In 1987, Congress passed the first federal law specifically addressing homelessness. The Stewart B. McKinney Homeless Assistance Act of 1987, later renamed the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, provides federal financial support for a variety of programs to meet the many needs of individuals and families who are homeless. The housing programs it authorizes are administered by The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Office of Special Needs Assistance Programs.
Initially, HUD did not impose any requirements for systemic planning at the local level. However, beginning in 1994 HUD has required each community to come together to submit a single comprehensive Continuum of Care (CoC) application rather than allowing applications from individual providers in a community. HUD’s intent in creating this structured application process was to stimulate community-wide planning and coordination of programs for individuals and families who are homeless.
As an entity, a CoC serves two main purposes:
- To develop a long-term strategic plan and manage a year-round planning effort that addresses the identified needs of homeless individuals and households. It also evaluates the availability and accessibility of existing housing and services, and locates the opportunities for linkages with mainstream housing and services resources.
- To prepare an application for McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act (McKinney-Vento) competitive grant.
Funds are made available through a national competition announced each year in HUD’s Notice of Funding Availability (HUD SuperNOFA). Applications must demonstrate broad community participation and identify resources and gaps in the community’s approach to providing outreach, emergency shelter, transitional and permanent housing as well as related services for addressing homelessness. Perhaps most importantly, the applications must include action steps to end homelessness, prevent a return to homelessness, and establish local funding priorities.
CARES Role within the Community
The CoC designates one particular applicant to be a “collaborative applicant.” The collaborative applicant is the only entity that can apply for a grant from HUD on behalf of the Continuum that it represents.
CARES has taken the role of collaborative applicant for five CoC’s in Northeastern New York and as such has submitted applications for funding on behalf of Albany County, Columbia and Greene County, Rensselaer County, Saratoga/North Country, and Schenectady County. CARES’ strong leadership, access to resources, and high visibility within the community provides these Continuums with the credibility needed to attract broad-based participation in the community, technical assistance, and the incorporation of performance information into the strategic planning process.
In addition, HUD encourages cities and counties across the United States to develop Ten Year Plans to End Homelessness. CARES provided technical assistance to Albany, Rensselaer, Schenectady, Saratoga, and Dutchess Counties in the development of their Ten Year Plans to End Homelessness.