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California Counties and Cities Have a Unique Opportunity to Collaborate to End First-Time Homeless Experiences of Adults and Children

–Recent homeless count data collected by several Southern California counties and cities
revealed one-third to two-thirds of households counted were experiencing homelessness for
the first-time, which is likely true for many other counties and cities throughout the state— 

(Exact percentages for Southern California counties and cities are listed in table below)

Through the Permanent Local Housing Allocation (PLHA) Program, the Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) has allocated $138 million in non-competitive funding to 20 counties and 167 cities within these counties. The amounts vary. Appendix A: Preliminary PLHA Formula Allocations lists the non-competitive allocations for the 20 counties and 167 cities.

Applications from counties and cities for these non-competitive allocated funds are now being accepted over-the-counter through January 2020. Applications can focus on ending first-time homelessness experiences.

As stated in the PLHA guidelines, “If a local government does not submit a complete application, including an HCD approved funding plan, within five years of an allocation, funds revert to the Housing Rehabilitation Loan Fund for the Multifamily Housing Program (MHP) or for HCD-administered technical assistance to local governments.”

Also, “A joint application (may) be submitted by the jurisdictions as co-applicants and the application shall contain a Plan which clearly describes the relationships and the roles and responsibilities of the parties.”

Now Is the Time

Thus, now is the time for counties and their local cities to work together and plan strategically about implementing a joint Rapid Rehousing program as described below to end the first-time homeless experiences for a significant number of adults and children.

Rapid Rehousing is an eligible activity under the PLHA Program, which includes “providing rapid rehousing, rental assistance, supportive/case management services that allow people to obtain and retain housing.” Also, “Two or more local governments that receive an allocation may expend those monies on an eligible joint project” as noted in the program regulations.

Accordingly, a given county may have been allocated $3 million dollars but cities within the county may have been allocated collectively an additional $3 million dollars or more. These monies can be expended on an eligible project such as a joint multi-jurisdictional Rapid Rehousing Program that supplements and not supplants existing funds for local rapid rehousing activities.

The Need

The need for a joint effort to end first-time homelessness experiences is evident. Data collected by several Southern California counties and cities during their 2019 homeless count and survey revealed that between one-third and half of unsheltered homeless households counted answered “yes” when either asked “Is this the first time you have been homeless?” or “Did you become homeless for the first time during the past 12 months?”

Southern California
County or City
Survey Question % of Households who stated “Yes”
Glendale Did you become homeless for the first time during the past 12 months? 31.4
Imperial County Is this the first time you have been homeless? 28.3
Long Beach Is this your first-time experiencing homelessness? 51.0
Los Angeles Is this the first time you have experienced

Homelessness?

63.0
Orange County Did you become homeless for the first time during the past 12 months? 38.2
Pasadena Is this the first time you have been homeless? 52.0
Riverside County Is this the first time you have been homeless? 36.0
San Bernardino County Did you become homeless for the first time during the past 12 months? 18.8
San Diego County Is this the first time you have been homeless? 43.0
Santa Barbara County Is this the first time you have been homeless? 49.0
Ventura County Is this the first time you have been homeless? 35.4

Core Program Components

Core components of a Rapid Rehousing program include:

  • Housing Search;
  • Street Outreach;
  • Coordinated Entry;
  • Housing Navigation;
  • Landlord Incentive Program;
  • Home-based Case Management and Supportive Services.

Supplement not Supplant

A county and local cities working together and planning strategically about implementing a joint Rapid Rehousing program should include the public and private agencies that are already working together to rapidly rehouse homeless households in their jurisdictions. Strategic planning should consider enhancing what public and private agencies are already successfully doing by using PLHA Program funds to supplement and not supplant existing local funds.

PLHA funds should be used to fund a core component of a Rapid Rehousing program if currently unfunded or used to supplement by increasing a core component if needed. For example, additional street outreach workers or having navigators will likely be needed for a joint multi-jurisdictional Rapid Rehousing program. Also, as more and more households obtain housing an increasingly number of home-based case managers will be needed to help households maintain their housing.

Next Steps

Each of the 20 counties should convene an initial planning meeting with their local cities that have been allocated PLHA funds to discuss the possibility of a joint multi-jurisdictional Rapid Rehousing Program that supplements and not supplants existing funds for local rapid rehousing activities.

Appoint a Point Person to organize and facilitate the initial meeting and subsequent meetings to evaluate potential program progress. Point person would also be responsible for collecting, analyzing, and using program data and information to help county and local city representatives ensure program effectiveness and efficiency.

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