Recent Homelessness Data Reveals California’s Significant Shift Concerning Types of Temporary and Permanent Housing Beds

What Happened
Emergency Shelter Beds Increased by Nearly 100%
Transitional Housing Beds Decreased by Nearly 50%
Permanent Supportive Housing Beds Increased by More than 50%
Rapid Re-housing Beds More Than Doubled 

  What Is Happening
An unprecedented amount of state funding is
encouraging more shelter, rapid re-housing,
and permanent supportive housing beds 

      What Needs to Happen Next
Advance the use of available statewide homelessness
data by integrating into evolving technology for
future planning, policy, and funding purposes

 A close look at the Housing Inventory Count (HIC) data reveals that each of the three largest regions (Northern, Central, and Southern) that make up California experienced significant similar swings in temporary and permanent housing beds but at varying rates.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) requires all CoCs that receive annual Continuum of Care (CoC) Program funding to complete and submit a Housing Inventory Count (HIC), which HUD describes

As a point-in-time inventory of provider programs within a Continuum of Care that provide beds and units dedicated to serve people experiencing homelessness . . . categorized by five Program Types: Emergency Shelter; Transitional Housing; Rapid Re-housing; Safe Haven; and Permanent Supportive Housing.

Increase in Emergency Shelter Beds by Nearly 100%

Collectively, the three regions nearly doubled their number of emergency shelter beds between 2013 and 2019 from 16,680 in 2013 to 31,028 in 2019, which represents an increase of 14,348 beds or 86%.

The increases varied by region:

  • Central California increased emergency shelter beds by nearly one-fourth—from 2,299 in 2013 to 2,849 in 2019, which represents an increase of 550 beds or 23.9%;
  • Northern California increased emergency shelter beds by one-half—from 6,729 in 2013 to 10,102 in 2019, which represents an increase of 3,372 beds or 50.1%;
  • Southern California increased emergency shelter beds by more than 100%—from 7,652 in 2013 to 18,077 in 2019, which represents an increase of 10,425 beds or 136%.

Decrease in Transitional Housing Beds by Nearly 50%

Collectively, the three regions decreased their number of transitional housing beds between 2013 and 2019 by approximately half—from 28,524 in 2013 to 14,969 in 2019, which represents a decrease of 13,555 beds or 47.5%.

The decreases varied by region:

  • Central California decreased transitional housing beds by more than one-third—from 2,406 in 2013 to 1,518 in 2019, which represents a decrease of 888 beds or 36.9%;
  • Northern California decreased transitional housing beds by more than one-third—from 8,972 in 2013 to 5,526 in 2019, which represents a decrease of 3,446 beds or 38.4%;
  • Southern California decreased transitional housing beds by more than half—from 17,146 in 2013 to 7,925 in 2019, which represents a decrease of 9,221 beds or 53.7%.

Increase in Permanent Supportive Housing Beds by More than 50%

Collectively, the three regions increased their number of permanent supportive housing beds between 2013 and 2019 by more than half—from 41,633 in 2013 to 65,397 in 2019, which represents an increase of 23,764 beds or 57.0%.

The increases varied by region:

  • Northern California increased permanent supportive housing beds by more than one-third—from 19,140 in 2013 to 26,127 in 2019, which represents an increase of 6,987 beds or 36.5%;
  • Central California increased permanent supportive housing beds by nearly two-thirds—from 2,151 in 2013 to 3,472 in 2019, which represents an increase of 1,321 beds or 61.4%;
  • Southern California increased permanent supportive housing beds by three-fourths—from 20,342 in 2013 to 35,798 in 2019, which represents an increase of 15,456 beds or 75.9%.

More Than Doubled Rapid Re-housing Beds

Collectively, the three regions more than doubled their number of rapid re-housing beds between 2016 and 2019. HUD did not require CoCs to report their number of rapid re-housing beds in 2013. The collective number of beds was 9,177 in 2016 and 20,441 in 2019, which represents an increase of 11,264 beds or 123%.

The increases varied by region:

  • Central California increased rapid re-housing beds by nearly two-thirds—from 850 in 2016 to 1,363 in 2019, which represents an increase of 513 beds or 60.39%;
  • Northern California increased rapid re-housing beds by more than three-fourths—from 3,103 in 2016 to 5,603 in 2019, which represents an increase of 2,500 beds or 80.5%;
  • Southern California increased rapid re-housing beds by more than 100%—from 5,224 in 2016 to 13,475 in 2019, which represents an increase of 8,251 beds or 158%.

Why the Significant Swing?

