Homeless Assistance

In response to rising rates of homelessness in the 1980s, Congress passed the Stewart B. McKinney Homeless Assistance Act in 1987, which was renamed the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act in 2000. This legislation provided funding for locally administered homeless assistance, such as emergency shelters, rental assistance, and supportive services. McKinney-Vento programs have been very successful, helping to reduce homelessness by 20% between 2005 and 2013.

However, there is still much work to be done. According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development's December 2017 report, 553,742 people were experiencing homelessness in the United States on a single night in 2017. Approximately two-thirds were staying in emergency shelters or transitional housing, while the remainder were in unsheltered locations. 2017 was the first year since 2007 that saw an increase in homelessness. Below is a breakdown of some of the resources available to local governments to assist their local homeless population.


In 2009, Congress passed the Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing (HEARTH) Act, which made significant changes to HUD's McKinney-Vento homeless assistance programs, including the consolidation of separate programs and making the system more performance-based. These programs provide outreach, housing programs, and rent subsidies for those experiencing homelessness, or at risk of homelessness.

Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG) Program

Under the HEARTH Act, the program previously known as the Emergency Shelter Grant program is now called the Emergency Solutions Grants program. Funding for ESG is now set at 20% of HUD's homeless assistance grants, up from 10% under the McKinney-Vento Act, although HUD is allowed to allocate less to ESG if overall funding levels cannot fund all existing Continuum of Care grants, which has occurred each year since the HEARTH Act was passed.

City, county, and state governments are eligible to receive ESG funding, which is given according to a formula structure. In addition to providing resources for the operation and renovation of emergency shelters and related services, the HEARTH Act expanded ESG eligible activities, adding homelessness prevention and re-housing activities such as rental assistance and housing search assistance for people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.

Continuum of Care (CoC) Program

The HEARTH Act combined the three competitive programs, the Supportive Housing program, the Shelter Plus Care program, and the Moderate Rehabilitation/Single Room Occupancy program, into a single Continuum of Care program. To apply for CoC funding, community stakeholders such as local governments, nonprofit organizations, and homeless individuals organize into a Continuum of Care and submit a joint application.

The selection criteria for CoC funding includes several performance-based measures for reducing the number of people who experience homelessness and the duration of homelessness. Under the HEARTH Act, the funding match rate is simplified to 25% for all activities, however leasing projects will continue to have no match requirement.


For additional information regarding the programs below click here.