Understanding Continuum of Care (CoC)

Homelessness is a serious threat that so many people have to face for different reasons. It is no surprise that the general financial situation after the COVID-19 outbreak is not the same as it was before the pandemic. But even before this crisis, a large number of people were struggling to have a roof over their heads. Escaping domestic violence, immigration, drug addiction, and mental issues are all examples of why would a person become homeless.

To build up some hope, this article will tell you what you need to know about one of the most popular programs that fight against homelessness; the Continuum of Care (CoC) Program.

What is the Continuum of Care (CoC) Program?

The Continuum of Care (CoC) Program is intended to assist individuals and families facing homelessness. It provides the necessary support to assist these individuals and families in moving into permanent housing with the objective of long-term stability. The CoC Program is designed to encourage community-wide planning and smart use of resources to combat homelessness while also improving collaboration with mainstream resources and other programs for those experiencing homelessness.

In the United States, there are over 400 CoCs. Each CoC often consists of nonprofit service providers and local government agencies such as departments of health and human services and public housing. This is together with other stakeholders like charities and local companies. A CoC covers every community, and the territory of an individual CoC can be a city, county, metropolitan area, or even an entire state or the “balance of state” that no local CoC covers.

One of the most significant tasks assigned to CoCs is to conduct a biannual count of the homeless population. This is in addition to an annual assessment of the emergency systems, transitional housing units, and beds that comprise the homeless support systems. These counts provide an overview of the situation of homelessness in a CoC. Furthermore, they provide the necessary data to shift services, funds, and resources as needed. The CoC also supervises these services, providing preventative efforts as well as homeless support programs to people who are at risk of or already experiencing homelessness.

Eligibility Requirements

As an individual or a family, the only requirement for you to be eligible for this program is to be homeless or at risk of losing your house. However, you do not usually apply directly for CoC. If you wish to use the program’s benefits, you may apply for it through one of the participant entities. Nonprofit organizations, State and local governments, local government instrumentalities, and public housing agencies are qualified applicants under the interim CoC Program rule.

In order to apply for grant funds from HUD, a qualified applicant must be designated by the Continuum of Care. The Continuum’s designation must include whether the Continuum is designating more than one applicant to apply for funds and, if so, which applicant is the Collaborative Applicant. A Continuum of Care that only has one applicant for funding must designate that applicant as the Collaborative Applicant. For-profit organizations cannot apply for grants or be sub-recipients of grant funding.

What is “E-snaps”?

This is what we call The electronic Continuum of Care (CoC) Program Application and Grants Management System. E-snaps is the system that HUD’s Office of Special Needs Assistance Programs (SNAPS) uses to handle the CoC Program funding application and grant awards process.

The CoC Components

The interim rule for the CoC Program states that money from the program may be used for projects that fall into one of five categories:

  1. Permanent housing
  2. Transitional housing
  3. Supporting services only
  4. Homeless Management Information System (HMIS)
  5. Homelessness prevention.

Permanent Housing

Permanent housing (PH) is community-based housing without a specific length of stay. In this type of housing, formerly homeless people and families can live as independently as feasible. A program participant must be the tenant on a lease (or sublease) for at least one renewable year and is only terminable for cause. Furthermore, leases (or sublet contracts) must be renewable for a minimum of one month.

The CoC Program supports two forms of permanent housing: PSH for people with disabilities and rapid re-housing. Permanent supportive housing is long-term housing with indefinite lease or rental assistance coupled with supportive services. It aims to help homeless people with disabilities or families with a member with a disability achieve housing stability.

On the other hand, rapid re-housing (RRH) prioritizes housing search, relocation services, and short- and medium-term rental support. It has the goal of transferring homeless individuals and families into permanent housing as soon as possible.

Transitional Housing

Transitional housing (TH) offers homeless individuals and families temporary stability and support. This way they can successfully move to and retain permanent homes. TH can pay the costs of up to 24 months of housing with supportive services. When staying in transitional housing, program participants must have a lease (or sublet) or occupancy agreement in place.

Supportive Services Only

The supportive services only (SSO) program component enables recipients and sub-recipients to provide services to homeless individuals and families who do not live in the recipient’s housing. In general, SSO beneficiaries and sub-recipients may utilize the money to:

  • Conduct outreach to sheltered and unsheltered homeless people,
  • Connect them with housing or other necessary services,
  • And provide continuous assistance.

Homeless Management Information System

Only HMIS leads may utilize funds from this component to lease a structure in which the HMIS functions. This component has the objective of operating the structure in which the HMIS is housed. Another purpose is to cover other costs associated with establishing, managing, and modifying a CoC’s HMIS.

Other beneficiaries and sub-recipients are not eligible to apply for money under the HMIS program component. However, they may incorporate costs related to contributing data to the CoC’s HMIS in their project under another program component.

Homelessness Prevention

Individuals and families at risk of homelessness may get homelessness prevention support from recipients and sub-recipients in HUD-designated High Performing Communities (HPCs). For the purpose of saving people from becoming homeless, this component may include services such as:

  • Housing relocation and stabilization,
  • As well as short- and medium-term rental support.

This component allows beneficiaries and sub-recipients to assist individuals and families at risk of homelessness in maintaining their current residence or transitioning to new permanent housing. The prevention of homelessness must be carried out in accordance with 24 CFR part 576.

Bottom Line

In conclusion, homelessness is a critical threat to our society. Preventing such a problem is a big responsibility that governments take seriously. The CoC program is a huge step in the journey of ending homelessness. The program works by funding non-profits, charities, public housing agencies, etc. As a result, these organizations use the money they receive to help homeless people find a proper place to stay in.