Updated 2016 Chronically Homeless Definition Clarification by HUD TA

QUESTION #1: For many years, HUD seems to have strongly encouraged CoCs, and perhaps awarded more points for those of us that annually increased our PH dedicated and prioritized CH beds.  However, this updated 2016 definition of CH seems to decrease the population of those that meet the new definition, thus most likely resulting in lower utilization rates, especially for our dedicated CH beds.  How are we supposed to address this matter?

ANSWER: HUD did not change the definition of chronic homelessness as a way to reduce the number of persons that are considered chronically homeless. The decision to include a final definition, to include the definition that was included in the final rule was made back in 2012 really at that convening and we’ve been working towards that ever since. And we also don’t know for sure that it will actually reduce the overall number especially in the first point in time in which it’s implemented, which will be in 2016. Because the point in time count is based entirely on self-report this may result in a person being counted as chronically homeless but once they are actually referred to a program an eligibility is being determined they may not be able to verify eligibility at that point. So yes it’s true that some people that were previously considered chronically homeless will no longer meet the definition it is also possible that some persons that previously did not meet the definition will now meet it such as persons with multiple short stays in institutions.

QUESTION #2: If dedicated or prioritized beds for chronically homeless persons were not filled by chronically homeless persons, are we supposed to document our process that we tried to fill with chronically homeless persons first?  If so, how?

ANSWER: First, HUD understands that in order to implement the definition outlined in the Final Rule on Defining “Chronically Homeless,” it will require that communities exercise due diligence to identify and engage all persons experiencing homelessness with chronic homelessness within the CoC’s geographic area. If there were no chronically homeless persons identified as chronically homeless at that point in time through the coordinated entry process and/or by outreach workers within the CoC's geographic area, it would be acceptable to serve a non-chronically homeless household in a vacant unit. At no point should beds be held vacant waiting for people to age into chronicity. Serving a non-chronically homeless household in a vacant unit would also be acceptable if there are individuals that are not ready or willing to be housed in PSH. In both situations, however, you will need to document very carefully what attempts were made to locate persons that met the definition of chronically homeless, and what the outreach strategy was (e.g., if your community has a by-name list or prioritized list through your coordinated entry). 

The CoC and recipient of PSH must maintain records to document what efforts have been made to locate persons experiencing chronic homelessness. Ideally, the CoC should have a list of all households that are currently presenting for assistance within the CoC which should include whether or not the household meets the definition of chronically homeless. If there are no households that meet the definition of chronically homeless on a regularly updated list at the time in which a vacancy is available, this will serve as sufficient documentation to demonstrate that there are no identified chronically homeless households within the CoCs geographic area.

The following FAQ clarifies that recipients of dedicated or prioritized PSH funded under the CoC Program are not required to hold beds vacant indefinitely while trying to identify persons that meet the highest priority: https://www.hudexchange.info/faqs/1895/are-recipients-of-dedicated-or-prioritized-psh-funded-under-the-coc-program/

HUD does not expect recipients of dedicated or prioritized CoC Program-funded PSH to hold vacant beds open indefinitely while waiting to locate chronically homeless persons with the longest histories of homelessness and most severe service needs. Recipients are only expected to exercise due diligence and should document the efforts they have undertaken to locate persons that would be considered the highest priority. HUD does not have a specific time frame that a recipient must hold a bed vacant.

This is also the case when there are no persons identified within the CoC that meet the definition of chronically homeless in general. Where the orders of priority have been adopted by a CoC, if there are no persons within the CoC’s geographic area that meet the definition of chronically homeless per 24 CFR 578.3, recipients of dedicated and prioritized CoC Program-funded PSH may serve households that are not experiencing chronic homelessness and in the order of priority described in the Prioritization Notice for non-dedicated and not-prioritized PSH beds. Should the bed turnover and become vacant again, the recipient must start by first seeking households that meet Order of Priority 1 for dedicated and prioritized CoC Program-funded PSH.