dropdown.

HUD's Sustainable Communities Initiative Launches New Resource Library

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U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development HUD Exchange Mailing List

HUD's Sustainable Communities Initiative Launches New Resource Library

Dear Friends and Colleagues:

After years of communities’ hard work creating regional coalitions to strengthen their economies; obtaining comprehensive public input to reflect their priorities; and fostering public and private partnerships to ensure implementation of plans, I am excited to announce that HUD has created a Sustainable Communities Initiative Resource Library to house the products of HUD’s Sustainable Community Initiative Grantees.
This new online library catalogues dozens of local and regional comprehensive plans, model codes and reports—and it will be expanded over the coming months with additional plans, tools, reports and fact sheets that take users inside the innovations of our grantee communities. 

These resources provide an opportunity for all communities to learn from the successes of these innovators.  The library serves as a showcase for the range of activities that our grantee cities, counties and regions have taken since the first grant was awarded in 2010. Together, these 143 communities are leading the way for other communities  around the country to think about growth in a more resilient, inclusive, and cost-effective way—and we believe these results are replicable.

Given the historic nature of this program, we know many of you are curious about the program’s outcomes. While grant work is still underway in some communities, we thought it important to share this first batch of final products and deliverables with you as soon as possible.

Among the resources you will find on the SCI Resource Library, is a new HUD report, Green Infrastructure and the Sustainable Communities Initiative.  This report showcases the climate and economic resilience benefits of green infrastructure in 30 grantee communities.  In the coming months, we will publish additional reports and fact sheets that summarize lessons learned and best practices across the grant program.

A sample of currently hosted resources:
Thank you for your continued interest in this work and your support during these past five years. Our grantees have proven how far strategically-invested Federal seed money can go to nurture innovation in America’s cities and regions.  We look forward to all levels of government, the private sector, academics, and individuals learning from the hard work of these communities and organizations.

To learn more, please visit the SCI Resource Library.  You can also access the Resource Library though OER’s home page

Harriet Tregoning
Director, HUD OER

A big change is coming:

Filing is easier. Learn more.
Can't see this? View online.
See the changes to VA benefits
Its now faster, easier and more efficient to file claims
See the changes to VA benefits

Online Tools, Standardized Forms, and More

Effective March 24th, 2015, VA is implementing improvements to make it easier for you to apply for benefits.

Online application tools, standardized forms, and a new intent to file process will create faster and more accurate decisions on your claims and appeals.

See how the changes affect you:
See the changes to VA benefits

What does it all mean?

As part of the VA's full-scale transformation in 2015, these new changes will:
  • Streamline the benefits process, making it faster and easier
  • Use standardized forms to file disability claims and compensation appeals
  • Establish a new intent to file a claim process
Learn more about these important changes:
See the changes to VA benefits

Exclusive Interview with Mayor Ivy Taylor, San Antonio, TX
Thursday March 19, 2015

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Shelterforce Exclusive Interview With Mayor Ivy Taylor, San Antonio, TX

When Julian Castro, then-mayor of San Antonio, Texas, was picked to be the new Secretary of the Dept. of Housing and Urban Development last year, the city council voted in Ivy Taylor from among their ranks to replace him. The first African-American mayor of the largely Latino and Anglo city, and strongly identified as an urban planner, Taylor casts herself as someone interested more in getting work done than leaving a political legacy. However, she has not shied away from controversial positions, and her initial position that she would not be running for re-election fell by the wayside as she announced her candidacy on February 16, less than two weeks after this interview. We spoke with Mayor Taylor, who has a background in affordable housing, about what it's like to move between the community development sphere and city government, some of her difficult decisions, and her vision for stable, mixed-income neighborhoods in the city she is serving.

Miriam Axel-Lute: How did you first become aware of the community development and community planning world, and what have been some of the milestones that have kept you in that world as you've moved along?

Ivy Taylor: I actually came to it a little bit late. I went to college and majored in American Studies, came home and bumped around in jobs in advertising, and didn't really feel fulfilled. I decided I needed to go back to school to study something to put me on a career path that I'd be interested in.

