HUD funding guides strategies against homelessness

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The Salvation Army fights to keep transitional housing afloat as HUD pushes permanent housing.

By Jared McKiernan

The Salvation Army in San Diego, Calif., is working to adapt its programming to new housing models for those facing homelessness in order to continue receiving federal funding.

San Diego’s Regional Continuum of Care Council (RCCC), which recommends funding for programs to The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), moved to repurpose roughly 2 million dollars in transitional housing funds to new rapid rehousing and permanent supportive housing programs. The shift impacts both of The Salvation Army’s transitional housing programs in San Diego—the Door of Hope and STEPS (Shelter Transition Employment Program Services).

HUD has said it will only accept new applications for permanent supportive housing and rapid rehousing programs. Both types of programs are designed to rapidly connect individuals and families experiencing homelessness to permanent housing and providing case management, financial assistance and other supportive services in their home rather than in a facility, as with transitional housing programs. HUD favors such initiatives due to their perceived ability to solve the practical and immediate challenges to securing permanent housing while reducing the cost and amount of time individuals experience homelessness.

Door of Hope, which runs a Transitional Living Center where families can stay up to a year, boasts a 75 percent permanent housing rate for all persons exiting the program and a 92 percent success rate for keeping clients in permanent housing six months beyond graduating the program. Despite the positive outcomes, the program will have to move forward without HUD funding.

The 42-bed STEPS program helps men who are homeless or formerly incarcerated to secure employment, save money and move to independent living.

“I went back to school; they helped me with my medical, my vision, my dental,” said Andrew, who came to STEPS after a cocaine addiction derailed his career in tech management. “Everything is there. They’re not going to hand feed you this stuff. You’ve got to take the initiative.”

 Regularly, 80 percent of men like Andrew save enough money in the program to successfully move into independent housing. The outcomes from STEPS would have met the threshold for effective programs from HUD, had the program been eligible for renewal.

Despite the gradual decline in HUD funding nationwide, Marie Oliva, director for the Office of Special Needs Assistance Programs, insisted there still is a place for transitional housing.

“It should be reserved for those populations that most need that type of intervention,” she said. “Programs that serve domestic violence survivors and youth and those that provide substance abuse treatment come to mind first—rather than being used either as a holding pattern for those that really need permanent supportive housing or those that need less intensive interventions.”

Carr noted that The Salvation Army “is saddened at the loss of federal funding” and will work to keep the two programs afloat without the roughly $300,000 in HUD funding. Yet, she thinks The Salvation Army should be engaged in rapid rehousing as well.

“Rapid rehousing helps people end their homelessness quicker and provides dignity and respect,” Carr said. “We should be a part of this.”

Consequently, The Salvation Army recently applied and was approved to receive over $300,000 to launch its first rapid rehousing program in San Diego through Door of Hope.

The program will take clients staying in the Haven Interim Housing Program (short-term housing) and help provide low-rent subsidies and supportive services for up to a year.

Carr describes the shift as a “net positive,” but believes the most significant adjustment may not be a financial one. Because rapid rehousing requires that caseworkers meet clients in their own homes, The Salvation Army must adapt its ministry accordingly.

“As there is a national move away from transitional housing and toward rapid rehousing, The Salvation Army will have to reconsider how we connect to the people we serve,” Carr said. “Historically people in our transitional housing programs have been easily connected to programs at the local corps. The officer and staff could easily hold Bible studies, worship services, and outreach groups for the people on their property.

“We get to see people where they are, and often their guard is down and relationship building is easier when those meetings occur in the home as opposed to an office,” Carr said. “Instead of people coming to us at the corps, we have to visit them in their homes, get to know them, build relationships with Christ.”

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