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New HUD Funding Addresses Three Challenges Identified by Encampment Research
June 23, 2022
Yesterday, HUD announced the Initiative for Unsheltered and Rural Homelessness, a $365 million package of resources dedicated to responding to the rising number of people experiencing unsheltered homelessness across the country, including people living in encampments. In 2020, Abt Associates completed the first-ever federal study of homeless encampments. Based on the findings of our study, we believe this new funding will address three key needs:
Finding 1: In addition to shortcomings in the local shelter system, including insufficient beds and high-barrier shelters, policymakers and people living in encampments cited the lack of affordable housing as a main reason for people living in encampments. Solution: The initiative provides approximately 4,000 new Housing Choice vouchers for local public housing authorities and new Continuum of Care (CoC) Program grant funding, which will offer much needed rental assistance and permanent housing opportunities specifically for people experiencing unsheltered homelessness.
Finding 2: Our research revealed that outreach activities are a key component of communities’ encampment responses, but these activities are extremely costly; in fact, outreach was the highest-cost encampment response activity in three of the four cities we studied. Yet outreach is vital--outreach workers build relationships with people living in encampments, which is the first step in helping them connect with housing, health care, and other services ahead of encampment clearance and closures. Solution: The initiative includes new CoC Program grant funding that will support the expansion of outreach activities, a critical activity for engaging and connecting unsheltered people with needed services.
Finding 3: Responding to encampments is costly, and our study found that rapidly clearing encampments without the appropriate supports in place typically disperses—rather than resolves—the struggle of those living in encampments. Solution: This new HUD funding package will offer dedicated funding for communities to help people experiencing homelessness, including those in encampments. Communities will be able to link people with permanent housing rather than simply forcing them to move to a different unsheltered location.
We look forward to seeing the impact of these resources in both urban and rural communities across the United States.