A significant swing in California’s types of temporary and permanent housing beds was the result of numerous changes to HUD’s homeless assistance programs authorized in the Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing Act of 2009 (HEARTH Act); the Continuum of Care Interim Rule; and the annual CoC Program Competition.

Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing Act of 2009 (HEARTH Act)

The HEARTH Act amended and reauthorized the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, which resulted in numerous changes to HUD’s Continuum of Care Program and Emergency Shelter Grant Program that included

  • Providing new incentives to emphasis rapid re-housing, especially for homeless families; and
  • Emphasizing permanent supportive housing for persons experiencing chronic homelessness.

Continuum of Care Interim Rule

The Continuum of Care Interim Rule (Interim Rule) implemented the Continuum of Care program and the numerous changes authorized by the HEARTH Act in 2012. Implementation focused on the primary purposes of the CoC Program as stated in the HEARTH Act (Sec. 421. Purposes) and specified and emphasized in the Interim Rule:

The purpose of the Continuum of Care program is to

  • Promote communitywide commitment to the goal of ending homelessness;
  • Provide funding for efforts by nonprofit providers, and State and local governments to quickly rehouse homeless individuals and families while minimizing the trauma and dislocation caused to homeless individuals, families, and communities by homelessness;
  • Promote access to and effective utilization of mainstream programs by homeless individuals and families; and
  • Optimize self-sufficiency among individuals and families experiencing homelessness.

The Emergency Shelter Grants program was renamed the Emergency Solutions Grants program and broadened to include short- and medium-term rental assistance and services to rapidly rehouse persons experiencing homelessness.

The term permanent housing was also broadened in the Interim Rule to include both permanent supportive housing and rapid re-housing. The Interim Rule stated that CoC Program funds may be spent on

two types of permanent housing: permanent supportive housing for persons with disabilities (PSH) and rapid rehousing that provides temporary assistance (i.e., rental assistance and/or supportive services) to program participants in a unit that the program participant retains after the assistance ends.

The Interim Rule also imposed the requirement that

rapid rehousing include, at a minimum, monthly case management meetings with program participants (except where prohibited by the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act (FVPSA)) and allows for a full range of supportive services to be provided for up to 6 months after the rental assistance stops. 

CoC Program Competition

Reallocation

During the early part of the past decade, HUD began encouraging CoCs to be strategic and consider realigning their temporary and permanent housing options through reallocation. HUD introduced reallocation through the annual CoC Program funding competition beginning in 2012. Reallocation is a process that allows CoCs to shift funds in whole or part from existing eligible renewal projects to create one or more new projects without affecting the CoC’s Annual Renewal Demand. CoCs may use reallocation to create new PSH (Permanent Supportive Housing); RRH (Rapid Re-housing); and Joint TH/PH-RRH (Transitional Housing/Permanent Housing-Rapid Re-housing) component.

Tiering

For the past several years, HUD has required all project applications included in the annual CoC Program application to be submitted in ranked order in Tier 1 and Tier 2. The intent of the two-tiered approach is for CoCs to indicate which projects they are prioritizing for funding.

Thus, higher ranked projects are included in Tier 1 and lower ranked projects included in Tier 2. Tier 2 projects often included transitional housing projects because CoCs would prioritize permanent supportive housing and rapid re-housing in accordance with the HEARTH Act and Interim Rule. Consequently, HUD stated that Tier 2 projects were at risk of defunding if HUD determined that a Tier 2 project was low performing or insufficient funding.

What Is Happening

An unprecedented amount of funding from the State of California for solving homelessness is encouraging more shelter, rapid re-housing, and permanent supportive housing beds. Transitional housing is not an eligible activity.

During the past few years, California legislation created the following homelessness funding sources that appropriated hundreds of millions of dollars:

Eligible activities for these one-time block grant programs include

  • Rental assistance and rapid rehousing;
  • Landlord Incentives (including, but not limited to, security deposits and holding fees);
  • Outreach and coordination (which may include access to job programs) to assist vulnerable populations in accessing permanent housing and to promote housing stability in supportive housing;
  • Prevention and shelter diversion to permanent housing;
  • New navigation centers and emergency shelters based on demonstrated need; and
  • Delivery of permanent housing and innovative housing solutions (such as hotel and motel conversions).

Transitional housing was not listed in the aforementioned activities.

Other funding sources created through legislation provide billions of dollars for permanent supportive housing:

  • No Place Like Home Program provides up to $2 billion in bond proceeds to invest in the development of permanent supportive housing for persons who are in need of mental health services and are experiencing homelessness, chronic homelessness, or who are at risk of chronic homelessness;
  • Housing for a Healthy California (HHC) Program will provide more than $100 million to create supportive housing for individuals who are recipients of or eligible for health care provided through the California Department of Health Care Services, Medi-Cal program; and
  • Project Homekey provides $600 million to purchase and rehabilitate housing, including hotels, motels, vacant apartment buildings, and other buildings and convert them into interim or permanent, long-term housing.

