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Homeless Services Continuums of Care: Findings From a National Survey

The University of Chicago

Year: 2015

Starting in the mid-1990s, the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) began incentivizing collaboration among homeless services providers in order to improve service coordination and help local areas develop a community-wide approach to meeting the needs of individuals and families who are homeless. These collaborations are typically comprised of nonproft service providers, local government agencies, consumers, and, sometimes, philanthropic organizations and local businesses. They are known as Homeless Continuums of Care, or CoCs.

Communities are required to form CoCs in order to apply for most HUD funding for homeless services, and every locale in the United States is represented by one. They represent the primary way that communities in the United States collectively respond to the problem of homelessness, and they are an important strategy for more effectively funding permanent supportive housing, transitional housing, and Homeless Management Information Systems (HMIS).

CoCs are diverse because while HUD sets expectations and guidelines, HUD also largely leaves it to communities to determine how best to meet them. HUD has also given localities significant leeway in the structure and leadership of their CoCs. Overall, this system has the potential to give providers and consumers of homeless services important new opportunities to be involved in shaping regulations and policies, though the extent to which this occurs is unknown.

This report details findings from a national survey (the first that we know of) that collected data from CoCs across the United States to learn about variations in their structure, priorities, membership, and advocacy involvement. Of the 418 CoCs we identified and contacted, 312 responded and 296 completed the survey. We received responses from all 50 states, Washington, DC, and three territories.

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