I was looking through the catalog for Hunter College, because I figured I'd just go to school at night, and they had a degree in urban planning. I had literally never heard of it. I started investigating and decided that it combined many of the things that I was interested in, in particular affordable housing. I ended up going to University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where within the planning program, we had to select an area of focus, and mine was housing and community development.

Miriam Axel-Lute: At some point you participated in an NCCED (National Congress for Community Economic Development) internship program. How did that play into your career development?

 Ivy Taylor: Well, that actually put me on the path that I'm on. Without NCCED, I wouldn't be here as mayor of San Antonio. They matched up grassroots nonprofits with interns that were either studying planning or public policy. When I looked at the available positions for that summer, the position in San Antonio sounded the most interesting because it was going to be working with a coalition of affordable housing providers. I had never been to San Antonio before.

Miriam Axel-Lute: And what did you do with those affordable housing providers?

Ivy Taylor: I created a housing access directory. At that time, there were several groups that provided various services related to affordable housing, but nobody ever knew what anybody was doing. They saw in my background, which had been in advertising, a little marketing twist. The idea was for me to develop a communications plan for the organizations and also put together a directory of the services that they provided.

Keli Tianga: You were born in Brooklyn, and you lived in Queens. Did growing up in those neighborhoods have any influence on your interest in urban planning?

Ivy Taylor: I don't know. My context was so limited when I was growing up that I really didn't have a framework for planning, for public policy, for a lot of these issues the way I've come to have years later. But wherever you grow up, you think every place else is like that, right? So New York was my frame of reference; when I got other places, it was hard for me to understand the whole sprawl phenomenon, and related issues like lack of transportation options. All those things just weren't part of the context in New York [City].

Miriam Axel-Lute: Do you think you brought any sort of fresh perspective that people in those places didn't have?

Ivy Taylor: Well, no. I'm very sensitive in my role here, that we're not trying to be anyplace else. We have to work within the framework and the context of whatever locale you're in. I developed an appreciation for a different way of living, but also did understand that there were some elements of living in a dense city that made life a little bit easier for people who didn't have a lot of resources than when you got in a locale where things were more spread out.

Miriam Axel-Lute: In San Antonio, you were in local government, and then you were in the nonprofit world, and then an elected official. How is it to move between those different contexts?
Ivy Taylor: Well, when I first came here, I assumed that I would work at some fabulous nonprofit that was doing cutting-edge work, because that's all I learned about at UNC. I didn't really think a whole lot about the role of government other than the funds that HUD provided. I just thought there were all these great nonprofits everywhere that were changing communities.

When I moved here, I found much fewer nonprofits than I had anticipated, and there weren't any opportunities for me at that time, so I started out in local government. I was frustrated because I didn't think there was the level of innovation in local government that there needed to be. I also didn't think there was a commitment to provide funding needed for inner-city revitalization.

So, I left after six years working at the city, [and] went to a nonprofit [Ed note: Merced Housing Texas]. What I found there that was very liberating was the ability to implement creative ideas, to the extent that they could be funded.

But then, after being there for a while, I realized that the life outcomes of our clients were still pretty limited. I had a moment where I was, like, well, affordable housing really isn't the magic bullet here, because we're providing great, safe, affordable housing. We provided social services at apartment communities we owned, as well, and our families were still struggling so much.

So, then I started thinking more broadly, from a public policy perspective, of what else could I do as an individual to help change outcomes for more people, and that's when some community members suggested that I run for City Council, which I thought was absolutely bonkers at first. But then, I said, maybe, given the experience that I've had, I can bring that to the table, being a policymaker.

Of course, in this realm, the frustrating part can be that a lot of times people don't want to do what's right. They just want to focus on what's political. But my perspective has broadened as far as how all these different issues intersect and how, as a policymaker, you have to balance advocating for certain segments of society with the larger society.

Miriam Axel-Lute: We were speaking earlier this week with John Henneberger of the Texas Low Income Housing Information Service, and he was talking about Texas being ground zero for the fight for fair housing. [Ed note: Look for that interview in a couple weeks in Shelterforce Weekly.] He was describing fair housing as being much bigger than how we usually think about it, not just about mobility and the right to be able to move, but also the right to be able to stay in improving neighborhoods and equalizing treatment between neighborhoods. How are those kinds of questions playing out in San Antonio?
Read the full interview here.

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