What Needs to Happen Next

It is time for California’s 44 Continuums of Care and the State of California to mutually advance statewide data-driven planning and policy-making to solve homelessness. HICs are one data source that the state and CoCs can use to further the implementation of evidence-based, best, promising, and emerging practices.

Other data sources include HUD’s required Homeless Management Information System, System Performance Measures, Longitudinal Systems Analysis, and the State of California’s Homeless Data Integration System.

Homeless Management Information System

Each CoC collects, stores, and analyzes longitudinal personal-level information about persons who access the homeless service system within their entire region through their Homeless Management Information System (HMIS). Data collection, as outlined by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) includes

Homeless Data Integration System

The Homeless Data Integration System (HDIS) will allow the State of California to access and compile standardized data collected by California’s CoC’s in their HMIS into a de-identified database of homeless client service activity.

As noted by the State of California, HDIS will allow the State to access more accurate and timely information about homelessness in California, including: 

  • Obtaining more accurate counts of the number of people in California who have experienced homelessness.
  • Understanding the occurrence and duration of homelessness across the state.
  • Identifying effective interventions and sharing promising practices across CoC’s.
  • Providing information about how people move across CoC’s to inform cross-jurisdictional approaches to addressing homelessness.
  • Identifying patterns of service usage and looking for gaps in services, including investigating how people experiencing homelessness are connected to other state-funded services.

Other data sources also include System Performance Measures and Longitudinal Systems Analysis, which are generated from Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) data.

System Performance Measures

The purpose of the System Performance Measures (SPM), as noted by HUD, is to help communities gauge their progress in preventing and ending homelessness and provide a more complete picture of how well a community is achieving this goal. An annual SPM report submitted by CoCs to HUD consists of a summary and year-to-year comparison of system wide counts, averages, and medians related to several areas of performance that include:

  • Length of time persons remain homeless;
  • Extent to which persons who exit homelessness to permanent housing destinations return to homelessness within 6, 12, and 24 months;
  • Employment and income growth for homeless persons in CoC program-funded projects;
  • Number of persons who become homeless for the first time; and
  • Successful placement from street outreach and successful placement in or retention of permanent housing.

Longitudinal Systems Analysis

An annual Longitudinal Systems Analysis (LSA) report is submitted by CoCs to HUD, which provides critical information about how households experiencing homelessness use CoC systems of care over the course of a year. This community-level information includes:

  • Demographic characteristics like age, race, gender, and veteran status;
  • Length of time homeless and patterns of system use;
  • Information specific to populations whose needs and/or eligibility for services may differ from the broader homeless population, such as veterans, people and households experiencing chronic homelessness, and others; and
  • Housing outcomes for those who exit the homeless services system.

Assembly Bill 1845: Office to End Homelessness

AB 1845 will create the Office to End Homelessness within the Governor’s office and be under the direct control of a Secretary on Homelessness who would be appointed by, and report to, the Governor.

Responsibilities of the newly created office would include:

  • Recommend to the Governor and the Legislature new state policies, programs, and actions, or amendments to existing programs;
  • Coordinate homelessness programs, services, data, and policies between federal, state, and local agencies; and
  • Coordinate relevant state agencies and departments (which includes more than 30 different state homelessness programs administered by 13 different state agencies;

Advancing the use of available statewide data would enhance the ability of the Office to End Homelessness to successfully carry out its responsibilities. Recommending new state policies, programs, and actions, or amendments to existing programs and coordinating homelessness programs, services, data, and policies between federal, state, and local agencies and relevant state agencies and departments would be informed by the HICs, HMIS, HDIS, SPMs, and LSAs.

Integrating the HIC, HMIS, HDIS, SPM, and LSA into other technology would advance statewide data driven planning and policy-making, collaborative partnerships between the state, counties, cities, and continuums of care, and the implementation of evidence-based, best, promising, and emerging practices.

Other technology includes a Geographic information system (GIS), which delivers the power of geography and spatial analysis. Integrating HIC data into GIS would provide the State of California an opportunity to manage, visualize, and understand data in new and unseen ways.

Thus, there is a number of data sources available that have been largely unexplored at statewide and regional levels. Integrating the data with current and future technology would help the State of California make significant progress towards long-desired objectives that include statewide data driven planning and policy-making, closer collaborative partnerships between the state, counties, cities, and continuums of care, and directing unprecedented funding towards evidence-based, best, promising, and emerging practices.

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